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Gender Roles In Macbeth Essay

1279 words - 6 pages

Breaking Gender Boundaries in Macbeth
In medieval England, boundaries of stereotypes were present to separate the men from the women. Expectations for men were high and ambitious, while the expectations for women were unaspiring and low. Men were expected to be the leader, authoritative and ambitious. Women were expected to be submissive, generous and weak. However through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s criticism, monologues and soliloquies, Shakespeare breaks these traditional gender stereotypes of men and women. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, masculinity is shown by the use of physical force.

In act one, Macbeth’s manliness is shown through fighting the invading Irish armies with valor ...view middle of the document...

Her ambitious characteristic also makes her crave for power because has goals she cannot complete without power. So by becoming queen, she will have the power meet her objectives. Macbeth’s real character is revealed by Lady Macbeth. Since the two are a married couple, they ought to know each other very well. Lady Macbeth says he lacks ambition and aggression, which are important qualities of a man. He wants to meet a goal but lacks the drive of ambition to get there, making him more feminine than masculine according to the definition of masculinity in Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth’s “unsex me here” (1.5.39) soliloquy is one of the most famous speeches by Shakespeare. This soliloquy shows how Lady Macbeth is not content with her constraints in society. Since she is a woman she is allowed little freedom and power. So when she tells the spirits to unsex her, she hopes to achieve more freedom and power in order to help Macbeth gain the crown of Scotland. She “wishes her sex to be taken away or at least fundamentally changed so she will not display the weaknesses inherent in all females: compassion and tender heartedness”. She also tells the spirits to “fill her[me], from crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty.” (1.5.40-41) and to take her “milk for gall” (1.5.46). By telling the spirits to fill her with cruelty, she will have no heart left in her to feel anything when she murders Duncan. By taking her milk for gall, her milk is replaced with poisonous liquid. The milk in her is for infants, so by replacing the milk with the “gall” she will murder the infant when he drinks it, which shows that she will even kill babies to reach her objectives. By removing the weaknesses, she becomes cruel, aggressive, evil and violent so she can carry out her evil plans of obtaining the crown without anything stopping her.

The traits that Macbeth has define who he really is, rather than his masculine acts on the battlefield. Macbeth is submissive and easily swayed by Lady Macbeth, making Lady Macbeth the one who makes the decisions. When Macbeth is about to carry out the plan, he backs out. He tells her that they “will not proceed no further in this business” (1.7.31) since Duncan has just honored his bravery and he wants to keep this honor while it lasts. When he backs out of the plan, he becomes a coward in Lady Macbeth’s eyes. Unlike on the battlefield, he refuses to kill people. After hearing this, Lady Macbeth aggressively taunts him and indirectly persuades him into going forward with this plan. Instead of retaliating, he just tells her to stop. By just telling her to stop, it...

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