Choose one of the Lady Macbeth's soliloquies in Shakespeare's Macbeth and analyze it.Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare' Macbeth, Lady Macbeth also delivers a soliloquy that allows us to look deep into the heart of the woman who drives Macbeth to murder Duncan—his King, his friend, his cousin, and his houseguest (a terrible act in those days).

Lady Macbeth notes the presence of a raven, a bird associated with death, as it "croaks" Duncan's approach, which Lady Macbeth has already decided will be his last entrance, to her castle. Here she calls on the dark spirits to change her so that she may be as hard and vicious as necessary to do what must be done to kill the King. She wants to no longer have the characteristics of a woman ("unsex me here") and make her capable of great cruelty, something that does not (according to Shakespeare) come naturally to a woman (the "gentler" sex). She asks that her blood be thickened, and the passage to conscience and remorse within her be blocked so she feels no guilt, so nothing stands between her and what she intends to do.

The raven himself is hoarse

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan (40)

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,(45)

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between

The effect and it!

She then asks the spirits of darkness ("murdering ministers") that lend strength to "human mischief" to make her mother's milk, something associated with love and nurturing of a child, be made poisonous ("gall").

Come to my woman's breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,

Wherever in your sightless substances (50)

You wait on nature's mischief!

Next, Lady Macbeth addresses the cover of night, asking it to bring the dark mists of hell around her so that (personifying her weapon) her knife does not "see" the wound it intends to make in the good, "God-chosen" King; to make it dark enough that even heaven cannot see what she intends to do to and (personification again) "cry out" that she "Stop!"

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!”(55)

At this point Macbeth enters, and Lady Macbeth repeats the predictions listed in his letter to her; she speaks of her joy. She will now begin to poison his mind so that he will not balk at what must be done, not only so he can be King, but that she can become Queen.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In contrast to her husband who lacks will, Lady Macbeth delivers herself as pure will in her soliloquy of Act I, Scene V.  In her first soliloquy of this scene, Lady Macbeth fears that her husband's nature is too full of the "milk of human kindness" and he is "without ambition."  Therefore, she determines that she will tempt Macbeth with unsanctified violence by her sheer force of will: 

  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. (1.5.47-50)

And this force of will assumes a sexual nature as she bids the spirits to unsex her as a female, rendering her more masculine, for there is a connection in Macbeth between masculinity and violence. As evidence that masculinity and courage and violence are associated, in Scene 7, when Macbeth is told her purposes, he praises her daring and mettle by telling her,

Bring forth men-children only,
For thy undaunted mettle should compose
Nothing but males.  (1.7.81-83)

Thus, in her soliloquy Lady Macbeth determines to persuade her husband to commit murder as it becomes their mode of sexual expression. Unable to beget children, Lady Macbeth unsexes herself in order to provide her husband with the ambition and will that he lacks.  This sexual expression also has some of the Oedipal about it, as well, with Lady Macbeth's two allusions to milk.  Since Lady Macbeth asks that her breasts be rid of milk and filled with gall, the implication of motherhood is certainly suggested.  She dominates and directs Macbeth, persuading him to his self-abandonment more as a mother than a wife.  Macbeth's telling her to have male children also suggests a motherhood separate from him as he has not produced any heirs yet.


Yet she collapses while he grows ever more frightening and becomes the nothing he projects