Mirror, Mirror: Lady Macbeth in act 1, scene 5. Characterize Lady Macbeth as she sees herself in act 1, Scene 5.

In act 1, scene 5, Lady Macbeth sees herself as a persuasive, bold woman, who is ambitious and confident. Lady Macbeth believes that she is capable of convincing her husband to assassinate King Duncan to fulfill his destiny. However, Lady Macbeth is also self-aware and recognizes that her feminine qualities threaten to hinder her murderous scheme, which is why she calls upon evil spirits to "unsex" her and fill her with the "direst cruelty."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act one, scene five, Lady Macbeth perceives herself as an ambitious, persuasive woman, who is able to convince Macbeth to assassinate King Duncan. In this scene, Lady Macbeth reads her husband's letter regarding his interaction with the three witches, and she immediately entertains the idea of becoming queen. Lady Macbeth recognizes that her husband will hesitate to commit regicide in order to achieve his destiny because he is "too full o' th' milk of human kindness." However, she feels confident that she can convince him to take action and follow her bloody instructions.

Despite Lady Macbeth's ambitious, cunning attitude, she also recognizes that her feminine qualities make her weak and timid, which threatens to jeopardize her plan. In order to plot the heinous crime, Lady Macbeth acts out of desperation by calling upon evil spirits to "unsex" her and fill her from "crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty." Lady Macbeth also tells the "murd'ring ministers" to take her "milk for gall" and mentions that she feels like the future is now. Overall, Lady Macbeth views herself as persuasive, ambitious, and cunning. She demonstrates self-awareness by recognizing that her feminine qualities will hinder her dark assassination plot. By calling upon evil spirits to fill her soul and suppress her conscience, Lady Macbeth acts out of desperation and throws caution to the wind to become queen. After conjuring evil spirits to "unsex" her, Lady Macbeth feels confident and strong enough to plot Duncan's assassination and convince her husband to carry out the murder.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lady Macbeth sees herself as strong and ambitious in Act 1.  She wants what she wants.  When she gets Macbeth’s letter describing the witches’ prophecies, she latches on and does not let go.  She wants to be queen, and she wants Macbeth to be king.  She will stop at nothing, not even murder.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lady Macbeth sees herself as someone who must take the reins in the relationship for what must be done...she is stronger than her husband who is "too full of the milk of human kindness" to fulfill such a deed as murder.  She calls on the devils and spirits of darkness to "stop up the passage" to guilt and remorse...although we know they should have stopped them up a little more thoroughly since Lady Macbeth commits suicide based on her guilty conscience.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Act I, Scene 5, Lady Macbeth perceives herself as strong, yet still womanly, imbued with those feminine traits which, stereotypically, make women the weaker sex. Even more than that, she asks the spirits to unsex her and to make her more like a man, a warrior, which is the quality that defines Macbeth at the onset of the play when he "unseam'd" Macdonwald "from the nave to th' chops" (1.2.23). Lady Macbeth is also typical in many ways, believing that she can persuade her husband on to the business of dispatching Duncan as she will "chastise with the valor of my tongue." Throughout literature, movies, and reality, we meet women who urge their husbands to commit deeds to elevate their positions; many television dramas are made up of this plot. Most recently, The Tudors, portrayed Anne Boleyn much as she was in reality, urging King Henry to commit foul acts to elevate her position. However, we discover shortly after that Lady Macbeth is not as strong as she appears; she tells us she could not murder Duncan herself as he too much resembled her father!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this scene, Lady Macbeth calls on the powers of darkness to fill her with cruelty; she calls on the evil spirits to give her masculine qualities, to remove from her all that makes her soft and feminine so that she can be firm of purpose in order to convince her husband to commit murder. In this scene, she acts like a conjuring witch, reaching out to the forces of darknesss to aid her in this task.

She asks the night to cover their actions when they kill Duncan so that they can succeed.  Lady Macbeth in this scene, is filled with unchecked ambition, cruelty and a desire for blood.  She, at this point in the play, is the stronger, more cunning Macbeth.   She will take charge of the planning; she will become the man. 

"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,
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 murdering
ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! 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!' (Act I, Scene V)

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lady Macbeth invokes the evil spirits in Act I, Sc. v, so that she can provoke Macbeth to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth has already interpreted Macbeth’s nature which is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness”. She has understood that Macbeth cannot kill Duncan by himself. In this scene she asks the evil spirits to “fill” her “from the crown to the toe, top-full / Of direst cruelty”. This cruelty, she knows, will enable her to reawaken the evil nature of Macbeth and thereby help him to kill the king.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial