How does Lady Macbeth instigate her husband to murder Duncan?I need the important keywords and quotes to this answer.

Expert Answers
akasha124 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even at the beginning of the play, Lady MacBeth is already plotting to murder MacBeth.  While it initially appears that she is a very masculine character as she wishes she could simply murder Duncan herself, she uses what was considered a female method of ruthlessness - manipulation.  She plays her husband like a violin to further her political ambitions until it becomes even too much for her.  She questions her husband's manhood repeatedly until she goads him into doing the deed and she is the one with the iron will as she steadies his nerves to commit murder.

But her ability to be empathetic to manipulate people to comply with her ambitions is eventually turned on her and the guilt of what she wrought becomes too much and she commits suicide.

Some quotes of note:


  • Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
    What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;
    It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
    To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
    Art not without ambition; but without
    The illness should attend it.
    • Lady Macbeth, Act 1 scene v
  • Come, you spirits
    That tend on mortal thoughts! unsex me here,
    And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full
    Of direst cruelty You wait on nature's mischief!
  • Lady Macbeth, Act 1 scene v

Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.

  • Lady Macbeth, Act 1 scene v
  • Macbeth: If we should fail —
    Lady Macbeth: We fail!
    But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
    And we'll not fail.
    • Act 1 Scene vii


  • Infirm of purpose!
    Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
    Are but as pictures. 'Tis the eye of childhood
    That fears a painted devil.
    • Lady Macbeth, Act 2 scene i


  • Things without all remedy
    Should be without regard: what's done is done.
    • Lady Macbeth, Act 3 scene ii
  • Lady Macbeth: Are you a man?
    Macbeth: Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that
    Which might appall the devil.
    • Act 3 Scene iv
  • Out, damned spot! out, I say!
    • Lady Macbeth, Act 5 scene i


  • Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.
    • Lady Macbeth, Act 5 scene i


  • Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!
    • Lady Macbeth, Act 5 scene i


  • What's done cannot be undone.
    • Lady Macbeth, Act 5 scene i


Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth begins to instigate her husband in Act I:v when Macbeth informs her that Duncan will be coming to their castle to spend the night.  She replies:

And when goes hence? (line 54)

This is subtle, but she is raising the issue of Duncan's death.  Macbeth understands, so we know he has been thinking about the same possibility.  He says:  "Tomorrow, as he purposes."  The bold is my emphasis.  He is suggesting that tomorrow is when Duncan plans to leave, but he won't necessarily do so.  Lady Macbeth responds by saying that Duncan will never see the sun rise again (I'm paraphrasing).  She then tells her husband to act normally, so no one can tell that everything isn't quite normal.

Lady Macbeth again instigates, after Macbeth changes his mind and decides not to assassinate Duncan.  In line 31 of Act I:vii Macbeth tells her "We will proceed no further in this business:..."  She responds, mainly by questioning his manhood.  She asks:

...Art thou afeard

To be the same in thine own act and valor

As thou art in desire?  Wouldst thou have that

Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,

And live a coward in thine own esteem. 

Letting "I dare not" wait upon "I would,..." (39-41)

Are you afraid to act on your desire?  Would you rather be a coward than have the crown?  Would you fail to do want you want to do because you don't dare do it?  These are the questions Lady Macbeth puts to her husband.

Those are some of the key quotes that demonstrate Lady Macbeth's instigation of her husband.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth goads her husband. When she finds out about the witches' prophesy, she hounds him about killing king Duncan. Look through Act I to find instances of this. I will give you one example. In Act I, Scene VII, she tells him:

LADY MACBETH: Was the hope drunk

Wherein you dress'd yourself? Hath it slept since?

And wakes it now, to look so green and pale

At what it did so freely? From this time

Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard

To be the same in thine own act and valor

As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that

Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life

And live a coward in thine own esteem,

Letting "I dare not" wait upon "I would"

Like the poor cat i' the adage?



Macbeth has just asked his wife if the king has asked for him, and he is hesitating over the killing. In this "speech" she accuses her husband of being a coward and challenges him to hurry up and get done with the deed.

Read about the play here on eNotes.