Traditional Gender Roles In Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Traditional gender roles in today’s society are very different from what they once were. Shakespeare had progressive views on gender and gender roles in his time period, which he expressed through his writing. In MacBeth, Shakespeare showcases both his views and unusual roles through Macbeth and Lady MacBeth, MacDuff and the witches.

Gender roles in the relationship of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth are probably the most obvious correlation between masculine traits expressed through female characters. Lady MacBeth belittles MacBeth and frequently challenges his manhood. This is different than traditional gender roles because MacBeth is portrayed as the weaker partner and Lady MacBeth appears to have all the power and control in the relationship.
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The sisters are perceived as violating nature, and despite their title as sisters, they are very androgynous and their genders can be very ambiguous. When Banquo and MacBeth first encounter the witches, Banquo says: "You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so" (A.I S.3 L.45-47) This quote emphasizes the fact that even though the witches are sisters, they also have masculine features such as facial hair. The beards on the witches can symbolize their influence on the male-dominated culture of the time period. Throughout the play, the witches have a strong influence on many characters. MacBeth listens to their prophecies and tries to pursue ultimate power because of them. The witches are an example of supernatural beings and change in natural order of events. The witches prophecies were seen as concrete and not able to be altered, so by MacBeth trying to usurp and affect his future, he reaps the poor consequences of his actions. The witches are stronger and more powerful than MacBeth because they have all-power and the ability to forever alter the course of someone’s life. Even though they are women, seen as ugly and unnatural, with no relevant title, they hold great power over all other characters. When MacBeth sees the witches again and hears the apparitions, one apparition says “The power of man: for none of woman born/ Shall harm MacBeth.” (A.IV, S.1, L.80-81) This line is very important because once it is said, MacBeth believes he is almighty and untouchable, which leads him into battle unfazed and confident, all because of what a woman said to him. By thinking nothing could hurt him, MacBeth leads himself to his own demise, which is another action propelled by the witches. In MacBeth, even though men are seen as the stronger and more powerful sex, by giving women power, Shakespeare allows them to be the inciting force of many key events and most

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