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The Role of Women in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Updated on April 26, 2012

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth the relationship between cruelty and masculinity is contrary to most other works of art. This play portrays women to be manipulative, violent, and evil. Macbeth, the play, breaks away from the stereotype that men are the sinister ones and shows that evil can, and does, come in many different forms.

Lady Macbeth is the greatest evil in the play and is the mastermind behind all of Macbeth’s evil deeds. While Macbeth does the actual murdering, his actions and thoughts imply that he does not really want to kill Duncan or Banquo. After Macbeth murders Duncan he whispers, “Macbeth hath murdered sleep…” This means that Macbeth has killed his innocence and he feels regret for that. Also, once he returns from Duncan’s chamber with the bloody dagger he does not want to return to the scene of the crime to put the dagger back because he does not want to relive what he has done. Again, this shows remorse. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth angrily returns the dagger and calls Macbeth a coward. This shows that Lady Macbeth feels no guilt for pressuring her husband into killing Duncan and a person without guilt for such a crime as this is a person full of evil. Another aspect of evil is greed; and Lady Macbeth is very greedy. When she hears of the witches’ prophecy she immediately forces Macbeth to act on it. She forces him to do things that he would not have normally done just so that she could be the queen of Scotland. She wanted Duncan dead so badly but since she was a women, and women were believed to be innocent and kind (this is illustrated when she says “unsex me here...”), she practically could not. So, she forces her husband to do her will even though he had little desire for violence.

Lady Macbeth resemble the exact opposite of what a lady usually resembles in literary works. Shakespeare does this to show that not all women, as we know, are sweet and courteous. He is showing the bad side of women which was never shown in literature before, in this regard, Shakespeare pioneer for all writers after him.


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    • kloydskii profile image

      kloydskii 5 years ago

      Engaging insights! This is one of my favorite Shakespearean works. "Out, out, brief candle..."