Homework Help

How does Lady Macbeth defy the social expectations expected of her character in her...

user profile pic

jacktang96 | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted June 3, 2012 at 3:11 AM via web

dislike 0 like

How does Lady Macbeth defy the social expectations expected of her character in her soliloquy in Act 1 Scene 5?

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry 'Hold, hold!'

How is her defyment of social expectations further reinforced by the various literary/stylistic devices (ie symbolism, imagery, diction, etc.)

*****Also, what is the tone of this soliloquy?*****

Thank you in advance!

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

henryscholar | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted June 5, 2012 at 8:10 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

In her soliloquy of Act I, scene v,  Lady Macbeth hankers to be filled with the "direst cruelty", to dam up compassion, to exchange breastmilk for poison. In these taboo-breaking desires, Lady Macbeth contradicts the role and behaviour expected of the women of her time. As she implores the infernal spirits to "unsex me here", she expresses a desire to become like the witches whom, at the outset, Macbeth cannot recognize as female. From the beginning of the play the wife of the thane of Glamis is a woman to be watched. In a barbarous and violent society she can read. This ability alone symbolizes the power she exerts over her husband. From the moment she reads over Macbeth's timorous reflections, she is convinced that he lacks the wickedness to usurp Duncan's kingship. By this accusation she trespasses into the forbidden territory of transgendering. The majority of women of her time would not have questioned male authority. She does, and boldly so. Her willingness to violate established social conventions triggers her gender reversal of the next few scenes: Lady Macbeth becomes a dominatrix driving the Macbeth himself to upset the order of things by regicide.  

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes