Amongst the most essential of characters in the play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare is Lady Macbeth. Upon the introduction of Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth is brought into the plot of the play. In this soliloquy, Lady Macbeth comments on her thoughts after having read a letter from her husband, Macbeth, informing her about the witches prophecies on the possibility of Kingship. A variety of well-known topics are explored, including the revelation of the true traits of characters such as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised; yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full othmilk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst strongly win. Thoudst have, great
That which cries, Thus who must do if thou have it;
And that which rather thou dost fear to do.
Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
-Lady Macbeth, Act 1 Sc5, Lines 13 28
Her first thoughts are based on the reaction of the realism of Macbeth being Thane of Glamis, and possibly Cawdor as the witches predicted. This is expressed through the words “What thou art promised”. The idea of having soliloquy interacting with the witches predictions creates a sense of spirituality. This being Lady Macbeths first appearance in the play is effective as it allows the reader to associate this sense of spirituality and evil with her character, that has yet to have any substance to allow the reader to interpret her role by.
She continues by expressing her fear over not being able to “catch the nearest way” due to Macbeths overly kind character. This is demonstrated through a variety of techniques. For example, Lady Macbeth explains how her husband would not play false nor would he wrongly win. This suggests a fair person with a kindness too powerful for him to be a false king, through murder. The extent of Macbeths kind character is described as “too full othmilk of human kindness”. This is extremely significant as “milk”, similar to a mothers breast milk, is filled with the vital pureness and nutrition that a baby needs in order to grow. This can be used to mirror Macbeths kind character to the importance of a mothers breast milk in the eyes of a newly born baby. In addition, Lady Macbeths envy for her husband is shown through the compilation of words such as great, highly and holiliy. These words create imagery of religion and heavens to support her feelings towards Macbeth. The presence of the thought of heavens being the place of good after death can be used to mirror the extent of Macbeths kind character.
Lady Macbeth describes the action of murdering King Duncan through the words “to catch the nearest way”. The use of this euphemism to describe the action of killing Duncan can be seen as though she is trying to hide the harsh imagery of blood and violence in the action of murder. This is an example of Lady Macbeths diminishing sense of honesty.
Throughout the course of the soliloquy, the developing theme of evilness continues to show through words such as “spirits” and “metaphysical” which produce an authoritative feeling of negativity. This form of negativity is extremely effective as it relates to the topic of the supernatural and unknown that causes for greater intrigue amongst the audience as a result. Also, these words being said through Lady Macbeth gives the audience an opportunity to further build their personal folio of her character.
The idea of having to call upon the “spirits” and gods, the most divine of beings also can be interpreted to suggest multiple meanings. The fact that Lady Macbeth has to call upon the most powerful of beings suggests the extent of Macbeths kindness, that only the most commanding of beings has the dominance to sway Macbeths conscience. Alternatively, the act of Lady Macbeth calling upon the most divine of beings can be interpreted to suggest the manner in which she plans to manipulate Macbeth. The fact that she is performing a ritual to the gods, as if she is seeking genuine help, suggests the desperation she is in. This is further justified by the use of the term “Hie thee hither”, which also suggests the desperation and haste she is in. The manner in which she wants to manipulate Macbeth in is also shown when Lady Macbeth says she wants to “pour my spirits in thine ear”. The smooth, fluent and gradual movement involved in the action of pouring can be used to reflect the manner in which Lady Macbeth plans to transform her husband into a murderer slowly. This too can be symbolic towards the reinforcement of Lady Macbeths developing sense of evil as it shows that Lady Macbeth is trying to do this deed as discretely as possible, without any sudden changes that would otherwise make her actions fairly noticeable. The obscurity of pouring her evilness into Macbeths “ear” as opposed to the mouth is not only unexpected, but also cunningly discrete. In this line, Lady Macbeth uses the word “spirits” to represent the substance of her evilness that she wishes to pass on to Macbeth. This shows her hunger and will power in which she would like to complete this deed in. This is achieved through the importance of the word “spirits”, a representation of ones body and soul. The fact that Lady Macbeth is willing to sacrifice her “spirits” reflects on the extreme levels of her will and hunger. This is also shown through the fluency of the manner in which she delivers her soliloquy. This shows that she feels very strongly for what she is saying as she does not run out of things to say.
Lady Macbeth says she wishes to “chastise with the valour of” her “tongue”. The tongue being a somewhat sexual body part can be used as a representation of a certain amount of sex appeal. At a symbolic level, sex appeal in this situation can be interpreted towards the fact that Lady Macbeth, being a female, will exploit her gender in luring Macbeth to change. This can reflect Macbeths weak heart as a result of his overly kind character. In addition, this shows the strong level of trust Macbeth has over Lady Macbeth to the extent that in their relationship, he puts himself in a position of danger.
The effort in which Lady Macbeth is going to put in into making Macbeth evil to murder Duncan is expressed through the words “chastise” and “valour”. This is achieved through the harsh and commanding tones of these words. The fact that she wishes to discipline him, through the word “chastise”, can be seen as though Lady Macbeth feels like a teacher to Macbeth in this situation. Being the teacher, Lady Macbeth feels that she is superior and in control towards Macbeth. This also contributes towards the development of Lady Macbeths character of one not only of utmost evilness, but also a character with plenty of fortitude. This is further strengthened by the supremacy of the word “all”. The extent of her confidence is further shown in this single word as it shows that she is fearless of anything that stands in her way. Lady Macbeth working extremely hard to make her husband perform the murder emphasizes her greedy character to the extent that she is prepared to jeopardize her husbands stature and pride in society for the sake of her own glory.
Throughout the soliloquy, Lady Macbeth uses a mixture of euphemisms to symbolize the crowning of Macbeth. For example, she uses terms such as “golden round” and “what thou art promised”. This choice of using euphemisms can be interpreted to further show Lady Macbeths true character. The fact that she is ashamed of what she is planning suggests a negligible quantity of humanity that may provide as one of the very few positive traits in Lady Macbeths character. On the contrary, this could suggest otherwise. The first images that come to mind when the word “golden” is used, is that of joyous riches and significant wealth. This image can be used to reflect her greed for riches and wealth emerging from the position of her becoming Queen as a result of Macbeths kingship.