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Character Relationships in Macbeth

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

At the outset (start) of the play, we witness a close and loving bond between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. When the play begins, Lady Macbeth is eagerly awaiting the return of her husband from battle. Furthermore, Macbeth affectionately refers to her as “my dearest love”, showcasing their deep connection.

The bond between the couple extends beyond love. It is also defined by a shared and intense ambition. Lady Macbeth desires the throne as much as her husband does.

Lady Macbeth has a significant influence on her husband, as she manipulates him into murdering King Duncan. When Lady Macbeth says the line, “and chastise thee with the valour of my tongue”, she reveals her intent to forcefully persuade Macbeth to murder King Duncan, which he is hesitant about. This showcases her manipulative and ambitious nature in their relationship.

  • Her use of the word “valour” hints at a twisted sense of moral righteousness, implying she believes her forceful actions are brave and necessary to seize power.

Together, they become an unstoppable team in their ruthless pursuit of power. They trust each other enough to plot the murder as a team. The promise they make together is binding and Lady Macbeth would do anything rather than break this promise, even resorting to acts of violence. This is evident when Lady Macbeth says:

“I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn
As you have done to this.

However, as the play progresses, the psychological toll of their actions affects their relationship. They gradually drift apart:

  • Consumed by guilt, Lady Macbeth descends into madness
  • Macbeth becomes trapped by his paranoia and fear

Ultimately, their once united front disintegrates and their shared ambition leads to their individual downfalls.

Macbeth and Banquo

Macbeth and Banquo start the play as friends and fellow generals, both celebrated for their bravery. Their relationship takes another turn after their encounter with the witches.

When the witches reveal their prophecies, the friendship quickly deteriorates. The witches’ prophecies affected them differently.

Banquo is initially ambitious for himself as he entertains the thought:

“May they not be my oracles as well
And set me up in hope?

Yet, unlike Macbeth, Banquo doesn’t allow the prophecy of his descendants becoming kings to sway his loyalty to Duncan. He vows:

“My bosom franchised and allegiance clear,
I shall be counselled.

Banquo starts to suspect Macbeth of treachery and evil deeds. Sadly, as Macbeth rises to power, he views Banquo’s moral integrity as a growing threat and has him killed.

Macduff and Macbeth

At the beginning of the play, Macduff and Macbeth do not share a close relationship. However, as the plot unfolds, their lives become intertwined.

Macduff is a nobleman, described as “the good Macduff”. He is loyal to King Duncan and grows suspicious of Macbeth’s swift rise to the throne. So much so that when Macbeth is made king, he does not attend the coronation ceremony.

Macduff shares a close bond with his family. When Macbeth orders the brutal murder of his family, the rivalry becomes deeply personal. After the murder, Macduff grieves:

But I must also feel it as a man;
I cannot but remember such things were
That were most precious to me.

Grief transforms into determination. This event hardens Macduff’s resolve to dethrone the tyrannical Macbeth.

In the climactic fight, Macduff, who was not ‘born of woman’ in the conventional sense but through a Caesarean section, fulfils the witches’ prophecy by ending Macbeth’s life. This relationship symbolises the age-old battle between good and evil.