Lady Macbeth and Gender

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Considering the character of Lady Macbeth, discuss the treatment of gender in Macbeth. Throughout Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth (Norton, 815), the treatment of gender is explored through many characters. Lady Macbeth embodies masculine characteristics that starkly contrast the role of women during that time. Shakespeare’s deliberate and heavy use of imagery and a plethora or literary devices assist in underpinning critical themes in the play and create a sense of meaning for the play. Lady Macbeth’s disposition brings to the fore many themes concerning gender, including; the definition of manhood and alternatively femininity, the role of women in the play highlighted through the characters of Lady Macbeth and the Witches, and the synonymy between masculinity and cruelty. Through key scenes in Macbeth, particularly Act 1, Scene 5 (Norton), Lady Macbeth’s gender is explored as she indicates that she must compensate for her husbands lack of masculine characteristics and thus propel him to commit Duncan’s murder. Similarly, the ambiguity of the Witches gender is reiterated through their very own being- a violation of how women were expected to behave. Act 1, Scene 5 introduces the audience to Lady Macbeth’s indifference to the feminine qualities not only of herself, but also those of which her husband possesses. Lady Macbeth decidedly usurps the dominant role because she feels her husband “is too full o’ the milk of human kindness” (i.v.16). The allusion to breast ‘milk’, a womanly attribute, further reiterates Lady Macbeth’s association between kindness and femininity, and how her husband is not masculine for having such qualities. She furthers this by highlighting that his ambition is not matched with cruelty in order to become king. Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy is paramount in blurring the traditional gender stereotypes and is significantly in contrasting
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