How are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth different in Macbeth?

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are different at first because she is so much more willing than he is to plot the murder of the king. Macbeth feels loyal to Duncan and extremely guiltily after the murder. However, Lady Macbeth seems to feel no loyalty and shames Macbeth for his emotional response, calling him a coward. They switch roles, though, over the course of the play, so that Lady Macbeth becomes regretful while Macbeth grows more violent.

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Although Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both ambitious and desire to attain the throne, Macbeth initially hesitates to take action and is reluctant to follow through with the assassination. In act 1, scene 7, Macbeth contemplates the murder and has several reservations about committing the heinous crime. Macbeth informs his wife that they will "proceed no further in this business" and refuses to assassinate King Duncan. Unlike her husband, Lady Macbeth is significantly more resolute and callous towards the beginning of the play. She even calls upon evil spirits to "unsex" her and is prepared to help Macbeth commit regicide. When Macbeth acts timid, Lady Macbeth responds by questioning his masculinity and assuring him that they will succeed.

Initially, Duncan's assassination negatively affects Macbeth's mental stability, and he begins experiencing auditory hallucinations. Macbeth immediately regrets murdering the king and refuses to reenter Duncan's chamber. Once again, Lady Macbeth displays her bold personality by placing the daggers back to the chamber. When Macbeth laments his blood-stained hands, Lady Macbeth responds by saying,

My hands are of your color, but I shame
To wear a heart so white (2.2.78–79).

As the play progresses, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth switch roles, and Macbeth transforms into a cruel tyrant while Lady Macbeth gradually loses her mind. Following King Duncan's assassination, Macbeth develops into a calculating tyrant, who commissions the murders of Banquo, Fleance, and Macduff's entire family. Macbeth acts independently and is confident that he cannot be defeated. In contrast, Lady Macbeth experiences the crippling guilt of murdering King Duncan, begins to sleepwalk, and also hallucinates. It is implied that Lady Macbeth commits suicide, while Macbeth chooses to die in "valiant fury."

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Initially, Lady Macbeth seems to be the more resolute and the more murderous of the two. Right away, when she learns of the Weird Sisters’ prophecies, she is eager to persuade Macbeth that they should murder the king and claim the “golden round” (1.5.31). She fears that he is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness” to take the shortest path to kingship: murdering the current king (1.5.17). Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, does not seem to be too full of kindness to casually plot murder, or to be ready to stage the murder at a moment’s notice. In fact, later, when Macbeth tries to renege on their plans, she says that she would have “dashed the brains out” of her own baby if she had sworn to do it, as Macbeth has so sworn to do this (1.7.66).

When it comes time to actually commit the murder, however, Lady Macbeth cannot bring herself to do it. She says, “Had [Duncan] not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done ‘t” (2.2.16). It turns out, then, that she does have some sentimentality or feeling in her after all. Despite his many misgivings, it is Macbeth who actually kills the king, and though he feels terrible about it after the fact, he quickly begins to plot more and worse murders. Eventually, Macbeth becomes an absolute tyrant while Lady Macbeth’s guilty conscience initiates her demise. All along, she feared it would be Macbeth who reveals what they have done to become king and queen, but it is actually she who does it in her sleep.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begin the play, apparently, at opposite ends of the spectrum—she is eager to murder while he is reticent, and he seems regretful while she is hardened emotionally—but as events unfold, they switch places. In the end, it is Lady Macbeth who is regretful and guilty, while Macbeth is emotionally hardened and eager to kill.

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Macbeth and Lady Macbeth complement one another perfectly.  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both ambitious, but Lady Macbeth is more of a planner.  Macbeth wants things, but does not want to work for them.  Lady Macbeth is willing to do the thinking and preparation, but she does not want to actually carry out the deed.  For that she needs Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth immediately gets to work when she hears of the prophecies.  She is ready to make her husband king.  The only thing that stands in the way is his kindness and his cowardice, according to her.  She believes she can work on him and get him to see her way.

Hie thee hither,

That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,

And chastise with the valor of my tongue

All that impedes thee from the golden round,(25)

Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem

To have thee crown'd withal. (Act 1, Scene 5, p. 90)

Lady Macbeth understands that she herself does not have the guts to kill Ducan (and perhaps the strength), but her husband won’t act unless he is spurred on.  She becomes the thorn in his side, pushing him to act.  She plans everything and sets him in motion.  She makes sure the plan is carried out.

It turns out that when pushed Macbeth becomes quite violent.  Once he starts killing, he seems unable to stop. 

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