How Does Shakespeare Portray Women in Macbeth

Topics: MacbethPlay

This essay sample on Macbeth Women provides all necessary basic info on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.

This essay will observe and study William Shakespeare’s portrayal of women in “Macbeth”. In this essay I shall look at various scenes from the play Macbeth and use quotes to back up my evidence. This shall be neatly presented in a word document, and I hope to answer the question, “How does Shakespeare portray women in “Macbeth”?

Act 1 Scene 7

In Act 1 Scene 7 Shakespeare displays Lady Macbeth as a woman who is extremely cruel and heartless.

“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 pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.” (1.7.54-59) In this scene Macbeth is having second thoughts about killing King Duncan and confronts his wife about it, and she harshly ridicules him and calls him such things as a coward and that he is not a real man if he does not kill the King, and that she is more of a man than he is.

And she explains to her husband that she would murder her own baby, whilst breast feeding which is one of the most special things a mother can have with her child as it is a type of bonding, and she explains that she would murder her on baby whilst feeding it.

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She does this to push Macbeth into killing the King even though he which to do it.

Why Then Tis None To You

“Was the hope drunk / Wherein you dress’d yourself? Hath it slept since?” (1.7.35-36). I think that Shakespeare does this to really show how much Lady Macbeth wants to be queen, and how eager she is and that she is prepared to not have a conscience in doing so.

Act 2 Scene 2

This scene is a bit more complicated than the one before, as Shakespeare depicts Lady Macbeth as a woman with mixed emotions She says to herself, “I laid their daggers ready; He could not miss ’em. Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done’t” (2.2.11-13). From this quote Lady Macbeth feels sympathy for Duncan and for her father as although she is recently portrayed to have a hard outer shell she seems rather affectionate for her father and she is not able to go through with killing Duncan herself. This shows you that Lady Macbeth may not be as evil as some may think. But then again after Macbeth has killed Duncan in his sleep Lady Macbeth seems to have a change of heart, “My hands are of your colour; but I shame / To wear a heart so white” (2.2.61-62).

Macbeth has just explained how his hands are red even though they are perfectly clean, and Lady Macbeth then says to herself that her hands are red also since she has been smearing Duncan’s blood over his guards, but that she would be ashamed to have a heart like Macbeths’ a heart so white because it makes him a coward in her eyes. Unlike the example before this describes Lady Macbeth once again as a callous woman. I think that Shakespeare has represented her like this to show that she has two sides to her and that she is not always acting evil, I think that he wanted people to see her sensitive side and that in some ways she can be caring.

Act 3 Scene 4

In this scene we do not see much of Lady Macbeth, but when we do it is again a bit complicated, as she is shown to have varied sentiments as when Macbeth sees the ghost and is making a scene again she challenges him manhood and asks him an insulting question, “Are you a man?” (3.4.57). this doesn’t only show her as a bit of a bully but also it shows her darker side again because her husband is clearly not well and is having a bit of a fit, but all that she cares about is that the guests don’t get suspicious and start asking questions, instead of thinking about her husband’s well being.

In this example Lady Macbeth is not in the driving seat as she always generally is, as Macbeth is making a commotion, and she cannot do anything to help it and he is not listening to what she tells him. She doesn’t seem to be able to manipulate him as she normally does and she is as much of a spectator as everyone else in this occasion. “pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse; Question enrages him. At once, good night: Stand not upon the order of your going,

But go at once.” (3.4.127-130).

In my opinion I think that Shakespeare has done this so that to show that she is not always in control of Macbeth because whilst he was making a scene she could not control him, and every time she gave him a tongue-lashing he still managed to carry on to disobey her wishes for him to remain normal. And every time he seemed to be talking to himself Lady Macbeth grew very anxious and worried and she was not in control of the situation as we know she likes to be in, and in the end she had to get everyone to leave.

Act 5 Scene 1

In this scene Lady Macbeth cannot get the thoughts of killing Duncan out of her head and she seems to be feeling guilty. “Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why, then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?–Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.” (5.1.35-40). Lady Macbeth is continuously washing her hands as she cannot seem to get a drip or a spot as she says it of Duncan’s blood off of her hands. She then carry’s on to say that once they were King and Queen that it would not matter who found out that they had killed Duncan as they were too much of a higher-power, and they could not be challenged.

She says who would of thought the old man had so much blood, since she can still see it there on her hands and it prompts her of her guilt. “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!” (5.1.50-52). She describes that the smell of blood is still on her hands, and no perfumes of Arabia would not sweeten her hand, by this she means that her hand shall always remain dirty with that spot of blood, and that she shall forever feel guilty because of it.

In my eyes I think that Shakespeare has done this to show that even though Lady Macbeth walks with a hard outer shell and that she acts as if she does not feel guilty, and that she is more of a man than Macbeth, she suddenly realises that what they did was murder and as a result she cannot sleep and she is filled to the bone with guilt. I think that Shakespeare has done this to show that she is not always as hard as we assume she is, and that even though she has said some atrocious things she still has feelings of sorrow for the crime that her and Macbeth commited.

Act 1 Scene 1

In act 1 scene 1 Shakespeare portrays the witches as very strange and weird, In the play, the characters are stirred about by forces that they have no power over and this is the same for the first scene. The witches who are propelled by the storms of nature and war ask each other, When shall we three meet again? / In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” (1.1.1-2). As the scene comes to an end and the witches depart they all vocalize, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air” (1.1.11-12). Because witches at that time were seen as creatures of the devil, they enjoy things that is foul and detest things that are fair, they say this so they can do their bid to create evil and mayhem. I think that Shakespeare does this because he wants to show that the witches aren’t human and that they’re evil and bizarre, so that you get a good picture of what they’re like.

Act 1 Scene 3

In this next scene the witches meet with Banquo and Macbeth after they have returned from combat. “All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.49-51). The witches have just prophesised that Macbeth shall be crowned thane of Cawdor and then he shall be king, the witches are seen as weird and wicked by Banquo and Macbeth as they are not human and they can see into the future. This is another example of how the witches are portrayed as iniquitous, “Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger: But in a sieve I’ll thither sail, And, like a rat without a tail, I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.”(1.3.9-12). At the start of the scene one of the witches enquires were the other has been and she replies that a woman’s husband has been out at sea, and that she had him die at sea. This again shows the evil and malicious side of the witches. Again I think that Shakespeare has exposed the witches as malevolent as they enjoy doing wicked things for example killing innocent people, and so forth. And because the witches are prophesising the future it is showing them as evil and eerie, as it is not normal.

This essay has shown me and you, the audience, how Shakespeare renders women in Macbeth. In this essay I have shown a variation of different portrayals of women in the play, and how Shakespeare sees them more importantly. In my opinion, I think that Shakespeare finds women maybe not so focal, as out of all the characters in the play there are only two key ones which are Lady Macbeth, and the witches. Also he seems to not find many good aspects for the women in the play as they are both seen to be quite spiteful and cruel.

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How Does Shakespeare Portray Women in Macbeth. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

How Does Shakespeare Portray Women in Macbeth
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