Macbeth - a Product of Its Time

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In the Jacobean era there was a strong presence of a social hierarchy and the belief in the natural order of all things which was heavily based in the Great Chain of Being. Within this structure men held the position of power above women. Any breech in this order, such as a women outstepping her position to that of above a man, would create an imbalance in nature and result in total chaos. At the reign of Queen Elizabeth people began to question these ideologies. Macbeth by William Shakespeare is a dramatic play written to reinforce these patriarchal ideologies in question. The representation of characters Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and the Three Witches deviating traditional ideologies and creating turmoil and disorder within society help to support the dominant patriarchal ideologies within the Great Chain of Being.
Shakespeare constructs the Three Witches as defiant and disloyal to contextual gender ideologies of the time to emphasise the immorality of transgressing into masculinity. When we are first introduced to the weird sisters in Act 1 Scene 3 Banquo comments on one of their defining features; “you should be women, but your beards forbid me from interpreting that you are so”. In this we are clearly shown that the weird sisters possess traits of masculinity. The association of witchery and the supernatural, which was believed to be the work of the devil, and the outstepping of your gender role would have heightened the sinfulness to a Jacobean audience and created an association between evil and women having masculine traits. When we find out that the witches are in fact manipulating Macbeth and hold power of him their masculine traits help explain that only men can hold power and that the witches have sacrificed their femininity to become supernatural beings of power. Not only do the witches possess traits of masculinity, they also completely lack feminine

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