What are some relevant quotes that show how deceiving, ruthless, cruel, and power hungry Lady Macbeth is in the text? I need to find quotes that show her qualities and her characteristics.

Expert Answers

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

Here are three quotes from Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth that characterize Lady Macbeth as cruel and heartless. They are all from acts 1 and 2, during which Lady Macbeth speaks many lines that reveal her ambitious and callous nature.

"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" (act 1, scene 5).

In these lines, Lady Macbeth actively summons help from supernatural spirits to fill her with the dark qualities she feels she needs to achieve her goals. Interestingly, in this quote, Lady Macbeth suggests that she herself is aware that she does not possess the characteristics necessary to live as evilly as she desires; the lines foreshadow her later madness, which is evidence of her inability to cope with her guilt.

"Look like th' innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under ’t" (Act 1, scene 5).

In this line, Lady Macbeth advises her husband to be dishonest. She not only embraces dishonesty in herself but she attempts to cultivate it in others, displaying a cold nature of unusual depth.

"Wouldst thou have that/Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,/And live a coward in thine own esteem,/Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would, '/Like the poor cat i' th' adage?" (act 1, scene 7)

Here, Lady Macbeth shames and mocks her husband for his hesitation in carrying out his plan to murder the king. Macbeth displays some semblance of integrity in these moments, feeling a pang of guilt at the thought of betraying the king who has just honored him, but Lady Macbeth minimizes this integrity and accuses him of cowardice.

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

Lady Macbeth is a cold, calculating woman, especially in the first two acts of the play.  As time goes on, her conscience begins to bother her until she goes insane in Act 5 and kills herself.  This proves that she does have a conscience, but she is able, early on, to squelch that part of her.  One quote that displays this ruthlessness is Act 1, sc. 5, ll. 16-20 when she laments the fact that Macbeth has too much kindness and too much conscience to commit murder.  In that same scene, the soliloquy she utters right before Macbeth enters the scene is more proof of that (ll. 44-60).  In fact, most of scene 5 shows how ruthless Lady Macbeth can be.  Scene 7 of Act 1 is similar.  Lady Macbeth's blood-thirsty ways are evident is most of what she says in that scene, especially her speech in ll. 54-67.  Then in Act 2, immediately after Macbeth kills Duncan and he enters the room where Lady Macbeth is and has blood on his hands, he says, "This is a sorry sight."  Lady Macbeth says, "A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight." This indicates that while Macbeth shows remorse for having killed Duncan, his wife has no such feelings.  Then, later in the scene, she berates him again for not putting the daggers on the guardsmen and says she'll do it.  Then she says that he should not be so upset by the blood on his hands; it's no big deal and a little water is all that is needed to wash away the blood and the guilt (ll. 85-94).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

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