In Macbeth, how does Lady Macbeth compare to her husband during Act Two? 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout Macbeth, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth fluctuate back and forth between ambition and anxiety, between greed and guilt. In Act Two, this is pronounced because we see both characters reacting before and after Duncan's murder. Persuaded by the prophecies of the weird sisters and the encouragement of his wife, Macbeth proceeds to kill Duncan but he is quite apprehensive about it: 

Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps which way they walk, for fear

They very stones prate of my whereabout, 

And take the present horror from the time, (II.i.56-59) 

In the next scene, Lady Macbeth reveals that she was prepared to kill Duncan herself but also was struck by anxiety, claiming that Duncan's resemblance to her father prevented her from doing it. "Had he not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done't." (II.ii.12-13). It is Lady Macbeth who realizes both of them are feeling the guilt and anxiety of having committed this crime. She recognizes that in order to continue with the plan for Macbeth to become king, they have to put the murder out of their minds: 

These deeds must not be thought

After these ways. So, it will make us mad. (II.ii.32-33) 

Lady Macbeth takes control in this scene, telling Macbeth to wash the blood from his hands and when Macbeth refuses to return the daggers to Duncan's chambers, she takes them herself. Although both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are apprehensive and anxious after the murder is committed, Lady Macbeth is decidedly more resolute and in control while Macbeth can't bear to think about what he's done.