What lines from Shakespeare'sMacbethdepict Lady Macbeth as masuline (un-womanlike) and other lines that depict her as the traditional Renaissance female.  To demonstrate that Lady Macbeth was the complete opposite to the stereotype of women during Shakespeare's time but that she still demonstrates being the stereotype as well. 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are plenty of moments that deal with Lady Macbeth acting manly or masculine, or wishing she were the man in the relationship. Her husband is the brave warrior, but she exhibits a strength to devise and plan and kill in order to become Queen:

"...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" (I.5.41-44). This is one of her most famous lines, wishing for the power to commit a masculine and bold act of murder or "direst cruelty". Actually that entire passage from line 39-55 would work for you.

"...and you [Macbeth] shall put / This night's great business into my dispatch..." (I.5.68-69). Here, she is taking control of the event of the King's murder. 

At one point, Lady Macbeth's viciousness appears as she describes how she has enough will and manliness to even take a baby she is nursing and dash its brain's out (I.7.54-58).

However, the renaissance woman is supposed to be three things: Chaste, Silent, Obedient. These are the virtuous feminine qualities. Women were regarded as subordinate and weak. So when Lady Macbeth swoons and faints in Act 2, Scene 3, she is simply catering to this role.

"Help me hence, ho!" Where Macduff and Banquo both utter, "Look to the lady" (II.3.120-121, 127).

Another moment, Lady Macbeth's sense of obedience comes forth, but it is obedience that concerns her father. One of the reasons she says she couldn't do the physical murder: "...Had he [King] not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done't" (II.2.12-13).

There's more, but the last we'll turn to is the sleepwalking scene where Lady Macbeth consistently scrubs her hands to get the "blood" (of guilt) clean: "Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!" (V.1.53-55). She exhibits the feminine weakness here ("oh, oh, oh") as she breaks down and cannot handle the weight of what she and her husband have done versus her husband who has continued to kill, seeing this as the only solution to hang on to the throne. She even describes herself as "small" and references "perfumes", something a man would not do.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial