The role of Lady Macbeth has made many actresses famous. Why do you suppose the role is so sought after?

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Shakespeare had a habit of personifying virtues and vices in certain characters.  For instance, Iago is an embodiment of jealousy; Lady Macbeth is seen by many scholars as an embodiment of ambition, the personification of Macbeth's weakness.  Actresses precipitate toward characters whose function in a play is the acting out of the driving motive, because there is so much texture to contribute in such roles.  Without reducing the motive to oversimple gender conflicts, an actress wants something more than a female social role to work with.  In other words, Lady Macbeth is not just the wife of the protaganist -- she is the personification of the play's theme.

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The role is full of passion and ambiguity, and it can very well illustrate the craft of a natural born actor. The cruelty is mingled with undying love for her husband; her infinite ambition and ruthlessness are softened by the final madness. In such extremes, an actor can show a full array of subtleties and emotions. She is very intelligent and strong-willed, more than her husband in fact, and she does not have children, which makes her quite unusual as a woman and a wife. She is both a persecutor and a victim: this tragic tension makes her memorable - even if she only has comparatively few lines - and the reading or theatre public is drawn to remember the actor that plays her well.
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