Gender Stereotypes and its Role within Macbeth Act 1, Scene 1-7
In Macbeth, William Shakespeare’s play that focuses around themes of murder and deception, gender stereotypes of the time are referenced frequently in the plot. In the first act of the play, women and men have specific attributes that characters base a lot of personal decisions off of and use to manipulate other characters. Macbeth, a man who the play focuses on, is at an eternal internal conflict between good or bad actions. Many of his evil decisions are based or rationalized upon his perception of “manliness” he must fulfill and his impression that to be a man, he must murder and be courageous. Lady Macbeth, a woman who is a fierce and has “masculine” character, uses her perception of gender roles to encourage her thoughts of murder and convince Macbeth to commit the murder.
Men should be courageous and fierce whilst ladies should not be in Macbeth. When Lady Macbeth hears that her husband may be king, she concludes that it is necessary to murder the present king to fulfill his destiny. Deciding to put aside her natural femininity, she goes on planning the necessary killing and screams, “You spirits / that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / of direst cruelty” (1.5.38-41). Judging from this statement said to encourage her evil thoughts, Lady Macbeth is wishing that spirits or the supernatural come and take away her femininity and replace it with cruelness or, in her mind, manliness. Later on, she proposes to Macbeth the plan to murder the king. Her husband is hesitant so she becomes manipulative claiming that to uphold your manhood, one must be cruel. “When you durst do it, then you were a man” (1.7.49), exclaims Lady Macbeth to Macbeth.
Both Lady Macbeth and her husband know that men are supposed to be cruel and they both know that Lady Macbeth’s personality is especially “manly” and fierce. Using...
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