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Macbeth Through the Feminist Lens

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Kayla McGovern

on 18 May 2015

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Transcript of Macbeth Through the Feminist Lens

Macbeth Through the Feminist Lens
What is Feminism?
The Women of Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
- defies typical stereotype
- hates children
- in the beginning, is dominant over her husband Macbeth
The Witches
- androgynous in appearance (bearded)
- aggressive & powerful
Lady Macduff
- fits typical stereotype
- submissive to her husband
- domestic & feminine
The role of Lady Macbeth
The role of the Weird Sisters
Image by goodtextures: http://fav.me/d2he3r8
The role of Lady Macduff
"You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so" (1.3.45-47.)
doesn't fit gender stereotypes
discriminated against because they don't exude feminine traits
“There is a distinct weakening of their power after their first appearances: only halfway through the play, in 4.1, do we hear that they themselves have masters (4.1.63). The more Macbeth claims for them, the less their actual power seems” (111). - Janet Adelman (
Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender
"I conjure you, by that which you profess,
Howe'er you come to know it, answer me:
Of nature's germens tumble all together,
Even till destruction sicken, answer me
To what I ask you" (4.1.50-51,59-61).
Macbeth is now in control of the witches
Man over woman
"When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.
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" (1.7.49-51,54-57).
questioning masculinity
violence towards children
"if a woman can do it, why can't you?"
"Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood" (1.5.30-33).
asking to be made less a woman and more a man
women are weak
goal should be to be a man in order to be more powerful
"This have I though good to deliver thee,
my dearest partner of greatness
, that thou mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee" (3.2.10-13).

"Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest
Till though applaud the deed" (3.2.45-46).
Macbeth to Lady Macbeth
man over woman
"Foul whisp'rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.
More needs she the divine than the physician.
God, God forgive us all! Look after;
Remove from her the means of all annoyance,
And still keep eyes upon her. So good night" (5.2.70-76.).
Doctor about Lady Macbeth
Nothing can heal her now
Regret and weakness
According to Lois Tyson, “women [invest] themselves…in the accomplishments of their husbands and sons” (97).
reasoning behind why she isn't portrayed as "evil"
fits stereotype
Adelman suggests that Lady Macduff is not needed to make Macduff a strong character
could act as his Other
makes him seem more heroic
by Kayla McGovern Lindgren
Adelman, Janet. “’Born of Woman’ Fantasies of Maternal
Power in Macbeth.” Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender.
Dash, Irene G. Women’s Worlds in Shakespeare’s Plays.
Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1997.
Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide.
New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2006.
Works Cited
Full transcript