Need help comparing/contrasting speeches in "Macbeth"Compare Lady Macbeth's speech (in 1.5, beginning "The raven...") with Macbeth's self-realization speech (in 5.3, beginning...

Need help comparing/contrasting speeches in "Macbeth"

Compare Lady Macbeth's speech (in 1.5, beginning "The raven...") with Macbeth's self-realization speech (in 5.3, beginning "Seyton I am sick at heart").

Expert Answers
robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a rather unusual comparison. Lady Macbeth calls upon the evil spirits to visit her and turn her into someone cruel enough to drive her lily-livered husband: she offers to trade her femininity ("unsex me here") and even the milk of her breasts (has she recently been pregnant or given birth?) to be filled with direst cruelty. 

...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

Macbeth, of course, does seem to have attained the numbness that Lady M desires, except that his is characterised by a feeling of weariness - his image for his life is a dying, crumpled "yellow leaf". He does not feel anything any more:

I have lived long enough. My way of life
Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf

This, I would argue is the key difference in tone. Lady Macbeth's speech is full of imperatives ("Shake... Come... Stop up... Come... Pall) where Macbeth's is a series of tired lists ("honor, love, obedience, troops of friends", "Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honor, breath") which foreshadow "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow".

In a way, you could argue that the two are paradoxical. Lady Macbeth, her language full of energy and life, begs to be made less human, more lifeless; Macbeth, his language sapped of energy and heart-sick, longs to have the comforts of friendship and company in order to make him feel more human, more alive.