During the course of the play Macbeth, the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are reversed. Do you agree?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question references one of the most powerful aspects of the story arc of Macbeth. In the first act, Lady Macbeth is ruthless, strong, and cunning. Indeed, she resolves to "unsex" herself in order to push her husband, who is "too full of the milk of human kindness" to murder Duncan. Macbeth, on the other hand, is ambitious, to be sure, but has serious reservations about killing the King. He has resolved not to do it, in fact, when Lady Macbeth goads him into the murder by questioning his honor and his masculinity.

After the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth is still a strong and ruthless character, but it turns out that her husband no longer needs her influence to persuade him to carry out murders. He has Banquo, his close friend, killed: the last act for which he shows any guilt at all. After this point, Lady Macbeth fades from the play until we encounter her again in the first scene in act 5. She is sleepwalking, frantically trying to scrub imaginary blood from her hands. It is clear that she is emotionally shattered from the guilt of the murders. Macbeth, on the other hand, has become a cruel tyrant. By the time Lady Macbeth kills herself in act 5, scene 5, the tragic transformation is complete. They have, in many ways, swapped roles, a process that eventually consumes them both.