In Macbeth, how does Shakepeare characterize the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?
Focus on key scenes:
Act 1, Scene 5, 6 and 7
Act 2, Scene 2 and 3
Act 3, Scene 2 and 4
Act 5, Scene 1 (Sleepwalking scene)
Act 5, Scene 5 (Lady Macbeth's Death)
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's relationship is a curiously supportive one. Lady Macbeth is loyal to her husband, wants him to succeed, knows his weaknesses, and sets a plan for him to achieve his greatness. The wife plays a very corrupt mentor or guide for Macbeth early on in the play, who takes control of the opportunity that has been placed before them. However, this turns by the play's end, when Macbeth explores the notion of death, and expounds on what they have done. This comes after Seyton tells him that his wife has died. Macbeth grows somber at this news, knowing that he has a hand in her death, a death that is premature in some aspects, but one he knows was inevitable.
Act 1: In Scene 5, Lady Macbeth is supportive and encouraging here, prompting and teaching Macbeth how to play the part: "...look th' innocent flower / But be the serpent under't". She wants him to be manipulative, deceptive, to have a dual nature. She knows that is what he will need to pull the murder off. In Scene 6, she literally models this duplicitous nature, of acting innocent but having a hidden agenda. And she does it to the King's face. In Scene 7, she has to be supportive one more time. Macbeth is weak, uncertain, questioning himself, and Lady Macbeth must build him back up and display how she believes in him; she needs to build his confidence and keep him toward his goal (and her goal).
Act 2: In Scene 2, Macbeth is overcome with guilt and Lady Macbeth is, once again, there for him to lean on. But she must go further, fixing a murder he has botched a bit. She must replace the daggers, showing true devotion to her husband and the crime. She is the stronger one here. And in Scene 3, Lady Macbeth once models the deceptive nature necessary to cover up the act. She faints, causing a bit of a distraction, assisting her husband with the aftermath of the event.
Act 3: Again,in Scenes 2 and 4, Lady Macbeth is in cover-up mode, trying to keep her husband strong; fixing his mishaps, taking control of the moment. He sees Banquo's ghost, is losing his strength, is concerning others around him. She must support her husband and hold firm, attempting to explain these strange happenings away. She adds logic to the relationship, knowing that Macbeth must commit more acts in order to retain his throne--that Macduff will have to be dealt with.
Act 5: By this moment in the play, the power in the relationship has shifted and Shakespeare comments on the nature of women comes to fruition.In Scene 1, Lady Macbeth is sick with guilt, sleepwalking and dreaming. She cannot shake the murder and blood, and she becomes weak. Macbeth is concerned for her, but his concern is from afar, learning of this through the doctor and his wife's "gentlewoman". But he is not there for her; he is busy and concerned with the growing threat of revolution against his kingdom. Where she has been there at every turn for him, he is not physically there in her time of desperation. By Scene 5, the relationship has ended with her death. But she teaches him one last thing, the nature and effect of death. Macbeth has spent a play killing, and only now does he understand the inevitable and sudden nature of it all. She has taught him that life is about action, and that all things will come to an end. She has been a teacher for him throughout.