In her book, Woman and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy, Dympna Callaghan addresses the presentation of women in Elizabethan England, stating that "women were clearly socially subordinate, and the preponderance of discourse on the gender hierarchy was misogynistic" (Callaghan 12). According to Marianne L. Novy in Love's Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare: "'Woman' seems to be associated with qualities - emotions, fears, - one has against one's will, and 'man' with a preferable mode of existence. Men are exhorted to be men, and women, playfully or seriously, often attempt to imitate men" (Novy 198). While men and women were born different, it was society's treatment of their distinguishing sexual traits that defined them either as masculine, and thus in a position of power, or as feminine and unable to challenge male authority.
Much of the literature composed in Elizabethan England reflects, whether deliberately or inadvertently, the gender inequities cited by Callaghan, Novy, and others. In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, the dynamics of the marriage between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth involve a mutual striving towards manhood as a result of misplaced gender traits in each. Shakespeare develops the androgyny of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and this becomes the basis for the offenses they commit in the play. Both characters achieve a position of power and authority through the use of their masculine characteristics, but their feminine characteristics make their gains tenuous and ultimataly cause their downfall.
Throughout the play Shakespeare presents the feminine traits within Macbeth as the characteristics that mark him as a flawed man. When Macbeth says...
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...speare. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1984
5. Ussher, Jane. Women's Madness: Misogyny or Mental Illness?. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991
6. Williams, Juanita. Psychology of Women. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987
1. Belsey, Catherine. The Subject of Tragedy. London: Methuen, 1985
2. Biggins, Dennis. "Sexuality, Witchcraft, and Violence in Macbeth." Shakespeare Studies VII (1975)
3. Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982
4. Hogrefe, Pearl. Tudor Women: Commoners and Queens. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1975
5. Howells, John, ed. World History of Psychiatry. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1975
6. Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987
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