In Macbeth, how does Macbeth's technique of persuading the murderers resemble Lady Macbeth's earlier method of persuading Macbeth?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the scene of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, when Macbeth persuades the murders to kill Banquo, we see similarities to Lady Macbeth's methods of convincing Macbeth of killing Duncan.

In Act One when Lady Macbeth starts insulting Macbeth to manipulate him so he will be more likely to kill the King, she insults Macbeth's manhood. She accuses him of being a coward:

Art thou afeard / To be the same in thine own act and valour / 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...  (I.vii.39-43)

Basically she asking him if he isn't ambitious enough to go after what he wants: he wants to be the king ("the ornament of life" or the crown), but is he really a coward?

Then she gets the reaction she wants. Macbeth's anger is apparent as he defends his bravery:

I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none. (I.vii.46-47)

Here he says whatever it take to be a "real man," I have it; there is no one better at it than me.

This message is echoed again when Macbeth confronts the murders. Macbeth gathers the men, essentially at a second meeting. At the previous meeting, Macbeth lied to them and told them that Banquo was the one responsible for their lot in life: they have been unable to move forward and be more successful in providing for their families, etc., because of Banquo. He recaps this now to remind them. They remember his words. Then he asks them if they are going to allow Banquo to go free, unpunished. Will they be "holy" enough to forgive him after Macbeth has shown them that:

[Banquo's] heavy hand hath bowed you to the grave And beggared yours forever. (III.i.89-90)

One responds:

We are men, my liege. (III.i.90)

Here Macbeth also goes after their manhood:

Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men,
As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
Shoughs, waterrugs, and demi-wolves are clept
All by the name of dogs. The valued file
Distinguishes the swift, the slow, the subtle,
The housekeeper, the hunter, every one
According to the gift which bounteous nature
Hath in him closed, whereby he does receive
Particular addition, from the bill
That writes them all alike; and so of men.
Now if you have a station in the file,
Not i’ the worst rank of manhood, say it... (III.i.91-102)

Macbeth responds to the murderer's response of "we are men," with an extended metaphor that compares men to dogs. He is inferring that they may say they are men, but are they real men or mongrels? He says that like dogs, there are purebreds and there are mutts, though each is called a dog. A dog of value has a natural gift: one might be swift, while another dog might be a hunter. However the dog's gift raises him above the mutt. So Macbeth tells the men if they are not the lowest form of men (like mutts), he has something for them to do—to prove it.

He also promises that when they carry out his business, he will be indebted to them. They both agree.

This method of appealing to a man's sense of power and prowess is something Lady Macbeth does to Macbeth. It is also effective when Macbeth convinces the murderers to fall in with his plan, if they be men; and whereas life has beaten them down with ill-fortune, it has not taken away their sense of manliness; if anything, it has sharpened it by the way life has taken so much control away from them in terms of living a decent life and caring for their families.