What’s a good quote that shows Lady Macbeth’s response to Macbeth?

Choosing key quotes from Macbeth can be difficult. There are so many great ones to choose from. So, take a look at this quote that I find really useful, in my teaching and in my own Macbeth exam model answers, for exploring Lady Macbeth’s character:


Wouldst thou have that

Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,

And live a coward in thine own esteem,

Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’,

Like the poor cat i’th’adage?

Macbeth 1.7.41-45

Analysis of the quote

Shortly before this moment, in Act One Scene Seven, we witness Macbeth debating with himself the pros and cons of killing Duncan. Realising how risky regicide would be, he resolves not to carry out the planned murder.

Lady Macbeth, however, quickly rejects his change of heart, sneeringly asking him if he’d prefer to get what he wants, “the ornament of life,” or consider himself a “coward.” She taunts him with the simile that compares him to the foolish cat who wants fish but is too scared to get her feet wet and so remains hungry.

The suggestion is that Macbeth is weak, always dreaming of more – more money, higher status, the crown – but never taking the steps to reach his goals. The audience may understand Macbeth’s change of heart. Lady Macbeth, however, sees it simply as a sign of Macbeth’s contemptible weakness.

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