Perceptions of Role and Gender in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Essays

Perceptions of Role and Gender in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Essays

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Perceptions of Role and Gender in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

In the tragedy of "Macbeth" Shakespeare dramatized certain events and
legends of the history of Scotland in the 11th century recorded in
Ralph Holinshed's 'chronicles', from which he borrowed and altered
freely. Holinshed told how Macbeth's imaginations were first fired by
the prophecies of 'three women in strange and wild apparel, resembling
creatures of the elder world.' Egged on by the importunity of his
wife, Macbeth slew Duncan with the help of Banquo and other friends.
Holinshed gave no details of the murder of Duncan. This episode
Shakespeare adapted from the murder of King Duff by Donwald, who also
was encouraged by an ambitious wife. The remarks of the porter -
'Faith here's an equivocator that could swear in both the scale
against either scale, who committed treason enough for God's sake yet
could not equivocate to Heaven' - are a likely reference to the
notorious trial of Father Garnet on March 28th, 1606, for involvement
in the Gun Powder Plot. Garnet admitted in his defense that he had
deliberately deceived his accusers, and justified himself by the
Jesuit doctrine of equivocation. The play was probably written in 1606
fo0r the visit of King Christian of Denmark, King James'
brother-in-law, to the English court from 17th July to 14th August,
1606. Shakespeare and his company were the King's players and so it
was natural for them to produce a story of Scottish history touching
on the ancestry of their patron. The audience in those times when
watching this play would have been shocked at the way Lady Macbeth is
portrayed, because they were used to Queen Elizabe...


... middle of paper ...


...a whole, the most powerful and dangerous people are the
witches. The question can be asked, why are the witches female? They
are described as the "weird sisters" and the "midnight hags." We can
say however, that even though they are sisters, they have male
features - "you should be women, but your beards forbid me to believe
it." This again can be seen as a situation where a woman cannot be
seen as normal if she acts like a man. Because witches are dangerous
and powerful, they cannot possibly be seen as 'real' women, and their
beards allow this.

Our overall impressions of the play are that men are seen as higher
power, and are more dominant than women. The female gender is looked
down on, and the attitudes are, that if a woman is to be a true woman,
she must not possess anything that is seen as a quality for a man.

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