Please elaborate on this idea: Infinitely keener than Lady Macbeth is Macbeth's suffering.

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

While both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have minds that become unhinged, Macbeth's actions compound his suffering which is longer-lived than Lady Macbeth's. Lady Macbeth gives way to mental instability relatively early in the tragedy of Macbeth and her symptoms of instability render her obsessed and void of the power to act outside the confines of her obsession. This means that she is limited in the extend of further harm that she can do, either by way of direct action or indirect influence. Her mental disordered state soon leads to her demise.

Macbeth, on the other hand, though he becomes unhinged upon receiving the news that Fleance has escaped has, for all intents and purposes, the appearance of normality and can still act and precipitate events, which he does with a vengeance. Macbeth's unhinged mental condition isn't of the sort to bring relief in death and thus he goes on to add atrocity to atrocity. On top of which, his desperation leads him to turn to those who unleashed the havoc in the first place, the witches, who give him information that he receives as being for his betterment but which really is, as their first sets of prophesies were, only for his destruction. Since woe upon woe and evil deed upon evil deed are heaped on Macbeth's heart like coal in a furnace, Macbeth's suffering is infinitely keener than Lady Macbeth's.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I certainly would say that Macbeth suffered to a greater extent than Lady Macbeth.  For me, it seems elemental in that she helped play a more manipulative role than he did.  To some extent, I think she was more influential over clouding his mind and judgment with actions that went against his very nature of being a loyal soldier and leader of men.  Her plotting and scheming became appropriated by his own actions.  Macbeth is not able to experience the sense of regret and guilt over his actions to the extent that Lady Macbeth did.  This might sound odd, but due to this, I feel that his suffering was extended and went longer, so that when he understood the full implications of his action, there was no one left to which a sense of reclamation of conscience would have been meaningful.

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