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Module 1: Macbeth Themes

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English - Masculinity

Masculinity

One cannot ignore the repeated references to manhood in this play. Clear
distinctions are made between male characteristics and feminine
characteristics.

Lady Macbeth frequently questions Macbeth's manhood and seeks to rid him
of the feminine characteristics of kindness and compassion. Indeed, in her
soliloquy after reading Macbeth's letter, she calls on the spirits to rid
herself of these traits and replace them with masculine qualities. Macbeth,
in discussing what a well-liked and respected King Duncan was, attributes
to him the feminine quality of meekness.

In an interesting essay Marilyn French discusses the gender distinctions
in Macbeth. She believes that the world Shakespeare depicted valued the
masculine over the feminine and it was this that allowed evil to reign in
Scotland. She claims that what was needed in Scotland was a balance between
what she calls the masculine and feminine principles.

If Macbeth had not lost his 'feminine' characteristics he would not have
committed the crimes he did. She concludes by saying "Shakespeare clearly
saw the danger to society of such a priority; he examines the cost of
allowing power, might to override every other value" (French, Marilyn,
"Macbeth and Masculine Values" in Shakespeare's Division of Experience,
London, 1982, pp.242-51).

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