Essay on The Roles of Masculinity and Femininity in Macbeth

1583 Words Dec 5th, 2009 7 Pages
Bradley Allcock
English 162
Essay 2 A prominent and permeating theme in Macbeth is the roles and characteristics of masculinity and femininity. Throughout the play Shakespeare presents the audience with strong and sometimes conflicting views of these gender roles. What exactly defines being a man or a woman? How does an individual’s grasp of these roles effect their actions? Shakespeare shows that a clear and accurate understanding of the concept of masculinity is of critical importance in the success of a ruler. In particular, he illustrates how Macbeth’s acceptance of a perverted, violent view of masculinity leads his kingdom into chaos and turmoil, and leads Macbeth to his inevitable demise. Moral order can only be restored
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He fears that, “Upon my head they have placed a fruitless crown, and put a barren scepter in my grip, thence to be wrenched with an unlineal hand, no son of mine succeeding” (3.1.62-65). Fearing that according to the prophesy Banquo’s heirs will seize his throne; Macbeth hires murderers to kill Banquo and his son. When Macbeth first heard the witches prophesize his rule he expressed misgivings at the possibility of having to kill to achieve it. At this point he has associated his masculinity with cruelty and violence to such an extent that he thinks nothing of ordering the murder of his best friend and his son. Ironically, he convinces the murderers to kill Banquo by asking if they are manly enough to take revenge upon him. “Now, if you have a station in the file, not i’th’ worst rank of manhood, say’t, and I will put that business in your bosoms, whose execution takes your enemy off” (3.1.103-106). The conspicuous similarity in the way he manipulates these men and the way he was manipulated by his wife earlier emphasize his acceptance of a cruel view of what it is to be a man. With the murder of Banquo, Macbeth’s concept of masculinity begins to tear apart his personal life and his kingdom. Macbeth held a banquet with all the nobles that should have been the high point of his new reign. Instead, the ghost of the murdered Banquo appeared and sat at his place at the head of the table. Shakespeare does not make

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