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Gender Roles in the Elizabethan Era, and in Macbeth

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Bree Rogers

on 27 January 2014

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Transcript of Gender Roles in the Elizabethan Era, and in Macbeth

Gender roles

in the play...

Women in Shakespeare's
By Bree Rogers

Even though England in Shakespeare's time was led by a single woman (Queen Elizabeth I), it was still very much a patriarchal society, with very rigid views on the roles of men and women.
To be 'manly' was to be aggressive, daring, bold and strong. To be 'womanly' was to be gentle, fearful, pitying, wavering, and soft
Women were denied many rights. They weren't allowed to vote, and weren't even allowed any more than a basic education. Only the essential, basic reading and writing. Even had signs on the doors of schools that said “Males only.”
In Shakespeare's time, women weren’t allowed on stage
Weren’t allowed to enter a profession.
some preists were still debating whether or not women even had souls.
When a woman got married, she went from being her father’s property to being her husband’s property.

Women were only good for cooking, cleaning, and having babies
To be deemed 'beautiful', women would put white paint on their faces to make themselves look pale. This white paint contained lead, which, we now know, is poisonous.
Shakespeare criticizes the sexist nature of society at the time by subverting the gender roles, at times making the women (namely Lady Macbeth) bolder and more manly than the men.
In her short speech wherein Lady Macbeth says "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be What thou art promis'd. Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.", Lady Macbeth clearly establishes herself as the dominant partner in the marriage, which goes strongly against the way things were in the 17th century,
Early on in the play, Macbeth says to his wife "Bring forth men-children only, For thy undaunted mettle should compose Nothing but males." Essentially, he commands his wife only to have boys. This particularly shows the way that men could order their wives, and that males were preferred, even as children.
When Lady Macbeth enquires about Duncan's muder, Macduff says "O gentle lady, 'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak: The repetition in a woman's ear Would murder as it fell. " This implies that she, as a women, would be much too weak to hear of such bloody crimes, let alone be a part of them!

The twisting of the genders is also seen through Shakespeare's portrayal of the weird sisters. Their gender is mixed, and though described as 'sisters', implying that they are female, but when Banquo first sees them, he exclaims that "You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so."
In our modern, democratic society, gender roles have changed significantly.
Women can now vote and receive an education
Women choose their husbands, and are no longer considered 'property'
Having power over men is now a common thing, and in Australia, we have even had a female prime minister.
Gender now has a very different role in society, and men and women are seen as equals.
Full transcript