Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
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How and why does Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's relationship change?

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's relationship changes during the play. Their initial decision to murder Duncan brings Macbeth and Lady Macbeth close together as partners in crime, but the consequences of this act ultimately drive them apart. Macbeth is initially unsure about murdering the king, while Lady Macbeth confidently and eagerly urges her husband to accomplish the deed. After the murder, however, Lady Macbeth's guilt drives her insanity, while Macbeth becomes increasingly willing to kill any who oppose him.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Initially, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are the ultimate power couple. They are both committed to Duncan's murder—albeit with varying degrees of commitment—and see Macbeth's subsequent elevation to the throne of Scotland as fulfilling his destiny.

There is a sense that once Macbeth has achieved his wicked goals, Lady Macbeth will attain a position of equal power and authority within the kingdom, since without her, Macbeth would not have been able to rise so far and so fast. She was the main mover behind the plan to assassinate Duncan; she was the one who constantly cajoled, bullied, and pleaded with Macbeth to go ahead with the murder when he seemed to be getting cold feet. It's not unreasonable, then, for Lady Macbeth to expect great power to come her way once her husband is safely ensconced on the throne.

But that's not what happens. Once Macbeth becomes king, his wife fades from the picture, marginalized and ignored by the man she whom helped to grab the biggest prize. As Macbeth descends deeper and deeper into outright tyranny, he finds that he no longer needs his wife—he can rule just as well without her, he thinks. The irony here is that it was Lady Macbeth's sheer bloody ruthlessness more than anything else that led to Macbeth's becoming king of Scotland. Yet now, as he develops into a blood-thirsty despot, he makes increasingly cruel, barbaric decisions on his own—decisions that (again, ironically) Lady Macbeth would almost certainly not have advised him to make.

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Elinor Lowery eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Initially, Lady Macbeth seems to be the one to 'wear the pants' in the relationship.  She is the one to first suggest that King Duncan die before leaving Macbeth's castle, and she calls on the spirits to 'unsex her' or take away her femininity so that she can play her part in the murderous scene.  Macbeth is very unsure about murdering the king whereas Lady Macbeth is confident and zealous to accomplish the deed.  She is the one who makes all the plans, and keeps them from Macbeth until the time is right. 

After the murder is committed, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begin to almost switch places.  Macbeth keeps secrets from Lady Macbeth, such as Banquo's death.  Lady Macbeth becomes the one who is unstable and unsure - to the point where she goes insane because she cannot handle what she has done.  Macbeth becomes seemingly harsh and evil, confidently deciding to kill whoever might threaten his time on the throne.

For both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, their greed, selfishness, and desire for the throne blind them to everything else and deteriorate their relationship to the point that upon Lady Macbeth's death, Macbeth barely seems to be concerned. 

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mariyahahmed | Student

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sampu88 | Student

Macbeth's and Lady Macbeth's relationship changes throughout the course of the play. In the beginning we see Lady Macbeth playing the more superior, more dominating role of the two. She lays all the plans and all Macbeth has to do is obey her commands. She comes across as a woman, who is persuasive and manipulative. Macbeth on the other hand is fickle-minded and unsure. We discover that the man, who is praised so highly by the King and the general public, is actually weak and submissive man.

However, towards the end of the play, Lady Macbeth, comes across as one who has succumbed to her guilt and is paying the price sub-consciously by taking to somnambulism. She takes responsibility for the murders of Duncan, Banquo and Macduff's wife and children. She discovers that nothing that she does could rid her off her guilt, by admitting that even the 'sweet-smelling erfumes of Arabia' would not be able to remove the stench of blood from her 'little hand'. She now takes up the role of the weak, submissive partner in the relationship, who is unsure of herself and very frightened of the future. Macbeth, on the other hand, now makes all his decisions by himself, and reaches the extent whereto he does not even bother to inform his wife of his plans. He gains false confidence from the witches second predictions and builds castles in the air. He becomes a tyrant and a man, despised and hated by his public. He becomes 'insane' and goes out of control.