Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Compare and contrast Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

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clonehead eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects about the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is how their roles reverse by the end of the play.

At the start of the play, and through the murder of King Duncan, Lady Macbeth is the one who sees violence as the answer and it is she who comes up with the murder scheme, while her husband is racked with guilt and indecision, seeing and hearing things, his mind starting to snap. She mentally bullies him into taking action and after he kills the king and comes unglued ("Macbeth hath murdered sleep!"), she contemptuously...

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James Watson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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penisbaek | Student

In scene 1 of act 3, Macbeth hires two men to kill both Banquo and his son, Fleance. Macbeth selected these two men seemingly because they are unhappy with and angry about their position in life. He is able to use their discontent to his advantage saying,

"this I made good to you
In our last conference, pass'd in probation with you
How you were borne in hand, how cross'd, the instruments,
Who wrought with them, and all things else that might
To half a soul and to a notion craz'd
Say, 'Thus did Banquo.'"

Basically, Macbeth is convincing the murderers that their terrible lives are Banquo's fault and thus, Banquo deserves to be killed. Macbeth successfully manipulates these men, who agree that Banquo is their enemy and it is their job to murder him.

venusberry | Student

Macbeth and lady macbeth are contrasted, and the action is based on this contrast, but they have certain qualities in common. Both are fired by the same passion of ambition. however, lady macbeth's ambition is motivated by self-denial. her whole ambition is for macbeth, whereas his ambition is a selfish kind. The main point of contrast between macbeth and lady macbeth is that whereas macbeth is highly imaginative, lady macbeth is very parctical. The main difference between the character of macbeth and lady macbeth is based on the fundamental difference between man and woman.In a man emotion rarely exists without being exercised on it. Any passionate desire, like macbeth's temptation to murder duncan in order to gain the throne is accompanied by an intellectual discussion of its reason, its difficulties and its consequences. That is to say, every emotion is closely connected with its thoughts, and every thought is bound with its emotions. But in a woman it is not so. If her intellect is dominant, it governs her actions alone, without any emotions accompanying it. If her passion dominates, it also acts alone. hence, lady macbeth, in the whirl of her impulse, sees no objection to the murder of the king.

randa-j-t | Student

similarities: both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth were motivated by ambition and greed for royalty and greatness, and this was the main cause for commintting the murder (their unchecked ambition and temptations). they both also think that all was pointless (murder) after they experience guilt and after macbeth finds out that he is crowned without honor and that he will never be of the same lineage of the king

differences: Macbeth was hesitant at first about committing the murder Lady Macbeth however was confident and only scared because ofMacbeth's human kindness that might make him change his mind.

at first his conscience starts to stop him from his sinful act (the daggers imagination) and later he starts regretting it (the ghosts at the feast) and "sleep no more" .while Lady Macbeth makes a scene infront of the people and tries to hide their murder and convinces him that it will all eventually go away.

later in the play it is proved that Macbeth is stronger in suppressing his conscience than Lady Macbethm ;she commits suicide while he still remained there determined to fight until the end and believing of his own immortality that the witches have convinced him of " no man born of a woman" shall hurt Macbeth.

sampu88 | Student

The first thing that strickes the audience about the infamous husband-wife duo is their close-knit and intimate understanding of each other. Lady Macbeth especially recognizes the flaws and qualities in her husband and aims to fulfill his ambitions and dreams by putting her own life at stake. She realises his dream of attaining kingship but she is also aware of his cowardly nature and knows that he would always take the 'holy way' out. He would never exercise his 'evil nature' in order to get something done. This is why she drives away his hesitancy by arousing him sexually and challenging him mentally, both culminating in him becoming a tyrant eventually.  Macbeth, on the other hand, never wore the 'pants' in the relationship that they shared. He was a brave soldier, but that was only externally. On the inside, he was a complete softie, easy to manipulate. He was never convinced about the murders he directed, but he went along with them anyway, giving reference to his loss in sense of purpose.

But what must also be undestood here, is that Macbeth was never completely secure of his actions. Even after the death of Duncan, was not fully satisified with his actions. His sub conscience continued to torture him. Eventually the relationship between the two crumbles into nothingness and makes both of them numb, lonely and incredibly guilty of their ill-actions.