Crime & Punishment Of The Unsexed Woman In Macbeth

1283 words - 5 pages

The Punishment of the "Unsexed" Woman in Macbeth In A Room of Her Own, Virginia Woolf gives a quotation from a newspaper of 1928: "...female novelists should only aspire to excellence by courageously acknowledging the limitations of their sex." It is quite obvious that, not so much things changed since Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, in which it is easy to see the same assumed limitations. But, what are these limitatiýns and what happens when they are trespassed; are what I will discuss in my essay.In the play the heroine, Lady Macbeth, wants to be "unsexed": ....Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here. (Macbeth, I.v.40-41) Come to my woman breasts, And take my milk for gall.(Macbeth, I.v.46-47) She "consciously attempts to reject her feminine sensibility and adopt a male mentality because she perceives that her society equates feminine qualities with weakness." The examples of weak feminine thought are wide-spread throught the play, in caracters' words and actions; especially in Macduff's. When he learns his family's sorrowful end, he says, tears make him "play the woman" ( IV.iii.230), and responded by Malcolm, to "dispute it like a man" (IV.iii.220). Women are also defined as "dependent, non-political, incapable of dealing with violence": the words Macduff can say about the murder are not for a "woman's ear" ( II.iii.84-86). He also "refuses to share his political life with his wife, instead, he leaves for England without a word to her" and presents his nation's women to Malcolm with these words: But fear not yet To take upon you what is yours (Macbeth, IV.iii.69-70) The "acceptable" woman is Oftener upon her knees than on her feet Died everyday she lived" (Macbeth IV.iii.110-111) as Macduff approves of Malcolm's mother. These examples which are possible to multiply, show that, "in a society in which femininity is divorced from strength and womanliness is equated with weakness.... the strong woman finds herself.... forced to reject her own womanliness." to be the "fierce and terrible instigator of murder."As Sinfield puts it, "Strength and determination in women, it is believed, can be developedonly at a cost, and their eventual failure is at once inevitable, natural, a punishment, and a warning." So Shakespeare punishes Lady Macbeth, who knows not "what it is to invite sexing", in a very merciless way because of "unaccepted face", namely because of disobeying her social role.After being "unsexed", she becomes "the most commanding and perhaps the most aweinspiring figure that Shakespeare drew." However, it reveals in the following scenes that, she still carries the "feminine weakness.... which account for her later failure", as in her words about Duncan; that, she'd kill him if "had he not resembled" (II,ii,13-14) her father.She transgresses the limits thought for her; for all women; thus, punishment and pain begins for her. First strike comes from Macbeth,...

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