Macbeth and Women in 1600s

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During the time period in which Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, women were uneducated, they were forced to act submissively and never express their opinions. Shakespeare, by using several female characters, particularly the Three Witches with powerful roles, made a complete turnaround from the norm as he went against expectations for the time period. One of the first examples of this is in Act 1 Scene 3 when one of the witches reveals that she has been ‘killing swine’ this contradicts the way women should have behaved during the 1600s as they were perceived to be kind, caring creatures. This is one of the commonest charges brought against supposed witches in Shakespeare's day was that they maliciously killed by pestilence, or the evil eye, the domestic animals of those they had a grudge against. The fact that this is some of the first activity from the witches gives us an insight into the masculinity that the witches hold. ‘Killing swine’ means that the witch was killing pigs, this gives the reader the impression that she holds no emotions that are stereotypically associated with women and that she is not affected by death and not a delicate flower that many women during this time were perceived to be. A further example is the harsh language that one of the witches uses to describe another woman. She describes her as a ‘rump-fed runnion’, which is an abusive expression. This comes as a shock to the readers as during this period of time woman were expected to be very soft spoken and to not speak ill of anyone. Also, due to women’s minor role in society their opinions were often not heard or considered valuable so to her a female speak in such volatile words. Not only this but it also expresses that they do not think very highly of other women who live a mundane life as they hold no power or respected place in society. Finally, one of the witches confesses, when
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