Explain this quote from Macbeth in detail:Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? From this time...

Explain this quote from Macbeth in detail:

Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? From this time Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valor As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would."

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote comes from Act I, Scene VII, and is spoken by Lady Macbeth. She is responding to her husband's sudden reluctance to go ahead with the murder of King Duncan and take the crown for himself.

In the first line, Lady Macbeth wonders if Macbeth was drunk when he came up with the idea of the murder and, now that he has woken up from a drunken stupor, if he has lost his courage. Notice how she describes Macbeth's lack of courage as being "green" and "pale." This visual image is designed to make Macbeth feel humiliation, as though he looks physically weakened at the thought of taking the crown.

In the next few lines, Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth's character. She asks him if he is the sort of man who is too afraid to act upon his desires. In doing this, she questions not only his love for her but also his masculinity, a tactic designed to make him rethink his decision.

Lady Macbeth continues to question Macbeth's character in the final lines of this quote. She asks if he would rather be a "coward" than take what he wants. Again, by insulting his character, Lady Macbeth hopes to spur him to action. Notice, also, how she describes the crown as an "ornament," as an object of value. Becoming king is not just something she desires for her husband, it is something she also desires for herself because it brings great prestige and power.

Finally, "the poor cat" that she mentions refers to an adage (an old saying) that a cat would eat fish but not get her feet wet. In other words, if you want the best things in life, you must be prepared to take them for yourself. By alluding to this cat, Lady Macbeth reminds Macbeth that if he does not act, he will never fulfill his ambitions.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the quote you cite from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is chiding Macbeth for, as she sees it, changing his mind about killing King Duncan.  She's basically accusing him of cowardice.

Lady Macbeth metaphorically begins by asking if his hope was drunk when he dressed himself in the king's royal robes.  In other words, was it alcohol that made him courageous.  Then she wants to know if that hope has been asleep, only to now wake green and pale, sickly, cowardly, instead of courageous, like before.     

Then, step two of her argument, and that's what this quote really is, an emotional and logical argument trying to convince Macbeth to go ahead with the assassination, she equates Macbeth's lack of consistency in this matter with his love for her.  If Macbeth can't stay consistent concerning the assassination of Duncan, then she will consider his love to be as equally inconsistent.

Next, Lady Macbeth points out that Macbeth's intended actions, in saying he doesn't want to go through with the assassination, do not match his desires.  He desires to be king, but won't go through with what is necessary to be king.

Finally, Lady Macbeth directly suggests that if Macbeth doesn't go through with the assassination, he is a coward and will have to live with the knowledge that he chickened out, as we would say today.  He will fail to do what he "would" do, what he wants to do, because he is afraid to.