Why is Lady Macbeth to be blamed for King Duncan's murder?

Expert Answers
blacksheepunite eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth is an accessory to murder, but she is not the murderer, and cannot, therefore, be more culpable than Macbeth, who did the deed with his own hand. That she is an accessory goes without argument: it was she who drugged the guards and who laid the daggers out in readiness; it was she, also, who rang the bell to alert Macbeth that the preparations had been made.

But she was no murderer. As evil as Lady Macbeth is, she couldn't actually bring herself to commit the act (she said she might have done it, had Duncan not looked like her father as he was sleeping). So the Lady is all talk, no action.

Where people would argue that her culpability lies is in her talk. She is brutal in her manipulation of Macbeth, drawing on every possible strategy available to woman. The argument for finding Lady Macbeth blameworthy hinges on the fact that her "motivational speech" changes Macbeth's mind. Completely.

Just prior to this speech, Macbeth has decided that he has no good reason to kill Duncan (he hasn't), and he has just informed her of his decision to "proceed no further". She responds to this by saying that if he can lose his ambition so readily, his love for her must also changable. Then she insults his masculinity, saying he must be a coward (afeard to be the same in thine own act as in thine desire). He tries to tell her that he dares all that a man should dare, to which she replies that only if he dared to do it would he be one. At each stage in her argument, she increases the brutality of her verbal attack until (my favorite) she says if she had made a promise to her husband like the one he made to her she would rather rip her baby's smiling face from her nipple and bash its brains out than break that promise. At which point, he's right back in the game.
So her words do definitely move him back to murder.

But is she guilty of murder? I would argue no. Macbeth has a mind. He simply doesn't use it. He follows Lady Macbeth's direction, certainly, but has he no choice? I would argue that he does, that as powerful as her emotional argument is, that Macbeth has always had free will and has made his decision (albeit a bad one). The fact that Macbeth seems to perpetually follow bad advice does not make him any less responsible for his actions.

Of course, others would argue that Lady Macbeth's manipulation is so complete that he has no choice, that the threat of spending a night, nay, a lifetime on the couch is simply too much for a man to bear.

janeyb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of Lady Macbeth's most famous quotes in Macbeth is "the milk of human kindness." With this quote she is describing Macbeth who she thinks will never be King because he isn't strong willed enough to do what Lady Macbeth believes needs to be done. Compassion (according to Lady Macbeth) isn't something that should be lauded, but instead is something to be scorned. Because of this attitude of hers, she decides that she must be the driving force behind her husbands rise to the throne. She, therefore, convinces and plots and schemes to get her husband to kill Dincan

revolution | Student

Yes, Lady Macbeth is the main culprit and the core influence in  King Duncan's murder and death. She is the strong influence to brainwashed Macbeth to murder King Duncan with his own bare hands, so that all the blame would be pushed to Macbeth and not to her. It is really selfish in character but Macbeth should had stand up to his moral conscience and stop this immediately. He exerts that Lady Macbeth was not a monstrous creature without any feeling however, we can see that she has exceptional cunning and having authority over Macbeth himself, making him look like a weakling in front of the readers. The readers is led to the thought that Lady Macbeth was the main culprit as she thinks up all of her grand schemes and devious plans to kill King Duncan. She is a rather sly person, the person working behind in the darkness and her husband is easily manipulated and pushed around by her. She knows that if she didn't give Macbeth the final choice, moral integrity would kick him and he won't participate in her plans, so she is using emotional blackmail and threats to force Macbeth into immediate action. She wanted the throne that king Duncan is seating on, so she can be holding the highest authority and power over the whole country.

She threatened all these words:

'I would, while it was a smiling face, 
Have pluck'd my nipple out, from his boneless gums 
And dash'd the brains out, had I sworn 
As you have done to this.'

so that to brainwashed Macbeth and make him morally strong enough to pluck up courage and kill Duncan to realize her mighty ambitions

If Macbeth had sticked more to his conscience all these tragedy would not have happen. He doesn't think that he will be able to live with the guilt of regicide while the king is staying under his very own roof. He is not focusing on the irreparable damage that he would cause but he wanted to be the man that his wife look out to and to prove his bravery.

She also participates in the course of the action leading to the murder. She drugged the guards on duty and they passed out to allow Macbeth to easily sneaked inside without being detected to murder King Duncan.

But there is another culprit to the story, the three witches. They used their witchcraft to turn good to evil and upset natural processes and orders. They also play a important role in the murder of King Duncan as they implanted the thought into his head. It is also Macbeth fault too. If he had not be so gullible in trusting the "three evil ones" and told his wife about the witches plans of domination, everything would not have gone into this type of complete mess and mayhem, peace would be restored to this quiet place.

Hope it helps :) Thanks for using E-notes!