Macbeth Essay

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Literary Essay: Macbeth
The “strong independent woman” is an amalgamation of modern attitudes towards women. Feminist, outspoken, and sexually liberated, this entity breaks the “mother figure” stereotype usually attributed to women. Current society reinforces these unconventional notions, however this was not so in Shakespearian times. In Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, most female characters are portrayed in “unstereotypical” ways. Lady Macbeth’s “unsex me speech” leads her to acquire male attributes throughout the play, Lady Macduff openly criticizes her husband for leaving, and minor characters such as “the sailor’s wife” are inhospitable and unaccommodating. Although this seems to portray support for modern views of women, this is not true. It, in fact, reinforces traditional roles, as every “strong independent woman” within the play is punished. Women that go against “natural gender roles” disrupt order and lose their personal stability. This is evidenced by the actions of Lady Macbeth, minor female characters such as the sailor’s wife and the gentlewoman, and Lady Macduff.
For example, Lady Macbeth constantly breaks convention with her masculine assertions; however, because of these choices, she is ultimately punished. In her famous “unsex me speech” she calls upon “spirits that tend on mortal thoughts [to] unsex [her] here” by displacing her female characteristics with male traits (I.V.39-40). She does this because she feels that women do not have the natural capacity to handle high-risk situations. Lady Macbeth utilizes her acquired masculinity by, in fact, surpassing the manliness of her husband. By mocking Macbeth for being “infirm of purpose” and taking the daggers (to frame the guards for the murder of Duncan), she ...

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...d- a consequence for doing good when “to do good is sometime[s] accounted [a] dangerous folly” (IV.II.73-74).
Women that go against traditional roles of femininity are punished through perfect executions of “an eye for an eye” justice. This is evidenced through the consequences of Lady Macbeth’s, minor female characters’, and Lady Macduff’s actions. What initially seems to be a depiction of Shakespeare’s approval of unconventional gender roles is actually a reinforcement of traditional notions. This is a clear indication that Shakespearian women were beginning to crack stereotypes in favor of feminism- else Shakespeare’s assertions would be unnecessary. Modern attitudes towards gender equality stand as indications of this silent war- still raging within society. All in all, there is hope for women to stand abreast with the very men that have dominated thus far.
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