In aid in Macbeth’s initiative of assassinating King Duncan.

In Shakespearean times, families were strictly hierarchical, with men being the head of the household, keeping an assertive role, opposed to their female counterparts who preserved a more submissive position. Women were seen as weak and frail while men held a figure of both power and stability. However, these common stereotypes are explored and inverted through the main characters of Macbeth as their morals are tested throughout the course of the play. In the tragedy of Macbeth, Shakespeare portrays both masculine and feminine qualities in a non-stereotypical manner, instead challenging gender norms around morality through the characters of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.Throughout the work of literature, Lady Macbeth’s violent and ambitious ideology overshadows her indecisive husband who struggles with murder and deceit. Her presentation in the play is complex, representing the masculine qualities in which her husband lacks. For instance, although Lady Macbeth is strict on her desire to gain the crown by murdering King Duncan, Macbeth falters, hesitant to betray the trust of the king. To manipulate Macbeth into executing King Duncan, Lady Macbeth belittles his manhood by using it as leverage to exploit her will unto Macbeth by stating: What beast was ‘t, then,That made you break this enterprise to me?When you durst do it, then you were a man;And to be more than what you were, you wouldBe so much more the man. Nor time nor place…(1.7)By mocking his gender, Lady Macbeth claims control over Macbeth, seizing Macbeth’s position as the head of the house and claiming it for herself. Although being the figurative head of the household, Lady Macbeth often feels deterred by her gender and possesses a grudge, using firm language to portray her personal thoughts by crying:The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood, Stop up th’access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between Th’ effect and it. Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances… (1.5.)With these lines, Lady Macbeth relates her strong and cruel logic with manhood and expresses her desire to reject her feminine qualities to aid in Macbeth’s initiative of assassinating King Duncan. She identifies her breast and milk, fundamental qualities that marks her womanhood, and wishes to shed them so she can show the level of ambition that is required to kill King Duncan.  She believes her womanhood instead bars her from fully connecting her to her true feelings of violence. At first, rejecting her femininity seems to work and she appears to kill without remorse, but in time, guilt begins to creep into her. Her mental and physical state slowly deteriorates as she begins sleepwalking and admitting her guilt, hoping to be forgiven for her past mistake. Ultimately, the guilt over her hidden sin overwhelms her, driving her to suicide. While Lady Macbeth is more straightforward about what she wants, Macbeth holds a more submissive role in the relationship. After assassinating Duncan, he is lost and unsure, stating:  Whence is that knocking?— How is’t with me, when every noise appals me? What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red. (2.2)After the death, Macbeth feels as if his hands are eternally stained with the blood of King Duncan. He bitterly claims that ‘all great Neptune’s ocean’ could not cleanse him from the guilt of the murder, but instead he would be the one to stain the ocean water red. The guilt easily overcomes him, contrary to Lady Macbeth who feels no shame. However, as time passes, these traits switch as Macbeth soon clears himself of all grief.  Macbeth gradually rises to become to more dominant force of the two as Lady Macbeth’s mental state declines. Once king, he begins to assert his newly found dominance over his wife and others as he begins to act more ruthlessly. He plans the death of former friends such as Banquo and Macduff, using murderers to carry out his commands. His ambition drives him to act recklessly, bending people to his will until he becomes widely disliked among the kingdom. This surge of masculinity that overwhelms Macbeth leads him to his downfall by causing his inevitable death.In the tragedy of Macbeth, both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth challenge common gender roles over the course of the play. While Lady Macbeth holds masculine qualities that makes her a driving force behind deception that occurs, Macbeth is more filled with doubt and insecurities. Shakespeare proves that both women and men are capable of the same emotions, from hatred to compassion. Instead it is based on the individual choice that is morality, that forces one to act ruthlessly.


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