Who is the more morally corrupt character: Lord Macbeth or Lady Macbeth? Why? Give examples.

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This answer could go either way, and different readers (audience members) will think differently on this question. What is definite is that both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are morally corrupt individuals. Together, they plot to assassinate a king in order to put Macbeth on the throne. To Macbeth's credit, he does decide to not go through with the plan. He can't bring himself to do it. Lady Macbeth then has to bully him into doing the deed. She calls into question his manhood and commitment. She also describes her commitment by giving a very gruesome description of what she would do to a baby.

When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.

At this point in the play, Lady Macbeth shows no hesitation about assassinating a king in her own household. She is a scrofulous lady. Macbeth, on the other hand, seems less morally suspect because he knows that killing a good man is wrong. Unfortunately, he still kills Duncan. His morality didn't outweigh his ambition. Once Duncan is dead, we see Lady Macbeth and Macbeth go through a bit of a role reversal. Lady Macbeth is plagued by guilt. Macbeth is somewhat plagued by guilt as well; however, that isn't enough to stop him from ordering the deaths of a whole bunch of other people. For this reason, I would have to choose Macbeth as the character who is more morally corrupt.

gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To begin with, Lady Macbeth might appear more morally corrupt and even more fiercely ambitious than her husband. She talks up her ambition in the most blood-curdling way and eggs her husband on to murder. He, on the other hand, does appear to have some initial scruples, at least. Once he achieves his ambition, however, he is seen to go even further, not hesitating to eliminate anyone else who stands in his way. At this stage it could be said that he becomes the worse of the two.

However, if we consider the play as a whole, we do see that ultimately neither of them are able to cope with the consequences of their actions. Lady Macbeth becomes unhinged, starts sleepwalking, trying to wash the blood off her hands. Macbeth grows ever more reckless, killing more and more, but also growing more desperate and placing less and less value on life in general. He appears to reach a point of absolute psychological despair and exhaustion, before rallying himself briefly for the final battle against Macduff. He commits terrible crimes, aided by his wife but they both suffer mental anguish as a result, which would not be the case if they had been wholly  corrupt. They are deeply flawed characters, but not entirely evil.

In the end, it might be said that Lord and Lady Macbeth are as bad as each other, but at the same time, they also suffer equally and in the extent of their mental suffering and essential remorse, they are also to be pitied.