In William Shakespeare's tragedy “Macbeth“, Shakespeare explores and challenges the ideas of traditional gender roles, regarding leadership, power and masculinity. These different gender roles are used to shape characters and create fear in the readers He leaves the question of what masculinity truly is open for the audience to decide. In the following essay, I will show some examples where Shakespeare made his own gender roles.
It is important to understand the role that gender plays in today's society, as compared with the gender roles portrayed in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Masculinity is a strong symbol used within gender throughout the play, and is a parallel with icons today.
Women are typically labeled as…show more content…
Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are striving towards masculinity. The importance of masculinity to both of them is an issue of power. Lady Macbeth aspires to be a man so that she can show supremacy and be more of a ruler. Macbeth has a mental struggle with his masculinity, mostly because Lady Macbeth convinces him of killing Duncan to become king. Because Lady Macbeth cannot really become a man, she has to work vicariously through Macbeth, making him become king. To control Macbeth, she must use his aim to become more masculine, to drive his killing of Duncan. In Act I, Scene I, on line 51, Macbeth affirms, "I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares [do] more is none."
Later on in the play Lady Macbeth says that her husband is not ambitious enough and too “kind“ to do what it takes to become king. She plans to “chastise“ him with the “valour of [her] tongue“. That shows that Lady Macbeth is the dominant partner in their relationship which inverts the typical gender and social roles.
Macbeth is a tragedy filled with betrayal, prophecies and revenge. Throughout this book, Macbeth seeks guidance from the wrong people like the witches, his wife, whose ambition is as great as, if not even greater than his.
However, everybody must ask themself whether Macbeth is really the cold blooded murderer and traitor everyone thought him to be.
The peculiarity of the gender roles Shakespeare uses in Macbeth are that he presents the women's behaviour as a men's and the men's
It is hard to say whether Shakespeare was certain of anything when he wrote Macbeth because many of his characters are so confused. His troubled relationship with women like his wife probably had a great impact on his writing. Yet Macbeth is a play about knowledge, and in writing it, Shakespeare in the very least explores the possibilities of what it means to be man or woman. His results are striking in the creation of a cast of characters who each represent something unique about humanity. The Macbeths are the focus though, and it is their relationship which probably deserves the most attention because together they create such a disturbing abomination of gender.
A great theme of the play is ambition, and it is what spurs on practically everything that takes place. Of course, the ambition is overzealous and fueled by greed, but nonetheless, it is what Shakespeare uses to examine gender roles in Macbeth. From the moment the Witches tell Macbeth that he is to be King, he cannot shake the idea from his head. Yet, he is frightened by what he must do in order to attain that title and knows it is wrong as he states “Let not light see my black and deep desires; / The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be” (Norton Ed. 2586). Macbeth knows what he must do, but he needs something more to spur him on because as Lady Macbeth notes, he is “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” (Norton Ed. 2587). In uttering these words, Lady Macbeth accuses her husband of taking the feminine quality of holding milk. She sees him as too feminine and humane to kill the king which of course leads her to attempt to compensate for Macbeth by being “unsexed” and having her milk taken for gall. As the gender roles begin to subvert and the Macbeths’ overwhelming ambition blinds their morality, Shakespeare’s vision of the unnatural masculine figure becomes clearer.
Even though they are quite powerful already in society, the Macbeths believe they are still somehow inadequate. Their marriage itself is an obvious indication of this as neither seems content with the qualities of the other. Lady Macbeth especially chastises her husband for her wants in him. Even as Macbeth tries to logically argue against the murder plot by stating “We will proceed no further in this business. / He hath honoured me of late, and I have bought / Golden opinions from all sorts of people, / Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, / Not cast aside so soon” (Norton Ed. 2590), his wife remains unsatisfied. In fact, such a statement only brings about frustration and anger in Lady Macbeth who resorts to mocking her husband’s masculinity by suggesting he is a coward. Macbeth tries one last time to reason with her by offering “I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none” (Norton Ed. 2590), yet even this powerful exclamation is not enough. Although Macbeth intends his words to assert that he represents the epitome of manhood, his wife takes them as more of a confession that he is no man at all. She proceeds to deliver her perverted and haunting idea of what it means to be a man.