Strength and Weakness in the Minds of Shakespeare’s Women

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Strength and Weakness in the Minds of Shakespeare’s Women When it comes to the women in Shakespeare’s plays, strength and weakness can be determined in terms of their minds. Lady Macbeth is strong in the way she manipulates those around her and will go to no end to get what she wants. Her intentions are clear from the start and she emasculates and belittles her husband to gain control over him. Ophelia from Hamlet is a weaker woman in Shakespeare in that she lets other people, particularly men, make decisions for her. Though she shows small signs of rebellion, Ophelia denies her love for Hamlet on the orders of her father. In both cases, the strength and weakness of these two characters’ minds are what inevitably lead them to their insanity. There are many examples of strong and weak women throughout Shakespeare’s plays, nonetheless, this essay will focus on passages from Hamlet and Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is a frighteningly strong-willed character. From her first appearance, she hints at the fact that she feels she will have to manipulate Macbeth into doing what he needs to become king. She is a woman who knows what she wants and will do what she has to go get it. She says, “Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valor of my tongue all that impedes thee from the golden round” (Act 1.5). She knows from the beginning that she will have to convince Macbeth to kill Duncan and that she will have to counter the doubts that she predicts Macbeth will have. She uses the “valor of [her] tongue” to emasculate her husband to the point that the only way for him to prove his manhood is to kill Duncan and become king. Macbeth may be the one to kill the king, but Lady Macbeth is the means by which he acts. Macbeth has second thoughts throughout the play but Lady Macbeth finds a way to manipulate him in sensitive ways to do what she wants.
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