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Macbeth Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

How we cite the quotes:
(Act.Scene.Line) from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Lady Macbeth > Macbeth

Quote 1

LADY MACBETH
[…]
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it. (1.5.15-20)

Here's another count against ambition: After reading the letter from her husband (which recounts the witches' prophesy), Lady Macbeth's thoughts immediately turn to murder. Problem: Macbeth has ambition, but he doesn’t have the nerve to see it through. Luckily Lady Macbeth is man enough for both of them.

Lady Macbeth

Quote 2

LADY MACBETH
Your face, my Thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue; look like th' innocent
    flower,
But be the serpent under't. (1.5.73-78)

Whenever flowers and serpents come into it, we're ready to suspect Eve and that pesky snake. And sure enough, here's a woman convincing a man to share in her own, nasty little vision of the way things should be.

Lady Macbeth > Macbeth

Quote 3

LADY MACBETH
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; 
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it.
[…] 
                          Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with the valoor of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
 To have thee crowned withal. (1.5.15-20;28-33)

According to Lady Macbeth, her husband is ambitious, but he's also too "kind" to do what it takes to murder Duncan so that he, Macbeth, can be king. So what's a wife to do? Lady Macbeth plans to "chastise" Macbeth with the "valour of [her] tongue," which is another way of saying she's going to nag her husband into taking action so he can be "crown'd withal." This speech establishes Lady Macbeth as the dominant partner in the relationship, which inverts typical 17th century gender and social roles. Since husbands were supposed to "rule" their wives in the same way that kings ruled countries, Lady Macbeth's plan is just another version of treason: taking power that doesn't belong to you.

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