Manhood and Womanhood in Macbeth

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The theme of manhood and womanhood is prevalent throughout the play of Macbeth. Macbeth’s distorted concept of manhood coupled with Lady Macbeth’s distorted concept of manhood and womanhood eventually leads to Macbeth’s downfall and Lady Macbeth’s suicide. Shakespeare uses the technique of gender bending in Macbeth, where a woman will possess manly qualities and a man will posses woman qualities. This plays a major role in Macbeth. Lesser characters such as Lady Macduff, Macduff, Malcolm, and others deal with questions such as what is manhood and what is womanhood. Their answers determine the course of action they take in different situations. After the opening scene of the three witches, the play turns to the battlefield where a Sergeant speaks highly of Macbeth. He says, “For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name-- / Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,” (1.2.16-17). Macbeth shows courage, bravery, and loyalty, three traits associated with manhood in the traditional sense. Later, these traits will be disjoined from each other and perverted them. (Ramsey 265) Then in scene 3, Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches. Upon encountering them, Banquo says, “You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so.” (1.3.45-48). The witches are the first example of Shakespeare using gender bending. The witches look like women, but they have beards, which is a manly quality. This seems to represent that they are of both genders, but they are of neither gender. They are supernatural beings, not human. The witches can only prophesy and manipulate with no other purpose but to deceive anyone of their choosing. Later in the act, Lady Macbeth is introduced, and she is the one who furthers Macbeth’s ... ... middle of paper ... ... manhood as “naked aggression” they left no room for morals or reasons. So Macbeth went on a killing spree, for his manhood. This play shows how a perverted definition of a concept can cause chaos. Works Cited Dash, Irene G. Women’s Worlds in Shakespeare’s Plays. N.p.: University of Delaware Press, 1997. Print. Gerwig, George William. Shakespeare’s Ideals of Womanhood. N.p.: Kessinger Publishing Company, 1995. Print. Rackin, Phyllis. Shakespeare and Women. N.p.: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2005. Print. Ramsey, Jarold. “Gender and Sex Roles.” 1973. Shakespeare for Students. N.p.: Thomas Gale, 1992. 263-269. Print. Shakespeare, William. MacBeth. Ed. Alan Durband. N.p.: Barron’s Educational Series, 2004. Print. Shakespeare Made Easy. “Themes, Motifs & Symbols.” SparkNotes. N.p., 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. .
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