Masculinity And Natural Order In Shakespeare's Macbeth

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In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Shakespeare explores the themes of masculinity and natural order, or the lack thereof. This cursed play combines magic, violence, and prophecy, starting with witchcraft and ending with a severed head. It revolves around a couple whose thirst for power causes them to do unnatural things, and plunges their kingdom into ruin. Arguably, the character most responsible for this is Lady Macbeth, as she manipulates Macbeth to kill Duncan. In a kingdom dominated by men, she understands that in order to get power, she must rid herself of all her feminine traits. However, Lady Macbeth’s suppression of her real nature and her disruption of the natural order is what leads to her downfall and eventual suicide.
In Acts 1
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As a woman, she is naturally not able to do something as despicable as plot murder. She asks evil spirits to “unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood...come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall” (1. 5. 48-50, 54-55). Lady Macbeth asks spirits to give her more masculine qualities, as the natural order suggests that women are not capable of murder. Lady Macbeth also understands that, knowing that the only way to carry out her plan is to become “unsexed”. She wants to be devoid of any compassion and remorse. However, her feminine-like qualities eventually start showing. After setting the murder up for Macbeth, she reveals that “Had he (Duncan) not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t” (2. 2. 16-17). Lady Macbeth says that if Duncan didn’t look like her father, she would have murdered him herself instead of having Macbeth complete the deed. A bit of her feminine qualities seeps through- she can plan the murder, but she can’t quite do it herself. Therefore, she hasn’t been completely unsexed, rather she is hiding her true qualities in order to kill Duncan, which eventually end up…show more content…
When Lady Macbeth’s maid and doctor find her sleepwalking, she is frantically rubbing her hands, saying “Out, damned spot, out, I say!...What, will these hands ne’er be clean?...More needs she the divine than the physician” (5. 2. 37, 45, 78). Lady Macbeth still believes that Duncan’s blood stains her hands, and she can’t wash it off. The guilt is consuming her conscience when she is vulnerable the most (when she is asleep). Being more “masculine” allows her to kill Duncan. However, she is still a woman and cannot deal with the guilt that comes with murder, which ultimately drives her crazy. In contrast, Macbeth shows no such guilt, as he is preoccupied with consolidating his power. After Macbeth is killed in battle, Malcolm comments on Lady Macbeth that “who, as ‘tis thought, by self and violent hands, took off her life” (5. 8. 83-84). This quote reveals that Lady Macbeth killed herself because she couldn’t withstand the guilt of the murders she and Macbeth committed. This kind of death can be perceived as a cowardly escape from life. Macbeth, on the other hand, is more heroic when he says he would rather die in battle while confronting the
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