Explore The Representation Of Women In Macbeth

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Explore the representation of women in Macbeth, taking into consideration Gothic conventions and critical theories.
Shakespeare uses gender roles to drive the plot in Macbeth; Lady Macbeth uses her sexuality to convince Macbeth to killing Duncan by questioning his masculinity. “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.” Lady Macbeth is shown as an strong willed character willing to have “plucked my nipple from [her child’s] boneless gums. And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this” to later being shown as possessed by nightmares of guilt. As Janet Adelman writes, "In the figures of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the witches, the play gives us images of a masculinity and a femininity that are terribly disturbed." This is true in the way that Lady Macbeth subverts social norms at the time, patriarchal society encourages Lady Macbeth to invest herself in the role of mother, her transgressive behaviour is seen as selfish and abnormal, contrary to patriarchy’s belief that women’s desire to have and protect children is a part of role in society.
On the other hand, Lady Macduff provides an example of a woman who generally stays within the bounds of her gender, portrayed as the epitome of motherhood- she serves as a contrast to Lady Macbeth’s transgressive behaviour. In order for Lady Macbeth to carry out her plans, she feels she must pray that the gods “unsex [her] here.” Even then, it is not her intent to carry out the murder herself, but to spur on her husband. The irony of this attempt to masculate herself is highlighted by the fact she was trying to be the good and dutiful wife of the newly emerging middle class culture, trying to ‘better’ her husband. While intelligence from a male character would be seen as a beneficial trait, patriarchy defines Lady Macbeth’s intelligence as a flaw and as an indicator that she is ‘unnatural’ and ‘unfulfilled’ as a woman.
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