"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.."Nagging wife of a villain does not even begin to describe this character. This lady is frequently even crazier then her husband (and is often The Sociopath). Not only is she supportive of his 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 she 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 this is usually is not the case. If she doesn't get herself killed (or outright kill herself out of guilt like her namesake), it is inevitable that something will happen to her so that she can no longer upstage her husband. In modern works, however, it is becoming more and more frequent for her to kill her husband once he outlives his usefulness—or make the most of his death if he expires by other means—and either become the new Big Bad or make it official that she has been the main villain all along. The real Lady Macbeth was probably nothing like this, but historical records are few. 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 The Man Behind the Man (or the Woman, as the case may be), My Beloved Smother (when it's the villain's mother who's calling the shots), Evil Chancellor, God Save Us from the Queen!, Dark Mistress (where the relationship is less equal), and Unholy Matrimony. If she's particularly ambitious and her husband is particularly weak-willed, he could be a Puppet King. A subtrope of Vicariously Ambitious. While this trope has some degree of reality, please refrain from adding Real Life examples. As stated elsewhere, calling real people villains is asking for trouble.
— Lady Felmet, Wyrd Sisters
open/close all folders
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. A large part of her breakdown at the end of the series comes from realizing this, and that she's unintentionally followed in her mother Naoko's footsteps, since she played the same role, including being Gendo's lover, prior to her death.
- 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 and being the much more sexually dominant one in their relationship.
- Empress Marianne vi Britannia turns out to be one in Code Geass.
- Mrs. Rara of Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure 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, while her husband is now a janitor.
- Both Kiyomi Takada and Misa Amane sorta aspire to be this for Light in Death Note, due to their interest in Kira and their Yandere qualities. It goes badly for both of them: one is ruthlessly disposed of by Light himself when she is no longer useful to him, the other commits suicide after his death.
- YuYu Hakusho: 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.
- Big Finish Doctor Who:
- 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.
- In The Tears of Isis, Russell Courtland is supposedly the leader of the Cult of Sutekh, but it only takes a few minutes of listening to them to realise that his wife Susannah is really the mastermind behind the whole thing, and is much more ruthless than he is. Although she's just as clueless about what a bad idea worshipping Sutekh actually is. They end up desperately attempting to sacrifice each other to a god who sees no reason not to kill both of them.
- 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 .
- System Restore features this in the second chapter. Following their discovery of a very strong motive, Pekoyama encourages Kuzuryuu to seriously consider killing somebody. Even though the rules of Monobear's Deadly Game state only one person can 'graduate', she really wants him to win, even if it means sacrificing herself. Unfortunately for her, someone overhears and decides to eliminate her before she can convince him to act.
- Dame Vaako from the movie The Chronicles of Riddick is shown constantly trying to convince her husband to kill the Lord Marshal and take his place.
- In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Zira is this posthumously for Scar.
- Lady Kaede from Akira Kurosawa 's Ran is basically Lady Macbeth married to King Lear's son. She's a major reason that Kurosawa's ending is significantly more tragic than Shakespeare's.
- Asaji from Throne of Blood, which is a Setting Update of Macbeth. In some ways, she's even more evil than the original, implying to her husband that if he doesn't kill the daimyo first, the daimyo will kill him, and even distracting the guards.
- The female Klingon in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
- The villain's wife from Hudson Hawk.
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.
- Mrs. Lovett of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. See Theatre below.
- At the end of Mystic River, Annabeth, second wife of Jimmy Markum, is 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. Given that her name is Annabeth it's possible this was even on purpose.
- 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).
- Nefertiti to Ramses in "The Ten Commandments"
- The Master has Lancaster Dodd's wife Peggy. Despite giving the air of the perfect 50s submissive housewife ideal, she is frequently shown cajoling her husband into taking drastic and immoral actions. If one sees the obvious subtext of Dodd's movement as the Church of Happyology, then Peggy represents its most immoral deeds such as aggressive smear campaigns and "disconnection".
- 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.
- Gone with the Wind: Scarlett O'Hara embodies this trope with Frank Kennedy, pushing him to run a lumber yard he is apathetic about, and when she is attacked in Shanty Town, guilting him into joining the newly minted Ku Klux Klan in seeking revenge for her. This raid leads to his death.
- 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).
- 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. The expy of Joe McCarthy, John Iselin, frequently complains about the rhetoric he's been given to read to the senate with its ever-changing total "Communists" in government. (This is especially hilarious given McCarthy's same inconsistencies.) Actually, it's at the insistence of his wife, Eleanor, who is thinking ten steps ahead and knows the press will keep asking "how many Communists" rather than "are there Communists." Eleanor plans to rule through her henpecked husband once he hijacks the Presidency. For an added, Oedipal twist, Eleanor is also the Lady Macbeth for her sleeper-agent son and his Communist controller, taking command of him and forcing him to further the communist (and later her) cause.
- In the 2004 adaptation, Eleanor is a Senator herself. However, she is still stymied by the boy's club in Washington, and decides to groom her son for the Presidency.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Selyse Florent, Stannis Baratheon's wife, brings the priestess Melisandre and the religion of R'hllor to Dragonstone and urges her husband to fully utilize her powers in his struggle for the Iron Throne. Melisandre also acts as a more successful version of this.
- Cersei Lannister spurs on her brother Jaime and later, her cousin Lancel, to acts of villainy like pushing Bran out of the tower and causing King Robert's death. It was originally thought that Cersei and her brother had a more equal relationship, but in the later books, Jaime undergoes a Heel Realization and was only going along with his sister's plans because he loves her. She also gets called out by her father and uncle who let her know that she's neither as cunning nor as intelligent as she thinks she is, for all both recognise she has drive. Which, to their minds, she's pointed in the wrong direction.
- Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series is this to Voldemort without technically being his wife. She actually has a husband named Rodolphus, but they married out of tradition (to uphold the "purity" of their respective bloodlines) and not love, and Bellatrix is strongly infatuated with Voldemort. Rodolphus is mentioned only briefly in the books and not included at all in the movies.
- I, Claudius gives us Livia, wife of Emperor Augustus and the Manipulative Bitch who essentially becomes the Woman Behind The Man by killing all the people that he won't to ensure that her descendants inherit the empire. Clearly one of the bad Claudians.
- Regan is this to Henwyn in Marcus Pitcaithly's The Realm Of Albion - unsurprisingly, since this element is drawn directly from King Lear.
- Inevera from book two of The Warded Man, constantly encourages Jardir towards power, and ultimately to declare himself the Deliverer.
- Melisande Shahrizai of Kushiel's Legacy excels at manipulating powerful men into committing treason in order to advance her own ambitions.
- The Saga of the Greenlanders: During their winter in Vinland, Freydis Eriksdottir lies to her husband Thorvard that the brothers Helgi and Finnbogi have beaten and abused her, and thus incites him into attacking and killing the brothers and their entire crew. Her true motive is to take the brothers' ship and cargo.
- The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal: Hrolleif, a notorious troublemaker and eventual killer of Ingimund, is encouraged by his mother Ljot to behave aggressively and confrontationally to their neighbours. Eventually it turns out she is also a witch who uses sorcery to protect her son, and prepares to put a curse on the sons of Ingimund.
"[H]e was provocative and overbearing and, under his mother's influence, repaid good with bad."
Live Action TV
- 24: Sherry Palmer 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".
- In AD: The Bible Continues, both Claudia (wife of Pilate) and Leah (wife of Caiaphas) qualify. Claudia's a rare basically benevolent version, doing her best to soothe down her husband and keep the bloodshed to a "minimum". Leah plays the trope straight, even going so far as to seek out paid killers to achieve her goals, whether her husband shares those goals or not.
- Arrested Development: Lucille. No, really.
- Arrow: In season 4, Ruvé Adams, the wife of Damien Dahrk. She not only supports her husband's plans to nuke the world and reset it from scratch, she actively works on them, even running for mayor of Star City against Oliver. Furthermore, she pushes her husband to kill the Green Arrow as soon as possible, no matter if he saved her ass a couple of times.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003): There's a reason that Ellen Tigh 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.
- Boardwalk Empire: Gillian Darmody 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.
- The Caesars features two examples.
- In "Augustus", Tiberius' mother Livia is determined that he will succeed her dying husband Augustus as Emperor, and urges him to eliminate the only other possible contender, Augustus' grandson Agrippa Postumus. As Tiberius doesn't particularly want to be Emperor, he resists her entreaties. (It turns out they needn't have bothered, as when Augustus dies, he leaves secret orders that Postumus is to be executed anyway.)
- In "Germanicus", the title character's wife, Augustus' granddaughter Agrippina, is anxious to become Empress, and tries to urge her husband to use the support of the armies on the Rhine, who are under his command and are rebelling because they want Germanicus for Emperor rather than Tiberius, to march on Rome and declare himself Caesar. Germanicus is secretly keen on the idea, but outwardly rejects it, especially when told (falsely) that Tiberius is dying, and he thus only has a short wait to become Emperor anyway. Agrippina sees through the lie, but cannot do anything 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.
- Defiance: Stahma. When Datak is upset that their son is dating the daughter of his rival Rafe McCawley (who's also a racist), she manages to calm him down and feels the two should get married. She points out how this would make them family, and points out that mining is a dangerous job, and if Rafe McCawley and his remaining son were to suffer an accident of some sort, then it would only be right of them to help Christie with the sudden burden of running an entire mining operation. Fittingly, she's played by Jaime Murray who played Lila on Dexter.
Nolan: I've had my eye on the wrong snake. You're the dangerous one.Stahma: You're sweet.
- 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.
- Doctor Who: In the 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.
- Game of Thrones: Despite being a male character, Ser Loras Tyrell essentially fulfills this trope by planting the idea into Lord Renly Baratheon's head that he should be king.
- Heroes: Angela Petrelli.
- Holocaust: Marta Dorf, wife of SS officer Erik Dorf, in this 1978 miniseries.
- House of Cards (UK): Elizabeth Urquhartnote , who conspires with her husband to lie, backstab and manipulate others into servitude. She helps her husband not only to make him prime minister, but also to better her own status as first lady. Despite the manipulative affairs Francis engages in, she loves her husband deeply (mainly because she helps plan the affairs in the first place).
- 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...
- Lois and Clark has Mindy, a dumb-as-bricks nurse who wound up marrying her patient, the crime lord Bill Church. It soon becomes clear, however, than Mindy has been puppeteering her hubby from the beginning, and she eventually takes over the entire mob.
- M*A*S*H: Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan was sort of this in the early seasons of the show. She would constantly goad Frank Burns into going over the head of the 4077th's nominal CO, Henry Blake. And she relishes the prospect of "helping" Frank run things after Henry leaves and Frank is appointed the new commander... at least until Col. Potter takes over.
- Murder, She Wrote: After Sheriff Metzger arrested the son of a politician for drunk driving, the son was found murdered and Metzger fell under suspicion. The killer turned out to be the drunk driver's stepmother, who feared that the lad's previous indiscretions would hinder his father's political ambitions, and by extension her own. Jessica Fletcher mentioned Lady Macbeth by name when referring to the politician's wife at the end of the episode.
- Oz: Spoofed. The prisoners put on a play of Macbeth, and when rehearsing the scene where Lady Macbeth is pushing her husband to
shankkill Duncan, get rather annoyed over Macbeth's lack of balls.
- Power has Tasha, who attempts to counteract her husband's attempts to leave the drug-dealing business.
- Revolution: Julia Neville, who in episode 8 suggests to her husband that he might make a better ruler than the unstable Monroe.
- The Shield: Mara Vendrell. If anything she made Shane Vendrell even worse than he already was.
- In Princess Returning Pearl, Rong Mou Mou is Lady Macbeth to the Empress's Macbeth, egging the Empress on whenever her spirit falters and wants to give up on this war in the imperial court.
- The US version of House of Cards (US)has Claire Underwood be this to her husband Frank.
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand:
- Lucretia is every bit as manipulative and cunning as her husband Quintus Batiatus. The prequel series shows her resorting to murder and deception far sooner than he does.
- Although they're not married, Illythia is this to Glaber. The first episode shows her encouraging him to lead the attack that ends up involving Spartacus in the plot.
- Charmed had a variation where it was the nanny of a young executive. She was a demon and she had raised him from birth to take control of a major company and gain power. The plot of the episode revolves around her orchestrating the murder of the man's half-brother.
- The trope is named after the female lead of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. While Macbeth is keen on becoming king from the beginning, it is his wife who encourages him to take the throne through regicide. But as he begins Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, she starts going insane with guilt.
- 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 little brother Gottfried (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.
- Alternative 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.
- Mme Thernardier of Les Misérables is this to M. Thernardier, with generally hilarious results.
- 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: When They Cry, 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. It's also heavily implied at the end of the series that she was behind the Rokkenjima massacre.
- It isn't immediately obvious by a long shot, but Hate Plus gives a patient, plotting example in Oh Eun-a, a seemingly-minor character who turns out to have complicated motivations for providing and facilitating the plans of her despotic lover. True to form, she's even rendered emotionally vacant (and thus, a non-agent) by the end of the plot.
- Dangan Ronpa:
- Celestia Ludenburg from the first game manipulates Hifumi into committing a murder as part of her own murder plot so she could frame Yasuhiro for murder in order to graduate. She then takes him out as well.
- Peko Pekoyama would be very happy if Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu to commit a murder and graduate and even tries to argue that she murdered Mahiru on his orders so the crime isn't her fault... after getting voted as the murderer. The feeling is mutual with Kuzuryuu even demanding she not get caught for her own sake. Unlike the previous example, this is out of genuine concern for the other person in the situation.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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 - right down to getting her to kill Macbeth for him despite the fact that this will kill them both. 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.
- During the flashback scenes of the episode "A Long Way Till Morning", Demona tries to convince Goliath to take the clan over from Hudson, and by force if need be. Goliath refuses much to her disappointment, due to his genuine respect for Hudson even when he makes decisions he disagrees with, revealing elements of her true character and questioning rather Demona was Evil All Along?
- Icy in Winx Club is this to Tritannus. While they're not married, they quickly fall in love with each other after meeting in prison. She is a massive influence on him, and without her Tritannus probably wouldn't have tried or had the necessary power to attempt to conquer the Magic Dimension. She has more experience in the evil department, so while he has more power, she assists in directing the next phase of their plan.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has Princess Azula, who is essentially her Evil Overlord father's right-hand girl. She's a cold, calculating sociopath who carries out her daddy's evil wishes abroad, actually manages to conquer the Earth Kingdom and temporarily kill the Avatar (feats at which generations of men, including her brother and uncle, failed), and gives her father the idea to torch the entire Earth Kingdom during the series's Grand Finale.