Macbeth Power Relations

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Macbeth Essay
Jess Ireson

William Shakespeare’s famous play ‘Macbeth’ both reflects and challenges power relations in the context of the seventeenth century. The play centres round the character Macbeth, who is brave, ambitious and has a tendency to self-doubt, and becomes a murderer due to his lust for power. The play focuses on Macbeth’s psyche and his downfall, yet it also portrays a variety of power relations. The relationship between men and women is represented by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship, and the constant change in gender roles. The theme of masculinity is common throughout the play, which is portrayed through contrasting views on gender. Another power relation in ‘Macbeth’ is the relationship between a king and his
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Macbeth tells the audience why he doesn’t want to kill Duncan, as he is Duncan’s subject and host so he should protect him from danger and “not bear the knife myself”. However he tells Lady Macbeth a different reason, which is that Duncan has given him “new honours” and he wants to enjoy the “golden opinions”. He may be concerned about how Lady Macbeth thinks of him and his masculinity as she displays more masculine traits. Lady Macbeth responds with harsh words, attacking his self-esteem and his manliness. She goads him by questioning his manhood, which is repeated throughout the play, whenever Macbeth shows signs of faltering, Lady Macbeth always implies that he is less than a man. Lady Macbeth calls Macbeth a coward, in which he replies “I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none”. She says that when Macbeth made the promise to kill Duncan, he was a man, “What beast was’t then that made you break this enterprise to me? When you durst do it, then you were a man”. Lady Macbeth again uses strong imagery when she says if she had sworn to act, she would not have backed down, but rather “have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out”. Lady Macbeth defies her womanly/motherly traits, which challenges a woman’s role in society in the 17th century, as she would have been expected to be a nurturing mother. The uncertain tone and gentle imagery of Macbeth’s soliloquy, contrasts with the strong rhythms
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