Explain this quote from act 1, scene 5 of Macbeth.

The raven himself is hoarse

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan

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 murd'ring 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!"

Expert Answers

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

This quote is a speech by Lady Macbeth, wife of Macbeth.  In this play, Lady Macbeth urges her husband to kill Duncan , the king of Scotland, so that they might usurp the throne.  In this particular speech, Lady Macbeth enacts a kind of prayer (though not to...

Get
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

This quote is a speech by Lady Macbeth, wife of Macbeth.  In this play, Lady Macbeth urges her husband to kill Duncan, the king of Scotland, so that they might usurp the throne.  In this particular speech, Lady Macbeth enacts a kind of prayer (though not to God and Heaven, but to "spirits" and "thick night"), asking for the strength and the cruel indifference needed for her and her husband to commit murder.  Though this is the basic meaning of these lines, there is an interesting trope of secrecy or trickery also present throughout the passage.  For example, she asks to be "unsexed," which would rid her of her womanly softness but which also creates an image of uncertainty or unclarity about her gender (something that has been "unsexed" is neither male nor female, and a reader might expect Lady Macbeth to be soft and feminine because of her sex, but her womanly outside now conceals a darker, cruel inside).  Similarly, she wishes for her "milk," which would be nurturing and sweet, to turn to "gall."  The spirits she prays to are "sightless," and she wishes that Heaven might not be able to "peep through the blanket of the dark," again echoing a sense of secrecy and concealment.  This speech speaks to Lady Macbeth's cruelty and deceitfulness throughout the play, as she seeks to manipulate all the characters, including her husband.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team