“Partners in crime” is what comes to mind when you think about Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship. In the beginning of the story, the two look out for each other. However, what begins as a very sturdy coalition ends in complete disorder.
In the beginning, it’s apparent that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have an honest relationship with no secrecy. He shares everything and emplores her to rejoice that great things have been promised to her. However, we can see that the two are on different ends of the behavioral scale. Based on her response, we can see that Lady Macbeth is controlling, and later on when the two murder King Duncan, she’s ruthless in getting what she desires, while Macbeth himself is kind and loyal – and incredibly stressed after killing the King.
When plotting to kill the king, Lady Macbeth knew her husband didn’t have what it took to do what he needed to do to get the revered position of a King. Since Macbeth clearly has affection for her, Lady Macbeth used this weakness to ask her husband to approach life in a deceitful way. When Macbeth began to give excuses to not kill the king, Lady Macbeth becomes extremely threatening and critical of her husband, and it’s here that we see that Lady Macbeth is the one who makes the decisions.
Despite her threatening her husband, we still see that Lady Macbeth is incredibly willing to protect her husband. After they succesfully murder the king, Macbeth is so overwhelmed with guilt that he forgets to sneak the daggers into the chamberlains’ room. Lady Macbeth responds by taking the daggers herself and sneaking them into the chamberlains’ room and framing the chamberlain for the murder of the king. We can also see her commitment to her husband when Macduff begins to question the king’s murder. Unconvinced by Macbeth’s explanation on why he killed the chamberlains, Lady Macbeth pretends to faint to distract everyone, including Macduff and forces them to attend to her instead.
We can see the relationship change when Macbeth actually becomes king. He distances himself from everyone, including Lady Macbeth. This is due to his paranoia. He knew getting to the throne was easy, but staying on it was the hard part. Most of the paranoia comes from Banquo, who is “lesser than him, but greater” according to the witches. He plans to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance, so that Banquo’s descendants could never have the throne. We can see in Act 3, Scene 1, that honesty that they had before Macbeth became king is no longer there when he plans to kill Banquo and his son without consulting her. Macbeth’s behavior does a 180, and the cowardice he had was replaced by ruthlessness. He’s in control, and his wife is no longer his “partner in crime.” Despite this, Lady Macbeth still shows unwavering loyalty.
Their love becomes more of a facade to impress guests. Whatever is left of Lady Macbeth’s autocratic nature is seen when she tries to pressure Macbeth into acting manly and civilized in front of the guests, but it does not work. We can see that she still cares for him by sending everyone at the banquet away when Macbeth begins to ramble about Banquo’s ghost.
With Macbeth out of her life, Lady Macbeth becomes depressed as Macbeth makes no time for her anymore. This state of isolation is something she becomes overcome with guilt in, and that guilt makes her mentally unstable as seen in her sleepwalking incidences when she tries to wash her hands, but can’t. Macbeth doesn’t even take her condition seriously and only orders the doctor to cure her of her illusions and nothing more. Lady Macbeth eventually commits suicide, and surprisingly, Macbeth doesn’t go into any form of mourning; he only mutters about life being “a flickering candle” and “a series of phases.”
Macbeth proves that though he was very strong and courageous, he wasn’t as great a thinker as his late wife. When she commited suicide, he had lost a great ally even though he wouldn’t admit it. She complimented him where he was weak, and their combined abilities allowed them to take power very easily. When he began to undermine his wife, his downfall was soon to come. When they started operating separately is when their weaknesses began to show.