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!” (act 1, scene 5, lines 47–61)
Lady Macbeth understands the expectations associated with women. She realizes that women are not believed to be capable of being heartless, cunning, or murderous. She prays to be "unsexed" so that she may be more like a man and thus capable of "manly" acts such as murder. However, despite wishing to be unsexed, she continues to reference her own femininity as a means to achieve her goals, wanting her milk to be taken "for gall." This, combined with other scenes in which she will manipulate events by exploiting her perceived weaknesses, creates an interesting hybrid of gentleness and malevolence.
While some other characters, such as the Gentlewoman of act 5, scene 1, represent the quiet, concerned servants that women were essentially expected to be, Lady Macbeth presents a strong, albeit devious and sinister, woman who is a fitting rival for any of the men in the tale.