MacbethThis print version free essay Macbeth.
Autor: reviewessays 20 February 2011
Words: 849 | Pages: 4
Shakespeare lived in an era where women possessed few political and private rights. This was especially the case with married women who, under law, had no political power whatsoever. A model of male domination and female submission assumed and women were viewed as inferior beings. Women were subjected to the will of men simply because men were thought to be greater morally, physically, intellectually and mentally. Such stereotypical views remain, to an extent, entrenched in society today. Shakespeare, living in a patriarchal world, was subjected to this value system. His powerful play Macbeth, reflects the aspects of his world but also challenges the very basis of its foundations through the characters, Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff. The play reproduces a different kind of reality in which Shakespeare constructs his own representation of female characters living in a patriarchal world.
Shakespeare draws the readerâ€™s attention as to what it is to be a man and what its like to possess masculine characteristics. Macbeth's masculinity is defined by himself and influenced by the people around him. If this manliness is to be questioned, it is not to be done on the battlefield. The challenge against Macbeth's manhood, which upholds the typified male of the era, comes from beyond the military domain. The evil by possessed by Lady Macbeth, curtesy from the three witches, provides the trigger by which Macbeth's feminine 'imperfections' are targeted. After Macbeth's procrastination before the murder of King Duncan, Lady Macbeth realises that her husband needs encouragement to commit such an act. This is achieved through sexual taunting, powered by Lady Macbethâ€™s vaulting ambition.
In Lady Macbeth's desire to unsex herself, she provokes her husband to action by portraying herself as the superior male figure. In doing so she succeeds in reversing the typical male and female roles in society. Taking on board these masculine qualities Lady Macbeth fails to submit to her husband publicly and politically. Lady Macbeth becomes the head of the household as she adopts masculine qualities. She does not obey Macbeth's plea for 'peace' in the discussion of Duncan's murder nor does remain contented. Her actions here are the precise opposite. She ridicules her husband's compassion asserting that Macbeth is 'too full o'th'milk of human kindness' and beseeches him to 'look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under't.' Lady Macbeth has clear intentions and will go to any means necessary to achieve her goal even if it means unsexing herself.
Lady Macbeth rejects her political role as easily as she discards her domestic one. Such rejection occurs when she offers advice to Macbeth prompting him to commit regicide in her quest for power. She recognises that she can only wield the power of kingship through the manipulation of a well-placed male figure, her husband. Acknowledging the restraints of a woman in the political world during the 17th century, Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to act on 'their' behalf. She openly defies the notions of the time that dictated womenâ€™s behaviour. Lady Macbeth's rejection of this position in society, usurps Macbeth's role as ruler his kingdom. Lady Macbeth however, does not hesitate and persuades her husband onto the darker side of nature while calling upon the evil spirits to 'unsex me here.' (Mutual sexed) Such a display of evil and desire to kill is a sheer presentation of opportunistic ambition - a male characteristic. Shakespeare portrays Lady Macbeth as a woman who marginalises her true feminine side and adopts masculine qualities in which are used to gain power in a patriarchal society.
Lady Macduff has an inner strength that defies the stereotype of which she otherwise fits. She has strength, nobility, courage and a loyalty. Such male attributes are demonstrated when the murderers employed by Macbeth arrive at her castle slaying all that they can find. Lady Macduff states 'I hope Macduff is in no place so unsanctified where such as thou mayst find him.' Her loyalty to her husband, Macduff who is a true man. Honest and pure, and in control of her own destiny, she stands for love, and for him. Lady Macduff questions why she should put up such a 'womanly defence' to say she 'has done no harm' and thus does not deserve to die. She stands up courageously and meets her death with dignity. Lady Macduff is the same warrior as her husband, only constrained by the female restraints of a patriarchal society
Throughout the analysis of the main female characters, Lady Macbeth, and Lady Macduff, it becomes clear that Shakespeare has positioned the reader to view these characters in positions of power. However to achieve such positions of power, the female characters have utilised the typical qualities of a male. As the play was written in a patriarchal society, adopting the qualities of a male was the only way to achieve power. Shakespeare supports the idea of living in a patriarchal society and this is reflected in his play Macbeth in which creates a unique reality of gender construction. Shakespeare challenges the stereotypical role of women in a patriarchal society through placing them in positions of power.