Gender Roles in Macbeth

Topics: Gender role, Gender, Macbeth Pages: 2 (732 words) Published: October 31, 2012
According to gender theory, society assigns certain roles for men and women. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, these gender roles play an important part in violence. Both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth appeal to the role of “manhood” as violent and aggressive in order to accomplish the murders of King Duncan and Banquo. Women are portrayed as initiators of crimes and are viewed as devious.So, throughout the play, gender roles provide a means for murders and viciousness.

At the beginning of the play, King Duncan awards Macbeth with the title of Thanes of Cawdor because on his heroic fighting against the rebels (I.2.65), and then, Macbeth doesn’t really want to assassinate the king. Macbeth says, “He [King Duncan] hath honoured me of late” (I.7.32). However, Macbeth still wrestles with his evil ambitions for the crown, which the play suggests have stemmed from the witches’ prophecies. Macbeth says, “Stars, hide your fires, / Let not light see my black and deep desires” (I.4.50-51). Once Macbeth decides not to murder the king, Lady Macbeth questions his manhood and calls him a “coward” (I.7.43). Lady Macbeth asks, “Art thou afeard / To be the same in thine own act and valour / As thou art in desire?” (I.7.39-41). She assumes that the stereotypical man is one who is aggressive, violent, and ambitious, and, therefore, she manipulates Macbeth by accusing him of not being a man. Macbeth says, “I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none” (I.7.46-47). Macbeth answers to her threat of his manhood, and commits the murder in order to prove he is a “real” man. This same setup is used again later in the play in the murder of Banquo.

In attempting to retain his kingship, Macbeth hires professional murderers to kill Banquo. Macbeth says to the murderers, “Do you find / Your patience so predominant in your nature / That you can let this go?” (III.1.87-89). Accordingly, as Lady Macbeth had questioned Macbeth’s manhood, Macbeth also questions the manhood of the...
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