Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is the wife to the play's protagonist - the Scottish nobleman Macbeth. She is a crucial figure for the tragedy of Macbeth. One could even argue that there would have been no tragedy without Lady Macbeth, because without her, Macbeth probably would have followed his second thoughts and either Macbeth or his wife would have any reason to feel guilty of the regicide.

Lady Macbeth makes her first appearance late in scene five of the first act when she learns in a letter from her husband that three witches have prophesied his future as King. Immediately after having read this letter she says:

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way” (line 13-16)

Obviously, she is fully aware that Macbeth isn’t going to kill the king, or to catch the nearest way. He is, by nature, too good a man – he is too full o' the milk of human kindness. And with the following sentence: “I may pour my spirits in thine ear” (line 24) she knows that she is going to be the prime mover, in the search of power.

Lady Macbeth is very manipulative which she uses when Macbeth, as she had predicted, hesitates to murder King Duncan. Here, she repeatedly questions his manhood until he feels that he must commit the regicide to prove himself and his masculinity. She says: “Wouldst thou […]live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,”” (act 1, scene 7, line 41-44)

She is one of the only women in the play and unlike other women at her time, she, and her opinion, is actually taken seriously by her husband and the rest of the court. She aims to be seen as more than just a weak woman.

In the character of Lady Macbeth the conflict between femininity and masculinity is clear, as they are impressed in cultural norms. Lady Macbeth suppresses her instincts toward compassion, motherhood, and fragility — associated with femininity — in favour of ambition, ruthlessness, and the single-minded pursuit of power. This conflict colours the entire drama, and sheds light on gender-based preconceptions from Shakespearean England to the present.

Generally Lady Macbeth is very easy lead to very strong feelings, and just as ambition affects her more strongly than Macbeth before the crime, so does guilt plague her more strongly after the regicide, therefore she is the one who keeps washing here hands. She is the one who must reveal the secret about their regicide, even though she doesn’t intend to, as it happens in her sleep. She is also the one getting wackiest in the end, and she is the one who commits suicide.