William Shakespeare offers insight and a different perspective in the tragedy Macbeth, challenging traditional gender roles, and by doing so conveys a message about power, and questions the stereotypical conceptions of roles within a society. The play suggests that the roles are reversed and reality is the opposite of what is expected. Typical gender roles suggest men having the strength and bravery within a family, while women are typically the nurturing or “weaker” ones. Shakespeare opposes this idea by instead giving female characters more “masculine” traits.
Throughout the play, great emphasis is given on female figures of power and their influence on others within their community, whether that being with Lady Macbeth’s impact on the outcome of her husband and his actions, the power and control the three witches have over Macbeth, or the influence and seniority Hecate has on the witches. Lady Macbeth holds the power and dominance in her marriage, contradicting common stereotypes. There are several instances where Macbeth’s masculinity is questioned, and Lady Macbeth must initiate and follow through with their plans. Macbeth is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” (Shakespeare 1.5.16) to kill King Duncan at the first opportunity. He is described as “Art not without ambition, but without / The illness should attend it” (Shakespeare 1.5.18), meaning that he wants to be powerful and has the ambition to do so, lacks the evil and ill qualities to do what it takes.