Images of Masculinity and Femininity in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Images of Masculinity and Femininity in Macbeth Lady Macbeth does not have the traditional role of ‘mother’, ‘daughter’, or ‘wife’ but ‘partner’. Macbeth’s letter refers to her as: ‘My dearest partner in greatness..’ I (v) In spite of his military culture, Macbeth perceives Lady Macbeth as an equal, it would seem in all things; his political life, his career, his personal life; i.e. she is his significant other. Noticeably the emphasis is on ‘him’. Lady Macbeth lacks status of her own, as did all women in this era as ‘status’ could only be derived from one’s husband or father. The doctrine Macbeth adopts goes against all the conventional ideas of how a female should be regarded by a male. In the Renaissance era the division of the sexes were so vast, but Lady Macbeth resists persistently even when Macbeth dismisses her: ‘We will proceed no further in this business:’ (I vii 32) To resist what Macbeth says on whatever grounds, is not to be a woman at all. A woman is supposed to be weak, frail and submissive to male desires and certainly not supposed to debate effectively with her husband. But Lady Macbeth does reject the ‘woman’s’ role - as defined by men. One could be forgiven for thinking of Lady Macbeth as the only female worth studying in Macbeth as the other female characters have such minor roles. But I believe the witches are of importance when examining femininity. They are the first characters we set eyes upon and every event in the play is indirectly controlled or caused by them. This is surely a very powerful role. Witches allegedly foretold the future and served the devil. So Macbeth’s apparent fear and belief in their prophecy was undermining ecclesiastical authority. He takes great heed of ... ... middle of paper ... spent the rest of his life feeling he had failed as a man, such was the importance of images of masculinity. ‘Bring forth men-children only’ (Macbeth 1:7:72) Works Cited Shakespeare Macbeth; Arden Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot, Natalie Zemon Davis and Arlette Farge A History of Women; Belknap Havard Bruce R Smith Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England; University of Chicago Press Callaghan, Dympna. Woman and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1989 Johannes Fabricus Alchemy: the medevial alchemists and their royal lust; Diamond Books 1994 Novy, Marianne. Love's Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1984 Eros and magic in the Renaissance; University of Chicgo Press 1987

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