Gender Ideology In Macbeth

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Society defines certain roles and expectations for men and women. In Macbeth, the idea of gender ideology is a key factor in the play. Gender ideology is defined as the “appropriate” roles and responsibilities of men and women in society. Gender ideology varies based on different cultures. When Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, gender ideology was perceived differently than it is today. Back then, women had traditional set roles. More specifically, women tended to be tender and delicate wives who played the role as main supporters to their husband. On the other hand, men were the decision makers who dictated the relationship, giving men a more aggressive reputation in Shakespeare’s era. The play Macbeth juggles two distinctive traits regarding men and women’s roles: masculinity and femininity. William Shakespeare places contemporary gender ideology attributes to his characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, to show that if gender roles reverse, men and women can suffer detrimental and fatal consequences. Lady Macbeth’s role defines the contemporary gender ideology. Gender ideology first occurs when Lady Macbeth is introduced. She constantly urges her husband, Macbeth, to murder King Duncan to seize power of the throne. However, his kind, heroic stature prevents him from committing an immoral, murderous act. She, at one point, becomes inpatient with Macbeth’s unwillingness to kill King Duncan. Her impatience led to her strong desires of losing her own feminine qualities to obtain masculine characteristics. She cries: Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top full Of direst cruelty (1.5.39-41) Lady Macbeth’s utmost wish to the spirits is to be completely changed int... ... middle of paper ... ...speare makes us question the standard image projected by society of males and females. The idea of gender ideology brings up a lot of controversy during this play. He brings in the themes, masculinity and femininity, to describe what defines gender roles. He also shows how each gender is capable of possessing both of these features, qualities, and behaviors, as shown through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth both defy the accepted gender roles, and as a consequence, they both tragically died. Once Macbeth finally attained his masculinity, he overcompensated his manliness, which led to his death. Similarly, Lady Macbeth realized her unnatural behavior as a woman, and was devoured by her guiltiness, which led to her insanity. Shakespeare shows that gender roles should represent their own gender character traits because crossing the line can be fatal.

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