Two of William Shakespeare’s distinguishing characteristics as a playwright are the wide range of female roles he employed in his works and the complexity of relationships between men and women in his plays. Moreover, gender reversals are also typical in his works, so the lines between binary gender performance are frequently blurred. The plays mentioned in the post can be divided into the comedies and tragedies, which often have very different characteristics. In two tragedies, Hamlet and Macbeth, we can observe different relationships between men and women.
In Hamlet, it seems that Claudius is dominant over Gertrude, as he has persuaded her to marry him only a short time after the death of her first husband (his brother). Hamlet is concerned about his uncle’s undue influence over his mother, but he also fears that his mother was involved in his father’s death, which he believes was murder. As the play develops, it increasingly seems that Gertrude did not participate in this act; however, she often acts on her own, and it is even speculated by Shakespearean scholars speculate that Gertrude may have been responsible for Ophelia's off-stage death.
In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the driving force behind her husband’s ambition. She is definitely (at least initially) the stronger partner in their marriage. Without her pushing him, it is doubtful that Macbeth would have killed Duncan.