Good and evil in Macbeth.  The difference between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

4 Answers | Add Yours

dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Concerning your question about Shakespeare's Macbeth, your connection of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to the question of good and evil is surprising.  Both are usually considered evil.  On the side of good, critics usually place Duncan, Malcolm, Macduff, Banquo, King Edward, etc., but I've never seen anyone consider either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth on the side of good.

That said, I can explain a difference or two between Macbeth and his wife, although it won't be the difference between good and evil.

Lady Macbeth is highly intelligent and is the planner of the two.  Macbeth only comes under suspicion when he varies from Lady Macbeth's plan (when he kills the two grooms).  But Lady Macbeth cannot do the actual killing.  She is skeptical of her husband's ability to kill Duncan face to face, but when she has the opportunity to do it herself, she can't because the sleeping Duncan reminds her of her father.  She is extremely ambitious and ruthless and, strictly speaking, should have been a man ("unsex me") and, says Macbeth, should only bear male children.  Of course, she also breaks down from her guilt and commits suicide.

Macbeth is not a thinker and planner.  But, though he doesn't want to actually do the deed of killing Duncan, he does it.  His guilt begins to bother him immediately, in contrast to his wife who isn't bothered by guilt until much later.   But his guilt does not stop him from becoming even more power hungry (before he kills Duncan having the thrown himself is enough, but after killing Duncan he wants a dynasty and is not satisfied to only rule himself, but wants his heirs to rule, also).  His ambition grows during the course of the play, and he also handles certain situations nobly.  When surrounded by his enemies, and even after he knows the witches have tricked him, he still continues to fight and is a formidable foe.

Both Macbeth and his wife are evil, but differences between the two certainly do exist.

akannan's profile pic

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

Posted on

The previous post was quite accurate.  It is difficult to be able to cast the label of "good" on either character in summary.  I think one could suggest that "evil" in both is rather fluid, existing more in one character at certain points than another. Perhaps, a statement is being made here to indicate that evil is not something that is static, but rather dynamic and ever changing.  At first, Lady Macbeth represents it when trying to convince her husband of engaging in acts of evil.  She seems to be the mastermind, the source of inspiration behind Macbeth's function.  Over the course of the play, though, as he further plunges himself into a moral abyss, she is the one who has second thoughts of guilt and extreme self loathing.  In this light, we might not be able to call either of them "good," but assign the label of "evil" as one that changes as the characters change.

Educator Approved

Educator Approved
pinkytune123's profile pic

pinkytune123 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Apropos the previous two posts, I am in consummate discord with the opinion. 

I do think that Lady Macbeth is depicted as a evil character and Macbeth a tragic one.

First, I would like to start with Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is an evil character in Shakespeare's Macbeth. She is the wife of the play's central character or the leading role, Macbeth. Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth appears to be a combination of two separate and distinct instincts of a villain: murderous wife in the account of King Duncan; and Macbeth's ambitious wife.

On the other counter; Macbeth is a true, honourable nobleman and exceedingly loyal to his cousin - Duncan, the king of Scotland. He was influenced by the three witches and his own wife - Lady Macbeth to become evil. The influence of the witches and Lady Macbeth is quite strong although, the first time when he was asked to murder Duncan by her wife, he generally wavers in his verdict. Right after his coronation, he started his evil plans.

Althroughout the story, the reader might seem that Macbeth is the wrong-doer but, really it is Lady Macbeth. Because, Macbeth was not bad in the start of the story but, the real evil character was Lady Macbeth, who first insisted Macbeth to commit his first murder knowing that he can later do the subsequent ones easily, in behalf of her. Lady Macbeth did only one evil task – influencing Macbeth in becoming cold-hearted. Influencing Macbeth was the point in the story from where many other evil acts followed.

Lady Macbeth's guilt

Consider these questions:

(a) Whose idea was it to kill the king?

(b) What were the ways in which Lady Macbeth helped Macbeth to carry out the murder?

                                Macbeth - Character Analysis

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Macbeth is a tragic character. A tragic character is a character who has noble qualities but who also has a fatal flaw or weakness that destroys him/her in the end. Examine Macbeth's qualities and the flaw which causes his destruction and those around him. 

1. Macbeth's noble qualities

(a) Bravery

(b) Kindness

(c) Loyalty to Duncan

2. Macbeth's fatal flaw: What do you think is his greatest weakness? You can and others have each different views about it. As a directive - let's just consider the people whom Macbeth killed as his inability to control his weakness. Think why he wanted them killed.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The changes in Macbeth's character as the play progresses: At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth seemed a stronger character than Macbeth, but as the play progressed, the two seemed to change positions. It shows that how he was influenced by others to become cold-hearted and how he later understood his flaw.

Consider the questions:

(a) How was Macbeth at the beginning of the play?

(b) What were Macbeth's thoughts after he heard the witches' prophecies?

(c) How was Macbeth convinced by Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan?

(d) Why did Macbeth killed the two guards after Duncan's death, which was not according to the plan?

(e) Why did Macbeth wanted to kill Banquo and Fleance?

(f) When Banquo's ghost appeared at the feast, how did Macbeth and Lady Macbeth each react?

(g) How was Macbeth's second meeting with the three witches different from the first time they met? What did Macbeth wanted from them? How did this show a worsening of his character.

(h) What happenned to Lady Macbeth in the end? How did Macbeth react to the news and wha does this show of him?

(i) Why was Macbeth still so confident at the last battle?

(j) When Macbeth realized that the witches had deceivedhim, how did he react to the situation? What does his end show?

==================================================

I hope I was able to distinguish Lady Macbeth from Macbeth. It is worth reading several times. After reading, draw your conclusions.

pinkytune123's profile pic

pinkytune123 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Apropos the previous two posts, I am in consummate discord with the opinion. 

I do think that Lady Macbeth is depicted as a evil character and Macbeth a tragic one.

First, I would like to start with Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is an evil character in Shakespeare's Macbeth. She is the wife of the play's central character or the leading role, Macbeth. Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth appears to be a combination of two separate and distinct instincts of a villain: murderous wife in the account of King Duncan; and Macbeth's ambitious wife.

On the other counter; Macbeth is a true, honourable nobleman and exceedingly loyal to his cousin - Duncan, the king of Scotland. He was influenced by the three witches and his own wife - Lady Macbeth to become evil. The influence of the witches and Lady Macbeth is quite strong although, the first time when he was asked to murder Duncan by her wife, he generally wavers in his verdict. Right after his coronation, he started his evil plans.

Althroughout the story, the reader might seem that Macbeth is the wrong-doer but, really it is Lady Macbeth. Because, Macbeth was not bad in the start of the story but, the real evil character was Lady Macbeth, who first insisted Macbeth to commit his first murder knowing that he can later do the subsequent ones easily, in behalf of her. Lady Macbeth did only one evil task – influencing Macbeth in becoming cold-hearted. Influencing Macbeth was the point in the story from where many other evil acts followed.

Macbeth is a tragic character. A tragic character

We’ve answered 318,944 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question