Macbeth Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
LADY MACBETH […] 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 murdering 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!' (1.5.3)
We can't be the only ones who get goosebumps during this speech. Right? Here, Lady Macbeth gets her freak on by calling on "spirits" to, basically, make her into the man her husband can't be. Tell us who the hero of this play is, again?
LADY MACBETH Was the hope drunkWherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since?And wakes it now, to look so green and paleAt what it did so freely? From this timeSuch I account thy love. Art thou afeardTo be the same in thine own act and valourAs thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have thatWhich 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' the adage?MACBETH Prithee, peace:I dare do all that may become a man; (1.7.3)
Fun brain snack: Lady Macbeth calls her husband "green and pale," which sound to us a lot like "green sickness." Green sickness is another name for anemia, and for hundreds of years it was thought to be particularly a disease of young, virgin girls. So, by calling her husband "green and pale," Lady Macbeth is basically calling her husband a virgin girl. His response? "No, dude, I'm totally a man."
LADY MACBETH 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 had I so sworn as you Have done to this. (1.7.3)
Here, Lady Macbeth takes breastfeeding —one of the fundamental biological traits of women as the Early Modern period saw it—makes it monstrous. She says that she's so good at keeping promises that she would actually kill a nursing child if she'd promised to do it. What's funny (not funny ha-ha) to us is that Macbeth has promised to kill his king, i.e. father figure; Lady Macbeth is talking about killing her child. Hmmm.