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by William Shakespeare

Macbeth Gender Quotes

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

Quote #4

[…] 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 th' access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
Th' 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!" (1.5.47-61)

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?

Quote #5

                                    Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valor
As thou art in desire? 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? 

                                    Prithee, peace:
I dare do all that may become a man; (1.7.39-51)

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."

Quote #6


[...] 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 plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this. (1.7.62-67)

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.

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