What is Responsible for Macbeth's Downfall?

Although some may say it was Macbeth's own ambition that killed him in the end, it was ultimately Lady Macbeth who caused his downfall. After Macbeth's encounter with the witches, he writes a letter to his wife addressing the witches' prophecy. Lady Macbeth later reads it, and is overjoyed; however, she is also concerned. Lady Macbeth really wants her husband to be king, but she, "...fear[s] thy nature. It is too full o' the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way" (Shakespeare 33). Lady Macbeth fears that her husband's kindheartedness will get in the way of him taking the throne, for killing the king is the only way to do so.

After Lady Macbeth reads her husband's letter, Macbeth comes home. Shortly afterwards, King Duncan and his party arrive. Not too long after their arrival, Lady Macbeth and her husband get into an argument. Macbeth wants to chicken out from killing the king, but Lady Macbeth won't let him. She begins to insult him as she says, "Such I account the love. Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valor as thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem'st ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,' like the poor cat i' the adage?" (Shakespeare 43). By saying this she criticizes Macbeth's decision to not seize the crown. She calls him a coward, and compares him to a cat who won't catch a fish for the fear of getting his paws wet. This makes Macbeth feel weak, so he decides to follow through with the plan.

After Macbeth kills the king, he feels instant regret. He doesn't know what to do and is close to breaking. Then, Lady Macbeth comes and insults him again by saying, "Your constancy hath left you unattended" (Shakespeare 59). By this she means that his courage has left him, which is just like when she called him a coward a few scenes ago. When she says this, he then again feels weak. He then is motivated by her to be strong, and not disappoint her. If Lady Macbeth hadn't insulted Macbeth, convincing him to kill the king, he probably would not have followed through with the plan, thus preventing his downfall.

Dynamic Character

Even though Lady Macbeth is strong in the begging of the play, she soon breaks down in the end. After Macbeth kills Duncan, he starts freaking out. He knows he can't undo what he has done, and doesn't know how to rid of his guilt. He keeps saying that he will never be able to get the king 's blood off his hands. Lady Macbeth on the other hand, is very calm. She responds with, "My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white.... A little water clears us of this deed. How easy is it then! (Shakespeare 59). By saying this she is telling her husband that she has done the same as him, but she's not going to let it get to her. She views the blood as nothing, that when she washes her hands it will disappear along with the guilt. However, later on in the book, a doctor observes Lady Macbeth sleep walking. Lady Macbeth talks of all the blood Duncan had, thus confessing to being involved with the murder. She repeatedly makes the motion of washing her hands and says that her hands will forever be tainted with blood. If Lady Macbeth wasn't a dynamic character and hadn't had this change, the play would lose a lot of meaning.

Comic Relief

Because of the use of comic relief, the play is temporarily lifted of all the darkness and evil taking place. After hearing the knocking at the gates, the drunken porter goes to answer whoever is wanting in. He let's in Macduff and Lennox. After they are let in, the porter makes a joke about drinking and intimacy. He say's, "Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes: it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance" (Shakespeare 61). What this joke means is that whenever you drink, you want to be intimate; however, because you are drunk, you are sleepy, so you fall asleep instead of being intimate. Later in the scene, Duncan's murder is discovered. This adds a very dark mood to a play that is already pretty gloomy, so when the drunken porter makes the joke, it lightens the mood a little bit so that the reader can not only stay interested, but not be so sad as well.


With the use of a metaphor, Malcolm emphasizes his fear. After everyone had found our about Duncan's murder, everyone is shocked. The guards are put to blame; however, not everyone is completely sure that the guards actually committed the crime. Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan's two sons, are talking about how they could be killed next, for their dad was just murdered. Donalbain says that he is leaving for Ireland, and that they would both be safer if they were far away and separated. Malcolm responds with, "This murderous shaft that's shot hath not yet lightened, and our safest way is to avoid the aim" (Shakespeare 71). By this metaphor, he shows his fear of assassination. He is saying that him getting assassinated is the same as someone shooting an arrow at him, but he is just out of the arrows aim; however, if the shooter fires another arrow, he will be hit. This is just like him being assassinated; it will happen unless he goes very far away, out of the assassin's aim. The use of this metaphor adds to the story, because it emphasizes Malcom's fear. By using the metaphor instead of saying bluntly that he was scared to be assassinated, he is emphasizing how close they are to being killed. If he would have just said that he was frightened of assassination, he could mean that thought he'd be killed sometime in the future, or that it may or may not happen. But when he uses the metaphor, he emphasizes how close he is to being killed.

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Because of the way the woman is holding the crown, this piece of art represents what caused Macbeth's downfall: Lady Macbeth. After lady Macbeth reads that her husband may become king, she says this to herself, "Stop up the access and passage to remorse, that no compunctuious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between the effect and it!" (Shakespeare 35). By this she means that she wants no guilt to get I'm the way of her murderous plan. This relates to Lady Macbeth being Macbeth's downfall because in the picture the woman represents Lady Macbeth. The woman is holding a crown, which represents Lady Macbeth's desire for power. Also, the fact that she is looking at the crown and not behind her symbolizes that she doesn't care what or who she destroys on her path there.


I must not disappoint- my love is true.

My wife is my world; happy she shall be

I am strong, what she wishes I will do

I must prove to her that her love is me

I will kill the king if that's what she asks

I'd do anything for her, she is my love.

For my lady I would do countless tasks

I need to, for her, I must rise above.

Now I'm thinking, what did I just promise?

Is it true that I'm risking everything?

If all goes wrong, there are things I will miss

I'm risking all for a chance to be king.

When you're in love, you'll do things you regret

Although you won't do things that you'll forget

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