What Are Gender Roles In Lady Macbeth

477 Words2 Pages
In the play Macbeth, William Shakespeare uses the subversion of gender roles to reinforce Elizabethan notions of female and male behavior through the characters of Lady Macbeth, the three witches, and Macbeth. The ideal woman in Shakespearean times was submissive and docile. She is expected to be a mother and hostess, and little else. However, Lady Macbeth is the exact opposite of this notion. She constantly challenges and manipulates her husband to feed her ever-growing ambition. After receiving a letter from Macbeth about the witches’ prophecy that he should be king, Lady Macbeth doubts him and laments that Macbeth is “too full o' th' milk of human kindness”. (Shakespeare 1.5.17) Generally, a woman at that time would have never questioned a man’s authority, but almost immediately after reading his letter Lady Macbeth does…show more content…
When Macbeth displays uncertainty regarding the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth uses his fear of not adhering to the masculine gender role of being cold-hearted and ambitious and only “when [Macbeth] durst do it, then [he was] a man”. (1.7.56) Upon first glance, it would seem as though Lady Macbeth is strong and powerful. However, Shakespeare uses the downfall of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to display that women in power are dangerous and corrupt. Due to Lady Macbeth’s coercion into the murder of Duncan, she allows and essentially encourages Macbeth to ravage all of Scotland. Lady Macbeth descends into insanity caused by lack of sleep and guilt. Using Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare supports his time period’s ideals of keeping women only in submissive roles. Shakespeare also allows the witches to possess a large amount of power, and these witches similar to Lady Macbeth use their power for corruption and destruction. The witches, “should be women, /And yet [their] beards forbid” that conclusion and betray their overruling masculine qualities and lack of feminine
Open Document