Scholarly Annotation of Masculinity in Macbeth
The world of that Shakespeare creates in most of his plays consists of portraying strong and influential women in a negative light while boasting men’s similar power. The same applies to Macbeth. Robert Kimbrough analyzes the fierce war between manhood and womanhood through the perspective of humanhood by understanding the fear of “social destructiveness of polarized masculinity and femininity” in a close reading of one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s works. He shows how the Shakespearean era valued masculinity over feminist tenderness with a close reading of Siward and Malcolm’s conversation about the death of King Duncan, which shows Shakespeare’s definition of human death involved “manly” courage and “womanly” sorrow.
Borough then explains how Shakespeare emphasizes the difference between the Macbeths’ murderous masculinity and an ideal of the natural as “good, balanced, positive, normal, generative, and healing.” He declares Lady Macbeth’s unsex me speech as unnatural because of a double context that the witches have the ability to change a woman into a man but not a man into a woman. The language suggests that her womanhood, represented by breasts and milk, usually symbols of nurture, hinders her from violence and cruelty, which she associates with masculinity. This sense of the connection between masculinity and violence is deepened when Macbeth is unwilling to commit the murders and his wife tells him that he needs to “be a man” and perform like one too.
Kimbrough evaluates Macbeth’s descent into despair and Lady Macbeth’s descent to madness while simultaneously including other character’s lines of blatant masculinity, like the two hired murderers that say “We are men, my liege.” Lady Macbeth also shows to question Macbeth’s manliness as she asks him if he is a man when he sees Banquo’s ghost. Kimbrough deepens the hole of irony in the characterization and eventual fall of the two leads through the choice of verbose.
Kimbrough does an excellent job in picking the right and most pertaining passages in Macbeth to further evaluate his analysis on the proposed thesis that is very thorough and contributes to the long-debated question about masculinity in Macbeth. I will use some of his examples in my own essay and make his argument the foundation of my analysis on the topic.