Lady Macduff Foils Lady Macbeth In many of Shakespeare's plays, there is a major character, and a lesser character whose character traits directly contrast those of the major character. This literary device is called a foil. One example of this exists in the play Romeo and Juliet, in which Mercurio foils Romeo's character with his disdain for love and belief in man making his own destiny. Another example of foil exists in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth. The character of Lady Macduff foils Lady Macbeth in her lack ambition, her genuine love of family life and her devotion to her husband.
Although one only gets a brief glimpse at the life that Lady Macduff and her husband share, it is quite easy to assume just how different they are from the Macbeth. One example is simply from the fact that Lady Macduff has not forced her husband to climb the social ladder and try to attain the status of king. Lady Macduff seems to be content to live her life as the wife of a thane with her health and her family. Lady Macbeth however, feels not only that her husband deserves a better place in life but also that by not working to attain that higher status he is a failure. Another major foil is the home life of Lady Macbeth as compared to that of Lady Macduff. Lady Macbeth is purportedly a loving wife to her husband.
It is also said that they are complimentary, in that Macbeth has ideas and Lady Macbeth forces him into action. Although this may be true, from the actions in the play, it would seem as if Lady Macbeth forces Macbeth to do things better left undone and that he almost resents her for it, which is why he decides to leave her out of his plans to kill Banque and Macduff's family. Lady Macduff on the other hand, seems to genuinely love and feel for her husband. She is very upset over the fact that he is leaving home, not because she feels it is cowardly, rather because she knows that he is her protector and her one true love and without him she is lacking.
This is an obvious difference between Lady Macduff and Lady Macbeth, which helps to highlight the personality of Lady Macbeth. Although Lady Macduff only appears onstage for a very brief period in the play, her role is very significant. Often times, a person begins to believe that the way that a main character behaves is the norm and is proper. One begins to feel that way in Macbeth, but Shakespeare allows the audience to get a true sense of normalcy and gain their moral footing by showing the way Lady Macduff behaves. Her good-natured love and devotion to her husband contrast the nagging, self-serving, deceitful characteristics of Lady Macbeth. Lady Macduff is more than just a foil for Lady Macbeth, she is the rock that keeps the audience grounded, allowing them to see the true evil in Lady Macbeth and her fall from grace..