In Macbeth, how does Shakespeare portray Lady Macbeth's character as androgynous?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Acts I and II of Macbeth, Shakespeare portrays Lady Macbeth as androgynous in that she assumes many of the roles that Jacobean audiences would have associated with masculinity. She is brave, ruthless, and extraordinarily ambitious. She also seems to love her husband very much, however, and ultimately she only assumes these roles in order to advance his interests. But she is conscious that she is doing so, and says so in her soliloquy after reading Macbeth's letter describing the witches' prophecy (bold added for emphasis):

Come, you spririts
Thast tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty!

She is deliberately assuming a masculine role because she feels it will be necessary to push her husband toward what she feels is his destiny. It is also interesting, of course, that Macbeth later assumes what some might have read as a feminine role, being submissive and gripped by conscience. But in any case, Macbeth recognizes his wife's masculinity after her chilling speech in Scene 7 of the first act, saying: 

Bring forth men-children only, 
For thy undaunted mettle should compose 
Nothing but males.


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