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Damsels in Distress


Theo Mok

on 31 August 2014

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Transcript of Damsels in Distress

Traditional women in literature are usually presented as damsels in distress, trapped in a situation they cannot escape from without breaking their morals or the stereotypes of women. They are portrayed as weak but caring, and must be rescued by someone braver and more competent than themselves.

Traditional Damsels
The women in Macbeth are presented as scapegoats, and the witches doubly so, as they do not conform to the general stereotype of women in literature. Both Lady Macbeth and the witches are blamed for the downfall off Macbeth, as they both manipulated him for their own desires.

The Nature of this blame comes from the generalised stereotype of woman and when times get tough woman become the blame, in relation to Macbeth in the Jacobean era witches were blamed from any misfortune the time endured.

Lady Macbeth
Introduction to Women in Macbeth
Damsels in Distress
The witches
Examples of Damsels
The ideas of woman in common literature come from the stereotypes of woman and are represented through tales such as sleeping beauty, Andromeda and snow white.
Women are presented as damsels in distress, in the context of Macbeth this ideal subverted through the characterisation of Lady Macbeth and the witches.

A Traditional damsel in distress is stereotyped to be a woman in constant need saving by the male hero.
Damsels in distress are usually the motivation for the story they are pure and embrace their feminism and are reason that the hero stays the hero throughout the story

Purpose Of Damsels
Damsels present such qualities as helplessness, weakness, vulnerability and naivety, which were the stereotypical ideals of women in the time. The purpose of these qualities is to create a sense of vulnerability so there is space in the story for a hero and his heroic qualities.

The characters of the witches are women, despite Banquo’s claims, and they are definitely not the traditional ‘damsel type’ women. The sole purpose of the witches’ lives is not to get rescued by a handsome prince and live a loving life with tons of children, but to cause chaos and destruction for all of humanity using their demonic powers of magic and sorcery. Also unlike traditional women the witches are presumably ugly, not something that the stereotypical men of the time period would desire.

More Lady Macbeth
In the play, the unconventional nature of Lady Macbeth corrupts the plight of Macbeth. In traditional literature the hero has to save the damsel in distress to find his heroic qualities that will lead him on a good and just path.

Lady Macbeth also subverts the traditional idea of women by not having children, in traditional literature women stereotypically want to have as many children as possible as they believe that it is their meaning and purpose in life. Lady Macbeth would allegedly kill her own child in order to gain the throne. "
I'll pluck the nipple from his lips and dash the brains out"
. This is completely unlike the traditional view of damsels and arguably the views on humanity.

Unlike normal damsels who provide all the motivation of the story and the only reason for the men to even live, Macbeth continues after the death of Lady Macbeth, thus subverting the idea that women should be the goal of men and that without them they have no purpose in life.
Traditional damsels are trapped by their own femininity, they usually don’t fight back against their oppressors (which are ironically, usually witches) and wait for their saviors to come rescue them. The witches in Macbeth unlike these damsels do have power, they can easy manipulate ‘mortals’ and can get away without any consequences for themselves "Where have you been, sister. Killing swine". This is unlike traditional women, who seem to be unable to do any evil and are trapped by their own naivety, such as with Snow White and the apple.
Therefore the idea of damsels in distress in traditional literature in comparison to the ideas of damsels in Macbeth vary greatly to represent the ideas of males becoming the hero to save the damsel, and when woman don't fulfil their place in society by being the damsel it corrupts the plight of the hero and therefore the story.

Shakespeare's play
Subverts the traditional idea of women in literature being damsels with his characters of Lady Macbeth and the three witches but also shows what will happen to women that do not conform to the stereotypical expectations of women.
In Macbeth Lady Macbeth’s corruption leads Macbeth down the path of evil, instead of being a damsel she strives to be more than a woman ‘come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’. This example of lady Macbeth talking about spirits and wanted to be rid of her female qualities represent how she is the cause of corruption and without a damsel the good-nature of the hero to rescue the damsel is corrupted and the hero can no longer be morally good.
Woman's Representation In Macbeth
Lady Macbeth insults Macbeth’s manhood, saying that men are not supposed to be kind and compassionate ‘when you durst it then you were a man’ while the witches prey on the faults in Macbeths nature, such as his hunger for power and him wanting to be most powerful he can be ‘ none of women born will harm Macbeth’
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