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"Come, you spirits/ That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here... ." (Act I, scene V, lines 44-45) In Macbeth, William Shakespeare writes this passage in order to shape the character of Lady Macbeth. Using only this line, the reader can almost determine Lady Macbeth's personality and her motives. Up to the point where this quote leaves off, we have not heard much of Lady Macbeth.
When she receives the letter from Macbeth, it seems her fascination is not directed at her husband, but at her husband's newly attained power. It is evident that the first impression of Lady Macbeth is negative. Without wasting any time, she begins to plan Duncan's death and assumes responsibility of the situation. In the first line Lady Macbeth says, "Come, you spirits." Already we have a dark image of her conjuring up evil spirits. She does not seem a bit intimidated by the spirits she is calling. Her tone of voice suggests she is almost commanding the spirits to help her carry out her plan.
William Shakespeare intentionally attached this phrase in the beginning of the sentence, so that the reader sees Lady Macbeth as more of an evil character, which in her own way conjures evil spirits. In the first part of the second line Lady Macbeth says, "That tend on mortal thought." Literally, it means that she wants the evil spirits that wait on thoughts of murder or death to come to her. This phrase foreshadows the many deaths that await us by the end of the novel. By mentioning the spirits of death, Shakespeare prepares the readers for what is coming up next.
By now, we are able to recognize Lady Macbeth's nature. Her thoughts are bombarded with dark images and her mind is set on the murder of the King. Finally, in the last and most significant part of the sentence Lady Macbeth says, "unsex me here." In context, she wants the spirits to come and take away her soft, feminine characteristics. She feels that her husband is too nice to get the greatness he is promised, and the only way he can succeed is if she helps him. From what we have seen, Lady Macbeth seems to be the "man of the house." She is willing to do anything that is necessary in order for her to be queen, including murder.
She is also quite smart, she knows that her husband tends to be passive, and is not about to give up on him now. In the first half of the novel, Lady Macbeth is the brain behind the operation. She not only provides the actual plan, but encourages her husband as well. During the period the novel was written, women were considered to be submissive. However in her case, she is so influential that Macbeth is even persuaded by her. To help convince Macbeth not to call the murder off, Lady Macbeth questions his manhood.
She says, "When you durst do it, then you were a man; / And to be more than what you were, you would/ Be so much more the man" (pg. 20, lines 55-57) Lady Macbeth knows the weak point of her husband, and manipulates his mind to get what she wants. In conclusion, this quote represents the position of a woman in a relationship. In this case, the typical roles are switched and the woman is the more dominant figure. Shakespeare is looking down upon this sort of alliance, because his description of Lady Macbeth is quite negative.
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