Lady Macbeth dominates her husband from the first time they appear together in act 1, scene 5. It is noticeable how little he speaks in her presence, despite his eloquence in other situations. Her method of control is more subtle than being a mere harridan, since she bestows her good...
Lady Macbeth dominates her husband from the first time they appear together in act 1, scene 5. It is noticeable how little he speaks in her presence, despite his eloquence in other situations. Her method of control is more subtle than being a mere harridan, since she bestows her good opinion on him, lavishing him with praise, then sharply withdraws this approval when he fails to act as she wishes. She greets him as a hero:
Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!
However, almost immediately, she begins to order him about:
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under't.
In act 1, scene 8, Macbeth completely changes his purpose, from vowing at the beginning of the scene that he will proceed "no further" in the business of killing Duncan, then, after a relatively brief dose of Lady Macbeth's unique methods of persuasion, promising the exact opposite. Lady Macbeth disparages Macbeth's manhood and sneers at his honor, but it is also the sheer rhetorical force of her speeches that overwhelms him. When he has been persuaded, there is a combination of relief and admiration in his words:
Bring forth men-children only;
For thy undaunted mettle should compose
Nothing but males.
Although Lady Macbeth's influence seems to fade towards the end of the play, she is still clearly in charge in act 3, scene 4, and is using exactly the same tactics of scorn and emasculation. She associates cowardice with women and Macbeth with both as she rebukes him for his display of fear at the sight of Banquo's ghost:
O proper stuff!
This is the very painting of your fear:
This is the air-drawn dagger which, you said,
Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts,
Impostors to true fear, would well become
A woman's story at a winter's fire,
Authorized by her grandam.