B – Motifs in Act 1

Posted: October 27, 2010 in Macbeth
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Milk is one of the many motifs used in Act 1. Lady Macbeth uses this to describe a woman and women are depicted as tender, loving, soft etc. In act 1, scene 5, line 15, Lady Macbeth says, “ It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness”. She says this to insult Macbeth, and she insults him by calling him a woman. Back then society was very sexist, and considers women as weaklings.

Shakespeare uses this in Macbeth in act 1, scene 5, line 15 and line 46 to refer to women. Shakespeare would use milk as a reference to women because only women can produce milk. Women only produce milk when they have a baby and are mothers. This reinforces why Shakespeare would use milk to represent a woman.

In scene 5, line 46, she says, “Come to my woman’s breasts, and take my milk for gall”. In this line she says to the spirits to take away her milk and replace it with gall (represents bitterness). However, figuratively she is saying to take her female traits and replace them with a male’s, so she can carry out the murder of Duncan.

This motif is significant because it shows how society looked down on females, and it also shows how Lady Macbeth is very tough. She is willing to do anything to help Macbeth become king. Compared to Macbeth, she is crueler because she does not have any worries about killing Duncan.

  1. jennycui9475 says:

    I agree on the point that the society in Shakespeare’s time is very sexist with the examples of women being very weak. The figurative language that you mentioned, really shows that Lady Macbeth is also sexist and wants to become a man so that she can kill King Duncan. I think you should also comment on how Lady Macbeth says that Macbeth is weak by comparing him using other objects.

    — Jenny Cui XD

  2. It is interesting to observe how the motif of milk is used several times in different with slightly altered meanings. The fact that you pointed out exactly where the quote is within the script also makes this much easier for the reader if they want to refer back to that quote. The way how you also talk about the role of women and specifically Lady Macbeth shows a good connection! Maybe you could also mention how Lady Macbeth mentions “milking the baby” – Act 1, Scene 7, line 55, which also connects to motherhood.

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