English Macbeth: Lady Macbeth quotations Act 1

Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “yet do I fear thy nature, /: It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness” To Lady Macbeth, the “milk of human kindness” is distasteful and unpalatable she believes that no self-respecting man has any use for it. Therefore, whereas the phrase is customarily used to praise someone’s compassion, Lady Macbeth reverses this original sentiment. Lady Macbeth is highly ambitious, and fears that her husband lacks the mental strength to murder Duncan, taking his fate into his own hands. Additionally there is a repetitive theme of “milk” throughout Scene 5, emphasising Lady Macbeth’s rather shocking, more masculine character.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “That I may pour my spirits in thine ear, /: And chastise with the valour of my tongue” In Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, written four years prior to Macbeth,the good King Claudius is murdered by poison administered through the ear. The Elizabethan audience would have recognised this, and observed what Shakespeare is arguably implying; that Lady Macbeth and her emotional manipulation will be the decease of Macbeth. This also highlights Lady Macbeth’s dark and twisted character. Additionally the phrase “valour of my tongue” exemplifies Lady Macbeth’s boldness, in that she has openly admitted that she is aiming to use her position as Macbeth’s wife to influence and manipulate his thinking.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “The raven himself is hoarse /: That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan /: Under my battlements.” The raven represents destruction and corrupt power, as it is dark and ominous. He croaks hoarsely as Duncan’s imminent death comes closer. The raven is mentioned to be hoarse, which shows that its strength is impaired, and is being silenced to hush the terrors that are coming. Additionally, ravens often devour the rotting matter of a corpse after it’s death, foreshadowing the demise of Duncan. It is characteristically Shakespearean that the first thing Lady Macbeth realises is that, as chatelaine, she is going to have to make extensive preparations for accommodating and entertaining King Duncan and all the retinue he is undoubtedly bringing with him. Shakespeare consistently has female characters doing typically feminine things. Lady Macbeth will be the one who prepares the “possets” that drug the grooms who are guarding Duncan in his bedchamber. Near the end of the play she will be concerned about getting a spot out of a article of clothing. Earlier she talks about nursing a baby. She has to seem feminine in order to make her “masculine” characteristics, such as ambition, ruthlessness and violence, seem more striking by contrast. The opening words of this monologue ‘my battlements’ (contrasting with traditional notions of masculine ownership of property), suggest that Lady Macbeth is placing the seat of power (the castle) in her possession. This notion of her putting herself into a masculine position is further developed by the powerful phrase ‘unsex me here’: by removing her femininity she seems to suggest that she can become more powerful and in control.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “Come you spirits /: That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,” She is calling on the spirits that tend on her evil thoughts, to come forward and fill her body with manly cruelty. Remove her of the lady-like features she owns, such as the motherly instincts and the supposedly very feminine setbacks she insists she has, and fill her with the courage and masculine strength that will supposedly allow her to commit the cruel and unspeakable act that she plans to execute. Again, there is a comparison between Lady Macbeth and the witches, through the reference to the supernatural with the reference to “spirits”.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “Make thick my blood, /: Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse,” Lady Macbeth is demanding that the spirits prevent pity from flowing through her veins, ensuring that she feels no compassion, so that no human emotions may upset her ruthless intentions, or prevent her from carrying out the deadly sin. The imperative commands, “make” and “stop” highlights Lady Macbeth’s lack of fear, suggesting that she is enticing them to take away her femininity, and to destroy her humanity.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “Come to my woman’s breasts, /: And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers,” She is making a prayer of some sorts to help her commit murder with her husband. In doing this, she feels she needs to remove all womanly softness and care. To do this, she feels the need to remove any motherly characteristics such as her womanly breasts that hold milk, and asks for the evil spirits to fill it with gall (also known as bile). The emphatic alliteration used in “milk” and “murd’ring ministers”, exemplifies Lady Macbeth’s passion and extreme desire for Macbeth to obtain King Duncan’s crown.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “Come thick night, /: And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,” In this phrase, Lady Macbeth asks upon the night to hide her deed from both heaven and gods eyes, and from herself and other people. She asks that the night shade covers the estate, and nobody can see her do the evil deed, as she would be punished severely. She feels as though if nobody sees her crime, it will simply go away and she will feel no guilt or remorse, as though it never happened. The reference to the theme of nature in “thick night” demonstrates Lady Macbeth’s slight unsettled demeanour for the first time within the play – nature is typically described as a protective and watchful creation.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “Not heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,” It is no coincidence that these last words reflect those of Macbeth in the previous scene: Shakespeare is creating a strong verbal bond between husband and wife that will continue throughout the play. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth separately call on darkness not just to assist their plans but to hide their deeds from ‘Heaven’ or their own consciences. In their imagining, darkness is a psychological space, where scruple can be shed, compunction lost.
Lady Macbeth Scene 5: “…look like th’ innocent /: flower, /: But be the serpent under’t.” This antithesis foreshadows that the apparent paradise promised by the Witches is soon to become a hell. A parallel is created between Macbeth being swayed by Lady Macbeth and Adam being swayed by Eve in the Garden of Eden. The mentioning of the serpent in this text is a reflection on who the true villain was in Eden. If Macbeth had stopped to consider this parable, he might have realised that he was heading to his own demise, being led astray by his cunning wife.
Lady Macbeth Scene 7: “Was the hope drunk, /: Wherein you dressed yourself?” The rhetorical question Lady Macbeth presents to Macbeth sets an accusatory tone, which would arguably have shocked audiences of the time. Traditionally, women were supposed to be meek and mild, their only role being to keep their husbands content and meet their desires. However, Lady Macbeth is a direct contrast, a foil, to the traditional obedient wife. In this rhetorical question she undermines, and even mocks her husband, enforcing a complete role reversal between the two sexes.
Lady Macbeth Scene 7: “And wakes it now to look so green and pale…/: from this time /: Such I account thy love.” Lady Macbeth is using the language feature of emotional blackmail to further undermine Macbeth’s masculinity, forcing him to reconsider his conclusion that he will not, after all, murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth displays her cunning character through the effortless manipulation of her husband, using the pride he takes in his courage and strength (masculinity) against him. Additionally the colour symbolism used “green and pale”, connotes ideas of weakness and a lack of capability, again an example of mocking Macbeth’s manliness.
Lady Macbeth Scene 7: “When you durst do it, then you were a man;” Lady Macbeth is using the language feature of emotional blackmail to further undermine Macbeth’s masculinity, forcing him to reconsider his conclusion that he will not, after all, murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth displays her cunning character through the effortless manipulation of her husband, using the pride he takes in his courage and strength (masculinity) against him.
Lady Macbeth Scene 7: “I would while it was smiling in my face /: Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, /: And dashed the brains out” Lady Macbeth’s ability to feel no guilt is highlighted by the fact she believes she could kill her child, even if it were “smiling in my face”, also illustrating her willingness to destroy something so innocent and pure. Her ruthless nature is accentuated by the speed with which she is willing to act – the verbs “plucked” and “dashed” both suggest swift, clinical movements. The use of the phrase “dashed the brains out” foreshadows the horrors acting upon children later in the play. She is again rejecting her traditional womanly role as a mother.Use in essays about: gender, violence & morality.

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