Feminist Criticism Of William Shakespeare 's Macbeth Essay

Feminist Criticism Of William Shakespeare 's Macbeth Essay

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When a character does something unexpected or acts in an unusual way, it typically carries significance. Specifically, females are bound to change and break from the stereotypes and roles expected of them. These stereotypes–which have been deeply rooted into society’s culture–and the ways in which female characters differ from or react to them are of main interest to feminist critics. Feminist critics focus on the gender roles and stereotypes present in literature and whether literature reinforces those stereotypes (Siegel). This particular school of literary criticism requires one to “look beyond rigid or stereotypical views of people and strive to value all humans… by emphasizing their unique individuality and importance” (Gillespie 1). These principles are applicable to a scene in the beginning of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. The protagonist Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, learn of Macbeth’s prophecies claiming that he will become thane of Cawdor and King, and, after receiving the new thaneship, they discuss ways to pursue the crown. In this scene, they become tempted to rise to greater sources of power through treachery. As they formulate ideas and execute their plans, Lady Macbeth demonstrates her strong, overly ambitious side. In fact, she exhibits many masculine and daring qualities that aren’t commonly associated with women. Lady Macbeth’s strength, control, and power over Macbeth in the beginning of the play contrast with the cultural standards and expectations of women.
Women in literature are often portrayed as weak, inferior, innocent, unemployed, and of low social status. As one literary critic states, “the male is active, dominating, and rational, whereas the female is passive, submissive, and emotiona...


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...tions break from the cultural stereotypes of women. She desperately wants to reject the feminine stereotypes, and she goes too far and becomes too evil in planning King Duncan’s murder. By the end of the play, Lady Macbeth cannot sustain these masculine qualities. Those unnatural and unsuitable qualities she exhibits have consumed her to the point where she cannot control herself. She is becoming increasingly evil, which leaves her with no conscience. Although Lady Macbeth wants to take full control of the plan, she cannot completely transform herself or eliminate her feminine qualities as much as she wants to. The stereotypes embedded into society limits one’s ability to freely act. Women are capable of evil and cruelty, but it may lead one to complete destruction of oneself. One who is overly invested in their seemingly evil deeds can hinder one’s sense of morality.

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