Shakespeare lived in an era where women possessed few political and private rights. This was especially the case with married women who, under law, had no political power whatsoever. A model of male domination and female submission assumed and women were viewed as inferior beings. Women were subjected to the will of men simply because men were thought to be greater morally, physically, intellectually and mentally. Such stereotypical views remain, to an extent, entrenched in society today. Shakespeare, living in a patriarchal world, was subjected to this value system. His powerful play Macbeth, reflects the aspects of his world but also challenges the very basis of its foundations through the characters, Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff. The play reproduces a different kind of reality in which Shakespeare constructs his own representation of female characters living in a patriarchal world.
Shakespeare draws the reader's attention as to what it is to be a man and what its like to possess masculine characteristics. Macbeth's masculinity is defined by himself and influenced by the people around him. If this manliness is to be questioned, it is not to be done on the battlefield. The challenge against Macbeth's manhood, which upholds the typified male of the era, comes from beyond the military domain. The evil by possessed by Lady Macbeth, curtesy from the three witches, provides the trigger by which Macbeth's feminine 'imperfections' are targeted. After Macbeth's procrastination before the murder of King Duncan, Lady Macbeth realises that her husband needs encouragement to commit such an act. This is achieved through sexual taunting, powered by Lady Macbeth's vaulting ambition.
In Lady Macbeth's desire to unsex herself, she provokes her husband to action by portraying herself as the superior male figure. In doing so she succeeds in reversing the typical male and female roles in society. Taking on board these masculine qualities Lady Macbeth fails to submit to her...
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