What does this quote from Lady Macbeth mean? "...Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way."I am trying to understand if i can use this quote...

What does this quote from Lady Macbeth mean?

"...Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way."

I am trying to understand if i can use this quote as part of my essay. The paragraph I am trying to use it in is about ambition..

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth is not talking to her husband but is thinking aloud. Her soliloquy is all about his ambition, but she knows him well and understands that he is not sufficiently ruthless to use treachery and violence to obtain what he wants. He is too soft-hearted, in her opinion. That is what she means by "the milk of human kindness." It is an apt metaphor for a woman because it suggests the feeling of a women breast-feeding a baby. It is also a veiled insult when applied to a man. Right after that statement she says, "Thou woulds't be great, / Art not without ambition, but without / The illness should attend it." By "illness" she means ruthlessness. There is no question that Macbeth is ambitious, but his wife is afraid that he is not sufficiently ambitious to do what he has a golden opportunity to do that very night when Duncan and his two sons will be their guests. She concludes this soliloquy by wishing her husband would hurry home so "That I may pour my spirits in thine ear / And chastise with the valor of my tongue / All that impedes thee from the golden round [the crown]." Shakespeare seems to be trying to present Macbeth, not as an evil man like Richard III or Iago, but as a good man gone wrong because of outside influences, including especially his wife. It is interesting that this is a soliloquy but is presented as if she is speaking to her husband. She seems to be practicing, preparing for what she intends to say to him when he arrives. She also reveals that they have discussed these matters before. She reveals both her own character and her husband's in this soliloquy.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of act 1, scene 5, Lady Macbeth is reading a letter from her husband concerning his meeting with the Weird Sisters. In Macbeth's letter to his wife, he mentions that the witches accurately prophesied that he would become the Thane of Cawdor, which is the title he was presented with a short time after their meeting. Macbeth also writes that the Weird Sisters prophesied that he would also become the King of Scotland. After reading her husband's letter, Lady Macbeth is confident that he will become king. Lady Macbeth then says,

"Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way." (Shakespeare, 1.5.3-5)

Lady Macbeth is essentially saying that she is afraid that Macbeth is too kind and compassionate to pursue his opportunity to become king. She fears that her husband does not have the malicious spirit needed to depose King Duncan by murdering him. Shortly after making this statement, Lady Macbeth acknowledges her husband's ambitious nature but admits that she is uncertain about his ability to carry out such a brutal act. Later on in the play, Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to kill King Duncan and even becomes his accomplice.