Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Macbeth, how is the relationship between cruelty and masculinity  related to the three witches?

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Cruelty and masculinity are most obviously linked by Lady Macbeth in act 1, scene 5, when she proclaims in a soliloquy:

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,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
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 murd'ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief. (lines 30-40)
Here, Lady Macbeth implies that "direst cruelty" is not a quality given to women. In order to carry out the murderous plot, she must be "unsex[ed]," or stripped of her feminine qualities and instead "fill[ed]" with "direst cruelty." Her point becomes more obvious when she begs the "spirits" to "Come to my woman's breasts / And take my milk for gall." Instead of the feminine instinct to support, to nurture, she wants to have the...

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