The Issue of Gender

The Issue of Gender

  • Submitted By: ltan
  • Date Submitted: 09/08/2009 3:01 AM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 1844
  • Page: 8
  • Views: 797

In studying Shakespeare’s Macbeth you will have become aware of how the context of the text has shaped the issues associated with the play. Of more interest, perhaps, to what extent has this point of view been your experience in your study of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth?

William Shakespeare was an English poet, a world renowned playwright, and regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. Macbeth, also known as “The Scottish Play”, is believed to have been written sometime during 1603 – 1607, during the reign of King James I. In this play, Shakespeare incorporates many themes which are still present in today’s society. These themes include power, gender, the succession, the witches, violence and good vs. evil.

The issue of gender is frequently presented in Macbeth. In the late 16th century, women were seen as the less dominant gender and they were perceived to be incapable of committing acts of violence. Lady Macbeth, an interesting character manipulates her husband by questioning his manhood. Macbeth says that a woman like her should give birth only to boys and she does not object, but further yearns her need for masculinity by claiming that she herself could be “unsexed,” In the same manner that Lady Macbeth goads her husband on to murder, Macbeth provokes the murderers he hires to kill Banquo by questioning their manhood. Such acts show that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth equate masculinity with naked aggression, and whenever they converse about manhood, violence soon follows. Their understanding of manhood allows the political order depicted in the play to descend into chaos.

At the same time, however, the audience cannot help noticing that women are also sources of violence and evil. The witches’ prophecies spark Macbeth’s ambitions and then encourage his violent behaviour; Lady Macbeth provides the brains and the will behind her husband’s plotting; and the only divine being to appear is Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft....

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