Shakespeare has brought Macbeth and Lady Macbeth together in one sense by their complicity in the murder and their joint ambition; however, pulls them apart in another by guilt, mistrust and paranoia. Throughout the play, the course of their relationship takes several calamitous turns which leads both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in different directions, ultimately landing them at clashing destinations with individual states of mind.
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth and his wife consider each other as equal in worth as Macbeth refers to Lady Macbeth as his ‘dearest partner of greatness’ and Lady Macbeth quotes Macbeth to be, ‘great Glamis, worthy Cawdor.’ At this point, their relationship is based on certain equity and although both of them make great sacrifices for one another, they don’t doubt each others intentions. Despite Lady Macbeth showing us her manipulative streak, when Macbeth informs her that he doesn’t want to ‘proceed no further in this business’ as he worked hard enough to gain ‘golden opinions’ or a fine reputation from all over, Lady Macbeth’s attempt at persuasion, sways him over to her side, which expresses the fact that Lady Macbeth is more ambitious for her husband than for herself, as her speech contains mostly ‘thou’ than ‘I’.
This draws the audience to her focus when she learns of the royal prophecies, that Her becoming Queen comes second to Macbeth becoming King, therefore expressing her husbands needs before hers. Lady Macbeth also successfully moulds Macbeth, to be the man that he and as well she wanted him to be, in order to prosperously complete the ‘assasination’ of King Duncan.
Although Lady Macbeth more obviously expresses the ‘illness to attend’ to her imperial hope than Macbeth, we learn that Macbeth’s inhibitions are not merely ‘drunk boasting’ as he too exhibits a palpable craving, which he wishes the ‘stars’ don’t light to see his ‘black and deep desires.’ This reveals the pyschological proximity of their relationship because Lady Macbeth is aware of the fact that he will have the dark thoughts, even though Macbeth doesn’t mention them in his letter, and that he is too ‘full o the milk of human kindness’ to act ruthlessly and cold-heartedly on his longing.
Another instance in which Shakespeare has subtly presented the closeness of their relationship is when Lady Macbeth reveals her loving, selfless role as a wife by being prepared to sacrifice her own femininity for Macbeth to realise his ambition. Although she comes across as a strong, evil manipulator who possesses the ability to cloud Macbeth of any moral judgement, Shakespeare proves that she isn’t naturally malevolent, but she has to call the ‘spirits that tend on mortal thoughts to unsex’ her and fill her with ‘direst cruelty.
‘Lady Macbeth had earlier been acting as the bold, audacious individual that she was convincing her husband to be, using words as her weapons to emasculate Macbeth by comparing him to the ‘poor cat I’ the adage, who wanted the fish but was too scared of getting his feet wet, as well as claiming his doubts to be arising from a hangover, as it awaked to look so ‘green and pale.’ But she later on suggests hypocritical irony, as at the time of the ‘great business’, she discloses that the drugs that ‘quenched’ the chamberlains, have made her ‘bold’, giving away the fact that she too, isn’t as strong as she makes out to be and she needs alcohol to make her dauntless. This example too, proves that Lady Macbeth loves Macbeth to such an extent, that she is willing to surrender the abililty to confide in her husband of her innermost emotions, whether cowardly or not.
After the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth displays emotions on the opposite end of the spectrum to Macbeth, since whilst Macbeth vividly envisions voices crying ‘sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep!’, Lady Macbeth shows a sense of tranquility and attempts to calm Macbeth down by telling him ‘these deeds must not be thought, so it will make us mad,’ an example oozing irony since Lady Macbeth’s own thoughts of the murder, eventually drive her to commit suicide. She also begins to exploit Macbeth’s feelings by challenging them of guilt and pity for King Duncan, replacing them with malicious and spiteful feelings by instructing him to ‘look like th’ innocent flower,but be the serpent under’t’. As a result, Macbeth becomes so absorbed in his confusion and mixed feelings about his sinful deed that would turn ‘the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red,’ that he withdraws himself from the amorous, loving relationship he had with Lady Macbeth.
The first sign shown to us by Shakespeare that indicates the downfall of their relationship, is during the banquet, when Lady Macbeth tries to reassert her authority in the relationship. Even though she is acutely aware of the public setting of the banquet and is resourceful in making excuses for her husband’s ‘deranged behaviour’, by explaining that the ‘fit is momentary’, Lady Macbeth insults his manhood again by doubting his masculinity and questioning him whether he is ‘a man?’.By dismissing the Lords at the banquet without eliminating their suspicions of her husband’s state of mind and his evil actions, her insults to her husband no longer have any effect on him as he plans to commit even more immoral and iniquitous deeds, having ‘stepped in so far’ in the river of blood.
Towards the end of the tragic play, Lady Macbeth appears to succumb to her guilt and pays the price subconciously by taking to somnambulism, and taking the responsibilty for Macbeth’s devastating desperation which drove him to commit the murders of Duncan, Banquo and Macduff’s family. She discovers that no action of hers could get rid of her guilt, by admitting that even the ‘sweet-smelling perfumes of Arabia’ weren’t able to remove the stench of blood from her ‘little hand, that committed a sin so big.
Shakespeare’s reversal of roles causes Lady Macbeth to become the weak, submissive partner in the relationship who is unsure of herself and petrified of the future. Macbeth, on the other hand, comes to make all the decisions without any aid from his wife, reaching the extent where he doesn’t even bother to inform her of his bloody plans. He becomes a tyrant, a man who gained false confidence from the witches second predictions and is despised and hated by the public, which drives him to insanity.
The fact that after their deaths, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship is portrayed by Malcolm as ‘this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen’, forever united in evil, proves that the couple was united in their crimes, their ambition, their madness, and their alienation from society: an irony of a ‘perfect’ marriage.