Although written long ago, Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth still has themes relevant for contemporary society. Murderous ambition, political intrigue, crafty social alliances, the disintegration of marriage – these could be headlines from any daily news program. It comes as no surprise, then, that we also find a significant number of moments in the play where gender seems to be an issue. More specifically, we might say that Shakespeare's dramatic investigation into proper uses of power consists, in part, of a rigorous critique of the disparities between the respective roles assigned to men and women. Shakespeare seems especially interested in the moral and ethical implications of such discrepancies. In the interest of space and time, I will focus here on only a few brief moments from act one. However, I encourage you to note the further development of these points as the drama unfolds in subsequent scenes.
In the very first scene of Macbeth we learn what Duncan and his people value in masculine identity. When the sergeant staggers in to report what he has seen of Macbeth in battle, we are given an image of a thane who is steeped in gore:
For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name),
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which smok'd with bloody execution,
Like Valour's minion carv'd out his passage,
Till he fac'd the slave;
Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to th'chops,
And fix'd his head upon our battlements. (1.2.16-23)
The king's response to this account is especially telling: "O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!" (1.2.16-24) demonstrates as much appreciation for the manner in which Macbeth overcame h...
... middle of paper ...
...41). By play's end, we are confronted with her madness, the result of an excruciating tension between her identity as a woman and the desire to accommodate a misconceived and fatally monstrous masculinity.
Although I do not intend here to resolve the question of gender in Macbeth (actually, I hope to provoke further thoughts on interpretation), I do wish to note that Shakespeare has forcefully bound the cultural problem of violence to the promulgation and validation of the roles a community assigns by sex. Read the play; attend a performance; consider the moral and ethical implications bound up in the plot of a would-be king who sheds true manhood even as he fulfills the masculine ideal.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- In the old Shakespeare play Macbeth, women wear the pants, while the men wear the dresses, this is the theme throughout the play. It focuses on the marriage of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth takes the lead role, while she convinces her husband to kill Duncan. Shakespeare play concerning gender roles, shows the untraditional marriage in Scotland; what one sees is not what one gets. It also show how one starts is not how they end. The story of Macbeth shows power and betrayal. It shows power because it shows how one can take charge and get it done.... [tags: Shakespearean Literature]
1312 words (3.7 pages)
- Throughout the play Macbeth, Shakespeare uses gender roles and prejudices to help define who Macbeth and especially Lady Macbeth truly are, as well as what they may accomplish. Lady Macbeth struggles with her identity and realizes what she may want for herself is not necessarily what society expects of her. Whether it is expressing her true emotions and wishes, her struggle to gain power, or her disdain towards her husband, Lady Macbeth continuously struggles with the unresolved problem of finding her true self as well as combating the stereotypes put on women.... [tags: Macbeth, Gender, Macbeth, Gender role]
1261 words (3.6 pages)
- Gender Roles in Macbeth Although written long ago, Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth still has themes relevant for contemporary society. Murderous ambition, political intrigue, crafty social alliances, the disintegration of marriage – these could be headlines from any daily news program. It comes as no surprise, then, that we also find a significant number of moments in the play where gender seems to be an issue. More specifically, we might say that Shakespeare's dramatic investigation into proper uses of power consists, in part, of a rigorous critique of the disparities between the respective roles assigned to men and women.... [tags: GCSE Coursework Macbeth Essays]
1456 words (4.2 pages)
- Inequalities between men and women are one of the most persistent patterns in the distribution of power. Often what it means to be a ‘woman’ is to be powerless, quiet, obedient and compliant, whereas to be a ‘man’ in contrast, is to be powerful, outspoken and in control. These gender roles tend to perpetuate the power inequalities that they are based on. Throughout the play of Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, many character’s relationships to power is affected by their gender. However, these relationships challenge the typical gender roles seen in society.... [tags: Macbeth, Gender, Gender role, Masculinity]
1355 words (3.9 pages)
- Gender Roles in Macbeth by William Shakespeare Although at the time of Shakespeare, women were thought of as lesser beings, he still manages to portray them as strong, and influential people in his play Macbeth. The orthodox view of females when Shakespeare wrote the play is that they were homemakers, looked after their children, they were quiet, weak and unintelligent, and the only reason they existed is to have male children. Males however were the warriors and the money earners.... [tags: Papers]
1296 words (3.7 pages)
- William Shakespeare has many interesting female characters throughout all of his different types of works. Some of his women are leading ladies while others are just supporting characters that help move the story along. No matter the depth of the characters’ role, each lady gives some type of unthinkable personality trait that would be unique to women during Shakespeare’s time. Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear all have female characters that portray women who wouldn’t be seen during the time of William Shakespeare’s writing.... [tags: gender roles in Macbeth]
2693 words (7.7 pages)
- 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]
2550 words (7.3 pages)
- The Elizabethan era was a time that had very strict expectations of what it means to be a man or a woman. However, these expectations are not followed in Macbeth. In Macbeth, Shakespeare investigates and challenges the common gender roles of the time. Through defying the natural gender roles, he shows how people can accomplish their goals. He challenges the stereotypical Elizabethan woman through Lady Macbeth and the Weïrd Sisters, and he investigates how the stereotypes for men are used for manipulation.... [tags: Deceit, Female, Play]
725 words (2.1 pages)
- Changing Gender Roles in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Much attention has been paid to the theme of "manliness" as it appears throughout Macbeth. In his introduction to Macbeth in The Riverside Shakespeare, Frank Kermode contends that the play is "about the eclipse of civility and manhood, [and] the temporary triumph of evil" (1307). Stephen Greenblatt emphasizes the same idea in The Norton Shakespeare, crediting Lady Macbeth for encouraging her husband through both "sexual taunting" and "the terrible force of her determination" (2557-58).... [tags: Macbeth essays Shakespeare]
2828 words (8.1 pages)
- A gender role in the time when British literature was being written was very important to the women history. Women were subservient to men in most of the British literature. Some literature women had a little more power than in others. When women were asked to do something by a man there was no way they could say no. the way women were treated then is the equivalent to a housewife now in the Twenty-First century. When a man told them to do something they had to do it. Throughout the literature women started desiring more respect and power.... [tags: The Goblin Market, Macbeth, Beowolf]
1345 words (3.8 pages)
- Fact Verses Fiction in O'Brien's The Things They Carried
- The Struggle for Identity in A Doll’s House
- Essay on Gender in William Shakespeare's Sonnets
- A Feminist Perspective of Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice
- An Examination of Rubyfruit Jungle and Her Critics
- Comparing Beloved and Night