Lady Macbeth Monologue (Act 1, Scene 5) | Shakespeare Unpacked
Lady Macbeth Monologue

Lady Macbeth Monologue (Act 1, Scene 5)

Written by on | Monologues Unpacked

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies; it’s full of murder and madness. The play is set in Scotland and follows the downfall of army General and hero; Macbeth. After meeting three witches who prophesise his rise to the throne, Macbeth reports this information to his wife, Lady Macbeth, who convinces him to murder the current King, King Duncan. This leads to their rule but, as they become overwhelmed by the taste of murder, and in Lady Macbeth’s case, with madness, their actions will eventually lead to their downfall.

Updated 31 May 2021

After learning of the witch’s prophecy, Macbeth receives the title of ‘Thane of Cawdor’ from King Duncan. Becoming Thane of Cawdor was the first part of the prophecy and this convinces Macbeth that the witches may have been telling the truth. Shaken, and with the first hint of desire to be King, Macbeth writes to his wife to inform her of what has happened. Lady Macbeth, who receives the letter at their castle, becomes almost immediately determined to take the crown by any means necessary. At this moment, a servant enters and tells her that King Duncan and Macbeth are both travelling back to the castle. She tells the servant to prepare for their arrival and once he has left, she begins this soliloquy:

Original Text

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 the access and passage to remorese,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Whereever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischied! 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 throug hte blanket of the dark,
To cry ‘Hold, hold!’

Thought Breakdown

I’ve marked Lady M’s monologue, and broken it down into beats/ideas and thoughts:

Space = New beat/idea
, or ; = build on a thought

Lady Macbeth:
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 the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it!

Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering 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!’

Modern translation

Lady Macbeth:
The messenger’s voice sounds hoarse,
As he announces Duncan’s arrival,
to my castle, where he will die.

Come to me spirits,
That serve thoughts about death, remove my femininity,
Fill me from head to the toe
With the utmost cruelty!

Make my blood thick;
Stop any access to feelings of remorse,
So no thoughts of my consciousness
Will rattle me from my purpose, or keep me from
Doing it.

Come to my breasts,
And take my milk for bile, you demons,
Wherever hide
Waiting to make mischief!

Come, thick night,
And wrap yourself in heaviest smoke of hell,
That my sharp knife won’t see the wound it makes,
Or heaven won’t see through the blanket of the night,
To scream Stop, Stop!’

Unfamiliar words & Phrases

The raven himself is hoarse: Lady Macbeth is referring to the servant who delivered the message but she calls him a raven. Ravens often symbolise death or murder and make an ominous sound when they call.

Fatal: Foreboding evil and death

Battlements: Are a part of a castle, mostly used in war. So the double meaning here is that Lady Macbeth is referring to her home, but the suggestion is she is about to go into battle.

Unsex: Remove my femininity or womanhood.

Compunctious visitings of nature: Natural thoughts of one’s conscience: guilt, remorse.

Effect: Execution, performance

Gall: Bile, acid, bitterness

Murdering Ministers: Demons, murderous servant

Sightless substances: Invisible place/being

Mischief: Harm, injury or evil done on purpose

Pall: Wrap or cover

Dunnest: Thickest

Keen: Sharp, ready.

Hold!: Stop!

Conclusion

This monologue, along with much of the dialogue in Macbeth is a delicious mouthful for any actor. The monologue, when spoken out loud is like a spell that Lady Macbeth is conjuring. She is calling on all these spirits to help remove her goodness and make her capable of the evil plot she is hatching. Each thought begins with her beckoning something new to come to her and help her achieve her goal. This monologue should build, too. Lady Macbeth is alone on stage for this speech, so how does that effect your performance? Are you whispering and scared of being overheard? Or are you confident and calling to the heavens?

Shakespeare used a lot of language devices to give this speech a specific mood and atmosphere. Notice the repetition of ‘s’ ‘k/c’ and ‘t’ sounds. There is a lot of alliteration: ‘murdering ministers’ and ‘sightless substances’. As well as dark and dramatic imagery: ‘croaks the fatal entrance, ‘pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell’.

So take your time and enjoy!

About the Author

Jessica Tovey

Jessica Tovey is an Australian actor and writer, who has worked across film, theatre and television for over 15 years. Her film credits include Adoration (Adore), starring Robyn Wright and Naomi Watts, Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver and lead roles in the Australian features Lemon Tree Passage and Beast No More. She has over a decade of experience in television across all the major networks, with lead roles in; Home and Away, Wonderland, Bad Mothers and Underbelly. Jessica has also worked with Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre and two touring productions with Bell Shakespeare. Additionally, Jessica is a Voice Over artist, presenter and writer.

About the Author

Jessica Tovey

Jessica Tovey is an Australian actor and writer, who has worked across film, theatre and television for over 15 years. Her film credits include Adoration (Adore), starring Robyn Wright and Naomi Watts, Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver and lead roles in the Australian features Lemon Tree Passage and Beast No More. She has over a decade of experience in television across all the major networks, with lead roles in; Home and Away, Wonderland, Bad Mothers and Underbelly. Jessica has also worked with Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre and two touring productions with Bell Shakespeare. Additionally, Jessica is a Voice Over artist, presenter and writer.

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