In Macbeth, how does Lady Macbeth influence Macbeth?

In Macbeth, how does Lady Macbeth influence Macbeth?

Ways that Lady Macbeth influences Macbeth in Macbeth include appealing to and questioning his masculinity and causing him to feel guilty.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Macbeth begins to have second thoughts about murdering Duncan. He knows Duncan has been good to him and also wants to bask in his favor. However, Lady Macbeth wants to seize this moment, when Duncan is a guest under their roof, to do the job. She also doesn't want...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

Macbeth begins to have second thoughts about murdering Duncan. He knows Duncan has been good to him and also wants to bask in his favor. However, Lady Macbeth wants to seize this moment, when Duncan is a guest under their roof, to do the job. She also doesn't want Macbeth to lose his resolve.

Lady Macbeth knows her husband and how to manipulate him. She does so by appealing to his masculinity. She says that if she had promised to murder somebody, even to the point of dashing her baby's brains out, she would do it. Macbeth is impressed at her hardness and says he hopes she is the mother of sons. Because he does not want to be emasculated in her eyes, Macbeth agrees to go through with a plan he knows will lead to more and more bloodshed. He tries to explain this to her. He tells her there will be no going back once he heads down the path of murdering a king. Lady Macbeth is unmoved, and Macbeth kills Duncan.

It is interesting that Macbeth has a clearer idea than his wife of what the murder means for both of them. It is tragic that, just at the moment Macbeth was walking back from his evil scheme, she interfered and pushed him down the road to disaster. And ironically, for all her brave words, it is Lady Macbeth, not Macbeth, who cracks under the strain of the guilt and ends up committing suicide.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lady Macbeth is a malicious and manipulative mastermind.  To begin, she conceives the entire plan and hashes out the details before Macbeth even truly considers taking action to make the prophecies come true.  She is the one who urges Macbeth to frame the guards by getting them intoxicated and actually prepares the murder scene for Macbeth to take Duncan's life.  In the end, she is the only reason that the plan works because she forces Macbeth to go back and cover up the murder properly, he is too upset to actually frame the guards.  

However, Lady Macbeth's influence is more potent than mere plotting.  She uses three primary methods in order to coerce Macbeth into committing the deed.  To begin, she calls into question his manhood and aggressively pushes him to commit the act: "When you durst do it, then you were a man." This manipulation definitely works on Macbeth to some extent but is not fully convincing.  Then, Lady Macbeth turns to guilt in order to push him to act.  She states: 

How tender it is 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 dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you/ Have done to this.

This basically makes clear to Macbeth that, even if she felt the same way that he is currently feeling, she would not go back on her word to him.  This guilt does in fact work to help convince Macbeth as he then begins to consider the plot more seriously.  The final method that Lady Macbeth uses is her femininity and sensuality in order to push Macbeth to follow through with the deed.  Their final discussion at the end of Act 1 ends with Lady Macbeth seductively convincing Macbeth that nothing will go wrong with the plan that she has created.  Towards the end of Act 1, Scene 7 Macbeth has clearly been swayed by all of these manipulative tactics and this leads to his agreement to commit the deed.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lady Macbeth has such power over Macbeth. She is a manipulative woman, who will stop at nothing to see that her husband gets what is foretold to him. She hears the witches and decides to help their visions come true.

Lady Macbeth conceives the idea of killing Duncan. Macbeth didn't really want to kill him, but he listens to his wife and is convinced it is the right thing to do. Lady Macbeth is power hungry and we see that right from the get go. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are slowly going deeper into madness, but Lady Macbeth keeps a strong hand on Macbeth. She is truly the lady behind the man, who controls it all. Macbeth has a hard time killing Duncan. Lady Macbeth makes him think it the only way for what the witches haves said to come true. 

Though the two of them fall deeper into madness, Lady Macbeth is the one who quietly keeps control of everything. She makes everyone believe that Macbeth is a strong man and a fierce leader, when in reality she is the one controlling it all. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth calls on the conventions of gender during Elizabethan times to influence her husband Macbeth.  When Lady Macbeth first receives the letter from Macbeth detailing the witches' prophecy, she says that Macbeth is "too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way," meaning that Macbeth is too good to do anything ill to follow his ambition.  So when trying to convince Macbeth to murder Duncan, she tells him that he would be "so much more the man" if he were to follow through on the plan.  Macbeth being the valiant soldier is persuaded by this test of his manhood, and he goes ahead with the murder.  Later, when Macbeth hallucinates both the dagger and Banquo's ghost as a reflection of his own guilt, Lady Macbeth tells him that he is a coward for allowing his guilt to control him.  So, Lady Macbeth chides her husband's manhood to influence him into action.

Posted on