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Explain how Shakespeare Uses Gender Roles in Macbeth

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Explain how Shakespeare Uses Gender Roles in Macbeth 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. They were expected to, in Malcolm's words "settle things like men", which meant to duel against there enemies. The men were always expected to be the dominant partner in a relationship. Shakespeare manages to defy conventions with some of his characters in this play. Lady Macbeth is a very strange character, and often changes from masculine to feminine whenever it suits her. An example of this is Lady Macbeths attempts to lose her womanliness once and for all when she calls on the spirits to "unsex" her in Act 1 scene 5. She does this because she sees being a woman as a category that defines and limits human beings as such. She tells the spirits to "Make thick my blood, stop up the access and passage to remorse". She wants all of her femininity to be taken away. ...read more.


In conclusion, Lady Macbeth does not obey Macbeth's injunction to "peace" in the discussion of Duncan's murder. Her actions are quite the opposite, ridiculing Macbeth's compassion with her assertion of her fear that his "nature" will prove "too full o'th' milk of human kindness"-another attempt to relate womanliness with Macbeth. The next group of characters that try to break gender barriers are the three Witches. Witches were a good representative of evil in the play for two reasons. Firstly, once that Christianity was established, witches were associated with the devil. Secondly, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth with King James in mind, and the king wrote a book on the subject of witchcraft. Many if the ideas that king James put across to the public were included in Macbeth, such as predicting the future, and familiars. Also, witches were always seen as female (two embodiments of evil in the play are the Witches and Lady Macbeth). They, like Lady Macbeth, play a large part in the downfall of Macbeth. They do this by putting the initial idea of becoming king into Macbeth's head. The Witches were portrayed as stereotypical witches for the time, and their image broke no conventional ideas. When we look at the Witches relationship to female gender, we can find something similar, because while Lady Macbeth rejects female gender by what she says, the witches do so by what they are, namely ...read more.


. This statement suggests that Macbeth's definition of a man is a noble, honest person, and definitely an idea that contradicts killing. His wife however, distorts this view, and persuades Macbeth that a 'real' man would kill Duncan in the phrase "When you durst do it, then you were a man; and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more a man." This goes towards persuading Macbeth that his image of a man is wrong, and that he should kill the King. Likewise, when Macbeth persuades the murderers to kill the king, he uses the same argument that Lady Macbeth used against him earlier on in the play, saying that anyone can be described as a man, "As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs, shoughs, water-rugs and demi-wolves, are clept all by the name of dogs" but when they become assassins they can then be described as real men. This fuels the murderers anger, and encourages them to kill Banquo. The two people that use gender roles most are Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Both associate male gender with killing and death and female gender with doing no harm and being peaceful. Gender is not a biological aspect for them; it is a decision and attitude adopted by the two Macbeths. They use the idea of masculinity and femininity for their own purposes, to persuade others to obey their plans and to justify their own actions. By Joe Ambrose ...read more.

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