Feminism in William Shakespeare’s plays is nothing new, he was usually called a man ahead of his time, not only by his ingenuity but also for the topic of this essay, how he used woman differently from everyone else at that time. Now, in the play, Macbeth, people have different opinions and views on Lady Macbeth (the main female character which incentives her husband to kill the king and become the next man to sit on the throne, but eventually can’t handle the guilt and suicides), some people see her as a malicious and evil character that desires power above anything else, opposed to others whom see her as a victim of loving her husband too much and trying to support and give him the best possible.
As said prior Lady Macbeth is the main female character in this play, that’s not only represented through her time on stage but also through her characteristics, because not only Shakespeare gives her the looks and the feminine qualities, but also gives her masculine qualities.
Now, moving on to the other important female characters that in many readers view have the most importance in the play, even if they are one of the characters that have less stage time, maybe that’s part of their imagery of power, the amount of time on stage compared to influence on the play, we are obviously referring to the Witches. They may be difficult to recognize as such (female characters), because as Banquo says, 'You should be women, /And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/That you are so.” The Witches have a masculine appearance, although of more importance to a spectator of the play than to a reader. Their role is rather underrated, because looking at it, we see that they not only predict the future of Macbeth, but also induce him to do what they want, telling him several misconceptions that lead to reckless actions. They incorporate not only feminine but also masculine traits, not only in their appearance, but also in their actions. They are a clear figure of authority in Macbeth's life. They warn/tell him about everything that will happen in his life, but they do it in a way that makes you think he will never be harmed and that all of his goals will be achieved, also giving him a sense of security but at once a sense of purposeless in his life, basically giving him an idea that he can’t control his future. Thus, witches dominate and control Macbeth as if he were a puppet. This ratio of women with total control over one man is very unnatural and is somehow giving the impression that it is impossible just like the witches are unnatural and impossible to appear in real life.
Their supernatural abilities and appearance allow them to have all the power and still be women, since the original audience of the play would not have accepted the image of some ordinary women controlling a man's actions, manipulating its every movement and action.
Another way to understand the construction of Shakespeare's femininity in the play is to examine closely the role of the witches and their relationship with Lady Macbeth. These two powerful female forces influence and control Macbeth's actions. We can say that Lady Macbeth and the witches are indirectly identified with each other by their departures from prescribed female subordination, by their parallel role as catalysts to Macbeth's actions, and by the structure and symbolism of the play. By adopting male personas (and even appearance in the case of witches), women escape from their feminine roles, remaining decidedly woman. Without a full understanding of these women, we cannot fully understand the scope and intentions of the play. The central question is how Shakespeare built these women and how he intended them to be seen and received not only by the audiences of his time but also by future generations.
Another important point of view that we should consider is the bible’s point of view, or a Christians point of view, which could have been the reason for Shakespeare’s representation of woman for all that we know. This theory is the fact that women are the catalyst of all evil (we could mention back to Adam and Eve, where the women was easily persuaded to eat the prohibited fruit, and brought men down with her with the persuasive power, and eventually doomed humanity), see any similarities? Exactly, women have power over men, and they can easily influence men to make deadly decisions. An interesting way to look at this play.
In conclusion we should sum up how exactly these characters are treated differently from the others, well that is very simple, they are living a lie, or in other words, they strive to be what they are not. Although they have the most power, psychologically at least, they seem to be striving do something else, and that is masculinity. Today this might not make much sense, especially with all the “women empowerment” movements and campaigns, how could any women want to be a man? Well, back in the time when this play was written, people had very different ideas from today, back then man had all the power, they were the warriors, they were perceived as the most important pieces of society. As said before, that’s the reason for the witches’ appearance. The women in this play have the power of persuasion, fate and actions in their hands but fail to understand the meaning of it and are constantly looking for more, even without knowing what they are looking for.