The Food Gift

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William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, deals with the issue of manhood in a slightly unconventional way. Instead of presenting a protagonist who conveys the true nature of manhood through his every action and thought, Shakespeare presents his audience with Macbeth, a character who is forced to struggle with the definition of manhood throughout the entire play. In addition to Macbeth, Shakespeare also presents his audience with the varying viewpoints of different men and even women of the play as to what true manhood is. By noting these different perceptions, the reader is able to make general observations about manhood, that it is intricately related to strength, that it can be displayed through feats of courage, and other types of similar observations. However, it is difficult to reach any one conclusion as to how Shakespeare defines manhood in Macbeth. Interestingly enough, it is quite possible that this is Shakespeare’s very intent. Shakespeare challenges his audience to derive their own definition of manhood. By doing this, Shakespeare drives home the point loud and clear: every man must obtain his own conclusion about manhood from within himself. In order to be a true man, it is necessary to follow ones own definition of what manhood is. Many times, manhood is attributed to the courage of an individual. The reason for this is that courage signifies inner strength through the confrontation of limitations and through surpassing those limitations. True courage, however, can only be defined by that individual himself because only he knows the limitations to his own courage. Courage has many different levels and facets. It is relative to each man; what may be courage to one man may not be to another. The reason for this is because every man has his set of limitations to his courage. Not every man experiences the same fears and confronts the same dangers. The meaning of courage can also change according to different situations. A soldier on the battlefield must summon up a different type of courage than that of a man about to propose to a woman. All men confront different types and levels of worries. Based on these experiences, a limitation is established within each man. This is why true courage can only be achieved through ones own will. There is no other person that can define another person’s limitations for him. By realizing these limitations and confronting them, true courage is displayed. True courage comes with the realization of ones own character, not through the fulfillment of what others believe defines courage. Macbeth, at an early point in the play, shows the very conflict mentioned above with his beloved Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s definition of courage is attributed to pursuing ones ambition. She believes Macbeth lacks courage because he is unwilling to follow his own ambitions. These beliefs are revealed when she states, “Thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it” (I,v,18-20). Lady Macbeth tries to appeal to Macbeth’s ambition by imposing her own definition of manhood on him. However, Macbeth finds himself reluctant to pursue it. The reason is because the limitation that Lady Macbeth asks him to confront is not his own. To Macbeth, her view of courage does not coincide with his view of courage. Committing the murder does not allow him to surpass the limitations to his own view of courage. Rather, he is attempting to confront and fulfill Lady Macbeth’s definition of manhood. Macbeth attempts to reassure himself of this when he says, “Prithee peace! I dare do all that may become a man; who dares do more is none” (I,vii,46-8). Macbeth reveals his desire to do all that he is able within himself to achieve manhood. He also reveals his hesitance to do more than is necessary to fulfill it, signifying that crossing the line of his own limitations would go so far as to deprive him of his manhood. This distinction is revealed in Shakespeare’s use of pronouns. The shift...
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