Femininity and Masculinity in Shakespeare’s Macbeth
A. This paper entitled The Elucidation of Femininity and Masculinity in Shakespeare’s Macbeth aspires to unravel the gender roles exhibited by the main characters in the play. Shakespearean plays often commence with the obliteration of tranquility and stability resulting to a dilemma resolved in the end of the play by the re-establishment of harmony and peace. In this play, Macbeth annihilates King Duncan’s authority, where significance of both male and female values is upheld. Macbeth assassinates King Duncan for him to be able to claim the throne. Hence, during his reign, everything seemed to be in turmoil and disarray and the only way to reinstate the usual order of things is for King Duncan’s son named Malcolm to be crowned as the real heir to the throne. This dissertation will analyze the diverse roles assigned by Shakespeare to his characters in terms of gender roles. It will also tackle whether the roles portrayed by Shakespeare’s main characters in this play are true depictions of the men and women in the past and at contemporary times. It also endeavors to know whether gender roles were reversed in the play. Lastly, it also seeks to find out the necessary outcomes when men became feminine and women became masculine.
B. There is a significant exchange of the stereotyped characteristics of both male and female main personas in the play Macbeth.
A. Gender roles are transposed in the play Macbeth as manifested by Lady Macbeth who seems to be a totally developed female antagonist.
1. “I dare do all that may become a man, who dares do more is none”. (Shakespeare 69)
2. In this line, courage is the distinctive virtue illustrated by Lady Macbeth which is a common portrayal of a soldier that is suggestive of a man. She depicts a braver character compared to her husband.
3. Lady Macbeth has an unexpected role for a woman. Her portrayal runs counter to the characterization of women as tender, loving and incapable of all evil as depicted in the personality of Lady Macduff (Herrmann 18).
4. Lady Macbeth presents us with a woman that is very different to the gender stereotype of what a woman is, someone who is weak and fragile and does not have the capabilities to plot an evil scheme that could bring mishap to many individuals.
B. Lady Macbeth is one of the most dominant female personalities in prose who will try all means possible to attain her goals.
1. “The effect, and it! Come to my woman’s breast, and take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers—wherever in your sightless substances, you wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick knight, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell!” (Shakespeare 58)
2. This speech of Lady Macbeth makes her sound that she is a very dangerous woman that any individual should be wary in dealing with. She will give up everything necessary to be able to gain power and reach her ambition of being the queen.
3. The main function of Lady Macbeth is to keep Macbeth’s evil vision of becoming king alive within him by any means at her disposal (De Vivo 3).
4. This only proves that Lady Macbeth can forget the essence of being a human just to acquire what she desires regardless of the method she will utilize to obtain it even if entails provoking her husband to murder King Duncan.
C. Lady Macbeth is a woman who has imbibed the values and principles of the male warrior society and acts according to them.
1. “Was the hope drunk?
Wherein you dress’d yourself?
Hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As Dethou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’,
Like the poor cat i’th’adage?” (Bloom 103)
2. Lady Macbeth values the essence of manhood for she supposes that having the traits of a man would make it possible to achieve her desires.
3. Men have things firmly under control (Herrmann 18). Lady Macbeth’s evident preoccupation and constant references to manhood may be interpreted as an equation of masculinity and femininity and powerlessness respectively (Herrmann 18).
4. Lady Macbeth may seem to be evil with the way she delivers her lines but if one will examine her utterances closely, it depicts an illustration of a cold-blooded female that could weaken anytime. Thus, her preference to manly values may be dominant at times; she still has the fragility of a woman.
This paper divulged to the readers certain features of the gender roles portrayed by the play’s main characters. The variety of viewpoints was appropriately linked so as to give the readers a picture of how gender roles were reversed in the play. The different angles of diverse authors has been utilized to show what the author of this paper drives to achieve and that is, to tackle how the stereotyped personalities of a male and a female were switched in this prose by William Shakespeare. With the outlooks presented, it is but a challenge to equally instill in people’s minds and hearts the female and male values that could be beneficial to them whenever the situation calls for it. Some virtues and traits may be solely attributed to a man but that does not mean that a woman cannot also possess such characteristics and vice-versa.
Bloom, Harold. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010, 1-194.
De Vivo, A. William Shakespeare: An Analysis of Macbeth’s Character. Germany: GRIN Verlag, 2002, 1-28.
Herrmann, Katharina. Gender Politics in Macbeth. Germany: GRIN Verlag, 2008, 18-20.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth: a Tragedy. London: Matthews and Leigh, 1807, 1-194.