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Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers!

"She'd be back. And she wouldn't burden herself with a husband this time either. Weak! He was the worst of them all, with no courage in him to be as bad as he knew he was, inside.."
Lady Felmet, Wyrd Sisters

Nagging wife of a villain does not even begin to describe this character. This lady is just as crazy as her husband (if not more so). Not only is she supportive of his "evil ambitions" but she helps him to achieve them. She might even turn out to be the leading force behind her husband.

Whether it's lying to cops, disposing of a body, or helping her husband overcome any uncertainty about carrying out his Evil Plan, she'll do it. She might even push him to do it. She'll take charge if she has to.

When Lady Macbeth takes charge, she may turn to be such a good villain that the audience will wonder, "Why is she with this guy? She could have just done X by herself!" In the end that is not the case.

If Lady Macbeth doesn't get herself killed (or outright kill herself) it is inevitable that something will happen to her so that she can no longer upstage her husband.

Keep in mind that it's not completely necessary for this character to be the wife of the villain. It could just be his girlfriend, or lover, and in some cases it could instead be his mother or sister or even a close female friend. The important part is that this character is Always Female, is sentimentally close to the villain in some way and is either his partner in crime and/or uses diverse persuasion methods to nudge him into doing things a 'good' person would not do.

The real Lady Macbeth was probably nothing like this, but we'll never know. The only things we absolutely know about her is that her name was Gruoch, Macbeth was her second husband, and she had one son from her first marriage. We do know that she didn't nag him into killing a wise old king in his sleep, though: the real Duncan was younger than Macbeth and a worthless wastrel, and Macbeth killed him in a fair fight in battle.

Compare God Save Us From the Queen, Dark Mistress (where the relationship is less equal), Unholy Matrimony.

While this trope has some degree of reality, please refrain from adding Real Life examples. Calling a real person a villain is asking for much trouble. No matter how much they deserve it.

Examples of Lady Macbeth include:

Anime and Manga

  • Doctor Ritsuko Akagi from Neon Genesis Evangelion fits into this one, although she wasn't married to Gendo. Most notably, she created the Rei clones that were central to Instrumentality. However, she's not completely straight as she is being manipulated by Gendo Ikari instead. Yui Ikari, the ACTUAL wife of Gendo Ikari may or may not be one depending on how you interpret her and how much of the plot was actually because of her all along.
  • Leda in Casshern Sins falls squarely in this trope, goading Dio to take his place as the king of robots.
  • Empress Marianne vi Britannia turns out to be one in Code Geass.
  • Mrs. Rara of Dual acts as this. Her husband is struggling to be a competent scientist. She coerces him and their daughter to become evil, eventually taking over the reins.
  • Both Kiyomi Takada and Misa Amane sorta aspire to be this for Light in Death Note, due to their intrest in Light Yagami and their Yandere qualities. It goes badly for both of them: one is told "You Have Outlived Your Usefulness" by Light himself, the other commits suicide after his death.
  • Yaminade no Itsuki might be a rare male one of these. Though his way of getting Sensui to do his bidding and fight on his behalf (sort of, it's complicated) isn't outright nagging as much as it is passive-aggression, Undying Loyalty, and patience for Sensui to be completely broken according to his wishes.

Audio Adaptation

  • Though a mother rather then a wife, in fact she killed her husband, Lady Calcula from the I, Davros audio fits the trope to a t. She uses all of her political savvy, and frequently plain old murder to ensure Davros reaches a position of power. She even has the distinction of becoming the first complete, albeit terminal, Dalek.

Comic Books

  • Helen Heyer of V for Vendetta, married to Conrad, the head of the Eye (the fascist Norsefire regime's video surveillance department). In her brief appearance early on, she seems to be nothing more than a catty high-society woman. Later, however, as the Leader becomes mentally incapable of running the country, Helen shows her true colours as a savvy and ruthless manipulator who, having gotten the submissive Conrad his current position, now schemes to have him become Leader, albeit in name only: "I'm going to be like Eva Peron," she vows. In the end, after the regime has completely collapsed, she's reduced to homelessness and trading sexual favours for basic life necessities .
  • X-Men: Although they were never married, Emma Frost was every bit as evil as her lover Sebastian Shaw during her days in the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle. The Black Queen Selene also ended up being more evil than any of the Hellfire Club's members.



 Eddie: "It's pretty clear to me who has the balls in this marriage."

  • Mary in Infernal Affairs II, possibly with or without her husband's knowledge.
  • Ms. Lovett of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
  • At the end of Mystic River, Annabeth, wife of Jimmy Markum, is arguably revealed to be this. She comforts and encourages Jimmy to be proud of killing the wrong man for the murder of his daughter. She even goes so far as to blame the man's wife for the mistake.
  • Sarah (played by Bridget Fonda) in A Simple Plan plays this role for the protagonist, Hank (Bill Paxton).
  • In Scotland, PA., based upon the source of the Trope Namer, Pat McBeth (Maura Tierney) naturally acts in this capacity for her husband, Joe (James LeGros).


  • Jezebel. Her husband, King Ahab, is described in The Bible as Israel's most morally bankrupt king, but she was even worse. Making this Older Than Feudalism. At least, western European feudalism.
    • She was from another country, and believed in a different god, so she had all the Jewish priests killed...hmm...that sounds familiar.
  • Duchess Felmet in the Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters (unsurprisingly, since it was a Macbeth parody) is Lady Macbeth turned up to eleven (and into a Social Darwinist).
  • Nena Bismaquer in James Bond novel For Special Services by John Gardner. She is eventually revealed to be the daughter of Blofeld.
  • The Codex Alera has Lady Invidia Aquitaine, to her husband High Lord Aquitainus Attis. But it turns out their relationship is actually much more complicated than that, Attis is smarter than we thought, and their goals may not be all that compatible...
    • The Cursors even had a betting pool going: "Which one will win when they finally try to kill each other?" She won, and true to the trope, ends up getting killed within the same book.
  • Although Esmé Squalor from A Series of Unfortunate Events isn't Count Olaf's wife, she otherwise fits the trope to a T.
  • Carlaze—who turns out to be at fault for just about the entire recent crisis—in Troika.
  • Eleanor Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate is the scheming wife of a senator (who's basically her puppet) in the original novel and first film adaptation, made in 1962. It's subverted in the 2004 adaptation, however, where she's the senator herself.

Live Action TV

  • Sherry Palmer from 24 has often been compared to Lady Macbeth and is a semi-example of this trope, trying to convince her idealist husband to do whatever is necessary to secure the presidency; but only so that she can be the First Lady. During its Golden Age, Television Without Pity nicknamed her "Lady MacPalmer" or "Lady Mac".
  • Lucille from Arrested Development. No, really.
  • Mara Vendrell in The Shield. If anything she made Shane Vendrell even worse than he already was.
  • There's a reason that Ellen Tigh of Battlestar Galactica Reimagined was given the Fan Nickname of "Lady McTigh" — she regularly used alcohol, nagging, and what we'll politely term "feminine wiles" to goad her husband, Colonel Saul Tigh, into making some of the Worst. Decisions. Ever. While she didn't quite have a Karmic Death — it was too heartwrenching to be Karmic, as she was poisoned by Saul on (valid) suspicion of being a Cylon collaborator. Double irony points as 1) she did it for him, and 2) Saul and Ellen are both big damn Cylons ANYWAY — she was still one of the most unashamedly manipulative characters on the show.
  • Spoofed in Oz. The prisoners put on a play of Macbeth, and when rehearsing the scene where Lady Macbeth is pushing her husband to shank kill Duncan, get rather annoyed over Macbeth's lack of balls.
  • Angela Petrelli from Heroes.
  • In Dexter, Lila West spends most of her screen time doing her very best to become Dexter's very own Lady Macbeth, even going so far as to blow up Sgt. Doakes instead of rescuing him, just to protect Dexter from being discovered as the Bay Harbor Butcher, as well as to save him the trouble of doing it himself.
  • In the Doctor Who serial The Tomb of the Cybermen, Kaftan fills this role expertly, supporting, encouraging, and enabling her Nietzsche Wannabe hubby Klieg at every turn, and even supplying her own badass minion, Toberman.
  • In Law & Order: Criminal Intent there was a sister Macbeth who wanted her brother to take over a tiny African country (they're the children of said county's king) by blowing up their parents and killing the detectives' boss, who had gone undercover to expose their weapons dealing. Oh, and her brother's white, American girlfriend had to go, and since he was dragging his feet about it...
  • Criminal Minds: When an episode deals with a killing couple, like in "Mosley Lane" or "The Thirteenth Step", generally the female unsub fits this trope.
    • Although in some killing couples the wife has to act like this to stay alive, giving her sadistic husband other targets than herself.
  • Gillian Darmody on Boardwalk Empire spends much of the second season pushing her son into some truly reprehensible actions. Her Moral Event Horizon comes when she talks Jimmy into letting a hit on Nucky go through, even though Jimmy is very much opposed to the idea and begs to be allowed to change his mind.
    • Margaret is a much less extreme example, but shows some shades of this as well. In "Ourselves Alone", she shows a lot of promise in retrieving Nucky's bankroll and ledger from under police surveillance, then burning it and telling him to commit future deals to memory.


  • The trope is named after the female lead of Shakespeare's Macbeth, who encourages her husband to take the throne through regicide. But as he begins Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, she starts going insane with guilt.
    • She can be seen as the real villain of the story, being evil from pretty much as soon as she enters the story, in opposition to Macbeth who's seen as a favoured subject of the King with good reason. Even when told he would be king, he hoped it would just happen, as opposed to him killing the King himself.
      • She has more of a motive than evil plot device. While she certainly a Jerkass, she is quite tired of standing at the side lines while battles happen, and being treated as a woman was during those times. With all of the protection and her own personal belief that Real Women Never Wear Dresses. She was eager to help in the killing because she wanted action. Which may be a lot, lot, worse but at least it describes her actions and doesn't make her pure-concentrated random evil for no true reason. She wanted to be queen so she could be as close as she could to combat.
    • It's also possible that Macbeth, being fully aware of his wife's personality, chose to tell her of the prophecy, knowing she'd push him to make it happen. If he really didn't want to kill Duncan, he should have stayed quiet.
      • Except, throughout the first act there are several times where he expresses his dislike of Lady Macbeth's plan of murder and even says at one point that he will not go through with it (Even though he eventually does).
    • Many adaptations of Macbeth play with Lady Macbeth's personality. While she is usually portrayed as scheming and manipulative, Roman Polanski's version is affectionate and meek, though no less culpable in the deed. Orson Welles' version has Lady Macbeth as simply a terrified accessory to Macbeth's desire to be king all along, and as their relationship plays out, there is even implication that he's been abusing her. One of the great things about the character is that her lines can be performed with so many different inflections and subtexts that any one of these interpretations could fit.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Though Mrs. Lovett never actually marries Sweeney Todd, Sweeney wouldn't have gotten as far as he did without her, as she was the one who came up with the idea to bake his victims into pies.
  • In Richard Wagner's Lohengrin, the easily led Friedrich, Count of Telramund, is induced by his wife, the pagan sorceress Ortrud, to accuse the heroine Elsa of murdering her brother (whom Ortrud herself has turned into a swan), and then later to attack Elsa's husband and champion, the eponymous Grail knight. She's a bad lady.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation of Hamlet has pegged Gertrude as one of these to Claudius.
    • Hamlet himself wonders in-universe whether or not she is this, before deciding that even if it's true she's his mom and he should be focusing his hate on Claudius instead.

Video Games

  • In Overlord, there are two possible 'Mistresses' you can pick up. The first one is practically the antithesis of this, trying to convince you that helping people might benefit your plans for world domination. However, if you 'trade up' for her Evil Sister, Velvet, you've got a bona-fide Lady Macbeth for your castle. While it's not like you need the encouragement, it's always nice to have a dame who can appreciate good evil.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Kyrie is eventually revealed to be this to Rudolf in Episode 7, and is capable of extreme coldness and ruthlessness when it comes to helping her husband. She's even willing to kill for him and abandon her daughter if he dies because she's not longer of any use.

Web Comics

  • Vriska in Homestuck towards her Masochism Tango partner Tavros. At least, she fancies herself as this, but since she is, for the most part, terrible at manipulating people, she ends up more as a particularly psychotic Toxic Friend Influence — the only person she can manipulate is Tavros, and despite her influence over him she can't make him kill her when he needs to as part of her plan to Come Back Strong.

Western Animation

  • After Fox was paired with Xanatos in Gargoyles, she became a bit of a Magnificent Bitch herself. And then she became a mom...
    • Interestingly, the actual Lady Macbeth who appears is absolutely nothing like the trope. Of course, Macbeth in this version is an Anti-Villain at worst (being based more on the historical figure than the character).
    • Heck, Demona tries to marry Macbeth later on. (long story.)
      • Interesting thing here: According to Weisman, there was a story idea of his where--through magic--much of the cast did an presumably abridged version of the play, with Macbeth as the himself, and Demona as the Lady. Obviously they ran out of episodes for the show, and had the comic gone on longer I'm sure they would've done it.
    • Played with in Demona's relationship with Thailog; Goliath originaly assumes she's playing this role for him, since she's an established villain while he's a clone who's only evil because he was programmed that way... but it turns out he knows full well what she is, and is manipulating her rather than the other way around. In fact, it's ultimately established that Demona has at least some genuine feelings for Thailog, but he never sees her as anything but a tool.