Here are ten important quotations from Shakespeare’s play Macbeth that touch on the theme of gender:

“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.” (Act 1, Scene 5) – Lady Macbeth desires to be stripped of her femininity to be more ruthless and capable of committing evil deeds.

“I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none.” (Act 1, Scene 7) – Macbeth questions his masculinity and asserts that true manhood lies in the ability to act honorably and with integrity.

“Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under ’t.” (Act 1, Scene 5) – Lady Macbeth advises Macbeth to adopt a deceptive appearance, suggesting that outward femininity can mask an inner ambition and power.

“To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue;” (Act 1, Scene 6) – Lady Macbeth instructs her husband to appear innocent and amiable while secretly plotting their murderous deeds.

“Dispute it like a man.” (Act 4, Scene 1) – Lady Macduff challenges her husband’s decision to flee, implying that running away is a cowardly act unbecoming of a man.

“But screw your courage to the sticking-place
And we’ll not fail.” (Act 1, Scene 7) – Lady Macbeth urges Macbeth to summon his courage and take action, suggesting that masculinity is associated with bravery and assertiveness.

You might be interested: Macbeth Act 1.1 – Modern Translation

“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!'” (Act 1, Scene 5) – Lady Macbeth calls upon darkness and supernatural forces to assist her in carrying out a murder, emphasizing her willingness to reject traditional feminine virtues.

“Make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose.” (Act 1, Scene 5) – Lady Macbeth asks to be desensitized to remorse and empathy, seeing these as feminine weaknesses that hinder her resolve.

“I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on th’ other.” (Act 1, Scene 7) – Macbeth acknowledges that his ambition, rather than any masculine virtue, is what drives him to commit immoral acts.

“She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.” (Act 5, Scene 5) – Macbeth’s soliloquy reflects on the futility and emptiness of life, highlighting the play’s exploration of the destructive consequences of unbridled ambition.

These quotations from Macbeth offer insights into how gender roles and expectations are challenged and subverted throughout the play.

Thanks for reading! If you find this resource useful, you can take a look at our full online Macbeth course here.

This course includes: 

  • A full set of video lessons on each key element of the text: summary, themes, setting, characters, context, attitudes, analysis of key quotes, essay questions, essay examples
  • Downloadable documents for each video lesson
  • A range of example B-A* / L7-L9 grade essays, both at GCSE (ages 14-16) and A-Level (age 16+) with teacher comments and mark scheme feedback
  • A bonus Macbeth workbook designed to guide you through each scene of the play!