Lady Macbeth as a Tyrannical Villain





In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is made to act as a catalyst in Lord Macbeth’s evildoings. Even though Lord Macbeth is generally the one to have the final say in the many killings that take place in the play, Lady Macbeth plays the role of a tyrannical villain alongside him. She mocks her Lord if he frets over something she has instructed him to do, saying he would be less of a man if he does not follow through on their plan (I. vii. 56-57). She gives Lord Macbeth a short lecture in deceptiveness when they are planning to kill King Duncan (I. vi. 73-78). She also prepared the daggers for Macbeth to kill Duncan in advance (II. ii. 15-16). Though her Lord was still having doubts, she was, in the most literal sense, ready to go in for the kill. Clearly demonstrating another villainous characteristic other than self- gain, Lady Macbeth shows the fear of getting caught when she unintentionally gives herself away in her sleep (V. i. 33, 37-42, 44-47, 53-55, 65-67, 69-72). Though her fear can suppress itself during a conscious state of being, she can do nothing about it when she is asleep.
Throughout the play and leading up to her eventual suicide, Lady Macbeth slowly weakens. Yet, in the beginning of the play, she acts as if she is unstoppable. When Macbeth has his doubts and fears about murdering the loyal Duncan, Lady Macbeth chastises him, calling him everything from a coward to a helpless baby (I. vii. 39-49, 53-67). She even offers to do it herself, possibly to make Macbeth feel that he’s even more cowardly because a woman is offering to do “his” job. This pushes Macbeth to kill, though these are the actions that will eventually lead to both of their demises later in the play. Macbeth tries to convince Lady Macbeth, as well as himself, that she is wrong:


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Prithee, peace.
I dare do all that may become a man.
Who dares more is none. (I. vii. 50-52)
However, Macbeth does not seem to fully convince her, because he is still mocked by his wife. Whether he failed to convince himself or to convince his Lady is irrelevant; he went through with the murder anyhow.
Not only does Lady Macbeth push her husband to do things he does not want to, but she also informs him that his face is too easy to read. Of course, she does not want her husband or herself to get caught, so she gives him advice in the area of deceptiveness. When she tells him to “look like th’ innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under ‘t” (I. vi. 76-78), not only is she doing this so that Macbeth will not give himself away, but so that he will not give her away in the meantime. Even before that early point in the play, Lady Macbeth has already demonstrated that she is two-faced. When Duncan first arrives at the castle, Lady Macbeth acts as a welcome hostess, when in reality she has different plans for Duncan than she lets on. Through the careful use of chastisement, Lady Macbeth manages to manipulate her Lord so that she may get what she wants: a dead King Duncan in her house.
Indeed, Lady Macbeth does get what she wants, and ultimately what she deserves, as the play progresses. Usually, though she has to nudge her husband a bit before he takes action, Macbeth is relatively obedient. Lady Macbeth seems to realize that her husband probably will not go through with the murder of Duncan until she pushes him to the point of no return, so she prepares everything in advance. All Macbeth has to do for
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his part in the murder is actually kill Duncan; Lady Macbeth sets out the daggers and gives the guards enough alcohol so that they pass out. She was so eager to have Duncan dead that she almost killed him herself. “Had he not resembled/ My father as he slept, I had done ‘t” (II. ii. 16-17). Yet she still had her husband commit the crime, whether it was because she was actually scared to do so, or because she wanted him to feel empowered. Either way, Lady Macbeth was definitely ready for Duncan to die.
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