The struggle for power and control in Shakespear’s Macbeth is evident from the beginning as Macbeth strives to be crowned by chance and Lady Macbeth prefers a slightly quicker more violent approach. Macbeth begins the play with no power but with a small amount of the control, hence Lady Macbeth had the power and most of the control. As they silently battle for control over their household and their future Macbeth kills in order for them to advance in social standing. It was Lady Macbeth’s desire for control over her husband that set him on his course of destruction and murder.
Shakespeare portrays Lady Macbeth as a ruthless, overpowering woman who dominates her husband and his actions. Lady Macbeth makes Macbeth’s do what she determines to be best for him by lowering his self-esteem so that he must do what she requests in order for him to gain his self-respect back. She says such things as, “When you durst do it, then you [will be] a man” (1.7.49).
It is Lady Macbeth who comes up with the plan to kill Duncan, because she knows that Macbeth would never commit such an act on his own without her pushing him to because Macbeth’s nature “is too full o’ the milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way” (1.5.15,16). She develops the plan and organizes the details while expecting Macbeth to merely follow her orders. This becomes evident when she says to him, “You shall put / This night’s great business into my dispatch”(1.5.66,67) and “Leave all the rest to me”(1.5.72). She intends to keep him under her control by making decisions for him and not allowing him to think for himself.
When Macbeth becomes indecisive about her plan to kill Duncan, she labels him a coward when she says, “Art thou afeard / To be the same in thine own act and valour / As thou art in desire” (1.7.39,41). Macbeth defends himself by explaining that he is doing all that can be expected of a man and if he does more then no man shall he be, she claims that no ‘real’ man would back down and refuse to follow through with an act he had agreed to.
After all if she had sworn, as Macbeth has to killing Duncan, she would, “While [her baby] was smiling in [her] face, / Have pluck’d [her] nipple from his boneless gums, / And dash’d [it’s] brains out” (1.7.54-9). This shows more of her evil side and also labels her as more of a man then Macbeth is. This along with other harshly spoken words finally convinces Macbeth to kill Duncan and so his killing spree begins.
Once Macbeth follows through with his wife’s plan to murder the king he is filled immediately with guilt, unlike his wife who says, “A little water clears us of this deed” (2.2.67). After his first murder Macbeth begins to feel a sense of empowerment in his own life and he starts to take charge of his own actions. The first evidence of this is when Macbeth kills Duncan’s groomsmen without Lady Macbeth’s permission or consent. Upon discovering her husbands unplanned murders Lady Macbeth is so shocked that she faints.
Macbeth no longer needs Lady Macbeth to make his decisions for him, he has gained the power and control, but because she made him kill Duncan he can now kill more readily than he could have without her. This is evident as he plans the murder of Banquo and Fleance and hires the murderers himself without feeling any guilt or consulting his wife at all.
In fact, Lady Macbeth urges him to forget what has happened in the past and move on. She says to him, “What’s done is done”(3.2.12), “You must leave this”(3.2.35). Macbeth, however, with his new sense of control, refuses to submit to her command. He goes on with his plans to kill Banquo and later decides to kill Macduff’s family in the following lines;
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand. And even now,
To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done;
The castle of Macduff I will surprise;
Seize upon Fife; give to the edge of the sword
His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
That trace him in his line.(4.1.147,153)
Macbeth is able to not only kill men of his own size but also women and small children, which shows how far he has come since Lady Macbeth’s ‘little’ push to kill Duncan.
“For brave Macbeth” (1.2.16), “[A] valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!” (1.2.24), these words which praise Macbeth, to soon turn to words of hate and dishonor as he becomes a bloodthirsty “tyrant, whose sole name blisters.. .tongues” (4.3.12) all thanks to Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth was able to control her husband but once she became no longer involved in the decisions of his life, and the last decision she made for him was evil all Macbeth’s following decisions are overwhelmingly evil also. She is left behind with no part in his life, as Macbeth heads off with new murderous plans of his own.