In Defense of Lady Macbeth

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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).

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