Gender and Manliness

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Manliness is an interesting feature. It is not a quality that most males naturally possess; it is a quality that males strive to possess, an attribute that makes them feel more self-assured and more confident. In this sense, it is simply a type of acting. Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare, clearly illustrates how attempting to be more masculine can take a negative toll, and instead of making one feel more confident, it can make them confused and mentally scarred. In the play, Macbeth, the main character, goes as far as murdering a man to prove his manliness to his wife. As time goes on, his actions begin to psychologically damage him, leaving him worried and anxious.

Early in the play, we are provided with examples of manliness that would lead us to believe that it is a harmful quality. First, Lady Macbeth uses the issue of masculinity and manhood to manipulate her husband, leading him to kill the king. "What beast was't, then, that made you break this enterprise to me? 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 (I.vii.47-51)," she says. In essence, Lady Macbeth taunts Macbeth, saying that he once had the daring personality needed to kill the king, but is now suddenly deprived of manhood. She uses it to her benefit, and this becomes one of the major reasons that Macbeth finally decides to murder the king.

Unfortunately, we see Macbeth himself taking what he has learned from his wife and using it himself. Later on in the play, Macbeth finds that Banquo knows of his crimes against the king. He decides to send a group of murderers to find Banquo and to kill him. However, these men are reluctant to do so, similar to the way Macbeth was reluctant to kill the king earlier in the play. Macbeth decides to use Lady Macbeth's sinister technique, and questions the manhood of the murderers in order to rouse them into killing Banquo. With both this instance and the instance of Macbeth killing the...
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