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In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth‚ the theme of masculinity is explored. As Macbeth matures‚ there are times when his masculinity is put to the test, mostly after the murder of Duncan. There are four main themes in which masculinity is presented in the play.
It was once considered that the more bloodthirsty and violent you were, the more manly you would be considered. Patriotism was regarded as a very masculine pathway and to die in battle for your cause, or better, for your country was in some ways a great act of heroism and a honourable way to die‚. This is one of the main themes of masculinity explored in Macbeth and can be illustrated by the simple quote of the man who will soon cold-bloodedly kill Banquo. The question put forth by Macbeth is whether the murderer will try and be a good Christian. He believes that to kill another man will make him more of a man and replies,
We are men, my liege.‚
We can see patriotism active in the play when Siward seems unmoved by the news of the death of his son brought to him by Ross. Pleased in the knowledge that his son died an honourable man, fighting for his cause, he is happy because, knowing that his sons wounds were on his chest, he knows his son was not killed running away. If that was the case, Siward would not of though of his own son so highly.
But like a man he died‚
There is a point where one cannot do anything that will make one more of a man‚ is a concept that Macbeth argues, indirectly, in the play. He thinks that after the murder of Duncan, which is wife thought made him a great man, there is nothing that he could do to be more of a man‚, Macbeth believes that he has done the ultimate deed, and that to do anything else to try to prove yourself would just be wrong because it would overshadow the deed that was done before it.
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none.‚
In Lady Macbeth‚s eyes if Macbeth did not kill Duncan than he would not be a man to her anymore, she believes that he would be denying all urges for greater wealth and prosperity that man should have. She is wondering why he is not taking the opportunity to be king when he can easily do so, in reality, we know why Macbeth is contemplating the murder of Macbeth, because he has morals, qualities that we consider manly today.
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When you durst do it, then you were a man;‚
The third theme of masculinity is to try and outline the differences between man and woman as if certain thought processes were not acceptable for women. Lady Macbeth is an exception because in her mind she deals with death and murder and those are things that are meant to be reserved for men. To help her through the murder of Duncan she calls upon all things foul to remove all her womanly qualities like kindness and compassion.
Unsex me here‚
She wants to be a man, so that all the evil deeds she does would seem acceptable to the people around her. But contrary to what the whole play puts forward to us in terms of masculinity is the fact that men also have emotions and in certain places these are shown in the play as well.
In my opinion Macduff is the manliest character in the play, he is vicious, but he does not kill for his own personal gain, he fights for revenge and for the future of his country, he has a reason for his anger. After he hears the news of the deaths of his wife and children Malcolm puts forward the idea that he should take it like a man and hold his feelings in and leave them for his battle with Macbeth but Macduff says,
But I also feel it as a man‚
This is a concluding line to the theme because it shows that Macduff is the complete opposite to Macbeth and that in fact, contrary to modern popular belief. Men do have feelings, and we can express them.