Analysis of the Male Characters Through Macbeth Play

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It is often hard to define the ideal man or woman, but many characters in William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' give the reader a glimpse into their insight. The theme surrounding this essay is that men and women share different views on what a real man should be. The thesis statement which develops the theme is that Lady Macbeth holds a stereotypical vision of a man that she wants Macbeth to be. The main arguments supporting the thesis statement are that Lady Macbeth rejects certain female aspects about herself to be more man-like, she does not see her husband as an ideal man and that some characters share what they feel a man should be to create contrast between Lady Macbeth's stereotype-driven views.

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Lady Macbeth abandons certain feminine traits holding her back from being a man.To become stronger to help her husband kill the king, Lady Macbeth calls supernatural spirits to help her. Lady Macbeth tells the spirits, 'Come, you spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here. By asking the spirits to unsex her, Lady Macbeth wants to disassociate herself from being a woman because of the stereotypical fragileness that comes with it that she deems weak. Lady Macbeth further specifies (to the spirits) a feminine quality she no longer needs. She tells them, 'Come to my woman's breasts/And take my milk for gall' Lady Macbeth wants to vanish her breasts' ability to create milk because it is a feminine quality that encourages life when breastfeeding babies, and replacing it with an unpleasant taste like gall makes it the opposite.

Lady Macbeth tries to be a dominant role figure for her husband as he starts doubting their plan to kill the king, stating that she would kill her child in an instant if it were promised. Lady Macbeth tries to set an example: 'I have given suck, and know/How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me./I would, while it was smiling in my face,/Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums/And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you/Have done to this.' 'Unsettling' could not even begin to describe Lady Macbeth's actions since women are depicted as gentle and caring beings while Lady Macbeth would not only kill her child but also bash their brains out. In summary, Lady Macbeth develops a stereotypical masculine character, being ruthless and violent because that is what she believes is needed to be a man.

Lady Macbeth does not see her husband as a true man. Lady Macbeth is unsure of whether her husband is capable of ruling the country as king after a letter receiving a letter from him. She talks to herself about her husband, 'Yet I do fear thy nature;/It is too full o'th' milk of human kindness' Milk is usually depicted as a gentle drink for children, so by saying that her husband is full of the milk of human kindness, she's almost comparing him to a child or a breastfeeding mother. During Macbeths' feast, Macbeth starts having an anxiety attack and tries to inform his wife of his hallucinations but she insists to him that he's overreacting. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth that she doesn't believe him:

'Oh, these flaws and starts,/Imposters to true fear, would well become/A woman's story at a winter's fire.'Lady Macbeth compares his anxiousness to that of a female telling a scary story by a campfire, connecting with the stereotype that females are easily frightened.

During an argument between Macbeth and his lady about whether or not they should follow through with the plan of killing the king, Lady Macbeth taunts her husband and compares him to a young woman. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth, 'Hath it slept since?/ And wakes it now, to look so green and pale'. While referring to someone as green and pale can refer to them as being drunk, it could also refer to the side effects of hypochromic anemia (or green sickness) which was commonly known as 'the virgin's disease' which gave the victim's skin a pale or greenish hue. Most virgins are fairly young, and sex is seen as a mature practice so Lady Macbeth is calling him immature, a quality she feels a real man should not possess. In short, Lady Macbeth wants her husband to act in a way that she feels is more masculine.

Certain characters share their ideal versions of a man. After Ross notifies Macduff about how Macbeth had murdered his family, Macduff breaks down in tears. However, Malcolm tells him to stop crying and take the loss like a man. Macduff responds with,

'I shall do so,/But I must also feel it as a man.' Macduff acknowledges that he's overcome with sudden grief but he embraces it because he believes that it is what a man should do. After the war ends, Ross informs Siward that his son's death was not in vain.

Ross tells Siward, 'Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's dept./He only lived but till he was a man,/The which no sooner had his prowess confirmed/In the unshrinking station where he fought,/But like a man he died.' Ross believes that a man is someone who fights until their last breath and is unafraid of death. During their battle, after Macduff tells Macbeth that he was not technically born from a woman since his mother had a C-section, Macbeth curses at the witches and mentions that his better masculine qualities had now faded since they had not been entirely truthful about him being invulnerable. Macbeth exclaims, 'Accursed be that tongue that tells me so,/For it hath cow'd my better part of man! Macbeth is scared because he found out that he can be defeated, so his 'better part of a man' such as the aspect of courage or confidence has diminished.

In conclusion, certain male characters give some insight into what they believe to be a real man to create some contrast between the traditional stereotypical male characteristics like dominance and aggressiveness.

This essay's thesis is that Lady Macbeth holds a stereotypical vision of a man that she wants Macbeth to be which develops the theme of how men and women share different views on what a real man should be. All in all, Lady Macbeth's transformation into a man, the way she treats her husband to try to make him stronger and a few minor and major characters' views on manhood to draw a contrast between traditional views on being a man thoroughly supports my thesis statement. 

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