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Flashcards in Lady Macbeth Deck (19)
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'my dearest partner of greatness'

Act I Scene 5, lines 9-10.
Lady M is reading from Macbeth's letter.
Our first sight of Lady M. She is at their castle, which is how a woman was supposed to live: inside, away from the world of men, domestic.
However, M's noun choice 'partner' suggests they have an equal marriage; intensifier 'dearest' shows his love for her. The nobility rarely married for love- it was more a question of politics, making their marriage seem unusual to Shakespeare's original audience but more normal for us today. First impressions might be positive, but we quickly see there is a problem...


'yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full o'th'milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way.'

Act I Scene 5 lines 14-16
Lady M about M after reading the letter. She is worried that her husband is too good to take the easiest step to becoming King of Scotland (i.e. killing Duncan).
She has begun to speak in blank verse (the letter was in prose). This shows her command of language and the situation.
Metaphor of 'milk' is feminine and ironic: she is accusing M of being unmanly (he has just been 'brave' in battle). Women were supposed to be the gentler sex; this suggests that she is more cruel than her husband, going against seventeenth century ideals of womanhood and therefore making the audience suspicious of her.


'Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear...'

Act I Scene 5 lines 23-24
Lady M alone on stage so this is a soliloquy showing her inner thoughts and feelings: she wants M to return home so she can tell him what to do.
'Hie thee' is an imperative verb: the wife's role was to be obedient, not to give orders, thus showing Lady M to be an unnaturally dominant woman and evoking dislike/shock in the original audience.
'pour my spirits' is a metaphor- she wants to influence him. Noun choice 'spirits' is also a pun- spirit as in strength; spirit as in alcohol that makes people drunk and act differently; or spirit connecting her to the supernatural world of the witches already seen in Act I.


'chastise with the valour of my tongue'

Act I Scene 5 line 25
Continuing the idea that Lady M can persuade M to do her bidding by telling him what to do: the exact opposite of good wifely behaviour in the seventeenth century.
Noun choice 'valour' means bravery. Ironic connection between Lady M and M who has been described as 'Valour's minion' in Act I. The difference is: he has actually been brave/valiant on the battlefield whereas she is 'bravely' talking about treason, creating dislike/suspicion/outrage in the audience.


'my battlements'

Act I Scene 5 line 38
Lady M's second soliloquy, which confirms her as an evil, intensely dislikable character as she is talking about killing Duncan as soon as he arrives at their castle.
Stress falls on monosyllabic possessive pronoun 'my', showing she thinks she is the master of the house (when women had few property rights at the time). Audience sees an unnaturally powerful woman and will want her to be punished for her subversion (= going against norms of society).


'Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here'

Act I Scene 5 lines 39-40
Lady M continues her sinister soliloquy by asking for supernatural aid: she wants to be totally evil to achieve her ambition of killing Duncan and becoming Queen.
Imperative verb 'unsex': being a woman prevents her from being as cruel as she wants to be. Obvs, Shakespeare's audience would be horrified as what she is doing is unnatural and heretical (against the teaching of the Bible by summoning Satan). However, a modern audience might have some understanding as gender roles are less strict and we are no longer as deeply Christian.


'take my milk for gall'

Act I Scene 5 line 46
Continuing sinister soliloquy.
Monosyllabic imperative phrase to emphasise Lady M's determination. Contrasts with Act I Scene 5 line 15 - her weak husband.
A shocking image of a woman who denies her femininity and wants to replace nurturing 'milk' with poison.


'Look like th'innocent flower,
But be the serpent under't.'

Act I Scene 5 lines 63-64
Lady M's advice to M: pretend to be sweet and innocent but hide your evil intentions.
Imperative verb: 'look'; noun choice 'flower' - natural imagery; noun choice 'serpent' - natural imagery with Biblical connotations as the Devil took the form of a snake to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden.
This image connects to the theme of appearance and reality which develops in the play.
Confirms what Shakespeare's original Christian audience would have believed: that women are to blame for the Fall of Man and should not be trusted. (Adam loved Eve, listened to her, ate the forbidden fruit, and then they were both punished by God.)


'Leave all the rest to me.'

Act I Scene 5 line 71
Last line of the scene.
Lady M has the final word, after interrupting her husband when he suggests speaking again later about the planned murder.
Imperative verb 'leave': she is taking control; final word is monosyllabic pronoun 'me': she wants to organise everything.
We see an overconfident, dominant, terrifying woman coldly planning regicide (killing the King). Creates tension and suspense...


'When you durst do it, then you were a man.'

Act I Scene 7 line 49
Lady M to M, after his soliloquy including all the reasons not to kill D.
She is manipulating him into committing treason by insulting his manhood. End-stopping and iambic pentameter stress final monosyllabic noun, 'man', emphasising the insult.
Shocking for Shakespearean audience to see a wife dominating her husband like this, as wives were supposed to be subservient and obedient. More thoughtful contextual comment: because this relationship is unbalanced, both partners will need to be punished by the end of the play so that the audience will appreciate that the Natural Order is correct and has been re-established.


'dashed the brains out'

Act I Scene 7 lines 54-58
Part of a complex sentence in which Lady M claims she would murder her own baby if she had promised M she would.
Highly emotive language to persuade M to kill D.
Violent, sharp sounding monosyllabic verb 'dash' to emphasise Lady M's capacity for cruelty.
She is the opposite of womanly virtue: gentleness, kindness, motherly tenderness.
A shocking visual image for M and the audience.


'We fail?'

Act I Scene 7 line 59
Lady M in response to M, who has just asked what will happen if they 'fail' in their murderous plan.
Rhetorical question implies that she thinks they cannot fail, and M is weak to even consider failure.
Stress falls equally on both monosyllabic words, giving the line greater dramatic impact to show the audience Lady M's self-confidence. She is demonstrating her power to persuade M to do what she wants, as referred to in Act I Scene 5.
The audience should find this disgusting for several reasons: she is the unnaturally dominant 'partner'; she is encouraging her husband to commit murder and treason, killing good King Duncan who has recently been so generous to him; she is manipulating a man who obviously loves her (too much!).


'Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done't.'

Act II Scene 2 lines 12-13
Lady M to M, who has just appeared with two bloody daggers. M has killed Duncan.
Lady M is behaving in a less sure, more feminine (and weak) way, compared to Act I. She could not kill D. Noun choice 'father' reminds audience that she is human and has feelings of pity, although this could just be an excuse for failing to commit the act.
Audience can see that she is beginning to face the consequences of her unfeminine, violent, ambitious overconfidence in Act I.


'Go get some water
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.'

Act II Scene 2 lines 49-50
As M is panicking, Lady M takes control again.
Imperative verbs 'go', 'wash'; 'filthy witness' a metaphor for blood, which is the evidence of their guilt. She is thinking clearly despite the horror of the situation: unnaturally cold, or admirably calm depending on audience point of view.
Ironic that she tells him to wash his hands, given her behaviour in Act V Scene 1 before she commits suicide.


'Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers.'

Act II Scene 2 lines 55-56
Lady M to M when he says he is too terrified to return the bloody daggers to D's chamber.
Exclamation and end-stopped line to emphasise her disgust at him for not doing what she says.
Imperative monosyllabic 'give me', with equal stress falling on each word: shows her strength and determination, as he is hesitating.
Audience probably shocked by her unnatural presence of mind in such awful circumstances; might also consider her hypocritical as it was M who had to commit the murder in the first place.


'Help me hence, ho.'

Act II Scene 3 line 112
Lady M to all the Lords, after D's dead body has been found. M is explaining in too much detail why he killed D's bodyguards and she wants to distract attention.
By pretending to faint, Lady M is conforming to gender stereotype of the weak woman. Imperative 'help' is ironic: the men will come to her aid because that is what is expected.
Audience sees an evil manipulative woman. Thoughtful context point: confirms misogynistic (=woman-hating) societal attitude, as women cannot be trusted.


'Are you a man?'

Act III Scene 4 line 58
Aside to M at the Banquet scene, when he thinks Banquo's bloody ghost has taken his seat at the table.
Aside shows what she really thinks of her husband: she has just told the Lords to ignore M's outburst.
Monosyllabic rhetorical question implies she considers M to be unmanly, because he is plagued by guilt and fear.
Noun choice 'man' is emotive because men were supposed to be the stronger sex; also ironic as M was a true man at the start of the play; end-stopping emphasises this as key word.
Audience shocked and possibly thrilled by Lady M's outrageous behaviour.


'all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand'

Act V Scene 1 lines 42-43
Lady M, being watched by her gentlewoman, who has called a doctor. Lady M is sleepwalking, talking in her sleep, keeps a candle permanently alight near her, and repeatedly acts as if she is washing her hands. She is suffering from guilt, which has driven her insane.
Ironic, compared to her advice to M in Act II Scene 2 line 70.
Adjective 'little' typically feminine, might evoke some pity in some members of the audience as she has been driven to extreme measures to fulfill her ambition for power that was never supposed to be hers.
Hyperbolic (OTT) image to demonstrate to what extent Lady M feels polluted/damaged by the chain of murders.


'Out, out, brief candle'

Act V Scene 5 line 23
M on hearing that Lady M is dead.
Metaphor for the fragility of life, which might evoke some pity in a modern audience as this is M's last tribute to his 'dearest partner'. Think also 'Candle in the Wind', Elton John ;)
However, Shakespeare's audience would be satisfied that Lady M has got what she deserved and is going to Hell for her sins.