from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- transitive v. To deprive of sexual capacity or sexual attributes.
- transitive v. To castrate.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- v. To deprive of sexual attributes or characteristics
- v. To sterilize
- v. To castrate
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- transitive v. To deprive of sex, or of qualities becoming to one's sex; esp., to make unfeminine in character, manners, duties, or the like.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- To deprive of sex or of sexual characters; make otherwise than the sex commonly is; transform in respect to sex; usually, with reference to a woman, to deprive of the qualities of a woman; make masculine.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- v. remove the qualities typical of one's sex
- v. deprive of sex or sexual powers
- v. make infertile
Were woman to 'unsex' themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen and disgusting of beings, and would surely perish without male protection.
Under the universal assumption that men alone were humanity, that the world was masculine and for men only, the efforts of the women were met as a deliberate attempt to "unsex" themselves and become men.
Particularly gruesome were the umbilical cord ripped from Lady Macbeth's body ( "unsex me here ...") and the silken web strands that emerged from her fingertips.
When Fleetwood's Lady Macbeth asks the "spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts" to "unsex" her, she is telling us something that has to do with psychiatry, not priestcraft.
Kate Fleetwood's Lady Macbeth combines voluptuousness with ambition in a way that makes you feel, and instantly regret, a tinge of sympathy for her "unsex me here" speech.
I can't say I've ever heard it used in that way, except for maybe in Macbeth ( 'come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here').
'Come, you spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts', she apostrophizes, 'unsex me here/And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/Of direst cruelty!'
If she objects to this renunciation and attempts to make an independent career suited to her talents, then she is strong - minded and is trying to unsex herself.
In between these waggons the women are placed for safety, for it is a noticeable fact that very large numbers of women have followed their husbands and fathers to the war, not to act as viragoes, not to play the wanton, not to unsex themselves, not to handle the rifle, but to nurse the wounded, to comfort the dying, and to lay out the dead.
Let no girl be deterred from steady and faithful work in the vain fear that she will unsex herself, and to a loving mother's needful anxieties let not this superfluous care be added.
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