Gender Norms in Macbeth William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” explores and challenges the idea of traditional gender roles and/or gender norms. The female characters in this play have a strong sense of masculine traits while the male characters are actually shown with feminine traits, reversing the stereotypical roles of genders. One of the typical gender norms in society is that men are the workers and providers and essentially the strength of the family, as women take more of a nurturing and caring role and are labeled as emotional and inferior. From this, a man’s physical strength is represented as being strong and brave at superior and horrific times, yet in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it shows that they, the men, can end up weak while the women remain “strong” as shown multiple times between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. The roles between the Macbeths’ progressively transition throughout the play showing how the stereotypical gender norms are challenged and explored.
The Macbeths obviously do not represent the stereotypical husband and wife. Within the first couple acts of the play when Lady Macbeth is being introduced we can see the sense of dominance and power in her character over her husband, Macbeth, which is not the average stereotypical trait of a woman. Lady Macbeth blatantly distinguishes herself as the dominant force in the relationship. For instance, when Macbeth is hesitant of how to manage King Duncan’s visit to their home, Lady Macbeth instantly seizes control of the situation, demanding that Macbeth lets her take control of the situation as shown in “Let me handle tonight’s preparations, because tonight will change every night and day for the rest of our lives.” (1.5. 57-60). This is an example of how the gender roles are reversed as the men/husbands of our society are usually portrayed as being assertive or dominant to handling situations, not the women/wives. Macbeth and his wife also switch roles in terms of