Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Characterize the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Whose ambition is the driving force of the play—Macbeth's or Lady Macbeth's or both?

The action of the play is driven by a combination of both Macbeth's and Lady Macbeth's ambitions. At some point, each of them is willing to do anything for Macbeth to be king, but the couple's roles reverse throughout the course of the play. Initially, Lady Macbeth is the instigator and her husband is a guilt-ridden follower. Later, we see Lady Macbeth succumb to guilt while her previously kind-hearted husband becomes increasingly comfortable with killing to protect his title.

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The driving force of Macbeth is a combination of both Macbeth's and Lady Macbeth's ambitions. At one point or another, each of them is willing to do whatever it takes for Macbeth to rise to power; however, the two demonstrate a reversal of roles throughout the course of the play.

Initially, it is Lady Macbeth who decides Duncan must be killed so her husband can become king. In one of her soliloquies, Lady Macbeth states her fear that Macbeth does not possess the malevolence to do what is necessary to take the throne—in other words, to kill Duncan:

Yet I do fear thy nature;

It is too full o' the milk of human kindness

To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great'

Art not without ambition, but without

The illness should attend it: what thou wouldst highly,

That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,

And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou'ldst have, great

Glamis,

That which cries 'Thus thou must do, if thou have it;

And that which rather thou dost fear to do

Than wishest should be undone.

She knows...

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