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We see Lady Macbeth as the controlling force behind Macbeth’s evil deeds and, at first, she is painted as heartless, ruthless and consumed by her ambitions for her husband. She
set the time and the place of Duncan's murder, claims that she would kill a baby at her breast to honor a vow, and argues that when Macbeth first conceived of killing Duncan, then he was a man.
However, we are first alerted to her weaknesses when, thinking it would be preferable to murder Duncan herself, she cannot due to his likeness with her own father.
…Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done’t
Hence, we begin to prepare for a different outcome other than we would previously have believed possible. There is an evolving "human" side to her that seems to be foreshadowing how she will suffer from her guilt as time progresses.
Whilst Lady Macbeth is certainly the catalyst by which Macbeth becomes capable of such heinous deeds, we are beginning to recognize Macbeth’s own contribution to his inevitable downfall. Lady Macbeth will almost become an outsider as Macbeth grows in confidence with each murder. During his plans to kill Banquo, he tells his wife to
be innocent of the knowledge
Lady Macbeth can even see the evil - that will ultimately drive her paranoid - self mad:
Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.(III,ii,6-7)
Interestingly, Lady Macbeth goes from
what's done is done
What's done cannot be undone (V.i.68)
again foreshadowing what is by now close at hand as she sleepwalks, racked by her guilt.
Out damned spot!(V.i.33)
By now Lady Macbeth craves peace and her efforts to ‘wash away’ her sins prove fruitless. Madness is her only respite:
She is unable to release herself from the murderous world she has created and her suicide becomes inevitable as the only ‘escape.’
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