Macbeth vs. Lady Macbeth, who is more "tragic"For a Grade 12 ISP Lit, I have to do an essay on which character is more tragic. Can anyone help me with these topics: Why is Lady Macbeth "tragic"?...

Macbeth vs. Lady Macbeth, who is more "tragic"

For a Grade 12 ISP Lit, I have to do an essay on which character is more tragic. Can anyone help me with these topics:

Why is Lady Macbeth "tragic"?

Who is more tragic in your opinion?

Thank you for your help.

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To decide your response to this question (and after all one of the joys of Literature is that you can argue what you want to as long as you back it up) you need to go back and analyse each character - what they do, what they say and how they act, particularly, in my opinion, at the start of the play leading up to and after the murder of Duncan.

In my mind, whilst we can undeniably apply the label of "tragic" to both of these characters, Macbeth seems to be the more tragic figure. It is he, after all, who expresses doubts about the course of action he is about to follow, and it is Lady Macbeth who has to force him to be "resolute" by cajoling him, flattering him and basically bullying him into it. It is as if she is consumed completely by ambition, which eventually wears her out and leads to her emotional instability. With Macbeth, we know that he is a truly great character, having accomplished valiant deeds on the battlefield, and there is a kind of dignity in the way he meets his destiny head on, without surrender or cowardice, and dies as he lived.

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Coleridge said the play is "wholly tragic."  The Macbeths are a unit: you can't separate the two, I don't think.  They are foils and doppelgangers of each other.  They are foils of the Macduffs.

They murder Duncan together.  They murder sleep together.  They plot and carry out the murder as a team, but they suffer and die separately.  So, their hamartias (tragic mistakes are the same), but then there is a division of labor in Act III, when Macbeth is king.  He stops plotting with Lady Macbeth, keeping secret Banquo's murder.  Instead, Macbeth aligns himself with the Witches as his most trusted advisors.

Since they take different paths in the suffering, they are like Oedipus and Jocasta.  Lady Macbeth suicides, like Jocasta.  But, Macbeth fights on, taking dignity in his suffering, much like Oedipus.  I don't think either one is more tragic than the other, but I do think that Macbeth is definitely more heroic.

linalarocca eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe Macbeth is more tragic than Lady Macbeth. It is as though Lady Macbeth's candle simply burns out. I mean that her life sort of fades away into oblivion. The Gentlewoman in the play sees Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. Her eyes are open, but she is incoherent. Pathos for Lady Macbeth is diminished by the reader's knowledge of her state of mind before her suicide. She seems already dead in a way. Macbeth, however, obsesses about the witches' prophecies. His ambition is without morality. Ambition is Macbeth's tragic flaw that ultimately kills him in the end. At the end of the play, he believes he can fight Macduff because no man born of a woman can kill Macbeth, or so it seems. However, Macduff was born by Caesarean section and ultimately beheads Macbeth. Macbeth fights for his kingship until the very end. He derives no pleasure as the King of Scotland. Macbeth is pathetic in many ways.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Indeed, Macbeth is more heroic; therefore, he is more tragic simply by Aristotle's definition.  Had he not possessed the "green-eyed monster" of envy, the flaw of unreasonable desire, Macbeth could have attained greatness on his own as witnessed by his heroic actions in the first act which are related to Duncan by the captain.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that Macbeth is more tragic. He chose to let decisions be made for him, so not only did he have to live with the guilt of his actions and the repercussions, but he also had to deal with the knowledge that he could have stopped it and didn’t.

nusratfarah | Student

Definitely, Lady Macbeth's life, in my opinion, is more tragic in Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth's instigation energises Macbeth to fulfil his evil wishes. Yet, she is an instigator or spur, not the fulfiller. She, though speaks too much, executes a little. She pays more than she really deserves if compared with Macbeth. Examples can be given regarding her comparative benevolence. She failed to kill Duncan. She, at the end, becomes insane and insomniac, and commits suicide. This insanity proves her inner humanity which could no longer bear the burden of all the guilt. So, what she faces is more tragic to me than what her partner encounters.