The Tragedy of Macbeth

Skyler Roberson

The Cause

Although Macbeth was partly to blame for his own downfall, his wife, Lady Macbeth, was the REAL cause for Macbeth's downfall. Without Lady Macbeth's influence, Macbeth would have never went over the edge and killed Duncan to become king; things would have never spiraled out of control like they did. At first Macbeth was loyal to Duncan, the King, saying, "The service and the loyalty I owe/In doing it pays itself. Your Highness' part/Is to receive our duties..."(1.4.25-27). Macbeth was one of many people who liked King Duncan. Macbeth confessed his loyalty to the King, and before Lady Macbeth's poor influence, would have never thought of killing Duncan. A little while later, Lady Macbeth even called Macbeth a coward saying, "Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life/And live a coward in thine own esteem"(1.7.45-48)? Lady Macbeth rudely questions Macbeth's manhood early in the play, unfairly claiming that Macbeth is a "coward" if he seeks power, but won't forcefully take it. Lady Macbeth later went on to claim, "When you durst do it, then you were a man/And to be more than what you were, you would/Be so much more the man"(1.7.56-58). Although Macbeth is obviously already a man, Lady Macbeth is saying that if Macbeth was to kill King Duncan she would somehow consider Macbeth to be an even greater man.


Macbeth is returning from battle and has just found out about his prophecy to become king, telling Banquo,¨Kind gentlemen, your pains/Are registered where every day I turn/The leaf to read them¨(1.3.176-178). Macbeth stated that his brain was ¨wrought¨ meaning that he has poor memory. The metaphor that Macbeth used means that he keeps a diary, and regularly reads it to help him remember things.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth was the wife of Macbeth who influenced Macbeth to gain power, and betray those whom he was most loyal to. As the Lady Macbeth was power hungry and would stop at nothing until she got what she wanted, no matter who was in the way. As the play went on, it was apparent that Lady Macbeth sadly never seemed to truly love Macbeth. Early on in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth conspires to kill Duncan when he comes to their home for dinner saying, "This night's great business into my dispatch/Which shall to all our nights and days to come/Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom"(1.5.79-81). Once Lady Macbeth found out about the evil witches saying that Macbeth would become king, she took actions into her own hands putting together the plan to kill King Duncan.


A great example of an aside was when Macbeth said to himself, "The flighty purpose never is o'ertook/Unless the deed go with it. From this moment/The very firstlings of my heart shall be/The firstlings of my hand"(4.1.167-170). Macbeth regrets his hestitation in allowing Macduff to escape to England, and states that the first thing that he feels is right in his heart, is the first thing that Macbeth will take action on. This decision may negatively affect those around Macbeth because his first thought sadly may not always be the most intelligent or informed decision.

Tense Relationship

This piece of art by Giacomo Balla represents the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Macbeth, the dog on a leash, was controlled throughout the play of Macbeth by Lady Macbeth multiple times. Lady Macbeth was the one who set up the plan to kill Duncan, and revealed how she was using Macbeth as a pawn after he asked about what would happen if he failed, saying, "We fail?/But screw your courage to the sticking place/And we'll not fail"(1.7.69-71). Lady Macbeth slyly set up the plan to kill Duncan using Macbeth, her own husband, as the fall guy so that if Macbeth fails, then the horrible act cannot be tied back to her. This is yet another example of Lady Macbeth's power hungry motivation driving her to be disloyal to those whom she should cherish the most.

Dramatic Irony

Early in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth plans to deceive King Duncan, telling Macbeth, "All our service/In every point twice done/And then done double/Were poor and single business to contend/Against those honors deep and broad wherewith/Your Majesty loads our house"(1.6.17-21). Although Lady Macbeth appears to be gracious and kind, the audience knows Lady Macbeth and Macbeth's real plan to kill Duncan that night. This tension and build up of the event of Duncan's death is one of the most stressful points of Macbeth because of the inevitable fact that Duncan will be killed, but the audience doesn't know when it will actually happen.