Analyze Shakespeare's portrayal of male/female relationships in Macbeth.

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The only male/female relationship that is explored in any detail in the play is that of Macbeth and his wife. At the beginning of the play, theirs is clearly a caring relationship, with Macbeth referring to his wife as his "dearest partner in greatness," and Lady Macbeth is determined to do what must be done to gain him the throne. What it unique about this relationship is that Lady Macbeth assumes a role that would have been viewed as masculine in Shakespeare's day, even asking that the "spirits that attend mortal thoughts" would "unsex" her, ridding her temporarily of her conscience. She proceeds to take the lead in planning and covering up Duncan's murder. Over time, though, she is marginalized as Macbeth's ambition consumes him. She ends up being the one stricken by conscience. Their relationship is unique for the passive role in which it casts Macbeth, which is also interesting in light of the witches, who are also "unsexed" in a sense, having beards.