acbeth unconsciously uses Macbeth and others as a shield for guilt.
When she wants something but doesn’t have the guts to perform the task herself, she calls upon anyone but herself to do it. She thinks that this will erase her conscience of any guilt it has on it, but the shield is faulty.The first and most obvious of all places where this shield is placed is in the first two acts where Lady Macbeth is trying to convince her husband to kill King Duncan and become King of Scotland. She persuades by attacking Macbeth’s manliness,
“Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love.
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,’
Like the poor cat I’ th’ adage?”
(I, vii, 39-49)
By doing this, she manages to get Macbeth to kill King Duncan, however, in the end, she knows she is just as guilty as he is. Her guilt emerges in her visions of blood remaining on her hands,
“The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is
she now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No
more o’ that, my lord, no more o’ that. You mar all
with this starting.
(V, I, 44-47)
Another less obvious place where Lady Macbeth uses others to shield her guilt is when Banquo is murdered. Both MacBeth and Lady MacBeth discuss their fear of Banquo knowing too much, and Lady MacBeth resolves to do nothing and leaves the chore up to her husband. After finding out about it, Lady MacBeth tells herself it wasn’t her fault, but deep inside she knows it is just as much her as it is MacBeth who killed Banquo,
“Wash your hands. Put on your night-
Look not so pale. I tell you yet again, Ban-
quo’s buried; he cannot come out on s grave.”
(V, I, 65-68)
These examples show how Lady MacBeth used her husband to shield away the guilt. What she didn’t expect was that it wouldn’t work, and the blow of the guilt from murdering so many people strictly for power was too much for her weak shield.
Emotionally she suffered and it drove her to talking her own life. She ineffectively tried to block off what was destined to come her way.