Macbeth Manhood and Masculinity
By: Ray Pinter
“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here” (1.5.40-41).
This quote spoken by Lady Macbeth portrays how she is willing and wanting to give up her femininity and become a man, all for the sake of the plot against King Duncan. She directly opposes the common Elizabethan idea that women are nurturers and givers of life. Lady Macbeth hands over these beliefs that she may join in the assassination of Duncan and become a taker of life. This quote shows how Lady Macbeth takes on the role of the man, which is described further on in the play through the interactions with her husband Macbeth.
“When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man” (1.7.49-51).
“You do unbend your noble strength, to think so brainsickly of things” (2.2.44-45).
In this quote, Lady Macbeth is scolding Macbeth for being afraid and childlike when he images he hears a voice. This portrays how Macbeth is degrading into the state of a weakling while Lady Macbeth rises in authority. The couple has switched roles, defying the normal trends of the day.
“O, these flaws and starts, Imposters to true fear, would well become A woman’s story at a winter’s fire, authorized by her grandam” (3.4.64-67).
During a banquet Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost and is greatly shaken by its visitation. Lady Macbeth openly chides and scorns Macbeth in front of all the lords for his outburst, saying that he is acting like a woman. This depicts how the Macbeths’ switch in masculine role has grown more blatant that they display it publicly. It also portrays how Macbeth is being reduced into the character of a whimsical, old woman.
“I am so much a fool, should I stay longer It would be my disgrace and your discomfort” (4.2.27-28).
In this scene, Ross explains to a distressed Lady Macduff that he must leave or else he will begin to cry, which would be unmanly and make her uncomfortable. This interaction is significant because it is a complete contrast to Macbeth and his wife. Ross is a true man who, according to custom, cannot cry in front of an emotional women. It is used as a foil to the roles of the Macbeths in order to show real the way men and women were to behave at that time.
“Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier and afeard?