Master: Macbeth and Power Essay

Submitted By str8outtalit
Words: 993
Pages: 4


Power, brutality, nobility, bravery and pride are all conventional characteristics relegated to the masculine image. These traits are constructed to be assumed and expected of males in the 17th century. By following these traits and adhering to the societal expectations men often gained power in a Patriarchal society, weather it be social, financial or sexual. This is evident in Shakespeare's construction of the character Macbeth. In the quotes "brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name-" and "Valiant and a worthy gentleman" show Macbeth to adhere to these traits of bravery, nobility and confidence. ""as cannons overcharged with double cracks… doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe;" this powerful use of imagery and simile highlights Macbeths prowess on the battlefield, comparing his efforts and fighting to that of a doubly powerful cannon. A mans skill and achievement on the battlefield was also considered highly important to a man in the 17 the century, as power is attained over another male in conflict, usually occurring in a fight or head on clash. Macbeth through adhering to these traits gains social power in an elevation of hierarchal station to Thane of Glamis. This shows Shakespeare encourages and actively endorses this construction of a man, as by following its lines one is rewarded. In this way Macbeth reinforces the societal expectations as the classic figure of masculinity in 17th century patriarchal Britain.

In contrast women are marginalised in many areas due to adhering to the typical traits expected of that era. Women in the era of the play are expected to adhere to the Mother Mary archetype, this involves a suppression of sexuality, limited aspirations, defined by marriage. In fact the only power they attain is domestic as their responsibility over children perhaps gives them more influence over their child. This is displayed through post murder Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff. "how wilt though do for a father? / Nay how will you do for a husband?" this quote comes from Lady Macduffs son returning her question, it shows that to some extent the father role can be overlooked as his mother has more power in the domestic role, but highlights in comparison the concern of her lack of husband, reinforcing this notion that women were expected to be defined by their marriage. "To leave his wife, to leave his babes, his mansion and his titles in a place, whence himself does fly?" this quote reinforces the sense that the male is expected to provide, putting reliance on him for basic security, this again marginalises women in how they must rely on their husbands. She is then killed because of her husbands absence. Lady Macduff exemplifies the marginalised women in her adherence to the expected traits. She is unable to function within the society with her husbands absence giving him power over her, as she needs him.

This is also shown through post-murder Lady Macbeth. This is through her definition by marriage and her descent to madness as a result of her alienation from her husband. "How now, my lord! Why do you keep alone," this is a plea for connection with her husband, after murdering Duncan, Macbeth becomes a solitary figure and discontinues her as his confidant, instead relying on the witches. This marks her descent as she looses all ability to function due to this alienation. "It will make us mad" foreshadows this descent to madness that she experiences. "The Thane of Feif had a wife, where is she now?" this further reinforces the notion that the wife role is what defines the woman, not her own ability, it is the rank and station of the husband that brings her power. This definition by marriage is what ultimately marginalises women in 17th century patriarchal societies, as without the husband, women lose all power, they even lose their domestic power as a man is needed to provide