Throughout the centuries, gender roles have always existed. Women and men have been assigned certain traits based on their gender. This idea that one trait belongs to only one character is brought up in Macbeth. The gender roles in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, don’t necessarily stick to the common ones that stood at the time. In Macbeth, Shakespeare plays with the idea of gender roles by giving traits of the opposite gender to different characters and questions whether these roles are important or not.
The most prevalent example of Shakespeare switching the gender roles is how he makes Lady Macbeth seem like the superior partner in her marriage with Macbeth. She is the courageous one who proposes the idea of murdering Duncan so that Macbeth is able to take hold of the throne. Courage and cruelty are characteristics usually associated with men, yet Macbeth is more cowardly of the two and becomes frightened when he tries to muster the courage to kill the king. Lady Macbeth acknowledges her courage when she says; “Come, you spitirs/ That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here/ And fill me from the crown to the toe top full/ Of direst cruelty,” (I.v. 47-50). This quote exemplifies Lady Macbeth’s desire to be brave and cruel, just like a man. Her desire to be cruel, and her cruel thoughts and actions, makes her defy the gender role and take on the assumed role of a man, especially in her relationship with Macbeth. This is a great example of how Shakespeare is questioning the