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Literature Study GuidesMacbethAct 1 Scene 5 Summary

Macbeth | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Macbeth Study Guide." August 10, 2016. Accessed May 29, 2023.


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Act 1, Scene 5

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Scene 5 of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.

Macbeth | Act 1, Scene 5 | Summary



Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband announcing his new title and telling her about the witches' prediction that he will be king. She is ready to do what she must to make that prediction come true but wonders if her husband is strong enough to do the same. She receives word that Duncan will be visiting the castle the same night and begins plotting, asking the spirits to give her the daring and strength of a man to help her carry out her plan. Macbeth arrives ahead of the king, and Lady Macbeth urges him to eliminate Duncan. Macbeth puts her off, saying they will discuss this later, but she tells him to leave the planning to her.


From the moment she is introduced, it is clear that Lady Macbeth is more assertive than her husband. Her ambition does not need to be coaxed into action. Hearing about the witches' predictions, she does not question them for a moment and knows exactly what must be done to win the crown. She rejects the expectations of her sex and makes the first of many speculations about her husband's manliness, saying he may be "too full o' th' milk of human kindness" to move against Duncan. Milk, of course, is produced by women to feed their children. Lady Macbeth returns to this motif when she invokes the spirits—something she has in common with the witches—to exchange her milk for gall, a substance associated with anger. When Macbeth arrives, she is already primed to commit murder, and she takes charge when he hesitates.

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