Lady Macbeth: Macbeth’s True Villain Character Analysis

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Even if you’re not a huge fan of Shakespeare, chances are you’ve heard of his character Lady Macbeth, from one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth. She is one of his most well-known characters for a reason: Her ruthless and cunning nature has enthralled people since her introduction. But what makes Lady Macbeth such an interesting character? In this essay, we’ll be answering that question by examining Lady Macbeth’s character and motives.Let’s start at the beginning. Macbeth has just been visited by three mysterious witches. They tell him about a prophecy claiming that he will one day be king. Macbeth is bewildered but nevertheless excited at the prospect.

He is an ambitious man, and the idea of becoming a ruler is far from unappealing to him, and, as we later learn, his wife as well. The first thing the audience notices about Lady Macbeth is that she is just as, if not even more, ambitious as her husband. She is clearly just as enticed by the idea of becoming a ruler as he is, practically jumping at the idea, encouraging Macbeth to hurry things along by actually killing the current king of Scotland, Duncan.

There is, however, an obstacle preventing Lady Macbeth from getting what she wants. Macbeth had helped to save Duncan during a war, and the two have mutual respect for one another. Lady Macbeth sneers at this respect. Unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth has all but no loyalty to her king. The only thing on Lady Macbeth’s mind is the crown, and she doesn’t care who she has to step on to get it. This is one major difference between Lady Macbeth and her husband, and is also one of the reasons she is so compelling. She is ambitious to the point of callousness; she doesn’t care about honor or loyalty. She is completely insensitive when it comes to others and selfish in her desires.Macbeth does terrible things, yes.

He kills Duncan and many other people to achieve his own selfish goals. But Macbeth is not without guilt; he is hesitant to kill Duncan at first, and after the deed is done, he refuses to go back to the scene of the crime, saying that he is “afraid to think what he has done”. Lady Macbeth scoffs at him, insulting his strength. This is an interesting point: Time and time again in the play, Lady Macbeth insults her husband’s “manhood”, his strength of character. Take, for example, Scene 7 from Act 1. Macbeth is expressing his discomfort with murdering Duncan.

Lady Macbeth responds by saying, “What beast was’t, then, that made you break this enterprise to me? 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.” (Macbeth 1.7.53-58) To her, to be a “real man” is to be cold and willing to use any means necessary to achieve one’s ambitions. A real man isn’t afraid to get a little blood on his hands. A real man will murder to get what he wants.

According to Lady Macbeth’s twisted views on manhood, she, a woman, is more of a man than Macbeth is. Lady Macbeth’s character challenges the female stereotypes of the time. While women were generally seen as meek and gentle creatures, Lady Macbeth is the opposite. She was a truly nontraditional character for the time.In many ways, Lady Macbeth is the true “villain” of the play. It is Lady Macbeth who plants the seeds of the assassination plot in her husband’s mind. It is Lady Macbeth who puts the plan into motion, urging Macbeth to go through with the scheme.

It would, however, be wrong to assume that Macbeth was innocent before Lady Macbeth corrupted him. Macbeth proves to be ambitious and eager for power. And, obviously, he isn’t totally against the idea of killing for it. But it’s important to recognize who pushes Macbeth to act on his desires. Macbeth is initially hesitant to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth is the one to convince him to. She acts as a parallel to the three witches: Like the witches, who influence Macbeth by telling him about the prophecy, Lady Macbeth also influences Macbeth in sinister ways.

Perhaps one of the most confusing parts of the play is Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking in Act 5. Why is she sleepwalking? Why does she seemingly feel guilty about her actions? Shouldn’t it be Macbeth who is feeling guilty? He does, after all, express shame after murdering Duncan. But, near the end of the play, it’s as if their roles have been reversed. Macbeth is no longer affected by all the blood on his hands. He has killed too many times, and is now numb to any guilt he may have felt.

Unlike before, when he felt too much, now Macbeth feels nothing but emptiness. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, seems to go through the inverse process. Before, she was merciless, uncaring, and fearlessly ambitious. Now, in Act 5, she suffers from sleeplessness and regret. The doctor watches in confusion as she spouts what sounds like nonsense to him. “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand,” (Macbeth 5.1.53-54) she says.

Although the logical conclusion appears to be that Lady Macbeth is tormented by a guilty conscience, that may not be the case. Consider her situation. Her husband is (rightfully) suspected of murder. Tensions are rising between Scotland and England. War is on the horizon. Lady Macbeth is between a rock and a hard place. She could be feeling sorry for herself and lamenting her position.

Or, she could be feeling genuine guilt. Whatever the case, it is clear that the Lady Macbeth presented to us in this Act is not the same woman in the first. She’s lost her edge. The weight of her ambition’s consequences is too much for her to handle, ultimately leading to her death.When we are first introduced to Lady Macbeth, she appears to differ from Macbeth in the sense that she is more confident and steadfast in her ambition, but in the play’s final act, our expectations are subverted when we see how drastically she has changed since the beginning of the story, going from ruthless and cold-hearted to frail and regretful.

With her boldness, ambition, and surprising character development, Lady Macbeth remains one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters. It’s no surprise that to this day, she continues to hold her audience’s attention and fascinate the minds of many.


  1. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. The Folger Shakespeare Library. 1992. Print.

Cite this paper

Lady Macbeth: Macbeth’s True Villain Character Analysis. (2020, Sep 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/lady-macbeth-macbeths-true-villain/



Is Lady Macbeth a tragic villain?
As an ambitious and manipulative character, Lady Macbeth can be seen as a tragic villain who contributes to the downfall of her husband and ultimately suffers from guilt and madness. However, some readers may also sympathize with her desire for power and her struggle to reconcile her ruthless actions with her conscience.
Who is the greatest villain Macbeth or Lady Macbeth?
Macbeth is the greatest villain because he is the one who killed Duncan and started the chain of events that led to the downfall of the Macbeths. Lady Macbeth is the second greatest villain because she helped plan the murder of Duncan and pushed Macbeth to do it.
Who is the real villain in Macbeth and why?
Macbeth is the real villain in Macbeth because he is the one who murders Duncan.
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