In Shakespeare's classic play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as an ambitious, calculating woman, who manipulates her husband to follow through with King Duncan's assassination by questioning his masculinity and assuring him that they will not fail in their wicked endeavor. In act 1, scene 7, Macbeth rehearses to himself all the arguments against killing Duncan and concludes that he will not murder the king. When Lady Macbeth enters the scene, Macbeth tells her, "We will proceed no further in this business" (Shakespeare, 1.7.33). Lady Macbeth is outraged by his immediate change of character and proceeds to insult his masculinity and degrade him for being timid. Lady Macbeth asks,
Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valor
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,”
Like the poor cat i' th' adage? (1.7.39–45)
Lady Macbeth is asking her husband if he is afraid to act upon his ambition and calls him a coward for hesitating to take what he desires most in life. She is manipulating him by challenging his masculinity. During the eleventh century, esteemed men were expected to be callous, resolute, and aggressive, which is the complete opposite of how Macbeth is currently acting. In an attempt to justify his decision and respond to his wife's insults, Macbeth says that any man who dares to do more than he should is not a man at all. Lady Macbeth once again displays her manipulative techniques by saying,
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man (1.7.49–52).
Lady Macbeth continues to question her husband's masculinity and shame him into committing the bloody crime. After ridiculing her husband and making him feel like a timid coward, Lady Macbeth assures him that their plan will be successful by saying,
We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we’ll not fail (1.7.60–62).
Macbeth succumbs to his wife's manipulation and agrees to carry out the assassination, which leads to his tragic downfall.