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Macbeth and Lady Macbeth: who is more guilty of the murders?

Though murderous to the world, the Macbeths are a team in seeking the crown. On first encountering the witches, Macbeth immediately thinks of murdering King Duncan. Thereafter, for a while, he backs away from his murderous thoughts, considering Duncan's virtues and his own obligations, and also thinking that the witches' prophecy of his kingship may take effect without his needing to act. During this period, Lady Macbeth is crucial in urging her husband to suppress his more gentle feelings, and get on with murdering the King to get the crown. Her language is bloodcurdling - some of the most powerful in Shakespeare. She volunteers to do the actual murder, though finally she cannot bring herself to do it because Duncan resembled her father as he slept. Following the murder, when Macbeth worries about Banquo's suspicions, Lady Macbeth points out that Banquo can also die. But it is Macbeth who personally kills Duncan, and it is Macbeth who arranges the murders of Banquo and his son, and of Lady Macduff and her son. Lady Macbeth kills no one. After the murder of Banquo, and Banquo's subsequent appearance as a ghost at the Macbeth banquet in Act 3, Scene 4, Lady Macbeth disappears from the play except for her extraordinary sleep-walking scene, Act 5, Scene 1, showing the enormous guilt she feels for the accumulated murders. She dies off stage, in Act 5, Scene 5, either from sickness brought on by guilt, or suicide.

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Copyright 2002 Dana Spradley, Publisher, for shakespeare.com