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I believe Lady Macbeth plays a vital role in the murder of Duncan as
she plans the crime and bullies her husband into perpetrating the
crime. However Macbeth's own ambitions triggered by the witches also
play a vital role.
Even before Lady Macbeth gets involved Macbeth shows hidden ambitions.
We can see this as when the witches tell him he will be the Thane of
Cawdor and wants the witches to tell him more about his future as king
"Stay you imperfect speaker."
He has high ambitions. Also we (the audience) get to hear about
Macbeth's ambitions when Macbeth is informed that he has been given
the Thane of Cawdor he thinks back to the witches' predictions.
"If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me."
When Lady Macbeth reads her husband's letter she is worried that
Macbeth is to kind to take action on the prophecies.
"It is too full o' m' milk of human kindness"
Even before Macbeth returns from battle Lady Macbeth begins to plot
the murder, Lady Macbeth asks the evil spirits to take away her female
sexuality and fill her with evil and no guilt
"Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts! Unsex me here, and
fill me up from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty; make
thick my blood, stop up the access and passage to remorse, that no
compunctious visitings of nature."
When Macbeth returns from battle she begins to bully Macbeth into
committing the murder. She bullies him into the murder by telling him
that she is more of a man than he his and calling him a coward.
"I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from
his boneless gums, and dash'd the brains out."
Lady Macbeth says this to Macbeth to show that she is crueler than he
is as she is trying to bully him into committing the crime Macbeth is
very reluctant to kill Duncan as he says he has been good to him and
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Despite Macbeth's doubts about the murder Lady Macbeth shows no sense
of conscience and continues to plan the murder and even drugs the
chamberlain's night cap and plans to lay the blame of the murder on
them. She directs Macbeth to murder Duncan.
We can see Macbeth is nervous about the murder as when he is walking
through the corridor at night to Duncan's chamber he sees a dagger in
his mind's eye
“Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?
Come, let me clutch thee”
Lady Macbeth begins to get slightly worried that something may have
gone wrong with the murder.
“Alack! I am afraid they have awak’d, And tis not done.”
Lady Macbeth’s fears are soon forgotten when Macbeth returns with
blooded hands and reports the deed has been done.
“I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?”
At this point we start to see of Lady Macbeth’s worry as she thinks
Macbeth said something as he came down the stairs, which shows she is
nervous as she is hearing things.
“Did you not speak?”
Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth, who is having trouble sleeping, not to
worry about it so much.
“Consider it not so deeply.”
Lady Macbeth also tells Macbeth that if they think about the murder it
will make them go mad
“These deeds must not be thought After these ways; so, it will make us
This is a very ironic comment for Lady Macbeth to make as later in the
play she is driven mad by the murder not Macbeth.
Later that night Macbeth has trouble more trouble sleeping showing a
real sense of regret and guilt for the crime he had just committed.
“Methought I heard a voice cry “sleep no more!”
Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to go and plant the daggers and to smear
blood on the sleeping grooms.
“Go, carry them, and smear the sleepy grooms with blood.”
She tells him to do this as it will frame the grooms and make it look
like the grooms committed the murder. Macbeth is afraid to go back to
Duncan’s chamber and look upon what he has done
“I am afraid to think what I have done; look on’t again I dare not.”
Lady Macbeth says that she will take the daggers and plant them on the
“Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures;
‘tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
I’ll glid the faces of the grooms withal; for it must seem their
Macbeth is very jumpy and any noise he hears startles him. For example
when someone knocks on the gate he hears the noise and panics.
“Whence is that knocking? How is’t with me, when every noise appals
Lady Macbeth also gets worried when she hears the knocking as herself
and Macbeth are both stood with blooded hands. They both run the risk
of being caught if they are not clean and in bed by the time the
people at the gate get inside.
“Get on your night-gown, lest occasion call us, and show us to be
The people knocking at the gate were actually Macduff and Lenox who
had come to escort Duncan. Once they got in they were greeted by
Macbeth who pretended to have been awoken by the knocking. Macbeth
then showed Macduff and Lenox to Duncan’s chamber. Whilst Macduff is
in the chamber Lenox talks to Macbeth about the fact that night had
been wild and he had heard screams of death in the air.
“The night has been unruly: where we lay, our chimneys were blown
down; and, as they say, lamentings heard I’ the air; strange screams
Macduff then comes out from the chamber having seen the dead Duncan.
“O horror! horror! horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name
Macbeth then has to pretend he does not know what is going on in order
to look innocent.
“What’s the matter?”
Macduff then explains to Macbeth and Lenox that the king has been
“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece! Most sacrilegious murder
hath broke ope the lords anointed temple, and stole thence the life o’
Macbeth still has to pretend not to know what is going on so he asks
what Macduff means but before he Macduff has a chance to answer Lenox
asks if he means the king.
“Mean you his majesty?”
Macduff tells Lenox and Macbeth to go into the chamber to see for
themselves so he does not have to speak of it.
“Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight with a new Gorgon: do
not bid me speak; see, and then speak yourselves.
Macduff then cries out to raise the alarm bell as murder has been
committed and everyone should awake.
“Ring the alarum-bell. Murder and treason! Banquo and Donalbain!
Lady Macbeth then comes down pretending to have been awoken by the
alarm bell and asks what is going on.
“What’s the business that such a horrible trumpet calls to parley the
sleepers of the house? Speak, speak!
Macduff than tells her that the news is not suitable for a woman’s
“’Tis not for you to hear what I can speak; the repetition in a
woman’s ear would murder as it fell.”
Banquo then arrives and Macduff tells him that Duncan has been
“O Banquo! Banquo! Our royal master’s murder’d!”
Lady Macbeth hears this and pretends to be shocked to appear innocent.
“Woe, alas! What! in our house?”
This was the wrong thing to say as the murder would have been a bad
thing any where not just in their house Banquo realises this and
comments on it.
“Too cruel anywhere.”
When Malcolm asks who murdered his father Lenox tells him it was the
grooms as they were smeared with blood and had the daggers.
“Those of chamber, as it seem’d had done’t: their hands and faces were
all badg’d with blood; so were their daggers, which unwip’d we found
upon their pillows: they star’d, and were distracted; no mans life was
to be trusted with them.”
Macbeth killed the grooms to make it look like he was shocked and
killed them in a fit of rage when he saw they were both smeared with
blood and so were there daggers.
“O yet I do repent me of my fury, that I did kill them.”
After having looked at everything that led up to the murder I believe
that lady Macbeth was in fact the real driving force behind the murder
of Duncan. Although Macbeth had his own ambitions, I don’t believe he
had the malice to kill Duncan without Lady Macbeth’s persuasion and