Gender Stereotypes and Evil in Macbeth Essay example

Gender Stereotypes and Evil in Macbeth Essay example

Length: 1853 words (5.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Term Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is often seen as a demonic figure whose evil manipulation causes the murder of Duncan. Indeed, gender is a prominent theme in the play. In this essay, I will argue that Macbeth reflects strict gender expectations and that the protagonists are in turn governed and constrained by these stereotypes. Macbeth also reflects a deep mistrust of women in Shakespeare’s society.
With the Renaissance came a rise in education levels in the 16th century among upper and middle class women. Such a phenomenon, accentuated by the ascension of Elizabeth I to the throne as a “great exemplar of feminine achievement” (Shapiro 703), served as the background to a “women’s struggle against their traditional subordinate status on a scale that seemed large to their male contemporaries” (Shapiro 703). Thus, the spirit of educated women of the age was one of struggle for self-expression. Shapiro states that there were enough of such bold, ambitious women dressing up as men (in order to have adventures and to gain education) to warrant attacks in popular literature and even from King James I himself (704). It is clear that the patriarchal society of Elizabethan England had no appetite for women’s ambitions, small as they were to be called anything more than a disorganized struggle.
It is not hard to see the reflection of such a social atmosphere in Macbeth. In many ways, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as ambitious, at times towering over Macbeth – seemingly a reversal of the traditional husband-wife relationship. Macbeth, for instance, recognizes his wife as his equal “partner of greatness” (Macbeth I.v.8). As the subordinate wife, she does not seem to fear her husband but even has the nerve to “chastise” Macbeth for bein...


... middle of paper ...


...Carroll, William C. “Discourses of the Feminine.” William Shakespeare, Macbeth: Texts and Contexts. Ed. William C. Carroll. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin, 1999. Print.

Chamberlain, Stephanie. “Fantasizing Infanticide: Lady Macbeth and the Murdering Mother in Early Modern England.” College Literature 32.3 (2005): 72-91. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Sep. 2009.

Frye, Roland Mushat. “Macbeth’s Usurping Wife.” Renaissance News 8.2 (1955): 102-105. JSTOR. Web. 13 Sep. 2009.

Kimbrough, Robert. "Macbeth: The Prisoner of Gender." Shakespeare Studies 16 (1983): 175-191. Web. Academic Search Premier. 13 Sep. 2009.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth: Texts and Contexts. Ed. William C. Carroll. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin, 1999. Print.

Shapiro, Susan C. “Feminists in Elizabethan England.” History Today 27.11 (1977): 703-711. Web. Academic Search Premier. 19 Sep. 2009.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

William Shakespeare 's Macbeth - Masculinity Essays

- The Way of life during the Elizabethan age must be examined in order explain the agency within the concept of masculinity in Macbeth. William Shakespeare uses Macbeth to show the agency that is created for women when men are pushed into proving their own masculinity. In order to fully understand Shakespeare’s portrayal of masculinity in Macbeth we must first examine the stereotypes of the Elizabethan era that effected Shakespeare’s writing. “Defining what a female was supposed to be and do was an act of Renaissance culture, as it has been for other times....   [tags: Gender, Macbeth, Femininity, Masculinity]

Term Papers
2180 words (6.2 pages)

Feminist Criticism Of William Shakespeare 's Macbeth Essay

- 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)....   [tags: Macbeth, Woman, Gender, Femininity]

Term Papers
1276 words (3.6 pages)

Macbeth By William Shakespeare : Gender Roles And Masculinity Essay

- Macbeth by William Shakespeare epitomizes gender roles and masculinity/ femininity. In some opinions this is Shakespeare’s most misogynistic play he has written it shows that he hates or doesn’t trust women. During this play it is shown that women are the source of evil and violence. The witches tell Macbeth his prophecy which sparks Macbeth 's ambitions and encourages his ineluctable violent behaviors. Also Lady Macbeth becomes the brains of most of the murders that Macbeth commits and plants the ideas in his head so he ends up following through with them....   [tags: Gender, Gender role, Man, Masculinity]

Term Papers
2550 words (7.3 pages)

Shakespeare's Portrayal of Women and Sovereign Issues in Macbeth Essay

- “Almost without exception, people feel constrained to play roles in accordance with what they believe to be the expectations of others” (Asp). During odd or unnatural events, these stereotypical expectations can be overshadowed and conquered by the intense desire for power or wealth. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Shakespeare alters the physical attributes associated with specific genders in order to illustrate the progression of a character’s actions and thoughts. Throughout history, stereotypical profiles of what a man or woman should be have determined how they are perceived by others....   [tags: william shakespeare, macbeth, duncan]

Term Papers
1497 words (4.3 pages)

Shakespeare's Characterisation of Lady Macbeth Essay example

- Shakespeare's Characterisation of Lady Macbeth In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a complex character and is used to fluctuate drama levels according to her choices and her unpredictable way of thinking. As the play progresses, Shakespeare employs Lady Macbeth's character to keep the audience constantly engaged by provoking strong emotional responses to her actions through shocking language and dramatic tension. Macbeth was written by Shakespeare during 1606 to 1611. At this time, James I was on the throne....   [tags: Papers]

Term Papers
1661 words (4.7 pages)

Compare and Contrast: Two Film Adaptations of Macbeth Essay

- April, 2 2014 Perspectives As far as we’re aware, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606, making it roughly 400 years old and in desperate need of a revival. While setting an adaptation of the play in modern day Melbourne in the midst of a gangland war may have seemed comical a decade ago, with corpses piled high from St Kilda to Sunshine in the real gang war of the Victorian city, it now seems 100% plausible. The difficulty of course, is finding a way to accurately transform noble lords of Scotland into underworld gangsters and still maintain Shakespeare’s true intentions....   [tags: Shakespeare, Play, Adaptations]

Term Papers
1398 words (4 pages)

Essay on Contrasting Evil and Good in Macbeth

- In this essay I will look at the ways that Shakespeare has contrasted evil with good in his play Macbeth. The play revolves around the bad and wicked qualities in human nature, but Shakespeare also contrasts this evil with the power of good. This contrast between good and evil is a recurring theme throughout Macbeth. These contradictions start in the very beginning of the play, with the witches. In Act one, Scene one, line 12, the witches say, “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” This is interesting as they are suggesting good and evil as being one....   [tags: evil, good, macbeth, shakespeare,]

Term Papers
1653 words (4.7 pages)

Macbeth: The Evil Within Essay

- It is evident from the beginning of the play that Macbeth is sheltering something sinister within him. At that moment, it can only be guessed as to what it is, but as the play moves along this terrible feeling grows and feeds on Macbeth’s paranoia and his disappointment with life as a whole. Macbeth gradually goes on both a literal and figurative life journey, with its disappointments and joys. Strangely, though, Macbeth is not pleased by these accomplishments, and only seeks more. There are multiple characters that either lit the fuse of Macbeth’s ambition, or cut the fuse to make it shorter, thus leading him along the path to evil....   [tags: Macbeth, evil , shakespeare,]

Term Papers
1338 words (3.8 pages)

Gender Stereotypes And Gender Roles Essay

- Changes in society have brought issues regarding gender stereotype. Gender roles are shifting in the US. Influences of women’s movement (Firestone, Firestone, & Catlett, 2006) and gender equality movement (e.g., Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)) have contributed to expanding social roles for both genders. Nevertheless, gender stereotypes, thus gender stereotype roles continue to exist in the society (Skelly & Johnson, 2011; Wood & Eagly, 2010). With changes in gender roles, pervasiveness of gender stereotype results in a sense of guilt, resentment, and anger when people are not living up to traditional social expectations (Firestone, Firestone, & Catlett, 2006)....   [tags: Gender role, Gender, Role, Stereotype]

Term Papers
1165 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Gender Roles And Gender Stereotypes

- According to Nielsen the average American watches about 5 hours of television per day (Koblin) Nielsen said that in 2015, Americans spent about nine and half hours each day consuming content (Koblin) but, do we ever take the time to break down gender stereotypes in advertising and commercials. Gender stereotypes are “generalizations about the roles of each gender. Gender roles are generally neither positive nor negative; they are simply inaccurate generalizations of the male and female attributes” (Brewer) but, what about in advertising and commercials....   [tags: Gender, Gender role, Woman, Stereotype]

Term Papers
1190 words (3.4 pages)