In Shakespeare's play, "Macbeth", the characters defy their own gender norms by exhibiting traits of the opposite gender. Women are portrayed as villainous and men are portrayed as good. The women are dominant and the men, alternately Macbeth, are passive, since he is the victim to the women's manipulation. The women are not sensitive, rather they are more emotionless than the men. Though the play sets gender norms through the lines of the characters, these characters defy their own norms.
For instance, Lady Macbeth, the main female figure in the play, calls upon the demons to take her "femininity", and in place she is given masculine traits. "Come, you spirits that tend on mortal ...view middle of the document...
" (I v. 4)
Even before her unsexing, Lady Macbeth demonstrates dominance over her husband. With no hesitation, she assumes that she will be able to persuade him to take the crown. She does not consider the possibility of being overpowered.
These lines are all spoken before her famous soliloquy, proof that she already possesses masculine traits. Additionally, even she admits that Macbeth is "too full o' the milk of human kindness". She believes, and admits, that she is crueler than her husband . A woman is crueler than a man, and the gender norm set by the character's own mindset is broken.
Aside from Lady Macbeth's soliloquy, there is further contrast between the goodness of women and men. The women manipulate and the men engage in direct violence. Normally, manipulation is immoral while direct violence is more moral. Manipulation involves deceit and the hiding of true intentions, and this two-facedness is often more hateful than the principled violence of men. In consequence, the gender roles are once again swapped; the men are honest and moral and the women are immoral.
This contrast of morality is especially clear between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Lady Macbeth orders the demons to take her femininity, her "moral thoughts" (I v. 30), yet these morals are present in Macbeth. When Macbeth decides to remain loyal to Duncan, she questions his masculinity by saying, "and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man". (I vii. 50) Though Macbeth is the one who murders Duncan, Lady Macbeth is the conspirator who persuades him to do so. Her hands are not dirtied, yet in the end her character is more tainted than Macbeth's.
In addition, Lady Macbeth says "I have given suck and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums and dash'd the brains out had I so sworn as you have done to this." (I vii. 55) Lady Macbeth uses this line as a ploy to harm Macbeth's dignity. Macbeth will believe he is backing out of an agreement, and to prevent this, he will decide to stay true to his word. Due to his noble character, this line, along with the questioning of his manhood, seem to greatly influence Macbeth to carry through with the murder. He immediately asks "If we should fail?" (I vii. 58), conclusively manipulated by Lady Macbeth. This scene, again, demonstrates Lady Macbeth's dominating role in the relationship. Moreover she is made to be the villain and Macbeth the victim. Macbeth tries to retaliate with moral thoughts, yet he is corrupted by the lady's words. She is the source of evil while Macbeth is good.
Aside from Lady Macbeth, the three witches persuade Macbeth to perform additional murders through vague prophecies. "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to you, thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" (I iii. 49) They say he will be...