Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Who shows more manliness in 'Macbeth', Lady Macbeth or Macbeth himself?

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jon0111 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The fact that we can even consider this question is an answer in itself. Nothing is ever simple in Shakespeare!

In Act I, scene v Lady Macbeth introduces us to the idea that masculinity is the key to success. She worries that her husband--who is coming back from a day of successfully killing hordes of enemy soldiers, by the way--"is too full o' th' milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way." Soon after she asks spirits to "unsex" her so that she will be capable of carrying out the murderous plot. Lady Macbeth clearly feels that murder is a man's job.

Lady Macbeth continually questions her husband's masculity in the first part of the play--even to the point the Macbeth exclaims "Prithee, peace! / I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none" (Act I, sc. vii). Macbeth, too, is struggling with equating manliness with the ability to commit cold-blooded murder.

But this is the problem, isn't it? What is the "manliness" your question refers to? If it is Lady Macbeth's then...

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nusratfarah | Student

The term "manliness" can be interpreted both as masculinity and courage. Macbeth, in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, is obviously more courageous and heroic than her wife.

 

From the very beginning, Macbeth seems to have a hidden ambition in his mind to gain control over the royal power, but it is just like a sleeping wish or dream. It is his better half who pours oil into the fire. She persistently provokes Macbeth by ridiculing his valour, or sometimes by comparing his courage with hers. Her excessive cruelty is expressed directly in act 1, scene 7, when she utters:

I would, while it was smiling in my face.

Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums

And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn

As you have done to this.

When Macbeth drowns into dilemma about killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth derides:

From this time,

Such I account thy love,. Art thou afeard

to be the same in thine own act and valour

As thou art in desire? Wuoldst thou have that

Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,

And live a coward in thine own esteem.

In response to such cruelty in a woman, Macbeth says her to "bring forth men children only". Lady Macbeth almost breaks the traditional image of femininity - soft, kind and motherly.

 

Yet, Lady Macbeth fails to surpass the boundary of womanliness. She fails to murder Duncan with her own hands. Besides, neither she can tolerate constant murders going on, nor can endure the guilt. Much earlier than her husband, she gives up by committing suicide.

 

It is Macbeth who is much more heroic. He, once being resolute to achieve his goal, goes on heroically. We find that his wife and collaborator leaves him away forever in the time of crisis, almost all the countrymen go against him, and more than that, he realizes at the end that he has been totally deceived by the evils. Yet, he does not give up till death:

I will not yield

To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet...

Yet I will try the last. (5.7)

 

Thus is the heroism in Macbeth. It is the true courage and valour not to accept defeat in life easily, but to try till the last moment. Delivering daring speeches and instigating others does not prove anybody "manly". Action proves the feature.

 

A character's manliness depends on his or her firmness in the personality and resoluteness in the actions, which definitely Macbeth has.