Ambitious Woman Through the Macbeth Play

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What makes a woman is the traits that equates to her femininity. Traits that we commonly associate with femininity are compassion, motherhood, and fragility. Lady Macbeth traded those in favor of ambition, ruthlessness, and determination in the pursuit of power. Lady Macbeth pressured her husband into committing regicide to fulfill her greed for power. Lady Macbeth’s character conflicts between femininity and masculinity as they are shaped by cultural norms. Manipulative, greedy, deceitful, and ruthless; Lady Macbeth’s dark intentions develop throughout the play.

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Lady Macbeth does not fit the social construct in terms of femininity and she shows that she is much more than a woman as she proves her strong willpower along with confidence. To an extent Lady Macbeth does not possess any of these qualities. Lady Macbeth is significantly more ambitious than Macbeth as he has “no spur to prick the sides of [his] intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’other---”. All that Macbeth has is his ambition and that is not enough to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth on the other hand is driven by ambition, greedy, and malicious intent to the point that she would murder Duncan without hesitation if she were Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth demonstrates more masculinity than her own husband, Macbeth. She is manipulative, greedy, deceitful, and ruthless. Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to murder Duncan even when he was adamant about refusing to murder Duncan. Stubborn, Macbeth argued with Lady Macbeth about feeling guilty for killing someone who “hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels”. Lady Macbeth is filled with greed after reading Macbeth’s letter about the witches’ prophecy. Greedy for the throne and power, she eventually commits a series of crimes so horrendous that her blood stained hands will end up killing her. She is so consumed with ambition that she becomes deceitful towards Duncan. As seen in her interactions with Duncan, she attempts to gain his trust through flattery. Ruthless, Lady Macbeth cruelly murders Duncan and drives her husband insane with her power hungry greed. She pushes Macbeth to commit murder by questioning the validity of his masculinity. This drives Macbeth to kill Duncan in an attempt to prove his manliness to his wife.

Although Lady Macbeth is a woman, that doesn’t stop her from participating in her ruthless plans. Lady Macbeth definitely does not encompass the typical women at that time. She is not submissive, empathetic, sensitive, and tolerant. She does not follow the norm in that time period; she follows her own desires as she does not care about others’ opinions. She is stubborn and becomes very threatening towards her husband as he does not have the necessary will to fulfill her deepest and darkest desires. Lady Macbeth is intelligent and ambitious which are traits that are not socially accepted as they are usually attributed to males. Lady Macbeth’s masculine soul is being trapped in the body of a female which holds her back from committing the murder herself.  

Works cited

  1. Shakespeare, W. (1623). The Tragedy of Macbeth. Retrieved from
  2. Showalter, E. (1985). Representing Ophelia: Women, madness, and the responsibilities of feminist criticism. Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, 77-94.
  3. Barber, C. L. (1957). Shakespeare's lady Macbeth. The Kenyon Review, 19(2), 163-178.
  4. Howard, J. E. (2003). The rhetoric of identity: “The Moor” and “The Jew” in Shakespeare’s Othello and The Merchant of Venice. Journal of Literary Studies, 19(1-2), 84-103.
  5. Jones, K. R. (1984). Lady Macbeth: A renaissance study of gender roles. University of Chicago Press.
  6. Roche, T. P. (1984). Shakespearean power and punishment: A volume of essays. Associated University Presses.
  7. Rosenthal, R. (1973). Women's voices in Shakespeare's tragedies. Women's Studies, 1(2), 177-196.
  8. Scodel, J. (1984). Mothers and daughters in Hamlet: New women and old. Shakespeare Quarterly, 35(1), 74-82.
  9. Showalter, E. (1985). The new feminist criticism: Essays on women, literature, and theory. Pantheon Books.
  10. Tennenhouse, L. (1986). Power on display: The politics of Shakespeare's genres. Methuen.

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