Macbeth What does a person must do to be considered a man? While some say that he must be ambitious, opportunist and always striving to be better, others would disagree. They say that he must be just in his actions and always honest.
The definition of manhood varies from person to person. In the play Macbeth, William Shakespeare suggests that the beliefs about what a man is differs from each person through the character’s conversation and actions in the play. Although Macbeth’s character greatly changes throughout the play, in the beginning, he is seen as a good model of what a man should be like. Known as a “valiant cousin [and a] worthy gentlemen”, Macbeth wins the great respect and admiration from his king, Duncan, and his soldiers through his actions on the battlefields. His views on manhood are that one must be loyal to his king, honorable to his friends and honest and loving to his wife.
He shows his belief in loyalty to his king by “dar[ing] to do all that may become a man”, by fighting seemingly losing battles for the safety of Duncan. Also, the idea of murdering Duncan makes him feel that he would lose his manhood. This is because he feels that if he “dares to be more” that what he is then he is not humble but instead greedy and therefore not a man. Macbeth, as well, shows that although he is cold-hearted on the battlefield, he is not with his wife. Deeply in love with his wife, Macbeth shares everything with her example here.
Although this leads him to his eventual doom, his powerful affection towards Lady Macbeth makes him feel complete in his definition of a man. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth views on manhood are much different from her husband’s and the other characters in the play. Unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth envisions a man to be opportunist, cruel and ruthless instead of honorable and loyal. When she receives the letter from Macbeth and learns of her chance to be queen, she prays that the spirits “that tend on mortal thoughts [would] unsex [her]”, and that she will be “fill[ed] from the crown to the toe of direst cruelty”, so that she would have the strength to murder Duncan.
Believing the spirits would unsex her, she hopes that she wouldn’t be bothered by a woman’s kindness or remorse and thus would become a cruel killer, like a man. Also, when she finds out that her husband does not want to murder Duncan to become king, she taunts him aggressively to challenge his manhood. Believing that he is too “full [of] the milk of human kindness”, she tells him he is a coward and not a man because he does have ambition. Truly believing that Macbeth wouldn’t be a man if he didn’t agree to the killing, Lady Macbeth tells him that When [he] durst do it, then [she would see him as] a man”.
Eventually, she overcomes Macbeth’s fears and turns him into what she see is a man – cruel and ambitious. Unlike Lady Macbeth, Macduff’s views on manhood shows some lovingness and feelings as well as cruelty and cold-heartledness. When he learned of his family’s murders, Macduff is caught off guard and is filled with pain and disbelief. While Malcolm implores him to dispute it like a man, Macduff tells him that he must also feel it as a man, which changes the image of a man given above by Lady Macbeth. While she portrays men as being cruel and cold-hearted, Macduff shows that a man is cruel and cold when he needs to be, but feels just as intensely as he acts. In the play, he is portrayed as the ideal man; brave, honorable, loyal and powerful but yet sensitive and loving.
Finally Shakespeare last point on manhood happens when Siward learns of his son, Young Siward’s death. When Siward learns of his son’s death, he asks where his son’s wounds are. The fact Young Siward is wounded on his front body shows that he did not try to run away from the battle but instead, fought bravely like a man. Although the death of his son hurts Siward, he is happy that his son had “paid [the] soldiers debt” and that he died a man.
Siward views on what a man is, is his actions on the battlefield. Being a great soldier himself, he believes that a man is someone who is shows bravery and courage no matter what the odds. Bibliography Shakespeare, William. Macbeth English Essays.