What is Lady Macbeth's attitude toward other characters in the play Macbeth?What is Lady Macbeth's attitude toward other characters in the play Macbeth?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth is, at first, a little dismissive of her husband. When he first arrives home and they begin to plot Duncan's murder, she tells him, "Leave all the rest to me" (1.5.86). It is very much as though she doesn't quite believe in his ability to work out a plan and then follow it through. She has said that she fears he is "too full o' th' milk of human kindness" to act against his friend (1.5.17). When Macbeth tells her, later, that he does not want to go forward with the murder, she asks him,

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 [...]. (1.7.43-47)

In other words, she asks him if he's afraid to act as bravely as he wants to and if he will go after the crown, the thing he wants the most, or will he be a coward. The implication is, clearly, that if he doesn't kill Duncan, he is a coward, then, and less of a man as a result. In fact, she says, "When you durst do it, then you were a man" (1.7.56), meaning that when he dared to commit the murder, that made him a man. If he will not, then he is no man. Pretty demoralizing words from a wife. She continues in this vein, even after the murder, because Macbeth is so distraught that he brings the murder weapons with him rather than leave them with the servants they intend to frame. Then, he complains that he'll never be able to sleep well again, and he worries over not being able to pronounce the word "Amen," which he takes as a sign that he's cursed. She accuses him of making too big a deal of things and, basically, acting like a baby. She's very hard on him.

To King Duncan, Lady Macbeth acts like a proper hostess, welcoming and kind. She tells him,

All our service,
In every point twice done and then done double,
Were poor and single business to contend
Against those honors deep and broad wherewith
Your Majesty loads our house. (1.6.18-22)

She says to Duncan that even if the work they've had to do to prepare for his coming were doubled and then doubled again, it would still not compare to all the honor he does their family by coming to stay. She's quite gracious.

The next morning, when Macduff discovers Duncan's body, Lady Macbeth pretends to play the weak woman. She acts as though she will faint when she is told that the king has been found dead in her house. She's obviously done a good job of pretending that she is a stereotypical woman, weak and emotional, because Macduff doesn't even want to tell her what's happened at first. He says,

O gentle lady,
'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak.
The repetition in a woman's ear
Would murder as it fell. (2.3.96-99)

Macduff, thus, tells her that she shouldn't listen to his news because to tell it to a woman would be to murder her. He obviously doesn't realize her true nature. No one really seems to until very close to the end of her life.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth acts graciously towards other characters in the play--all except Macbeth of course.  Lady Macbeth initially treats Macbeth harshly because she sees him as a weak man who lacks not ambition, but the strength to follow that ambition.  She often chides his sense of masculinity to persuade him to act.  However, Lady Macbeth regards other characters with outward respect.  For example, on the night that Duncan arrives at Inverness, Lady Macbeth graciously welcomes him into their home, and Duncan believes that he is well regarded.  Lady Macbeth is obviously covering her and Macbeth's true intentions, and her outward actions mask her inner feelings.