Macbeth: The Role Of Gender In Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Macbeth: The Role of Gender
William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth is set in a patriarchal Elizabethan society during the 17th century, a time when gender roles were clearly defined. The play tells the story of Macbeth, a Scottish general driven by a prophecy of his rise to power followed by his subsequent demise. Shakespeare uses the story to examine and subvert male and female stereotypes. Characters frequently reference and distinguish issues of gender. At first, Macbeth appears as a brave, strong, and loyal man that is able to lead and fight fiercely in battle. However, this impression of his masculinity doesn’t last as Shakespeare reveals Macbeth’s true colors as an overly ambitious man that is easily influenced. Likewise, Lady Macbeth
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However, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth equate masculinity with blatant aggression, brutality, and violence. Masculinity becomes a tool of manipulation to inspire blind ambition without honor. Yet women also contribute to the violence and evil in the play which is in contrast to the feminine nature. The witches’ prophecies spark Macbeth’s ambitions and encourage his violent behavior. Lady Macbeth bullies her husband to murder and controls him by questioning his masculinity. Once she has decided that Duncan must die for Macbeth to quickly become king, she utters her famous line, "unsex me here" as she wants to be the stereotypical male- aggressive and ruthless. Lady Macbeth asks the spirits to rid her of all female qualities, such as gentleness or remorse so the masculine qualities will allow her to be callous enough to assassinate King Duncan. Later, Macbeth provokes the murderers he hires to kill Banquo by questioning their manhood. How did masculinity get twisted to equate to the willingness to murder? While the male characters are violent and lack morality, the aggression of the female characters is more striking because it goes against prevailing expectations of how women ought to behave. Macbeth loses much of his masculinity in pursuit of appearing manly while Macduff shows that a real man is not only brave and loyal but has feelings and seeks justice before …show more content…
His bravery in battle and determination against the odds is described early in the play when he leads his men to an unexpected victory, “For brave Macbeth-well he deserves the name- Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel (1.2.16-17).” He soon demonstrates his psychological spinelessness, unbecoming to a man when he tells his wife that he has decided he will not proceed with Duncan’s murder because his conscious knows it is a terrible deed. She twists manly courage to goad him to action saying, “Wouldst though have that which thou esteem’s the ornament of life, and to live a coward in thine own esteem (1.7.41-43)” Shakespeare uses the expectation of male courage and valor to allow the female to take his power in a deviant shift of masculinity and

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