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How does Shakespeare explore and exploit our perceptions of gender roles in

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How does Shakespeare explore and exploit our perceptions of gender roles in "Macbeth"? How does that affect the way we see the play? In the tragedy of "Macbeth" Shakespeare dramatized certain events and legends of the history of Scotland in the 11th century recorded in Ralph Holinshed's 'chronicles', from which he borrowed and altered freely. Holinshed told how Macbeth's imaginations were first fired by the prophecies of 'three women in strange and wild apparel, resembling creatures of the elder world.' Egged on by the importunity of his wife, Macbeth slew Duncan with the help of Banquo and other friends. Holinshed gave no details of the murder of Duncan. This episode Shakespeare adapted from the murder of King Duff by Donwald, who also was encouraged by an ambitious wife. The remarks of the porter - 'Faith here's an equivocator that could swear in both the scale against either scale, who committed treason enough for God's sake yet could not equivocate to Heaven' - are a likely reference to the notorious trial of Father Garnet on March 28th, 1606, for involvement in the Gun Powder Plot. Garnet admitted in his defense that he had deliberately deceived his accusers, and justified himself by the Jesuit doctrine of equivocation. The play was probably written in 1606 fo0r the visit of King Christian of Denmark, King James' brother-in-law, to the English court from 17th July to 14th August, 1606. ...read more.


His purpose is to be brutal and he is not living up to this purpose. A real man would have the courage to take the daggers back. 'Give me the daggers'- Macbeth cannot do the deed himself, so she must take control and do it herself. When Macbeth was telling his wife about what happened when he was in Duncan's room one of the guards scared him by saying gods blessing as Macbeth could not say anything back - "One cried God Bless us, and Amen the other, as they had seen me with these hangman's hands". To Shakespeare's audience, fresh from the excitement of the execution of the plotters in the Powder Treason, this image would be full of vivid and ghastly significance. It was the hangman's business to tear the vitals out of his victim before hacking him into pieces. An indication of how women should not be allowed to hear of such awful things is given in Act 2, Scene 3. When Macduff comes with the news of Duncan's murder, he says to Lady Macbeth "Tis not for you to hear what I speak; The repetition in a woman's ear, would murder as it fell." He is saying that if he reported the news to her, it would almost be as bad as the act itself. ...read more.


His lack of compassion can be explained by this. Being a true man was a very important quality, and something to be proud of. His son had been proven a true man by his frontal injuries, so his sorrows were not as great, as he knew he has raised a true person. "God's soldier be he." Young Siward had the true qualities of a man unlike Macbeth. Throughout this play, the message sent across to the reader is that men are more powerful and dominant over women. When we look at the play as a whole, the most powerful and dangerous people are the witches. The question can be asked, why are the witches female? They are described as the "weird sisters" and the "midnight hags." We can say however, that even though they are sisters, they have male features - "you should be women, but your beards forbid me to believe it." This again can be seen as a situation where a woman cannot be seen as normal if she acts like a man. Because witches are dangerous and powerful, they cannot possibly be seen as 'real' women, and their beards allow this. Our overall impressions of the play are that men are seen as higher power, and are more dominant than women. The female gender is looked down on, and the attitudes are, that if a woman is to be a true woman, she must not possess anything that is seen as a quality for a man. By Diana Rough 11L1 ...read more.

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