Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does Lady Macbeth's character change throughout the play?        

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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Eleanora Howe eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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