An important theme  in Macbeth is the relationship between gender and power. How does Shakespeare subvert his character perception of gender roles ?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare does this in his portrayal of the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In the world of political ambition and power struggles, the major players are very often men. Macbeth certainly has ambition but at first he is hesitant about trying to translate this ambition into reality. Lady Macbeth seizes upon this as a sign of his fundamental weakness which, she scoffs, is most unbecoming in a man. She taunts his lack of aggression and willpower and finally stings him into taking action. At the same time, we see her in private, working herself up to the level of ruthlessness needed in for the task in hand, which requires her to put off her own womanly characteristics. In a much-quoted passage from the play she asks the powers of darkness to 'unsex' her (Act I, Scene 5, line 42), in effect to free her from qualities such as compassion and tenderness which are generally perceived to be feminine, because such qualities will only hinder the quest for power. Therefore, Shakespeare subverts traditional gender roles by showing Lady Macbeth, rather than her husband, to be the aggressively ambitious one.