Emasculation of Macbeth
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In the play “Macbeth”, Shakespeare illustrates the evil temptations created by the lust for power. Shakespeare uses characters such as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to show the corruption caused by the desire for more supremacy. Macbeth, being a Scottish General and the Thane of Glamis, is superior to almost everyone and commands much authority. His appetite for power increases when the three witches prophesize his future, in which they foretell him to become the Thane of Cawdor and then eventually the King of Scotland. When the first prognosis becomes a reality, Macbeth realizes the rectitude behind the witches’ prophecies.
Lady Macbeth, his wife, also finds out about the foretelling. They both know that Macbeth is eventually going to be the king, but Lady Macbeth wants Macbeth to speed up that process by assassinating King Duncan. Ensuing a brilliant plan to execute the king, Macbeth succeeds to isolate him but refrains from murdering him. Lady Macbeth pressures Macbeth to murder Duncan, by questioning his manhood should he not follow through with the plan as promised. She challenges him to defend his manhood, asserts her “masculine” dominance and renounces her own femininity.
Through the degradation of Macbeth’s manhood, Lady Macbeth entices him to kill the king. Because Macbeth backs away from the most opportune moment to kill the king, he falls lower in status from a man to a beast, and now has to reaffirm himself as a man to Lady Macbeth. Macbeth promises her that the carnage will be done, but he breaks that promise by passing up such an opportunity. He put his chivalry, and his honor of being a man on the line by making a promise to her. But since he is unable to keep his promise, he loses his honor of being a man. She castigates him by asking “what beast was’t” that he turns into when he decides to let go of such an auspicious moment. To her only an animal, which does not live by honor, would have such an audacity to back away from the promise to a loved one. She thinks of him as a man before he decides to disengage from the plan.
According to her, he “were a man” when he promises her to kill the king. She uses the past tense to drive the point that she no longer thinks of him as a man. He has a chance to prove that he is “more the man” than she thinks him to be. But instead of using that opportunity to assert his manliness, he “unmakes” his manly qualities. Cowardice is not a manly attribute, but he becomes a coward when he decides to back away from the murderous plot. Since he does not have the courage to murder the king and keep his promise, his manly qualities are attenuated in Lady Macbeth’s eyes. By using such humility, Lady Macbeth influences Macbeth to kill the king.
Lady Macbeth again questions Macbeth’s manhood through assertions of her “masculine” dominance. She is the one that formulates a strategy to get rid of the king. During the Shakespearean era, women were believed to be the pacifist and fragile sex. They could not bear to hear about murder, let alone devise a plan to kill someone. Men were believed to be the brutes, and the violent one between the two genders. Both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth contradict these stereotypes. Lady Macbeth is portrayed as an atrocious person with masculine characteristics whereas Macbeth is depicted as the feminine one. Men mostly concocted bloodshed during the Shakespearean days, but Lady Macbeth is the mastermind behind the ploy to assassinate the king. By taking control of the murderous plot, she is showing her dominance over Macbeth. Her plan consists of getting the king’s chamberlains drunk via “wine and wassail.”
She plans to get them to drink enough so that their “memory…shall be a fume.” After such drinking, the chamberlains will be in a deep slumber. Even in their distant sleep their brain will be in disarray because of the drink, and their reasoning becomes a distilling confused thoughts. This will be the perfect time to murder the unguarded Duncan. Then, the “spongy officers…shall bear the guilt” of the assassination. She thinks her plan is inviolable because the blame of the murder will be shifted to the officers, not Macbeth. She thoroughly plans and goes over the plot to kill the king with Macbeth while he just listens to her without any input. By taking charge of the murderous plot away from Macbeth, Lady Macbeth shows her dominance over Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth renounces her femininity to show Macbeth that she could be a better man than him and to influence Macbeth to stand resolute with the plan. Macbeth breaks his promise to Lady Macbeth by abstaining from the murder of the king. But if Lady Macbeth were in his place, she would have gladly killed the king. Killing the king would not have been a difficult task for her because she would have “dashed the brains out” of her own child if she had “sworn” to do so. She directly attacks the masculinity of Macbeth by implying that it would be better for both of them if she were the man of the household. The king would have been dead if the positions of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth were switched. Even though Lady Macbeth is a female, she is bolder than Macbeth. She relinquishes her femininity to challenge Macbeth to act more manly than her and carry out their plot.
Lady Macbeth forces Macbeth to assassinate Duncan, by castigating his manhood if he does not follow through the plan. She instigates him to defend his manhood, asserts her “masculine” dominance and renounces her own femininity. She degrades him to the status of a beast when he fails to carry out the plan. Macbeth is challenged to prove her wrong and show his manliness by killing the king. She firmly asseverates her dominance over him by conceiving the murderous plot. Also by showing that she has more manly instincts between the two, she ignites a fire in Macbeth’s heart that persuades him to prove that he deserves to be called a man. Through skepticism of Macbeth’s manhood, Lady Macbeth entices him to murder the king.