What are the similarities between Lady Macbeth and Queen Herod?

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mperez-mugg21 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem "Queen Herod" by Carol Ann Duffy, Queen Herod shares many similarities with Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth.  Both wives order their husbands to commit heinous deeds; Lady Macbeth pressures Macbeth to murder King Duncan and Queen Herod orders the death of innocent infants.  Both women surprise the reader by committing acts that don't fit female stereotypes of their time periods (both acts are violent and even savage) and wielding power over their very strong, powerful husbands.  Moreover, both women do not actually commit the crimes themselves, but rather order their husbands to do what they cannot do.  

One can contrast the women as well, noting that Queen Herod does maintain her characterization as a female and mother throughout the poem (suckling her child and staring down peacefully at her sleeping baby) while Lady Macbeth does not.  Lady Macbeth is consistently characterized as being barren and devoid of anything feminine (she asks the spirits to take her "milk" for "gall" and describes bashing the brains of an infant suckling on her breast).  This serves as a primary difference between the two powerful women.