When we are born we are assigned a gender which later on can sometimes cause society to judge a person based on gender standards and restrictions, which we either follow or break, through our actions and diction which can lead to an inferior outcome. In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the author uses gender roles to allow the characters to peruse what they believe in through their actions and diction or cause them to face obstacles in which contradict their set gender boundaries.
In Macbeth, gender roles can sometimes force characters to hide their emotion and therefore use others to express themselves. Lady Macbeth’s role as a woman has caused her to keep her emotions inside to the point where she feels the need to express her actions through a male role, Macbeth. She demands the witches, “unsex me here,” revealing that her emotions and gender do not match in the society she lives in. Since Lady Macbeth is not capable of letting herself break those boundaries in order to kill Duncan she puts the weight of a male stereotype on Macbeth’s shoulders, forcing him to prove his masculinity and go forth with the murder. Lady Macbeth asking the witches to “unsex” her shows that she wishes her appearance match her aggression and power she feels on the inside as if she could fit the male gender role. Lady Macbeth’s impatience grows as she says “here” as if she must be fit for murder as soon as possible.
Her feelings of might and strength loosened the more she thought about the murder, causing her to feel unfit for her gender. The synecdoche of her sex resembles herself as whole including her emotions on the inside which are powerful enough for one to lose control and persuade the gender who is said to be fit for murder, commit the crime. By persuading Macbeth with confident words which build his confidence up, Macbeth agrees to the wrongdoing. Through Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare is explaining that sometimes due to gender stereotypes her initial being, is to supply men for her family. Macbeth states, “Bring forth men-children only,/ For thy undaunted mettle should compose/ Nothing but males.” Macbeth telling Lady Macbeth that she should “bring forth men-children only” unveils how men are known to be more powerful and important than women.
Macbeth is asking for “men-children only” which the synecdoche of “men-children” relate in this play to immense amount power and strength which for some characters such as Macduff does not resemble his set gender role. Macbeth saying, “For thy undaunted mettle should compose/ Nothing but males.” Resembles his needs for a male son to carry the success of the family’s future, but also because he believes she will birth nothing but a masculine male who is vigorous and who won’t let the family plunder. The fact that Macbeth made such a point of how Lady Macbeth should have “men-children only” and that he then said again that she should have “nothing but males” emphasizes the desire of how much Macbeth wants to have a son.
In Macbeth, characters deal with gender role labels such as Macbeth who breaks his masculine gender role causing him to be viewed as a coward, leaving him to prove others wrong “When you durst do it,” she says, “then you were a man” “Why so, being gone,/ I am a man again.- Pray you sit still.”
In Macbeth, Shakespeare unveils that characters who remain within their gender role boundaries and who peruse what they believe in, leave them in danger. “Let us rather/ Hold fast the mortal sword and, like good men,/ Bestride our downfall’n birthdom.” “Why then, alas,/ Do I put up that womanly defense,/ To say I have done no harm?”
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