What is the role and status of women in the play Macbeth and in general in the 11th century?

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, the role women are supposed to play in society is demonstrated most specifically by Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth does not have any official or legitimate power of her own.  Any power she has, has to be generated indirectly by influencing her husband.  The male has the power.  She so powerfully rejects her traditional role, of course, that she prays to be made more like a man, which leads us to the unofficial view of women.  Everything Lady Macbeth prays not to be is what she is expected to be:  full of pity, mild, gentle, non-aggressive.

Her role in the society of the play is to keep house and play hostess (she greets Duncan as hostess and hosts all of Macbeth's feasts) and to raise children (thus, her imagery of ripping her babe from her breasts while breast feeding).  Again, she rejects these roles, except in the sense that the hostess role helps her keep her deeds hidden, or at least that's the plan. 

Unlock This Answer Now