In act 1, scene 5 of Macbeth, what is the purpose of Macbeth's letter to his wife?

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There are two purposes, or two sets of purposes, behind Macbeth's letter to Lady Macbeth . Within the play, there are Macbeth's aims in communicating with his wife by letter, when he is shortly to see her in person. On the level of the dramatist's craft, there are Shakespeare's...

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There are two purposes, or two sets of purposes, behind Macbeth's letter to Lady Macbeth. Within the play, there are Macbeth's aims in communicating with his wife by letter, when he is shortly to see her in person. On the level of the dramatist's craft, there are Shakespeare's purposes in using this dramatic technique, rather than allowing Macbeth to communicate these matters directly.

Macbeth clearly has a very close relationship with his wife. After his encounter with the witches, he hides his thoughts and feelings from Banquo, his closest friend, but immediately writes to Lady Macbeth, being unable to withhold anything from her for a moment longer than necessary. In addition to this, we are to discover in the next few scenes that Lady Macbeth has a somewhat overbearing character and will not always allow her husband to express his thoughts in full. Informing her of these rather complex events by letter at least precludes the possibility of interruption.

From a dramatic point of view, the audience knows that Lady Macbeth has been fully informed of the events of act 1, scene 3, without Macbeth needing to recount them all. Lady Macbeth has already read most of the account when the scene begins, and she only reads the final paragraph out loud. Also, since Macbeth is not present, she is able to express her thoughts about him in a soliloquy, which clearly would not be possible if he were on stage. The letter is, therefore, an effective device to allow us to see Lady Macbeth's uninhibited reaction to the news.

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In act 1, scene 5, Macbeth writes his wife a letter describing his interaction with the Three Witches, their seemingly favorable prophecies, and his new title as Thane of Cawdor. In the letter, Macbeth explains to his wife that the witches have supernatural power, and their prophecy about his new title as Thane of Cawdor was confirmed by Ross and Angus shortly after they disappeared into thin air. He goes on to write that the Three Witches also hailed him as future king after saluting him as Thane of Cawdor. The way in which Macbeth ends the letter indicates his purpose for writing it. Macbeth writes,

This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou might’st not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell (Shakespeare, 1.5.7-10).

Macbeth reveals his love for his wife by referring to her as his "dearest partner of greatness" and says that he wants her to rejoice along with him in their promised greatness. Overall, Macbeth is excited, enthused, and hopeful about the witches' presumably favorable prophecy and wants his wife to rejoice along with him about their future positions as king and queen. He does not reveal his thoughts about plotting to overthrow the king or is seeking advice from his wife in the letter. Macbeth is simply sharing the good the news and wants the woman he loves to experience the same happiness and hopeful emotions that he is feeling at the moment.

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In Shakespeare's Macbeth, there is a clear purpose to the letter our "hero" sends to his wife.

Macbeth, first and foremost, has wondrous news to tell Lady Macbeth. First, he met witches who offered him predictions. One has already come true, which means they will have more lands, money and honor in the King's court; the other promises that he will be King, and she will be Queen one day—it seems obvious he believes the old women after the first prediction came to be. In learning how excited he is about being Scotland's sovereign, we get the briefest glimpse of his "vaulting ambition"—his desire to become King that will eclipse everything else of value in his life.

We learn that Macbeth and his wife are very close. Not only because of how he addresses her, but also because he shares his news immediately rather than letting her wait until he returns home.

The third and perhaps most important purpose of the letter is to see how Lady Macbeth reacts to this news. We come to see how hard and calculating she is, and find that she worries that her husband is too kind to do what must be done if they are to secure the throne for themselves: which means murdering the King, for she sees no other way in which the crown can come to Macbeth.

Then she wishes Macbeth home quickly so that she can tell him what he needs to hear in order to do what he must:

Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear. (I, v, 20-21)

It almost sounds as if she is casting her own spell: come quickly so I can pour my evil intentions ("spirits") into your ear, so you won't hesitate to follow through.

It could logically be argued that without Lady Macbeth's encouragement, Macbeth might have been satisfied with the rewards he had been given, and not kill the King: he says as much to his wife when he returns. In essence, this letter galvanizes the plot forward at the hands of Lady Macbeth's machinations.

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