All too often scholars and thespians cast Lady Macbeth as a power-hungry, domineering witch who, through acts of coercion, forces her husband to carry out regicide. However, a more careful reading of the Scottish play reveals the Macbeths to be as much partners in crime as they are in marriage.
Though Lady M does encourage her husband to kill the king, she does so not to fulfill her own selfish desires but rather to help her husband realize his own ambition. After reading a letter from Macbeth recounting his intriguing encounter with the witches, Lady M laments, “Glamis thou art and Cawdor and shalt be what thou art promised. Yet, I do fear thy nature is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way” (1.4.16).
Acknowledging Macbeth’s desire to ascend through the ranks, Lady M fears that her husband lacks the courage to act upon his ambitions in such a way that would make attaining them easy. She goes on to state, “Thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition but without the illness should attend it” (1.4.19).
A truly admiring and affectionate wife, Lady M speaks about the greatness of her husband, acknowledging that he has potential to be greater than he is, stating that he is not lacking in ambition (ambition which we do see evidence of the in the play), but he does not possess the evil to misuse it.
Lady Macbeth’s uncensored reflections on her husband belie the oddly affective, and even grossly romantic nature of her relationship with him. She doesn’t want to coerce or control him, but rather encourage him to realize his full potential as the unquestionably “great” man she perceives him to be. She’s supportive, not bullying. In fact, she even characterizes the killing of Duncan (a deed she knows must be done in order to establish her hubby’s power) as justified, being not evil but heroic.
Additionally, Lady Macbeth acts as an accomplice in the murder, demonstrating her dutiful dedication to ensuring the success of her husband and the actualization of his deeply-rooted desires. At one point she even states that she would have killed the king herself if he had not looked so much like her father in his sleep. WOW.
You know those “love is” comic strips? Well, to Lady Macbeth love is killing the king to make your husband happy. ❤ Yet we tend to focus much of our attention on the play’s titular character, Macbeth, who does not commit the murder of King Duncan alone. Rather, he and his wife act as a complicit partnership, each doing their fair share to ensure the successful murder and framing.
— Dominique Dusek, Assistant Marketing & Development Editor