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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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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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. 

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