Who is more responsible for the tragic events in Macbeth, Macbeth or Lady Macbeth?  

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First, I would suggest that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth share culpability in the murder of Duncan. They are co-conspirators in that crime and in the usurpation that follows it. Furthermore, when Macbeth, in a crisis of conscience, nearly backs out of the plot, Lady Macbeth uses emotional manipulation to...

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First, I would suggest that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth share culpability in the murder of Duncan. They are co-conspirators in that crime and in the usurpation that follows it. Furthermore, when Macbeth, in a crisis of conscience, nearly backs out of the plot, Lady Macbeth uses emotional manipulation to drive him to carry through with the murder. Her role in influencing Macbeth in his murderous rise to power should not be underestimated or diminished. Their crime is a shared one (even if it was Macbeth that committed the murder).

However, it is important to note that Duncan's murder is only the beginning of Macbeth's bloodthirsty tyranny. As the play continues, he organizes the assassination of Banquo along with the attempted assassination of Banquo's son, and later still, he orders the murder of Macduff's family.

When reading these scenes, you might get an impression that in the wake of Duncan's murder, Macbeth falls further and further into his own sanguinary tendencies. Furthermore, it is worth considering how Macbeth is characterized specifically as a monarch, and the ways in which his rule is depicted as tyrannical. Considering the political dynamics of Early Modern and Medieval kingship, I would attribute greater responsibility in this to Macbeth rather than to Lady Macbeth given that, between the two of them, it was Macbeth that wielded the greater degree of political power, being a king instead of consort.

This is not to diminish the crimes of Lady Macbeth. She played a critical role in shaping the tragedy of the play. But even though she exerted influence over Macbeth, it is Macbeth that is the play's villain protagonist, driving this tragedy through his own crimes and ambitions.

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In Shakespeare's time, women were generally considered weaker than men and were supposed to act as helpers to their husbands rather than initiating action independently. This is reflected in Lady Macbeth's plea "Come, you spirits/ That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here ..." Although Lady Macbeth does steel herself to plot with her husband and strengthen his resolve, she does not actually kill anyone and eventually is driven insane by guilt and commits suicide.

Macbeth, on the other hand, voluntarily listens to the witches and does the actual act of killing Duncan, gives orders to have his friend Banquo killed, and evolves into an evil tyrant, with his better qualities completely subsumed by his ambition. While Lady Macbeth gives bad advice and counts as a conspirator, the actual culprit is Macbeth and thus he is more responsible. In fact, appropriate masculine behavior of his period would have dictated that he not listen to the witches or his wife but instead follow a strict moral and religious code.

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According to the tenets of Aristotelian tragedy, which is the dramatic theory on which Shakespeare based The Tragedy of Macbeth, the tragic outcome of the play depends entirely on the major tragic event as enacted by the protagonist of the drama. According to this definition, Macbeth himself is most responsible for the tragic events that unfold, as he is undeniably the protagonist of the play.

Examples that support this argument, which focuses on Macbeth's role as protagonist, can be found in the structure of the play as well as in the plot. For example, Lady Macbeth has only 59 speeches in the play, while Macbeth has over twice that many, at 146 speeches; therefore, any audience member and/or reader can correctly conclude that Macbeth is the more important character. As well, Macbeth is the character who commits the murder; Lady Macbeth encourages the murder and verbally bullies Macbeth into murdering King Duncan, but she did not actually carry out the action.

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Both share culpability, but Macbeth is the most responsible, for it is he who murders Duncan. However, Lady Macbeth does everything in her power to make it happen. Much like Eve with the apple, events may not have occurred had Lady Macbeth not taken such sure steps to assure Duncan's death, but it is ultimately Adam/Macbeth who puts the apple to his own lips.

As to Lady Macbeth's guilt, when Duncan arrives, she builds up her husband's courage to carry through with the plan to kill him. She instructs Macbeth to beguile Duncan with charm: "...bear welcome in your eye, / Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under't" (1.5.60-64). She warns Macbeth not to wear a troubled expression as doing so might alert their prey: "Only look up clear; / To alter favour ever is to fear: / Leave all the rest to me" (1.5.69-71).

Encouraged by his wife's manipulation and collusion, Macbeth makes up his mind to carry through with the killing. By arranged signal, the striking of a bell by Lady Macbeth announces that the time has come. Macbeth ends his dagger soliloquy by saying to himself: "I go, ...; the bell invites me. / Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell / That summons thee to heaven or to hell" (2.1.62-64).

After which Macbeth ambushes Duncan and stabs him to death. Later, Lady Macbeth will realize her guilt. She imagines her hands covered with blood that cannot be washed away.

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