Subversively, Shakespeare included strong female characters in his plays, exemplified by Lady Macbeth. When we first encounter her she is portrayed as more powerful, ruthless, and ambitious than her husband. Lady Macbeth is conscious of this and knows she will have to push Macbeth to commit murder. Isabella can also be seen as a strong character as she chooses to live a life separate of men.
Shakespeare highlights the opposition of men and women through Lady Macbeth appearing to crave development of a masculine identity. As she drives her husband toward committing regicide, she demonstrates she must adopt masculine characteristics. Lady Macbeth seeks to permanently alter her physiological being in pursuit of a masculine presence capable of masculine acts. As Dr.Johnson said “The arguments by which Lay Macbeth persuades her husband to commit the murder afford a proof of Shakespeare’s knowledge of human nature. She urges the excellence and dignity and courage, a glittering idea which has dazzled mankind from age to age…Courage is the distinguishing virtue of a soldier and the reproach of cowardice cannot be borne by any man from a woman without...
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...or when both women bring up taboos through their dialogue “Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums. And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you.” Macbeth Act 1 scene 7 and “Is 't not a kind of incest, to take life. From thine own sister 's shame?” Measure for Measure Act 2 scene 1.These taboos would have been disturbing to the audience. The harsh imagery and strong references to acts restricted by social custom portray how these women are aspiring to subvert their stereotypes.
The power struggle between the sexes is ultimately won by the male characters as both Isabella and Lady Macbeth are silenced. For the entire play Isabella is depicted as being trapped by male dominance. In Macbeth this idea is opposed as Lady Macbeth initially has power. Perhaps men win because however subversive Shakespeare wants to be, he must abide by the audience of his time.
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