Gender Roles In Macbeth By William Shakespeare

2032 words - 8 pages

Gender Roles in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Although at the time of Shakespeare, women were thought of as lesser
beings, he still manages to portray them as strong, and influential
people in his play Macbeth. The orthodox view of females when
Shakespeare wrote the play is that they were homemakers, looked after
their children, they were quiet, weak and unintelligent, and the only
reason they existed is to have male children. Males however were the
warriors and the money earners. They were expected to, in Malcolm's
words "settle things like men", which meant to duel against there
enemies. The men were always expected to be the dominant partner in a
relationship. Shakespeare manages to defy conventions with some of his
characters in this play.

Lady Macbeth is a very strange character, and often changes from
masculine to feminine whenever it suits her. An example of this is
Lady Macbeths attempts to lose her womanliness once and for all when
she calls on the spirits to "unsex" her in Act 1 scene 5. She does
this because she sees being a woman as a category that defines and
limits human beings as such. She tells the spirits to "Make thick my
blood, stop up the access and passage to remorse". She wants all of
her femininity to be taken away. She wants to feel no pity flowing
through her veins, and she wants to feel no compassion, so that
nothing will stop her carrying out the murder of the king. Lady
Macbeth also says that the spirits must "Take my (breast)milk for
gaul" which is symbolising swapping femininity for bitterness (the
theme of the whole speech). This seems to work, as Lady Macbeth seems
to be the force behind Macbeths murdering campaign to start with. The
only slight compassion that she shows is when she says "Had [Duncan]
not resembled my father, then I had done't" in Act 2 scene 2. In Act 1
scene 7, she discovers that Macbeth has changed his mind about the
murder of Duncan, and says, "We shall proceed no further in this
business". Lady Macbeth ignores this and says, "From this time, such I
account thy love. Art thou afraid to be the same in thine own act and
valour, As thou art desire". This firstly asks Macbeth if he loves
her, and says if he did love her, then he would kill Duncan. Secondly,
Lady Macbeth is calling him a coward, and she says that Macbeth is
scared to do what he needs to, to get what he wants. Cowardice was
definitely not linked with masculinity in Shakespeare's times, because
it was the men that always went out to battle, so that they could
protect their country and family. An example of this link is in Act 1
Scene 2 when the wounded captain is telling the king about his great
victory. King Duncan says "O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!"
Telling the sergeant that he is a worthy gentleman because he fought
well in the battle shows the definition...

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