How does Lady Macbeth change during the course of the play?Discuss with particular reference to Act 1 Scene 5 and Act 5 Scene 1. Please give quotes. :)

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Lady Macbeth, in Shakespeare's Macbeth, reverses gender roles with her husband at the beginning of the play, only to revert to a traditional gender role by Act 5.1. 

Lady Macbeth wants to be "unsexed," in Act 1, to be made warlike, like a male warrior.  She wants to have no scruples when it comes to doing what's necessary to achieve the throne for her husband--assassinate the king.  Macbeth has scruples and hesitates, but his wife does not.

Furthermore, in Act 2.2, Lady Macbeth feels no guilt and no regrets for plotting to kill the king, as her husband does.  A little water will clear us of this deed, she says, while Macbeth metaphorically says that not even an ocean could wash all of Duncan's blood from his hands, and also wishes the knocking at the castle door could wake Duncan up.

By Act 5.1, however, Lady Macbeth reverts back to the traditional role of a female.  She now demonstrates scruples and feelings of guilt.  Now that her husband has gone on a killing spree, she sees what her actions and manipulation have led to, and she regrets and feels guilty for what she's done. 

Lady Macbeth flip flops roles with her husband, so much so that she suffers a break down and ultimately commits suicide.  One certainly can't see her doing that in Act 1. 

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