“The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. 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!” (Act 1, scene 5:36-52)
As Lady Macbeth awaits the arrival of King Duncan at her castle, she expresses her motives of seizing the throne to Macbeth. In this speech, her strength of purpose is contrasted with her husband’s hesitance and uncertainty. The dialog also touches upon the theme of masculinity and its link to cruelty and violence by using literary devices such as symbols and imagery. The language suggests that her womanhood is represented by “breasts” and “milk”, symbols of nurture, which restrict her from committing violent acts associated with masculinity. While the male characters are just as prone to evil as the women, the aggression in female characters is far more striking because it goes against prevailing expectations of how they should behave.
In addition, the raven crowing in the beginning of the passage presents a very powerful and appropriate image. The raven, often having unpleasant connections to danger and death, is “croaking” in anticipation of the meal he might make of Duncan’s corpse. Delving deeper into literature, we can see that Edgar Allen Po’s poem, “The Raven” highlights the narrators sorrow over the death of his wife, Lenore. Although Lady Macbeth never commits the crime, the raven serves as a powerful symbol for her ambitions. Lady Macbeth relies on her deception and manipulation rather than her violence to achieve her ends. However, because of the powerful imagery and symbolism used, the audience learns that Lady Macbeth’s desire will be strong enough to drive her husband forward.