The Ideals of Manliness in Shakespeare's Macbeth

The Ideals of Manliness in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Macbeth is considered one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies because of the unique characters and the way they are presented. It has had a huge influence on English literature and it has become a part of our culture. It is a story of how ambition can drive a man crazy and make him do unforgivable things. There is much more than that in the play, however. Many different themes are discussed in Macbeth and one of them is the idea of manliness.

In Lady Macbeth’s opinion, manliness is defined as having the strong will to do something. Every man should possess this characteristic, because in a way, it is the one driving force behind every action. A real “man” would stop before nothing in order to achieve his goals. For Lady Macbeth this is the basic idea that differentiates a man from a woman, which is also the reason she does not pursue the ideal on her own. This is why she manipulates her husband into murder by questioning his manliness and exposing “the strength” in him. There are multiple examples in Macbeth of women with manly souls and the witches are examples for that, other than Lady Macbeth. At the same time, however, the play shows that in people’s attempts to be men, they lose the characteristics that make them such. People are dehumanized and they turn into emotionless animals. This opposite perspective can also be found in Macbeth. It is not the gender difference that matters; it is the uniqueness of the man as a human being. Strength is not measured by the seriousness of the actions one takes, but by the reasoning behind them.

It is in Act I that we realize the fixed point of view of Lady Macbeth about manhood. When she hears of the prophecy of the witches, she instantly knows that it is time to act and secure her husband the throne. There is one problem, however, which is the fact that Macbeth has to do the unthinkable on his own. The reasons for this are the common perceptions of what a...