In Shakespeare's Macbeth, describe specific examples of Lady Macbeth's insensitivity to murder (so she and her husband can gain power) that make Lady Macbeth "witch-like."

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In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is evil personified at the start of the play. Her casual approach to murdering Duncan makes her seem witch-like.

Lady Macbeth is clearly comfortable with murder in planning the death of Duncan, the King of Scotland. When she hears Macbeth's report of the witches' prophecies, she is enthralled. When she realizes the King is coming to visit, she quickly decides that he will never leave the walls of their castle alive.

The raven himself is hoarse

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan

Under my battlements. (I.v.39-41)

In Act One, scene five, Lady Macbeth does not think her husband is evil enough to become king by killing Duncan. 

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be

What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;

It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness(15)

To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great;

Art not without ambition, but without

The illness should attend it. (13-18)

Lady Macbeth notes that her husband could be king, but is too kind to take a short cut (murder) to win the throne. She recognizes that he does have ambition, but not "evil" ambition. So she wishes him home quickly so she can pour her poisonous ideas into his ear so nothing stands in their way of the "golden round" (crown):

Hie thee hither,

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... (22-25)

Though Lady Macbeth is villainous, she must have a soft heart. For she calls on the dark spirits to take out of her any gentle, womanly feelings so that she can do what needs to be done. First she asks that she have the capacity for cruelty:

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! (41-43)

She wants to feel no remorse for her actions that might interfere with her plan. She asks that anything nurturing about her (such as mother's milk) be soured. She asks that "the dunnest smoke of hell" cover her actions so that not even her knife can see the evil she will take part in (personifying the knife with the ability to see)—so that even Heaven will not see and stop her. (Remember that killing a king—regicide—is a mortal sin.)

When Macbeth comes home, Lady Macbeth speaks of her plan. Macbeth does not say "no," but by scene seven, he is having second thoughts. She is furious, telling him what she would do if she had promised it:

I have given suck, and know

How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:

I would, while it was smiling in my face,

Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,

And dash'd the brains out... (61-64)

So Macbeth agrees. After he kills the Duncan, he brings the daggers back with him. Too afraid...

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to return them, Lady Macbeth does so, smearing the King's blood on his guards so they will be blamed—she is cold, heartless and evil. 

The witches are similarly evil. Hecate is mad at the three witches because they have allowed Macbeth what he wants, but evil has not been "glorified" ("show the glory of our art"). They have not sealed his doom and his eternal damnation:

...all you have done

Hath been but for a wayward son,

Spiteful and wrathful: who, as others do,

Loves for his own ends, not for you. (10-13)

She wants to demoralize and destroy Macbeth: the strength of their illusion

Shall draw him on to his confusion. (28-29)

Lady Macbeth's dedication to evil is much like the witches'.

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In Shakespeare's Macbeth, describe specific examples of unnatural behaviors displayed by Lady Macbeth that make her seem "witch-like" and evil.

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, some of the unnatural behaviors that make Lady Macbeth seem "witch-like" include her summoning of the spirits of darkness to help her carry out her part in murder, her professed willingness to kill a child if necessary, and her ability to smear the guards with the king's blood after Duncan is dead.

In Act One, scene five, Lady Macbeth she calls on the spirits of darkness to help her become less like a woman (nurturing and caring) so that she can take part in Macbeth murder of the King.

Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts... (41-42)

She asks them spirits to make her less like a woman, which is unnatural:

...unsex me here;

And fill me, from the crown to the top, top-full

Of direst cruelty! (42-44)

In Act One, scene seven, Lady Macbeth says that she knows what it is like to have a child and nurse it, but if she had promised Macbeth to kill the child, she would not hesitate—as it looked trustingly in her face:

I have given suck, and know

How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:

I would, while it was smiling in my face,

Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,

And dash'd the brains out... (61-64)

This is not normal.

After Macbeth has killed Duncan, Lady Macbeth has to return the daggers her husband used (that would implicate them in the murder) to the King's chambers because Macbeth is unable to do so. She acts like she does it every day.


Why did you bring these daggers from the place?

They must lie there. Go carry them, and smear

The sleepy grooms with blood. 


I'll go no more:

I am afraid to think what I have done;

Look on't again I dare not.


Infirm of purpose!

Give me the daggers...

If he do bleed,

I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal,

For it must seem their guilt. (II.ii.61-62, 64-72)

There she rubs the blood of the King on the drugged guards so that it will seem as if they have committed the murder. It is Lady Macbeth's intent that no one will suspect her and her husband of duplicity in Duncan's murder. The ease with which she conducts herself in this is also aberrant.

When Lady Macbeth returns, she condemns Macbeth, noting that her hands are now covered with blood, but that she would be embarrassed to be as fearful as he is. This, too, is unnatural: first, what woman would be able to carry out this task, but also what woman would have the kind of ease with the situation to insist that being fearful would embarrass her?

My hands are of your color, but I shame 

To wear a heart so white. (80-81)

The witches deal with death. In Act Four, scene one, they concoct a spell, calling on evil spirits to assist them. Their potions have body parts, including the liver of a blasphemer, and...

...poison'd entrails… (5)

Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe... (29-30)

Then Hecate tells them to dance, and they "Black spirits."

The witches' job on earth is to win souls to their eternal damnation. In a Christian society (as Elizabethan England was), this behavior would seem believable (for they were certain there were witches), but unnatural and evil.

Lady Macbeth mimics their evil behavior in calling on evil spirits, "practicing" in death, and even using the blood of the dead King to her purpose. She may not look like a witch, but her behavior is "witch-like" and unnatural.

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