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

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

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“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. Men dominate their marriage, prove themselves courageous in the line of battle, do whatever they need to do in order to achieve their goals, and are “expected to engage in public affairs (as soldiers, politicians, leaders), to be talkers, make decisions, move events forward” (Gerlach); women should have “obedience, silence, … piety, humility, constancy, and patience” (Gerlach) and be supportive of their husband’s decisions because women “lack those qualities that would fit them for a warrior society” (Asp).
The play opens depicting three witches. As the story progresses, the witches tell supernatural prophesies that influence the other characters. The gender of these witches remains hazy because they exhibit both female and male qualities; they are “[figures] to whom sexual stereotypes are simply not applicable” (Asp). The gender questions confuse Macbeth and Banquo when they first meet the witches; “You should be women, and yet, your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so.” (I iii 45).
These three Wyrd sisters are male in the fact that they deal with masculine situations, such as murder, evil, and positions of power, yet their p...


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The Historical Context of Macbeth." EXPLORING Shakespeare. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context. Web. 18 Feb. 2014."Overview of Macbeth." EXPLORING Shakespeare. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

Kermode, Frank. Shakespeare's Language. New York: Penguin Group, 2000. Print.

Samuel, Deborah. "Macbeth and Issues of Gender." Yale National Initiative. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. initiative_07.01.03_u>.

Shakespeare, William. "MacBeth." Athena Edition. Austin: Holt, Rinehart, and
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