Act 1, Scene 5: Lady Macbeth


Lady Macbeth’s soliloquies help characterize the Macbeths

In Act 1, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we meet Lady Macbeth for the first time. She is reading a letter from her husband, which informs her of the witches’ prophecy. She then launches into two breathtaking soliloquies, one mainly about her husband’s nature (1.5.15-30) and one mainly about her own (1.5.42-58). The scene ends with the arrival of Macbeth.

The first soliloquy outlines Macbeth’s nature

In her soliloquy on Macbeth’s nature (1.5.15-30), Lady Macbeth demonstrates that she knows her husband well. Speaking as if her husband were there, she says: “yet do I fear thy nature; / It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.” (1.5.16-17). Macbeth’s nature is full of compassion and humanity, but to Lady Macbeth this quality is a weakness. Later in the play, she indirectly refers back to this as she continually accuses her husband of being cowardly.

In her soliloquy, she recognizes that Macbeth is ambitious and desires to be powerful: “thou wouldst be great; / Art not without ambition, but without / The illness should attend it.” (1.5.18-20). The problem is that Macbeth does not possess the necessary negative qualities to make his ambitions reality, such as brutality and cynicism. Later in the play, however, Macbeth becomes a tyrant who is both brutal and cynical. 

The final lines of this soliloquy reveal vital information about Lady Macbeth’s own character:

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,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crown’d withal. (1.5.25-30)

Just like Macbeth in Act 1, Scene 3, she immediately believes in the prophecy. This shows that she, too, is superstitious. She refers to the witches in positiv...

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