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The role of masculinity in Macbeth.

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The Role of Masculinity in Macbeth James Cooper What makes a good man? A good king? These are not easy questions to answer. Macbeth presents us with two very different notions of manhood, and explores the relationship of masculinity to the role of a king. We are asked to consider whether the best way to govern is with a soft touch, like Duncan, or with a cold, unforgiving fist like Macbeth the warrior. We are also asked to think in a larger sense about how men and women should behave in general - for the conflict between gentle Duncan and violent Macbeth is symbolic of a conflict between feminity and masculinity. The notion that man should behave as a warrior is introduced in the first line of the second scene, where we first meet the King and the other male characters. A wounded sargeant has just returned from the battle in which Macbeth has been fighting heroically. The king asks, What bloody man is that? He can report, As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt The newest state. The phrase "bloody man" will represent for us an ongoing association between masculinity and violence, blood, and destruction. Much of the play concerns this "bloody man". The warrior culture in which Macbeth is surrounded emphasizes certain qualities of manhood. It is expected that real men display no fear and show no mercy for the enemy. They are to be ruthless, cruel, strong, and violent. ...read more.


This is a very intense woman! Its hard to blame Macbeth for feeling a bit insecure around her. In the next scene she uses his insecurity to goad him into murdering the King by calling him a coward. Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valour As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting "I dare not" wait upon "I would", Like the poor cat i'th' adage? (I.7.39-44) At first Macbeth protests. It would wrong for a 'kinsman and a subject' to kill his host. The very idea goes against his sense of morals, making his "seated heart knock at my ribs, against the use of nature". But Lady Macbeth keeps taunting him by calling his masculinity into question. She tells him she would dash the brains out of her own newborn baby if necessary, and she's not even a man. When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place Did then adhere, and yet you would make both. They have made themselves, and that their fitness now Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this. ...read more.


Tragedy befalls both Macduff and Duncan because because they have too much of the feminine side. They are overly trusting, generous and tend to listen to the emotion of their hearts rather than the reasoning of the mind. Malcolm represents the ideal King because he is a balance between the purely feminine and purely masculine sides. He has the feminine qualities of generosity and compassion, yet he is not so passionate that he can't step back and make a shrewd analysis of a situation. Near the end of the play, Malcolm reveals for us the "king becoming graces" that make a good king and a good man. As justice, verity, temperance, stableness, Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, Malcolm is the embodiment of these qualities. He has bravery and courage, tempered with mercy and generosity. His first act as king is to forgive all those who sided with Macbeth and reliquinsh some of his power to the nobles. In conclusion, Shakespeare uses this play to show us two very different ways for men to behave. One, based on getting your way through pure strength and violence, is doomed to failure. As the Macbeth's found out, you can rule over people by instilling fear in them for a short period of time, but eventually they will rise up against you. The proper role for a man is to be strong, yes, but to temper that strength with compassion and trust in others. In human nature there must be a balance between masculinity and femininity, between yin and yang. ...read more.

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