When Lady Macbeth first appears in the play, she is learning of the witches prophesies from a letter sent to her by Macbeth. Almost immediately after reading this letter, she starts to think of a way to assure that Macbeth becomes king. She wants to kill King Duncan. “Yet I do fear thy nature. It is too full of milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition, but without the illness that should attend it" Here she is saying how she is concerned that Macbeth may be too kind-hearted to do anything dire in order to become king. When Lady Macbeth sees Macbeth is person, she is very eager to discuss their plans but Macbeth isn’t so keen, he’s anxious, so Lady Macbeth decides to give him advice to calm him down a little, “Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under ’t." She’s telling him to act like he’s innocent and appear like he always has, kind, brave and fair, but actually be a cunning, cruel, ambitious person in order to become king. This is where her manipulative persona comes in to play.
When the planned night of King Duncan’s murder comes, Macbeth is having second thoughts about it all. When he tells Lady Macbeth this, she acts like he is weak for wanting to do what is right, like he isn’t man enough. When Macbeth asks Lady Macbeth what might happen if they fail, she replies; “We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail." She’s saying that if he gets his courage up, they won’t fail.
After Macbeth murders Duncan, he’s still feeling very troubled and whenever he mentions that to Lady Macbeth, she just tells his not to worry and not to think about it. “These deeds must not be thought after these ways. So, it will make us mad." – Lady Macbeth telling him not to feel bad about it, otherwise it may drive them crazy. When Lady Macbeth discovers that Macbeth had not put the daggers where they were supposed to go, and refuses to go back to the scene of the crime, she is infuriated and calls him a coward and when she comes back, she says this, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white." This means that she is as much involved in the murder as he is, but she is not weak enough to let it affect her like he has.
On the day that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are going to host a dinner party, Macbeth is still feeling guilty and anxious that they might get found out. Again, Lady Macbeth reassures him and tells him to relax and stop talking nonsense. Macbeth then goes on to tell her that he is nervous as Banquo and Fleance are still alive, and if anyone was to figure out what they had done, it’d be Banquo and the witches had said that Fleance would become king, so they’re both threats to him. Lady Macbeth tells him “in them nature’s copy’s not eterne." Meaning they can’t live forever, which makes Macbeth feel better, knowing that Banquo and Fleance will be killed soon.
After Banquo dies, Macbeth starts seeing his ghost, and Lady Macbeth simply tells him to stop being so stupid and man up.
Looking at how doubtful Macbeth was about the whole situation, if it wasn’t for Lady Macbeth convincing Macbeth that killing Duncan was the right thing to do, chances are, he probably wouldn’t have done it. If Lady Macbeth hadn’t reassured him every time he felt guilty about killing Duncan, he may have turned himself in, then no one else would’ve been hurt and Malcolm could be king. If it wasn’t for Lady Macbeth, instead of being killed by Macduff, Macbeth could’ve been laying in bed wondering how his life would’ve planned out if he went through with the murder of Duncan.
Does that mean Lady Macbeth is responsible for the murder of Duncan and the incidents that followed? Lady Macbeth obviously had some kind of power over Macbeth, but isn’t he responsible for his own actions? Macbeth obviously already had the idea of killing Duncan in the back of his mind because Lady Macbeth didn’t really mention it, straight out; he just knew what she was talking about. Maybe if she hadn’t of gone along with it and urged him on, she could’ve been one of the people he killed. Although Lady Macbeth had a huge influence on Macbeth’s downfall, she’s not the only one to blame.
What about Macbeth? He could’ve taken a completely different path, like Banquo did, he could’ve just not let the power get to him and become greedy and power hungry. Banquo is a great example of the path Macbeth could’ve taken, but didn’t. Banquo chose not to let the witches prophesies affect his life at all, apart from telling Macbeth that he had had a few nightmares about them, he never mentioned them. Macbeth could’ve chosen not to listen to Lady Macbeth, she isn’t in charge of him, and he is his own person and can make decisions on him own. Lady Macbeth didn’t tell Macbeth to kill Macduff’s wife and son, but he still did, and for no reason at all but to hurt Macduff out of spite.
The witches were also a huge part of Macbeth’s downfall; they’re probably the main reason for it. Before he had the meeting with the witches, he was a brave and well respected man who was moving up in the world, slowly but fairly. He was well liked by those around him, especially the king. Everyone wants to be king, but Macbeth was happy and a Thane, but when the witches told him that he was to become king, he became obsessed with making sure it happened. They planted that seed in his head. As if the witches hadn’t already done enough to make Macbeth’s life turn upside-down the leader of the witches, Hecate, decided to make things a little bit more difficult for him and bring his confidence up, just to make it come crashing down when he realizes that he isn’t as unstoppable as he thinks.
So, was Lady Macbeth responsible? Yes, but not completely. Almost everyone took part in Macbeth’s downfall and the things that came with it, but it was mainly Macbeth himself. He could’ve chosen not to listen to her or the witches, but he didn’t and now he’s dead and he has no one to blame but himself.
St. Rosemary Educational Institution. "Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth: Manipulation & Ruthlessness." http://schoolworkhelper.net/. St. Rosemary Educational Institution, Last Update: 2017. Web. Retrieved on: Friday 24th February 2017. http://schoolworkhelper.net/shakespeares-lady-macbeth-manipulation-ruthlessness/.