Essay On Gender Roles In Macbeth

In the Scottish tragedy Macbeth, William Shakespeare plays with gender roles typical of the Elizabethan era, by swapping the traditional attributes of men and women. In the society in which the play takes place, men reign supreme, independently making all decisions without consultation with, or affirmation from, subservient women. This is not the case with Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor. Instead, it is his wife Lady Macbeth, who assumes the dominant role in the marriage, defying historical gender stereotypes. Despite being the patriarch, and previously exhibiting his strength of will on the battlefield, Macbeth succumbs to manipulation by women, taking on a subservient role in his marriage. Additionally, Shakespeare blurs the lines between male …show more content…
Women are required to obedient and nurturing wives. Men are required to be the decision-makers and the breadwinners. Lady Macbeth recognizes existing expectations of her sex, and expresses her frustration with possessing masculine inclinations despite her female body. Upon hearing that her husband is fated to become King of Scotland, Lady Macbeth says, “Come, you spirits/ That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here/ And fill me from the crown to the toe topful/ Of direst cruelty” (I. v. 47). In using the word “unsex,” Lady Macbeth is asking demons to remove stereotypical aspects of her femininity (i.e., weakness/kindness), so that she can employ stereotypically masculine attributes (i.e., strength/cruelty), in order to achieve her …show more content…
Lady Macbeth taunts her husband’s hesitation to commit regicide by insulting his manhood. Shakespeare returns to the stereotypically feminine attribute of women as manipulators, in this case. By disparaging Macbeth’s masculinity, his wife successfully employs her feminine wiles to encourage him to kill the king. She says, “This is the air-drawn dagger which you said/ Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts,/ Impostors to true fear, would well become/ A woman 's story at a winter 's fire,” (III. iv. 75-78). By saying this, Lady Macbeth taunts her husband about his frightening hallucination of a dagger floating toward King Duncan. She suggests that Macbeth sounds more like a woman imparting a scary dream to her friends at the fireside, rather than like a brave man. By emasculating Macbeth, she bends her proud husband to her will, as Macbeth could not endure being called womanly by his wife. Thus, Shakespeare gives Lady Macbeth the stereotypical female trait of being manipulative, while concurrently defying female stereotypes of the time, by giving her power, particularly over

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