How does Lady Macbeth come across in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Early in the play, Lady Macbeth is revealed as utterly ruthless in pushing what she believes is her husband's destiny. When she learns of the witches' prophecy that Macbeth is to become king, she resolves herself to become filled, "from the crown to the toe/top-full of direst cruelty!" When Macbeth vacillates in his decision to kill Duncan, she goads him on by questioning his manhood and courage:

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’ the adage?

Still later, as Macbeth is wracked by guilt, and is seeing ghostly images of Banquo at the banquet table, she takes control, removing him from the hall and reassuring him. It is clear that the Macbeths love each other, though Macbeth's ambition eventually destroys their mutual dependence. She is not consulted in the decision to murder the Macduff family, and by the end is herself driven made with guilt. She is portrayed as emotionally shattered in the "Out! damn'd spot" scene, and takes her own life by the end of the play. So while she is ruthless and ambitious like her husband, she seems not completely devoid of humanity.