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How does Lady Macbeth persuade Macbeth to kill King Duncan?

Question:

How does Lady Macbeth persuade Macbeth to kill King Duncan?

Macbeth:

Macbeth is a play about a husband and wife who conspire together to commit murder. After Macbeth receives a prophecy telling that he will someday be king, he shares the news with his wife. She in turn urges him to take matters into his own hands and kill the current ruler, King Duncan. He hesitates at first, but she convinces him to take action.

Answer and Explanation:

Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to kill the king using three arguments. First, she emphasizes the rewards Macbeth will gain by killing the king. He will assume the throne, gaining all the power and privileges currently held by Duncan. Second, she minimizes the potential risks of their plan. When Macbeth worries what will happen if they fail, she responds, 'We fail?/ But screw your courage to the sticking-place,/ And we?ll not fail' (1.7.59-61). She convinces him that the deed will be easy, since the king trusts him implicitly. Since they plan to kill Duncan inside their home, they will have control over the environment and ample opportunities to act.

In addition to enticing him with power and assuring him of victory, Lady Macbeth makes it personal by putting his identity as a man on the line. She argues that his hesitation to take what he wants is a sign of cowardice:

'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 the ornament of life,

And live a coward in thine own esteem,

Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would' (1.7.39-44).

In this speech, she reminds Macbeth that taking the throne was his idea in the first place. She knows that Macbeth hungers for power and recognition, and she chides him for letting his fears get in the way of his desires. Macbeth does not wish to appear weak to his wife, so he agrees to murder Duncan.


Learn more about this topic:

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Lady Macbeth: Quotes & Character Analysis

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Chapter 3 / Lesson 9
27K

A Lady Macbeth character analysis reveals an ambitious woman, but what are Lady Macbeth's character traits? Explore how Lady Macbeth changes throughout the play and see her quotes.


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