In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth provides the audience with more information about her husband’s character.  What does she say?  From what you know thus far of Macbeth’s character, would you agree?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth tells us that her husband is ambitious, but does not have the initiative to act on his ambitions.

From what we have seen of Macbeth before we meet Lady Macbeth, we might assume that he is a very ambitious man.  After all, he is an accomplished soldier and war hero.  He also had a strong reaction to the witches’ prophecies.  When they told him that he would be king, he was very excited.  In fact, when he learned that Malcolm, the king’s son, was named heir instead, he was angry.

The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. (Act 1, Scene 4)

From this aside, which is said only to the audience, you would assume that Macbeth is all hot and ready to do whatever it takes to become king.  However, his wife does not believe it.  She has enough ambition for the both of them, but she feels that her husband does not have it in him to take what he wants.

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it … (Act 1, Scene 5)

Basically, Lady Macbeth thinks that her husband is a wimp.  He does not have what it takes to kill King Duncan and take his place.  For this reason, Lady Macbeth has to be the man in the relationship and get him to do what needs to be done.  She does so.

The reader or viewer may be initially surprised at Lady Macbeth’s pronouncements, because Macbeth seems very ambitious.  However, it turns out she was right.  When Macbeth arrives home, he is wishy-washy and tries to talk himself out of killing Duncan. He also tells his wife he is worried about getting caught.  She ensures that she is the one who makes the plan and makes him carry it out to the letter.

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Macbeth

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