The actions one takes are overlooked due to the rules created by society. Gender roles are norms created by society that dictate the behaviour of each gender. The main types of gender stereotypes are personality traits, domestic behaviours, and physical appearance. In the play, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, the protagonist, Macbeth, gets very ambitious about becoming King. He commits murder after being convinced by his wife, Lady Macbeth. He then gets other people killed in order to reach his goal of becoming King. Shakespeare explores and challenges the traditions of society by creating unique circumstances.
In the play, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, and the Witches subvert the stereotypical gender roles. To begin, Lady Macbeth shows masculine and feminine characteristics through a variety of events. Lady Macbeth takes control and convinces Macbeth to kill King Duncan in order for him to live up to his ambition. She states, “Was the hope drunk/ Wherein you dressed yourself? hath it slept since? / And wakes it now, to look so green and pale/ At what it did so freely? / From this time/ Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard/ To be the same in the thine own act and valour/ As thou art in desire? (1. 7. 36-41).
Lady Macbeth controls Macbeth as she uses the ambition that he has of becoming King against him. Macbeth was scared to commit the deed, but Lady Macbeth does not give him an option. She insults Macbeth by saying that he is too weak to become the King of Scotland. Lady Macbeth shows a masculine characteristic because she is in control. Additionally, Lady Macbeth completes the actions Macbeth fails to complete. Lady Macbeth states “Infirm of purpose! / Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead/ Are but as pictures: ’tis the eye of childhood/ That fears a painted devil.
If he do bleed,/ I’ll gild the fears of the grooms withal,/ For it must seem their guilt. ” (2. 2. 52-57). Macbeth manages to kill King Duncan but is unable to hide the evidence after the deed. Lady Macbeth takes initiative as she takes the dagger from Macbeth and makes sure it is placed in the right place. Also, she kills the guards that Macbeth failed to kill due to his fear. She subverts the gender roles as she is fearless about committing this deed opposed to being scared. However, Lady Macbeth faints when she finds out about the death of King Duncan.
She states while she faints, “Help me hence, ho! ” (2. 3. 130). Lady Macbeth faints after hearing about the death of King Duncan. She was very strong towards committing the deed, but ends up fainting after it was committed. She faints, which shows she was weak and could not handle a death. Shakespeare explores stereotypical gender roles with this event as it shows female are meant to be weak. Therefore, Lady Macbeth acts according to gender roles and also completely opposite, allowing Shakespeare to explore and challenge the norms set by society.
Moreover, Macbeth subverts and acts according to the stereotypical gender roles due to the actions he takes. Macbeth needed to kill King Duncan in order to get closer to his goal of becoming King but was scared. Macbeth states, “[i]f th’ assassination/ Could trammel up the consequence and catch,/ With his surcease, success; that but this blow/ Might be the beall and the end-all here,/ But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,/ We’d jump the life to come. ” (1. 7. 2-7). Macbeth is weak and does not have the courage to commit murder. He fears all the consequences and problems that will arise if the King is murdered.
A man that is weak and lacks courage shows a feminine quality according to the stereotypical gender roles. Furthermore, Macbeth feels guilty after killing King Duncan in his sleep. He states,” Methought I heard a voice cry ‘sleep no more! / Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,/ Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,/ The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,/ Balm of hurt minds,” (2. 2. 35-39). Macbeth kills King Duncan and he starts to hear voices in his head because of the guilt. Macbeth experiences a shock of hearing these voices as he realizes what he has done.
Not to mention, he is weak and cannot control his actions after the murder as he fails to hide the evidence, the dagger. The stereotypical gender roles subvert as weakness is seen as a feminine quality. Then, Macbeth kills the family of Macduff by planning murders using his power. He states, “To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done:/ The castle of Macduff I will surprise/ Seize upon Fife, give to th’ edge o’th’ sword/ His wife, his babies, and all unfortunate souls/ That trace him in his line. ” (4. 1. 149-153). Macbeth feels powerful and wants to take desperate actions.
He uses his power as he wants to attack the castle of Macduff. The plan also includes murdering the family of Macduff. Macbeth gets the family killed and is showing signs of power during these actions. In this situation, Shakespeare is exploring the stereotypical gender roles as he is giving Macbeth a masculine characteristic. As a result, these events lead Macbeth to live according to the gender roles along with opposing them. To end off, Macduff and the Witches play a key role in subverting stereotypical gender roles. Macduff becomes emotional after he finds out that his family has been killed.
He states, “I cannot but remember such things were / That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,/ And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,/ They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,/ Not for their own demerits, but for mine,/ Fell slaughter on their souls: heaven rest them now! ” (4. 3. 223-227). Macduff is upset about the events that occur and is too weak to do anything about it. Instead of being strong and getting revenge on Macbeth, he gets emotional. Shakespeare subverts the stereotypical gender role as he gives Macduff a feminine characteristic of emotion.
Macduff uses his anger as he wants to fight Macbeth. He states, “[F]ront to front/ Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;/ Within my sword’s length set him; if he ‘scape,/ Heaven forgive him too! ” (4. 3. 232-235). Macduff gets rid of his grief by converting it into anger and strength. Macduff prepares himself to fight with Macbeth with the visions of getting revenge for his family. In this situation, he shows courage and power, which according to the stereotypical gender roles is a masculine quality. In addition, the Witches influence the destiny of Macbeth in the play.
The witches state, “All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be King hereafter. ” (1. 3. 50). When Macbeth sees the Witches for the first time they tell him he is going to become a King. Macbeth gets inspiration and ambitions of becoming the King of Scotland. After this meeting, Macbeth becomes determined to reach the goal and Lady Macbeth forces him to murder the current King. The Witches subvert the stereotypical gender roles as they are females with power, which gives them masculine characteristics. Therefore, Macduff opposes and lives according to the stereotypical gender roles whereas the Witches just oppose them.
In conclusion, Shakespeare explores and challenges the gender roles created by society through Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Macduff, and the Witches. Lady Macbeth takes control over the actions of Macbeth and shows no fear while she hides the dagger that killed King Duncan, which shows stereotypical masculine characteristics. After she finds out the news of King Duncan’s death, she seems to faint showing the stereotypical feminine characteristics. In addition, Macbeth shows examples of subverting and supporting the stereotypical gender roles by first being scared to kill King Duncan but after killing, Macbeth feels guilty.
Then, Macbeth shows power and gets the family of Macduff killed. Macduff also subverts the stereotypical gender roles as he becomes emotional over the death of his family. Not long after, he turns his emotions into anger and wants to get revenge on Macbeth, supporting the stereotypical masculine role. Also, the Witches subvert the stereotypical gender roles as they have power to influence the destiny of Macbeth. Lastly, this shows that Shakespeare explores and challenges the gender roles in Macbeth. The stereotypical gender roles created by society are still forcing people to act, behave or interact a certain way