How is gender explored in the text Macbeth?
The Jacobean play Macbeth by William Shakespeare is notorious for its inversion of traditional gender roles. This particular play discusses the main theme of gender in a variety of forms including that of the distinct societal expectations about the roles of men and women. Gender refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female; therefore the expectations portrayed in the play Macbeth are somewhat abstract to society’s understanding of the phrase gender. Shakespeare challenges these distinctions through the characters of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth who subvert representations of gender. The feminine personality traits of compassion and mild acceptance are shown throughout the play through the character Macbeth, rather than his wife Lady Macbeth. In the Elizabethan era it was expected that the man was somewhat heroic and brave, someone who was an active participant with a lack of compassion. Shakespeare shows these qualities in Macbeth but not in the characters the audience expects. Shakespeare challenges these distinctions between man and woman. From the very beginning of the play, Shakespeare questions Macbeth’s masculine qualities. He is a man who has a heart, something which is not seen to the Elizabethan audience as being a masculine trait. He is one of Duncan’s most courageous generals; his eager ambition to become King of Scotland corrupts him and the driving force of his wife leads him to the murder of King Duncan. Lady Macbeth perceives Macbeth as a man with compassion and understanding. She believes he has too much goodness to get the crown by the quickest way possible. Macbeth is a character of ambition without the evil driving ambition to complete the deed. Seen in his soliloquy, the audience understands how he is trying to convince himself that the murder is the right thing to do. “To prick the sides of my intent but only/Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself” This...
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