Macbeth takes place in medieval Scotland, where gender barriers were very strict. Men were supposed to act as strong fighters, while women were locked in the domestic sphere. These gender roles are prominent in the character developments of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. At first, Macbeth is a strong, heroic solider that shows unbounded courage in battle and loyalty to his king. As the play progresses, he becomes cold, ruthless, and miserable. Lady Macbeth takes on a “manly” role, which is surprising because of how patriarchal the society is. However, she “gradually falls apart, consumed by guilt, and eventually commits suicide”. (Klett)
Of all of Shakespeare’s tragic tales and stories, one of the most devastating and bloody is the tale of Macbeth. The premise is simple. An average man, overtook by need for power, kills in order to receive it. What follows is a horrid chain of events, leading to many unnecessary deaths and a dreadful conclusion. From afar, this may just seem like a sad story with little meaning; however, on closer inspection, it may be worth asking the question. Who is to blame for all of this? The answer to this question is the idea of gender stereotypes.
In “Macbeth: The Prisoner of Gender,” Robert Kimbrough explores the topic of manliness in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. Kimbrough begins by examining how masculinity and femininity came about in the first place, stating that the origin can best come from the “Judeo-Christian version of God the Creator” (179). The differences between males and females created a hierarchy in Shakespeare’s time, where males were on the top and females were on the bottom. Kimbrough states that the differences betweens the two genders are “matters of the mind,” and believes “Shakespeare sensed that so long as one remains exclusively female or exclusively male, that person will be ... denied human growth" (179). These “matters of the mind” are what Shakespeare tackles
Throughout all of macbeth, gender roles are present in all of the halls of Macbeth's castle. It is extraordinary how William Shakespeare has molded and set examples of the male masculinity struggle and to uphold it, while on the other side how women must be treated as fragile birds. Shakespeare uses gender roles ironically to portray the complexity of the characters he has created.
In the beginning Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth was a ruthless and masculine woman. She showed the audience that, mentally and emotionally, she was stronger than Macbeth. Although as the story started to continue the audience began to see that she was becoming mentally insane. Throughout the story there was also evidence of shakespeare showing the more masculinity you had the more cuel you became. Through Lady Macbeth’s change from ruthless and masculin to insane, Shakespeare illustrates the impact of murder.
“Come, you spirits, That tend on mortal thoughts,/unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/ Of dire cruelty” (1.5.41-44). Lady Macbeth is the personification of male dominance, ruthlessness and violence. She hopes that she could take control of all action. She yearns to be a man and her implication is that she is more masculine than Macbeth. Her drive and violent nature is more akin to men and their masculinity.
In comparison, females were significantly limited in their ability to access political or patriarchal authority, as embodied by Lady Macbeth. During the Elizabethan era, it was customary for females to hold supportive and domestic roles as wives and hostesses. At first glance Lady Macbeth satisfies this norm. However, upon learning of the witches’ prophecies, Lady Macbeth ambitiously devises a plan in a lead to access the power she is denied her traditional gender role. Lady Macbeth desire is to wield influence as Queen of Scotland. Although to fulfil this position requires regicide. Lady Macbeth is inherently aware her capacity to do as such will be impended by her femineity. From this realisation stems her infamous plea to the forces of nature, as she begs:
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, masculinity is not axiomatic, rather, it is constantly challenged and redefined by different characters throughout the play. After the murdering of King Duncan, Lady Macbeth ridicules Macbeth for behaving weak and naïve, by saying “my hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white” (2.2.63-64). Even after committing the murder of King Duncan, Macbeth’s masculinity is challenged, since he experiences feelings of guilt, shame and fear, all of which do not fall under the Macbeths’ definition of manhood. Lady Macbeth criticizes Macbeth, because even though she also plays a role in the killing of king Duncan, Macbeth, who is supposed to be brave, fearless and undaunted, cowers like an infant and allows his conscience to to guilt-trap him, proving that he is not evil, heartless or manly enough. On the contrary, Macduff has a different definition for manhood, for he believes that manhood is a matter of strength and responsibility, which he proves after his family is murdered in act four. When Macduff learns that his family has is slaughtered, he is overcome by
Through the course of ‘Macbeth’, masculinity is presented as a driving force to Macbeth’s crimes, making it a vital theme. In this essay, focus will be on masculinity’s presentation through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In the beginning, Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as “valiant”: a prized masculine quality and the key to respect in their society. However, this trait becomes warped along the play. Furthermore, Lady Macbeth has power comparable to man’s but is then cast aside by her husband at the end. Shakespeare thus presents masculinity in both a positive and negative light.
Shakespeare, like any other man in the 16th and 17th century, saw ambitious and dominant women as evil and even disturbing or disturbed. From Macbeth, we can see Shakespeare feels women should be challenged and punished because they are trying to change society. Nowadays these ambitious and dominant women are regarded as brave and respected because of their ambition, such as Lady Macbeth’s ambition to become Queen. Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as mentally disturbed.
Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, focuses on the tumultuous events that surround a regicide. Despite being the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays, in his critical study of the play A. C. Bradley concludes that due to its vehement nature the audience is left with an impression “not of brevity but of speed” . The principal female character of Lady Macbeth is arguably one of his most contentious. Consumed with intense passion, ambition and greed she challenges the subservient role of the traditional Elizabethan woman. She has disturbed, horrified and intrigued both contemporary and modern audiences alike through her powerful diction. This study will focus on the way in which Shakespeare crafts his play and uses dramatic devices in his portrayal of Lady Macbeth in order to confront the gender stereotypes of the time, femininity and the natural order of society. During the early 17th century there was a substantial fear that if women were liberated from their domestic, maternal roles, the historically patriarchal society would unravel. With prevailing challenges of gender such as “When you durst do it, then you were a man” Shakespeare uses the character of Lady Macbeth to transgress the natural limits concomitant with her sex.
Macbeth is a tragedy chronicling a highly esteemed man’s demise, due to his transformation into a ruthless and apathetic human being. Regardless of his tyrannous behaviour, is Macbeth deserving of sympathy because of the external forces that meddled in his affairs? Francesco Aristide Ancona and Mary Ives Thompson attempt to deal with this question and the impact of gender roles in their essay, “ He says/ She says: Shakespeare’s Macbeth (A gender/ personality study).”
It’s no surprise, that Shakespeare’s Macbeth was clearly constructed as a rebellion against femininity roles of the time. During the Elizabethan era, women were raised to believe they were inferior to men since men obtained desired masculine qualities such as strength, and loyalty, whereas women were viewed as figures of hospitality (1; 6; 28-31). Obviously, not being tempted by the luxury of subservient women, William Shakespeare rebuked this twisted belief, applying that women deserve more respect than their kitchen tables. However, if transcending female expectations was used as a weapon than for good, is it still considered an act of femininity? Of course not! It clears that although Shakespeare rebelled against gender roles of his time, he still believes that women/men should have moral intentions. With the character Lady Macbeth, we get a taste of what inhuman values, attitude and believes look like, and eventually what this lifestyle can lead to. (Hint: it is not good)
William Shakespeare portrayed the character Lady Macbeth to be extremely ruthless, malicious and manipulative. Thus, being the reason she could easily convince Macbeth to do her will, yet still put on such a convincing performance in front of those who knew nothing of her and her husband’s actions. Lady Macbeth shows her complexity constantly throughout the story when she shares her view-point on masculinity by demasculinizing her own husband, when she strategically plans the murder of the King Duncan, and finally when she finally goes crazy because of the guilt she possesses for not only her own actions but also turning her own husband into a