What is the representation of femininity in Macbeth?
Lady Macbeth, the main female character in the play, self-consciously understands herself in terms of her sex. Losing her "feminine" virtues becomes psychologically critical to her ability to ruthlessly pursue her ambitions for her husband. From her speeches, we as an audience understand Lady Macbeth perceives femininity as behaving in kind, compassionate, and merciful ways. Lady Macbeth wants to shed these perceived "weaknesses" so she can push Macbeth to murder. She asks the spirits to "unsex" her and fill her with cruelty and to turn the milk in her breasts, a symbol of nurture and compassion, into gall, a bitter fluid:
... unsex me here,And fill me from the crown to the toe top-fullOf direst cruelty. Make thick my blood.Stop up the access and passage to remorse,That no compunctious visitings of natureShake my fell purpose, nor keep peace betweenThe effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,And take my milk for gall ...
Bring forth men-children only,For thy undaunted mettle should composeNothing but males.