An example of peripety in Shakespeare's play is the contrast between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. In the beginning, Macbeth was so upset when he killed Duncan. He talked about the blood on his hands, and how even Posiedon's water couldn't clean them. Lady Macbeth says its no big deal and some soap and water will do. Later, Lady Macbeth spazzes out when she realizes all the murders that have been done. It is one of her famous lines, Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One: two: why, then, 'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him"(4.1.2160) . We see the change when she finally loses it, she doesn't understand that it in the beginning she was fine with these actions, now she doesn't know what to do. Macbeth understood his actions and he came to a conclusion that no holy water could essentially wash away his sins. Lady Macbeth was so used to all her sins being hidden behind innocent people, that this reality was a cultural shock. No matter what class she was in, there was no changing in her actions.
Throughout Shakespeare's Macbeth, there are multiple examples of peripety. For example, the country of Scotland underwent major peripety, from a calm and peaceful place to being divided and corrupted. Additionally, Macbeth began as a moral and respected but throughout the play he shifts to a cold blooded and ruthless ruler as a result of his sinful actions. Lady Macbeth also undergoes a change from being mysterious and cunning to a more moral and regretful character. Finally, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth switch roles and personality adding a new level of peripety to the play. It is clear that there are multiple examples of peripety throughout the play.
Lady Macbeth’s transition from a strong women who emasculates her husband to exhort him to killing his way to the Crown of Scotland to a women you commits suicide out of guilt from the same action. In the beginning of Macbeth, after Macbeth has killed King Duncan Lady Macbeth says: “My hands are of your color, but I shame / To wear a heart so white. ... A little water clears us of this deed. / How easy is it, then! Your constancy / Hath left you unattended” (2.2.86-88). She believes that it will be easy to overcome the guilt of their actions from that night. Towards the ending of the play, Lady Macbeth has obviously been greatly affected by her guilt. She begins sleeping walking and confessing in her sleep to the murders of Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff’s family. While seeing imaginary blood on her hands that symbolized the murders that were a product of her deeds, Lady Macbeth says: “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All / the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little / hand. O, O, O!” (5.1.53-55), which, ironically, contradicts her own words. Shakespeare displays peripety, or peripeteia in Lady Macbeth by showing how guilt changed her.
A great example of peripety is the contrast between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In Act One Macbeth was struggling with the fact he would have to commit a murder Macbeth says: "Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair/ and make my seated heart knock at my ribs" (1.3.148-149). Here Macbeth was struggling to think about what he would have to do to get the throne. Macbeth did not wan to harm anyone however he wanted the throne enough to kill. Lady Macbeth took on the dominant role telling Macbeth what to do. She wanted Duncan killed while Macbeth was hesitant. After Macbeth's first coldblooded murder he began to change. Lady Macbeth began to regret the things hey had done and could not sleep because of it. She had helped the witches to lead Macbeth down a perilous and murderous path. Macbeth still felt guilt but he kept murdering and discarding his values for the throne, which in the end was worthless.In Act Two Macbeth says: Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood/Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather /the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red." (2.2.78-81). Macbeth was overwhelmed with guilt and was morally aware of what he would do. Lady Macbeth however kept persuading Macbeth to kill. In contrast in Act Five Lady Macbeth say something to what Macbeth had previously said: Here’s the smell of the blood still. All / the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little / hand. O, O, O!” (5.1.53-55). Lady Macbeth was so sorry for what they had done. She was not happy she found gaining power meant nothing, it was worthless. Lady Macbeth becomes so antagonized by her guilt she kills herself. At the end of the play Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have a switch of character roles. Macbeth became extremely power hungry while Lady Macbeth was slowly dying from guilt.