What is the role of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth?

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth is the one who decides that Macbeth must kill Duncan in order to become king when she says in Act 1, sc. 5, "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be / What thou art promised."  She is the one, who when Macbeth in Act 1, sc. 7, says that he doesn't want to kill Duncan after all, tells him that if he doesn't do it, then in her eyes, he is not a man and thus convinces him to commit the murder.  She is also the one who plans how and when the murder will be committed, again this is Act 1, sc. 7.  Later, when Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost at the banquet, Lady Macbeth tries to cover for her husband saying he has occasional fits (Act 3, sc. 4).  In Act 5, Lady Macbeth is driven insane with the guilt of the murders for which she and her husband are responsible.  Among other signs of her madness, she continually rubs her hands as though washing them because she sees blood on her hands.  This harkens back to Act 2, sc. 2, when she chided Macbeth for coming into her chamber still holding the bloody daggers from having killed Duncan.  Lady Macbeth plays the role of the determined wife with no conscience until the end of the play when her conscience finally gets the best of her.  She begins as the driving force behind Macbeth and ends as a pitiful insane woman.