Macbeth - Analysing the extract

The question

Starting with this extract, how does Lady Macbeth use language to manipulate her husband in the play?

As part of your answer you will need to analyse what the extract shows about Lady Macbeth's use of language at this point.

Look again at the extract below with some highlighted points that could you could write about in an answer. Think about what Shakespeare is telling his audience and readers about Lady Macbeth and how she affects her husband.

MACBETH
We will proceed no further in this business.
He hath honoured me of late, and I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Not cast aside so soon.
LADY MACBETH
[(1) Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
And wakes it now to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely?] From this time,
Such I account thy [(2) love]. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a [(3) coward] in thine own esteem,
Letting I dare not wait upon I would,
Like the poor cat i'th'adage?
MACBETH
Prithee, peace.
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none.
LADY MACBETH
What beast was't then
That made you break this enterprise to me?
[(4) 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.] Nor time, nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both.
[(5) They have made themselves] and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And [(6) dashed the brains out], had I so [(7) sworn]
As you have done to this.
MACBETH
If we should fail?
LADY MACBETH
[(8) We fail?]
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And [(9) we'll not fail].
Act 1 Scene 7

  • (1) 'Was the hope drunk / Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? / And wakes it now to look so green and pale / At what it did so freely?' - Lady Macbeth immediately goes on the attack by firing three rhetorical questions at Macbeth. She does not give him time to think or reply. She then goes on to pose several other questions which would play on his emotions.
  • (2) 'love' - Lady Macbeth reminds her husband of the bond between them and suggests that if he does not carry out the murder then he clearly does not love her anymore. She is emotionally blackmailing him.
  • (3) 'coward' - Macbeth's bravery and courage are called into question. This would hurt his pride.
  • (4) '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.' - Now she attacks his masculinity. This would hurt his pride even more.
  • (5) 'They have made themselves' - She points out that the time for action could not be better and that he needs to seize the opportunity.
  • (6) 'dashed the brains out' - Lady Macbeth demonstrates the difference between herself and her husband by stating that she would be prepared to kill her own child – a truly shocking idea for any mother to admit to.
  • (7) 'sworn' - Lady Macbeth reminds her husband that he has made a vow to carry out Duncan's murder.
  • (8) 'We fail?' - Lady Macbeth picks up her husband's concern and dismisses it.
  • (9) 'we'll not fail' - She is absolutely convinced that they will succeed - as long as Macbeth does not back down.