Character Development and Storyline in Macbeth

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During the 17th century men in literature were typically portrayed to be superior to women both mentally and physically. They were written to be aggressive, emotionless, and strong. Women were expected to obey the men of the household; to be blunt, they were thought of as unintelligent, obedient objects. Shakespeare's writings in Macbeth shifted the gender roles of his time. He wrote characters such as Lady Macbeth, a strong ruthless women, Macduff who displayed a unique style of masculinity, and the three Witches, who he gave such a grand amount of power throughout the play.

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In the Shakespearean Play, Lady Macbeth behaves the complete opposite of how society would expect her to during the 17th century. Women and wives of households were told to respect and listen to the men of the house. She plays a strong and ruthless female who plots murders and manipulates her husband. Throughout the book, she makes it clear that Macbeth doesn’t have what it takes to commit a murder. She even goes as far as asking spirits to make her into the man that Macbeth can't seem to be. “ Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full” .Lady Macbeth is asking to be “unsexed” or turned into the man; this is all because she feels that she could be a better man than Macbeth. A female challenging a males ability, especially for something like a murder, was extremely abnormal during Shakespearean times.

Although distinct with Lady Macbeth's behavior, Macduff's take on his gender was also unique to the 17th century. Although Macduff is seems to be portrayed as a “masculine leader” in Macbeth, some of his qualities stand out and are unique to that title. In contrast to the typical standards of manhood, Macduff is comfortable displaying his raw emotions; this could be associated with feminine behavior. He doesn’t seem to have the need to prove his manhood to anyone. When Macduff's entire family was brutally murdered, his reaction differed from the standards he was given at the time. During a conversation with Malcom, Macduff says that he can both be a man while openly mourning the death of his family. “I shall do so, But I must also feel it as a man. I cannot but remember such things were That were most precious to me.” ) Another example of Macduff defying the standards of manhood was when he said, “Either thou, Macbeth, Or else my sword, with an unbattered edge, I sheathe again undeeded. There thou shouldst be; By this great clatter, one of greatest note Seems bruited. Let me find him, Fortune, And the more I beg not.” Its expected that after a man's entire family is murdered, his initial response would be to not only bring justice, but to also hold all the power in the situation. Macduff explains that he doesn’t need to take power from anyone in order to be happy, all he wants to do is defeat his enemy.

Overall, Macduff is definitely a unique individual, especially for someone living in the 17th century. Through his ability to balance his emotions, revenge, and mourning, he proves that being a man isn't just so black and white.Shakespeare wrote three women to have the most divine power of all the characters in Macbeth. Not only this, but these three women were described to be anything but feminine.

Throughout Macbeth, the three witches play a crucial role with character development and storyline. Many of the tide-turning decisions made by characters were results of the witches. Whether it was telling prophecies or “leading” characters down a certain path, Shakespeare gave them a lot of control throughout the entire book. Hecate, the so called “leader” of the coven, is the only witch who has a name. Although the other two remain nameless, they still hold divine powers. Some even say that leaving them like that adds much more mystery to their characters. 'You should be women, And yet your beard forbids me to interpret That you are so' .This quote from Banquo shows how even at a first encounter, the witches don't display the typical feminine qualities. He literally says that their beards are making him doubt that they really are women. Shakespeare creating the witches the way he did could be interpreted in many ways. Altogether, its yet again another example of how he played with the gender roles and standards of his time.

Lady Macbeth, Macduff, and the three Witches are some of Shakespeare's most notable characters. All three of them exemplify bold traits and behaviors that were not common to see during the time in which Macbeth was written. What were Shakespeare's intentions when he created these unique characters? Maybe he wanted to create a controversial and compelling story; or maybe he wanted to shine some light on his own ideologies. Whether it was strong female leaders, or men who express their feelings, Shakespeare's writing was riveting for the 17th century, and even now in the present year of 2019.     

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