Analyze Lady Macbeth's soliloquy in act 1, scene 5, discussing her character and that of her husband.

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Lady Macbeth reveals that she thinks her husband is "too full o' th' milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way" to the throne of Scotland (1.5.17–18). She believes that he is too gentle and compassionate to grab the crown for himself instead of waiting for fate to...

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Lady Macbeth reveals that she thinks her husband is "too full o' th' milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way" to the throne of Scotland (1.5.17–18). She believes that he is too gentle and compassionate to grab the crown for himself instead of waiting for fate to give it to him. She acknowledges his ambition but claims that he lacks "The illness should attend it" (1.5.20). It is likely for this reason that she prays to become "unsex[ed]" herself, stripped of all of the qualities that were associated with femininity (1.5.48). She prays,

Make thick my blood.
Stop up th' access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
Th' effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts
And take my milk for gall . . . (1.5.50–55)

She wants to be made ruthless and remorseless, preventing any more "natural" or womanly feelings, like guilt or concern, from affecting her decisions. She wishes to trade her "milk" for "gall," a bitter liquid produced by the liver and associated with anger, ridding herself of any trace of femaleness (the opposite of her "milk[y]" and gentle husband). If he cannot be hard and ruthless, then she wishes for the ability to embody these qualities herself. Ironically, she is unable to murder Duncan when the time comes, and Macbeth must do it himself.

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This soliloquy, in which Lady Macbeth determines to push her husband toward his destiny as king of Scotland, is among the most chilling in all of Shakespeare's works. Yet it is not without its ambiguities. On the one hand, Lady Macbeth vows to become ruthless and evil in pursuit of greatness for her husband, asking "the spirits/that tend on mortal thoughts" to "unsex" her, filling her with what Shakespeare's audiences would have viewed as the decidedly unfeminine traits of remorselessness and cunning. On the other, it is always important to remember that she wants all this for her husband, who she clearly loves. Indeed, Lady Macbeth reveals much about Macbeth's character when, reading his letter, she muses that he may be too full of the "milk of human kindness" to carry out the murder of Duncan. She believes him ambitious, but unwilling to do what is necessary to fulfill his ambitions.

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