In Macbeth, which phrase in the letter best summarizes Macbeth's relationship with his wife? (Act 1, Scene 5)
At the beginning of act 1, scene 5, Lady Macbeth reads her husband's letter, which describes his encounter with the Three Witches and explains the prophecy that he will one day become king. The most telling phrase of the letter that reveals Macbeth's relationship with his wife is when he writes "my dearest partner of greatness." This phrase is significant because it reveals Macbeth's affection for his wife and the fact that he views her as his trusted partner. At this point in the play, Macbeth is compassionate and loving towards his wife. When he returns to Inverness, Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to assassinate King Duncan and even participates in the murder by placing the daggers back into Duncan's chamber.
Following the murder, Lady Macbeth begins to lose her mind, and Macbeth becomes a callous, bloodthirsty tyrant. He begins withholding information from his wife and no longer treats her as his trusted partner. As the play progresses, Macbeth loses affection for his wife, and she dies a lonely, tortured woman.
In his letter to Lady Macbeth, Macbeth tells her that he has been awarded the title of Thane of Cawdor; furthermore, he shares the news of his encounter with the witches who have made exciting prophecies. He addresses his wife as "my dearest partner of greatness," indicating that this marriage is indeed a partnership; decisions are made together. Despite this description, however, when Macbeth returns to Inverness, it is clear that the relationship between this husband and wife is not based on equality. She plays a powerful role in convincing a reluctant Macbeth to kill Duncan that night. Later Macbeth will make a number of crucial decisions without consulting Lady Macbeth at all. Their marriage is deeply affected by the witches' prophecies and their subsequent rise to power.
I would choose the phrase that precedes the "partnership" descriptor. Macbeth says that he wrote of the witches prediction because "This have I thought good to deliver thee."
This small phrase is very illuminating. He is deferring to his wife. He "thinks" he should make her informed of this news and that she'll be happy. He doesn't say: look, I have good news. He doesn't say "this is what we are going to do". He says he thought it "good to deliver thee". Macbeth is subservient in all aspects - to Duncan, to the witches, and to his wife. This describes their marriage because, as later scenes will show, he does what she asks of him. Hence all the trouble!