How does the character of Lady Macbeth change throughout the play Macbeth?

Lady Macbeth changes significantly throughout the play Macbeth. In the beginning, Lady Macbeth is ruthless and will do anything to make sure her husband becomes king. She has a heartless attitude and mocks her husband for his weakness in hesitating to kill the king. However, Lady Macbeth becomes gradually more unstrung by her guilt over Duncan's murder. She sleepwalks and hallucinates that her hands are covered in blood. Eventually, the guilt overpowers her, and she dies, presumably by suicide.

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At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is depicted as an ambitious, resolute woman, who is willing to doom her soul in order to become queen. When she first hears the news of the witches ' seemingly favorable prophecy, she rejoices about the possibility of becoming queen and invites...

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At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is depicted as an ambitious, resolute woman, who is willing to doom her soul in order to become queen. When she first hears the news of the witches' seemingly favorable prophecy, she rejoices about the possibility of becoming queen and invites evil spirits to "unsex" her by filling her soul with the "direst cruelty." Unlike her cautious, reluctant husband, Lady Macbeth remains callous and focused on the task at hand. She not only plots the king's assassination but manipulates Macbeth into following her bloody instructions by insulting his manhood and assuring him that they will get away with the crime.

In act 2, scene 2, Lady Macbeth continues to display her bold, courageous personality by criticizing her husband's fear, placing the daggers back in Duncan's chamber, and coaching Macbeth to conceal his emotions. Lady Macbeth demonstrates her resolute, callous personality by saying,

My hands are of your color, but I shame
To wear a heart so white (2.2.79–80).

Following the murder, Lady Macbeth does an excellent job distracting the Scottish noblemen by fainting and even covers for her husband when he begins hallucinating at the banquet.

As the play progresses, Macbeth becomes increasingly violent and distant from his wife, while Lady Macbeth begins experiencing the overwhelming guilt of murdering King Duncan. In act 5, scene 1, Lady Macbeth's mental health has significantly deteriorated, and she begins sleepwalking at night. The Doctor and Gentlewoman witness Lady Macbeth pretending to wash her hands in her sleep and saying,

Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh! (5.1.45)

Lady Macbeth's words mirror her husband's earlier lamentation following Duncan's assassination, which reveals her guilty soul and tortured mind. Lady Macbeth suffers the consequences of her actions and eventually commits suicide offstage in act 5, scene 5. Overall, Lady Macbeth transforms from being a confident, cruel woman into a guilt-ridden queen with a tortured mind and corrupt soul.

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Lady Macbeth goes from being violent and kind of insane to being timid and really insane.

Early in the story, she wants Macbeth to be king no matter what he has to do to get it.  As a result, she is able to convince him pretty strongly to kill King Duncan.  When she thinks that will be enough is not clear.  He also has to frame the king's sons and kill Banquo.

Lady Macbeth soon begins to regret what she has done, and what her husband has become.  Before long, she starts to doubt herself.  When Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost, she is worried--especially since there are witnesses. 

Finally, she seems to break.  She begins sleepwalking, hallucinating that the metaphorical blood on her hands is really there, and she can never wash it off.

 

 

 

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The above commentators have tried to point out how differently Lady Macbeth has been projected throughout the play. However, it is crucial to note how her character changes throughout the play. Lady Macbeth has been projected in three different ways. She is a provoker at first, a saviour in the middle and a psychiatric patient at the end of the play. Lady Macbeth changes from a provoker to a saviour because she succeeds in transforming Macbeth from a ‘fair’ to a ‘foul’ creature. Once the provocation is successful Lady Macbeth tries to save Macbeth from problematic situations (e.g. in Act II, Sc. iii she faints). When Macbeth does not let Lady Macbeth know about his intention to kill Banquo, the audience becomes aware of the fact that Macbeth is now beyond her control. Lady Macbeth therefore is projected as a character who is wounded in her psyche by the evil powers that she has invoked to provoke Macbeth. In the final section of the play that wound transforms her into a psychological patient who again and again tries to clear the evidence of her deed from her own hand.

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Lady Macbeth is portrayed as being monstrously evil in the first three acts of the play.  When her character is first introduced, her strength and ambition are evident as she assures her husband that the witches' prophesy will indeed come true, even as she questions whether Macbeth has the fortitude to make sure that it does.  She expresses her concern, thinking, "I fear thy nature; it is too fullo' the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way" (I,v,16-18).  Because of this, she makes herself the driving force behind her husband's endeavors to win the crown.  She laments her womanhood, and, in a chilling compact with evil, prays to be "unsexed" because she thinks that her femininity makes her weak (I,v,41-50). 

Lady Macbeth is much different character in the final two acts of the play.  Tormented by guilt and the havoc which she has put into motion, her mind becomes "infected" (V,i,72).  She imagines that she has blood on her hands which cannot be removed (V,i,35), and, consumed by her own ruthlessness, she decends into madness.  Ironically, Lady Macbeth is humanized in her weakness, showing a touching if deranged concern for her husband even in the midst of her own depravity.  She repeatedly reassures the absent Macbeth that he has nothing to fear because "Banquo's buried, he cannot come out on's grave" (V,i, 62-65).  Lady Macbeth's decline ends in suicide.

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The most obvious way we see her change is her mindset and attitude toward guilt.  In the beginning she is ruthless and will do anything to make sure her husband becomes king.  We see this right away when we first meet her in Act 1, scene 5.  She receives the letter from Macbeth and immediately sees the opportunity and starts to make plans.  She questions Macbeth's strength and if he's too kind to go through with the plan.  She says

"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! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! "

She continues with this heartless attitude and mocks her husband when he seems weak.  While he feels guilty about the blood on his hands, she says "a little water clears us of this deed."

But later in Act Five, the guilt and remorse come to haunt her.  She is sleep walking and muttering about the horrible act of killing Duncan. She literally goes crazy with guilt.  Her comments about the blood come back in this scene where she is making a washing motion with her hands and saying "Out damn spot."

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Lady Macbeth is a complex character. The main constant in her character is her strong sense of duty. She sees as her first duty as a wife supporting her husband and being responsible for his success, being a sort of power behind the throne. On the other hand, an important part of what she understands as her role as a woman is to be tender, empathetic, and a moral compass. In order to support the ambitions of a husband too filled with "the milk of human kindness," she must temporarily suppress or repudiate her feminine nature. In a soliloquy she states:

... Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me  ... full [o]f direst cruelty.

The contradiction between the strength Lady Macbeth needs to commit evil acts and her feminine nature drives her insane as the play progresses, and her strength ultimately gives way to remorse. One could say that in the beginning of the play she succeeds by strength of will in "unsexing" herself but that her feminine nature (as femininity was conceived by Shakespeare) eventually reasserts itself as the play progresses. 

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Lady Macbeth's character changes remarkably throughout Shakespeare's Macbeth. At first, she seems more confident in the murderous scheme than her husband, goading him to kill Duncan and staying calm when Macbeth panics. Then, afterwards, it seems Lady Macbeth is responsible for keeping up appearances, as she reins in Macbeth when he begins to express feelings of regret or remorse. As confident as she is, however, Lady Macbeth's conviction eventually fades, and by the end of the play she has become a shade of her formerly ferocious self. Indeed, the guilt of her deeds eventually drives Lady Macbeth mad and, by the end of the play, she commits suicide. Thus, the evolution of Lady Macbeth's character is a dramatic one, as she effectively crumbles under the strain of her own ambition. This evolution can also be contrasted with Macbeth's own progression, as he seems to regret his part in the murder of Duncan more immediately than his wife.

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At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is displayed as a dominant, cruel, and manipulative character. She manipulates Macbeth into listening to his own "black and deep desires" and killing king Duncan. She achieves this by questioning and ridiculing Macbeth's manhood. She shows no fear and wants to come across as rather cruel:

I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.

In this speech, Lady Macbeth proclaims that she would kill her own baby if she promised someone she would because she would never be able to break her promise. This shows she is very manipulative and calculating and that she wants Macbeth to murder Duncan at any cost.

Towards the end of the play, Lady Macbeth becomes a mere shadow of her former self. She has descended into madness and is consumed by guilt and fear. She is haunted by her guilt-ridden conscience because she played a key role in persuading Macbeth to commit atrocities for the sake of achieving his personal goals. Now, we see Lady Macbeth as a very fragile character whose hallucinations reveal how tormented her mind is by all the misdeeds her husband committed:

The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?—
What, will these hands ne'er be clean?—No more o'
that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with
this starting.

Lady Macbeth serves as an example of what happens when a person embraces evil.

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