Gender Issues in William Shakespeare's Macbeth
In Macbeth there are some issues that show us that at the time William
Shakespeare wrote, women were treated in a much inferior way than men.
"For brave Macbeth- well he deserves that name- disdaining fortune,
with his brandish steel, which smoked bloody execution" (I.2.16)
This quote proves that men are seen as more important than women. It's
taken from the start of the play, said by the captain at the battle.
The captain is talking about Macbeth and he points out that Macbeth is
brave, strong, and not afraid to fight. These are just some of the
characteristics men were supposed to posses in the times of William
"So well they words become thee as thy wounds, they smack of honour
Duncan's response to the captain is that Macbeth should be rewarded
for his bravery in the battle. To show his gratitude towards Macbeth,
Duncan makes him Thane of Cawdor.
You might say that society is one, which values extreme "male"
characteristics and devalues "feminine" behaviour. We can see examples
of this by looking at the witches and Lady Macbeth.
"You should be women- and yet your beards forbid me to interpret- that
you are so" (I.3.44)
Banquo and Macbeth upon meeting the witches for the first time try to
identify their sex, but they cannot. The witches are aggressive
towards Macbeth and Banquo and at the same time they do not respect
and bow down to their authority. But as being witches their power only
seems to be to serve evil, and as a result are seen as unnatural.
Before the murder of Duncan, we see that Lady Macbeth teases Macbeth
into killing Duncan. She is at the beginning of the play the male of
the house, and Macbeth obeys to her wishes and directions. Macbeth
tells his wife he will not do the job because of all the praise Duncan
has given him recently, and thus can not kill him.
" He hath honoured me of late" (I.7.31)
But Macbeth ends up having to commit the crime in order to prove his
"masculinity" to his wife.
The morning after the murder, we see Macbeth is very nervous, on edge
and he has a very guilty conscience. We can see his nerves in the way
he speaks, with short sharp sentences.
"Twas a rough night"
Macbeth regrets the murder and nearly admits to his crime, but Lady
Macbeth pretends to faint to create a diversion from Macbeth to