Robert Kimbrough's Macbeth: The Prisoner Of Gender

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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…show more content…
It is clear that men and women have two different cultures in Shakespeare’s time, and the relationship between the two was hierarchical. Throughout Shakespeare’s play, it is obvious that the feminine emotions are far less desirable than the masculine. When Lady Macbeth plots to kill Duncan in order for Macbeth to become king, she is aware that he must suppress his natural “love, compassion, pity, [and] remorse” in order to kill Duncan, and she will need to ignore the same emotions, “which she clearly thinks of as feminine” (180). Macbeth, of course, eventually gives in to the gender definitions of his wife and society and kills Duncan. “He is on his way literally and figuratively to becoming the kind of man his wife has urged” (183). Lady Macbeth pushes her husband to “compete in the male hierarchy,” making her a good wife (187). This is highly ironic because being a good wife is a feminine thing to do, even though she tries so hard to rid herself of these emotions and…show more content…
While Kimbrough believes this to be evil, Shakespeare uses Macbeth’s love for his wife and her love for her husband to show that Macbeth and his wife were victims of their society’s strict views of manliness; manliness is desirable, but femininity is not. The love for masculinity is undermined by Shakespeare as both Macbeth and his wife become mere shells of their former selves by the end of their story by becoming more masculine. Lady Macbeth goes so far as to take her own life, the ultimate display of her femininity. Finally, Kimbrough states throughout his article that Shakespeare wishes to have audiences take a second look at themselves and perhaps judge what is masculine and what is not a little

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