The Reversal of Gender Roles
Gender roles defined in the dictionary as the pattern or masculine or feminine behavior of an individual that is defined by a particular culture and a child’s upbringing (Dictionary.com). Throughout cultural and social stereotypes, males are projected as the stronger gender, while females are projected as the weaker gender. Men are thought to be more significant than a women since they were usually the financial providers for their families. Women, on the other hand, were believed be jobless, helpless, and not able to think for themselves. From those days to present day, women are breaking cultural and social stereotypes from the older eras and striving to be deemed equal to men. William Shakespeare attempts to explain the relationship between gender and power by inverting the roles of two characters of the opposite gender. In the tragedy, Macbeth, William Shakespeare employs various rhetorical devices to demonstrate Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s switch in traditional gender roles, which arise from the consequences for each character’s actions and speech.
Plotting to murder Duncan in order to succeed the throne, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth switch traditional gender roles through their actions and speech. The switch in roles exemplifies inverted gender and social roles during their era. After Macbeth discovers the Witches’ prophecy, he tells his wife, Lady Macbeth about it. She reacts differently than one would expect a woman to act. She begins to mock Macbeth and ridicule his masculinity. By the conveyance of her speech, Lady Macbeth emphasizes that she is in charge and that Macbeth needs to follow her in order to achieve anything, as she states, “Yet do I fear thy nature;/ It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness/To catch nearest way” (1.5.16-18). Shakespeare employs the rhetorical device of a metaphor to describe Lady Macbeth’s view on Macbeth’s personality. Her comparison between him and the milk of human kindness infers that Macbeth is kind and compassionate. Lady Macbeth believes due to Macbeth’s nature, he will not have the determination to go along with the plan and its consequence. The way in which Lady Macbeth speaks is ironic seeing as Lady Macbeth is a woman and she is calling Macbeth a coward and criticizing his role as a man. In cultural stereotypes, men were known to have control over the women by making all the decisions for the household without any different perspectives. Lady Macbeth seems to embody these male-like characteristics. On the other hand, Shakespeare depicts Macbeth as a feminine male because of his hesitation to go with the prophecy. Through his speech, Macbeth contemplates the act of murder and hesitates with the idea, as he ponders, “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well/ It were done quickly” (1.7.1-2). Shakespeare exploits a slight repetition, resembling an anaphora, to demonstrate Macbeth’s contrasting thoughts of murdering Duncan. He believes that he has no reason to kill Duncan, the king of Scotland, and that the king has not done any harm to him. However, his thoughts alter when Lady Macbeth disrespects his masculinity. Macbeth wants to prove to Lady Macbeth that he can go with the plan and suffer any consequences that arrive. The use of vague pronouns becomes prevalent as Macbeth speaks. Shakespeare applies this to exhibit Macbeth’s hidden intentions and his inner personality, which is being too caring and pondering the necessary actions he should take. He is not yet willing to admit to the violence he plans to commit or come to terms with the new character that he is forced to become, which is a ruthless, conscienceless murderer. Overall, Lady Macbeth seems to be the dominant figure of the house, whereas Macbeth seems to be the minor figure of the house.
After murdering King Duncan, Macbeth feels remorse for the actions he carried out, while Lady Macbeth dismisses the actions without any conscience. Both of the characters still...
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