• Cliff's Notes
  • How does Shakespeare play with gender roles in Macbeth ?
  • How can banks afford to lend out so much money?
  • What should I consider when deciding whether to invest in a company?
  • Who was the first female Senator in the United States?
  • What are the best courses to take if I want to end up doing research in metaphysics?
  • A friend of mine told me that my favorite TV show jumped the shark." What does that even mean?"
  • There is a new guy at my school and I think he's cute, funny, and sweet, but he's really shy. I want to ask him on a date, but I'm not sure if I should, and if I should, how?
  • How do you know a guy likes you?
  • How much outside class study time is recommended for every hour of class time for college freshmen?
  • Is it common for people to be scared to go into high school? Can you give me some tips to survive?
  • What is the easiest foreign language to learn? Which foreign language looks the best on college applications?
  • How do I get involved in classroom discussions without sounding stupid?
  • What is organizational design?
  • Will mentioning my race in my college essay increase my chances of getting in?
  • Is my summer vacation to Italy a good topic for my college essay? (I have pictures, too.)
  • How do I pull together all the notes I've taken to study for a test?
  • To study better, I want to get organized with some of the stuff I see advertised. What should be on my shopping list?
  • What does it mean to live in a credential society?
  • What kind of careers are available for someone with a degree in English?
  • What can I do if I think my teacher gave me the wrong grade?
  • How do I choose a college major?
  • I have too many projects and not enough hours in the day. Is 8 hours of sleep really that important?
  • How do I choose a topic for a personal essay?
  • What tips can you give me for studying for a test on something I've read?
  • How do I write a good research paper?
  • How can I highlight my textbooks efficiently?
  • How do I convince my parents to spend a few extra bucks to upgrade from a dial-up connection to broadband like a cable modem or DSL? They say I have to give some benefits for spending extra.
  • What do you do when you're lost; when you can't concentrate and have lost your will to succeed? How can you get back on track?
  • Is homework important?
  • What is your opinion of the rise of virtual actors and the fall of live ones, what do you think about virtual actors taking the place of live ones?
  • My mom and my friends say I should quit doing something [swimming, tennis, violin, honors classes], but I love all the things I do. What can I do?
  • I started my first job a couple weeks ago (just for the summer). Do you have any tips for getting along with everybody at work?
  • Is it still important for people who develop Web pages to know HTML? If so, why?
  • When I am making a speech or a presentation in front of the class, my face or body automatically shivers. My voice gets weird also. How can I stop it?
  • I want to finish high school in 3 years instead of 4, but I am not sure it is a good idea. What do you think?
  • What are some occupations involving astronomy?
  • If I'm going to college for a degree in art, are all of my other classes even worth taking?
  • Are your freshmen grades important to get into college?
  • Is Johns Hopkins University a medical school? How long do I have to spend in a medical school to become a doctor?
  • For Milton Friedman, what are the social responsibilities of business?
  • What is The Fed and is it good or bad?
  • What is a Ponzi scheme?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of Gross Domestic Product?
  • What is full employment and why is it difficult to measure?
  • What's a recession?
  • What is economics?
  • My parents and I are looking to buy a car for me I am 17 and I will be added to my parents insurance What cars have the lowest insurance rates but are still cool to drive
  • What is marketing?
  • Can you explain to me the impact money will have on the future (or my future. I am 16 years old)?
  • Are there any Spanish words bearing even a minute similarity to the name Peter? Not a name, but any word that is in any way similar to Peter.
  • Who led American efforts in Paris to gain French support during the American Revolution?
  • I need help locating a Web site that has pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet. For example, in English we sing", A, B, C, D, E, F, G . . .etc. Where can I find the Spanish alphabet?"
  • I know that there is no elision with French possessive adjectives. So what's the deal with: Qui est ton artiste favorite ?
  • I’m taking Spanish and need some good ways to study for tests. Do you have any tips?
  • In Spanish how do I know when to use de, del, a and al?
  • I'm going to be starting a new foreign language, and I'm not sure which language to take: French or Spanish. I know some French, but only greetings. Which do you think?
  • What is the term for when the Congressional majority represents the opposite party of the President?
  • Where in the U.S. Constitution are health and property mentioned?
  • To what extent did the Cold War shape the American domestic life of the 1950s?
  • The 10th Amendment does what?
  • How did the United States respond to Communist revolutions in Cuba and Nicaragua?
  • Which U.S. presidents also served in the House of Representatives?
  • What does the FCC regulate?
  • Who were the major political players during the Reagan Administration? Who helped shape President Reagan's legacy?
  • Who was the first Secretary of State for the United States?
  • Do prisoners deserve to be educated?
  • The death penalty has always interested me. What are the different ways you can execute someone without it being cruel or unusual?
  • Who were the major congressional participants in developing Social Security legislation?
  • With so many delegates speaking so many different languages, how does the United Nations get anything done?
  • I love watching TV court shows, and would enjoy them more if I understood some of the legal jargon, like ex post facto. What does that mean?
  • What is habeas corpus, and where is it guaranteed by law?
  • Where is the establishment of religion clause in the U.S. Constitution?
  • What's the point of making texting while driving illegal?
  • Have social conservatives captured the Republican Party?
  • Why are Republicans (or those who favor capitalism) called the right" or "right-wing" and Democrats (or those who favor social issues) called the "left?""
  • Who were the War Hawks?
  • What are the differences in the ways the House and the Senate conduct debates on a bill?
  • What is WikiLeaks?
  • How long do oral arguments last in Supreme Court cases?
  • What do you think are some reasons why the President was given almost unlimited military powers? What are some possible positive and negative effects resulting from the scope of the President's military power?
  • Why is the United States government so worried about North Korea?
  • Did Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation actually free any slaves?
  • How were U.S. Senators originally chosen?
  • What changes in American society have created new issues for the government to address?
  • What was the Tweed Ring?
  • What do you think secret service for the Obama girls is like? Is there a dude with a gun and stuff sitting next to them in class? Wouldn't that make it hard for them to concentrate?
  • How many representatives does each state have in the House of Representatives?
  • What is the difference between the Senate Majority/Minority leaders and the Senate Whip?
  • How are justices to the U.S. Supreme Court elected? Is this a good or a bad thing?
  • What type of education do you need to become Speaker of the House?
  • I heard a rumor that if you modify the photo by at least 10%, it doesn't matter if it's copyrighted and you can use it however. Is that true?
  • What do security and infringed mean in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?
  • What did Abraham Lincoln mean by A house divided against itself cannot stand"?"
  • Who is the only U.S. President who never won a nationwide election?
  • What is the current law on compulsory vaccinations in the U.S.? Are there any exceptions for people who don't want to get vaccinated?
  • After the stock market crash, how did President Hoover try to help the economy?
  • My economics teacher said something about stagflation , what is that, exactly?
  • How do interest groups play a role in American government?
  • Has Thanksgiving always been on the same day?
  • Can someone who's not a Republican or Democrat win an election?
  • What can you tell me about the 1976 presidential election?
  • The Electoral College — can anyone apply?
  • How do lobbyists influence public policy decisions?
  • What happens if the president doesn't like a piece of legislation?
  • What are the legal elements of a crime?
  • How did the Whiskey Rebellion change people's perception of federal laws in the United States?
  • How do federal judges get their jobs?
  • If you are dressed to conform to an informal, verbal dress code but a different, written dress code is enforced and you get in trouble, do you have a First Amendment right to challenge it? My teachers enforce the dress code inconsistently.
  • How does the CIA recruit people? What types of majors do they typically target?
  • What is the importance of the Declaration of Independence? Why would the founders of our country need to declare" their freedom? Why is it so important today?"
  • What is Presidential Veto Power?
  • What is the purpose of government, and how does a bill become law?
  • Is there a way, other than retiring, to get out of the Supreme Court (such as being dismissed)?
  • When did the pocket veto start?
  • Who would serve as the new president if both the president and vice president resigned?
  • What was the difference in history between the Middle Ages (Medieval Times) and the Renaissance?
  • What's a Congressional Page and how do you become one?
  • Differences Between Public Universities and Private Schools
  • Entering College Without a Major in Mind
  • Figure Out Your College Preference
  • Freshman Dorm Life: Choosing a Roommate
  • Gain an Edge with Community Service
  • Apply to College Online
  • Approach AP Essay Questions with Ease
  • Choose the Right Dorm
  • Choosing a College: The Importance of the Campus Tour
  • Choosing Between a Large or Small College
  • Get a Clue about Community College
  • The College Admissions Interview
  • Get College Info from People around You
  • Getting Into College: Letters of Recommendation
  • Getting the Most from Your High School Guidance Counselor
  • Going to College When You Have a Disability
  • How College Applications Are Reviewed to Determine Acceptance
  • How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?
  • Keep Track of Test Time: Exam Calendar
  • Know What Colleges Are Looking For
  • Know Which Exam's Right for You
  • Pack Your Bags for SAT* Exam Day
  • Plan Wisely for Campus Visits
  • Planning High School Summers with an Eye toward College Admissions
  • Prepare for the Revised SAT*
  • Put Together a College Admission Timeline
  • Read the Right Stuff for the AP* English Literature Exam
  • Save Yourself from Senioritis
  • Start Earning College Credit Early
  • Student Diversity as an Important Factor in Considering Colleges
  • Taking a Year Off between High School and College
  • Take the Right High School Classes to Get into College
  • Technology and the College Application Process
  • Understanding Subject Tests and College Admissions
  • Understanding Your Academic Average and Class Rank
  • Weighing One College's Degree Program against Another
  • Write a College Admissions Essay
  • What Are College Early Action Admissions Plans?
  • What Are College Early Decision and Regular Decision Admissions Plans?
  • What Are College Rolling Admissions Plans?
  • Where Can I Find Info to Compare Colleges?
  • Find Out about Federal Student Aid
  • Filling Out the FAFSA
  • Get to Know the CSS Profile Form
  • Getting Financial Aid Information at School
  • How to Consolidate Private Student Loans
  • Avoid Negotiating with Financial Aid Offers
  • Avoid Scholarship Scams
  • Borrow for College without Going Bust
  • Building a Budget after College with a Financial Diary
  • Consider the Federal Work-Study Program
  • Considering a PLUS Loan
  • Deal with the FAFSA
  • Dealing with Private Student Loans during Financial Hardship
  • Debunking Some Common Myths about Financial Aid
  • How to Gather Information on Your Private Student Loans
  • The Differences between Scholarship and Student Loan Payouts
  • The Federal Pell Grant System
  • Loan Forgiveness of Your Student Loans
  • Negotiating Rent on an Apartment
  • Organize Student Loans with a Private Loans Chart
  • Overpaying on Student Loans for Quicker Payoff
  • Places You Might Not Think to Look for Scholarships
  • Put "Sticker Price" in Perspective
  • Student Loan Deferments and Forbearance
  • Try to Sweeten Your Financial Aid Package
  • Transfer Private Student Loan Debt to Low-Rate Credit Cards
  • Understanding Repayment Periods on Private Student Loans
  • What Happens If You Miss a Student Loan Payment?
  • After the Rush: Pledging a Sorority
  • Avoid Alcohol and Drug Temptations
  • Back to School Considerations for Adult Learners
  • College Professors Appreciate Good Behavior
  • Consider Studying Abroad
  • Deal with the Roommate Experience
  • Decide if the Greek Life Is for You
  • Decide on a Major
  • Find Yourself a Used Car for College
  • Fit Sleep into Student Life
  • Freshman Year Extracurricular Goals
  • Get By on a Limited Cash Flow
  • Get Creative for Summer after College Freshman Year
  • Get the Hang of the Add/Drop Process
  • Get with the Program: Internships, Work-Study, and Service Learning
  • How to Evaluate Campus Life during a College Visit
  • Job Shadow to Explore Careers
  • Key In to Effective Study Habits
  • Maintain Your Mental Health
  • Make the Most of Taking Lecture Notes
  • Pack Up for College
  • Prepare for College Instructor/Student Expectations
  • Put Together a Bibliography or Works Cited
  • Research on the Internet
  • Rule Out Academic Dishonesty
  • Say No to Dating College Friends' Siblings or Exes
  • Student Teaching: Test Drive Your Career in Education
  • Taking a Gamble: Gaming on Campus
  • Transferring from Community College to Four-Year Institution
  • Understand Types of Research Material
  • What to Expect from Sorority Rush
  • Work at a Part-Time Job
  • Write a Top-Notch Research Paper
  • Why do some critics want the 22nd Amendment repealed?
  • What is guerrilla warfare?
  • Years ago I learned that our national highway system has built-in runways for emergency landing strips. Is this still true?
  • What newspapers did Frederick Douglass write for?
  • I know that the days of the week are all named after Norse or Roman gods or the sun and moon, but I can't figure out what Tuesday is named for. Do you know?
  • Can you give me a brief history of Prussia?
  • Who were the Ottomans?
  • Who discovered oxygen?
  • What have been the major Israel and Arab conflicts since World War II?
  • 1What does the cormorant (bird) symbolize in mythology?
  • How did Peter I of Russia come to power?
  • What can you tell me about Kwanzaa?
  • What is the Alma-Ata declaration?
  • I've heard that in some countries, everyone has to sign up for the military between high school and college. Is that true?
  • How were women treated in Ancient Rome?
  • What is the history and meaning of Turkey's flag?
  • How are justices to the US Supreme Court elected Is this a good or a bad thing
  • How did ounce come to be abbreviated as oz.?
  • Why did Cromwell dissolve the first Protectorate parliament?
  • Why does The Great Depression end when the United States enters World War II?
  • What place did the underworld have in Egyptian mythology?
  • Can you explain Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in words that a teen can understand?
  • Who was the most famous mathematician?
  • Where did Christopher Columbus land when he reached the Americas?
  • Who had control of more states during the American Civil War, the North or the South?
  • How did Zeus become ruler of the Greek gods?
  • Why does Santa Claus have so many names — Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, and Kris Kringle?
  • What is antidisestablishmentarianism?
  • What is Leningrad known as today?
  • Who were the leading figures in the Classical period of music?
  • Why didn't the Pope allow Henry VIII a divorce, and who was Catherine of Aragon's relative who came and held siege?
  • Who wrote, A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still"?"
  • Was the Spanish Armada large, and did its crews have notable sailing skill?
  • What was the cause of the War of Spanish Succession?
  • What is the song Yankee Doodle Dandy" really about?"
  • What's the story of the Roanoke colony?
  • How does history reflect what people were thinking at the time?
  • My teacher says there's more than one kind of history. How can that be?
  • What were the turning points in World War II?
  • We just started studying Spanish exploration in North America. What makes it so important today?
  • What was it like for women in the 1920s?
  • Have Americans always been big on sports?
  • Who invented baseball?
  • What did American Indians have to give up for pioneers?
  • How did imperialism spread around the world?
  • How did Imperialism in India come about?
  • What's the big deal about Manifest Destiny?
  • How did the Tet Offensive affect public opinion about the Vietnam War?
  • Why did Christian Lous Lange deserve the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921?
  • Where do the four suits in a deck of cards originate? What do they represent?
  • What was the Roe v. Wade trial?
  • Who is Constantine?
  • I need to know some info on the Monroe Doctrine. I have looked everywhere but I still can't find any information. Can you PLEASE help?
  • Where did the chair originate from? I was sitting on one the other day and it said Made in China," but where did it first come from?"
  • What kind of cash crops did they grow in the South in early America?
  • Everyone talks about how enlightened the Mayans were, but what did they really do?
  • What caused the fall of the Roman Empire? Did Christianity play a role?
  • What was the reason for the downfall of the Russian Empire in 1917?
  • What prompted slavery? Why were the Africans chosen for enslavement?
  • How did World War I start and end?
  • What is The Palestinian Conflict?
  • I don't really understand the French Revolution. What started it, and what stopped it?
  • What was the doctor's diagnosis of Helen Keller when she was a baby?
  • What is the Trail of Tears?
  • When speaking about Native Americans, what is the difference between an Indian tribe and an Indian Nation?
  • What happened during the Boston Massacre?
  • What was sectionalism in America before the Civil War?
  • How did the U.S. attempt to avoid involvement in World War II?
  • What is Ronald Reagan's Tear down this wall" speech about?"
  • Can you describe the United States policy of containment and show an example of an event when the policy was used and why?
  • How many countries are there in the world?
  • What did Columbus do besides sail to the New World?
  • My history teacher said that if your religious denomination isn't Catholic, than you are a Protestant. Is she right?
  • Do you think that Mormons are Christians? What is the full name of the Mormon Church?
  • What principles of the Belmont Report were violated in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study?
  • What is the size of Europe in square miles?
  • The United States was given the right to establish naval bases in the British West Indies during World War II by the British Government in exchange for what?
  • How were the Crusades a turning point in Western history?
  • 10 Things You Need to Know about College (but Probably Don’t)
  • Top 7 Secrets of College Success
  • Heading Off for College? 10 Must-Do's
  • What does impertinent mean (from The American )?
  • I know that the verb pluck means to pull out or pull at, but what's the definition when used as a noun?
  • Which novels would you recommend to 15-year-olds on the theme of places and forms of power?
  • In The Pearl, why didn't John Steinbeck give the pearl buyers identifying names?
  • In the play, The Crucible , why would Arthur Miller include the Note on Historical Accuracy?
  • What is perfidy (from Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser)?
  • Is being pedantic a good or bad thing?
  • Is a termagant a type of seabird?
  • What is ichor (from The Iliad )?
  • In The Hunger Games, why did Cinna choose to be the designer for District 12?
  • Is a rivulet really a river, only smaller?
  • Charles Dickens has this person called the beadle" in lots of his books. Is that like a nickname for a man with buggy eyes or something?"
  • In Brave New World, why are family words like father and mother viewed as obscene?
  • What is the main tenet of stoicism?
  • What's the meaning of obsequious (from Theodore Dreiser's urban novel Sister Carrie )?
  • Where are the Antipodes (from Much Ado about Nothing )?
  • What is a truckle bed (from Romeo and Juliet )?
  • What does truculent (from Great Expectations ) mean?
  • If someone inculcates you, should you feel insulted?
  • What does the phrase Ethiop words" mean in Shakespeare's As You Like It ?"
  • I was chatting with a neighbor who said I was quite garrulous . Nice or mean?
  • What does laconic mean?
  • At a restaurant famous for its rude servers, a waitress told me to lump it" when I asked for another napkin. Can you tell me about that phrase?"
  • What does urbane (from Daisy Miller ) mean?
  • I thought necro had something to do with being dead. So, what's a necromancer ? Sounds creepy.
  • In The House of Mirth, this guy named Gus Trenor is eating a jellied plover." Is that some kind of doughnut?"
  • What are some well-known novels whose titles are quotations from Shakespeare?
  • In Orwell's 1984, what does the opening sentence suggest about the book?
  • Understanding the literary genre Magical Realism
  • What's a prig?
  • I asked my granddad if he liked his new apartment and he said, It's all hunky-dory, kiddo." What did he mean?"
  • What does mephitic (from Man and Superman ) mean?
  • I hate finding typos in books. Here's one I've seen several times: jalousies instead of jealousies.
  • On the second week of my summer job at a bookstore, my boss handed me an envelope with what she called my emoluments. Looked like a paycheck to me, though.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are some examples of the characters having courage?
  • What's cud? I was once told to stop chewing my cud and get back to work.
  • What can you tell me about the word patois from The Awakening ?
  • What are thews (from Ivanhoe )?
  • What does pot-shop (from The Pickwick Papers ) mean?
  • Are all dowagers women?
  • If someone is the titular head of a political party, does it mean they have all the power?
  • The word flummox confuses me. What does it mean?
  • Somebody told me I looked pasty. Does that mean I've eaten too many sweets?
  • I started taking private bassoon lessons. When I arrived at my teacher’s house, he told me to wait in the anteroom. I wasn’t sure where to go.
  • Is anomalous the same as anonymous ?
  • I know that a fathom is a unit of measure used by sailors, but how long is a fathom?
  • What is a joss (from Victory, by Joseph Conrad)?
  • What does eschew (from The Pickwick Papers ) mean?
  • What does excrescence (from The Call of the Wild ) mean?
  • What does the word covert mean?
  • In Shakespeare's Sonnet 125, what is an oblation ?
  • In Moby-Dick , what does vitiate mean?
  • In War and Peace , what does bane mean?
  • In Jane Eyre , what are chilblains ?
  • Does mendacious refer to something that is fixable (mendable)?
  • Is kickshawses one of those weird words that Shakespeare coined? What does it mean?
  • You say in CliffsNotes that In Cold Blood was Truman Capote's undoing. How?
  • What is renege , in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra ?
  • What is maxim ? I think it's a female name but I'm not sure.
  • Last Valentine's Day, this guy I barely know gave me a rose and said something about ardent love. What does ardent mean?
  • In Act I, Scene 1, of King Lear, what does benison mean?
  • What kind of literature is a picaresque novel?
  • What does culpable mean?
  • What's a cenotaph ? Every Veterans Day, I hear about the Queen of England laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in London.
  • What does gallimaufry mean in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ? My vocabulary is pretty good, but that one has me stumped!
  • What does it mean to genuflect ?
  • Someone told me I was looking wistful. What is wistful ?
  • In David Copperfield, what does superannuated mean?
  • Does the word syllogism have something to do with biology?
  • I see the word benefactor a lot in my reading assignments. Is that somebody who benefits from something?
  • I found a funny word in The Glass Castle. Where did skedaddle come from and what does it mean?
  • Does sinuous mean something like full of sin"? I saw the word in The Devil in the White City ."
  • In Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, what is the meaning of the word propaganda ?
  • What are characteristics of Modernist literature, fiction in particular?
  • What does my brother mean when he says he's too ensconced in his studies to look for a girlfriend?
  • My grandpa complained about a bunch of politicians making what he called chin music . Did he mean they were in a loud band?
  • What is melodrama?
  • In Dracula, what's a missal ?
  • In the terms abject poverty and abject misery, what does abject mean?
  • In Moby-Dick, what does craven mean?
  • What does cicatrize mean?
  • What is a noisome smell" in Tolstoy's War and Peace ?"
  • What is an apostasy, from the George Bernard Shaw play, Man and Superman ?
  • In Jane Eyre, what's syncope ?
  • I just read Dracula. What's the forcemeat in Jonathan Harker's journal?
  • Can the word stern mean more than one thing?
  • Where is Yoknapatawpha county?
  • What does smouch mean?
  • I'm supposed to write a comparison of Hektor and Achilles from Homer's The Iliad, but I don't know where to start.
  • How do you pronounce quay ? And what does it mean, anyway?
  • What are some examples of paradox in the novel Frankenstein ?
  • In Ivanhoe, what does mammock mean?
  • What does rummage mean?
  • Is a mummer some type of religious person?
  • Some guy I don't like told his friend I was acting all demure. What does that mean?
  • When I complained about our cafeteria food, my biology teacher told me he wished they'd serve agarics. Was he talking about some kind of dessert?
  • Where did the name Of Mice and Men come from?
  • What genre would you consider the book, The Outsiders ?
  • In Fahrenheit 451, why would a society make being a pedestrian a crime?
  • What does the phrase, a worn-out man of fashion" mean from Jane Eyre ?"
  • Is sagacity a medical condition?
  • My teacher told me I was being obdurate. Was that a compliment?
  • What motives inspired Iago to plot revenge against Othello?
  • Who was the first king of Rome?
  • What does enervate mean?
  • What is a parvenu ? I saw the word in William Makepeace Thackeray's book Vanity Fair.
  • Is salubrity somehow related to being famous?
  • Do capers have something to do with cops?
  • What's the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue?
  • In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce uses the word pandybat . What's a pandybat?
  • Does the word inexorable have something to do with driving demons out of a person?
  • Do people who prognosticate have some sort of special power?
  • What is a hegemony, from James Joyce's Ulysses ?
  • What are fallow fields ? I'm a city gal who heard the term at a 4-H fair and just read it in Anna Karenina.
  • What's the difference between parody and satire?
  • Lord of the Flies uses the word inimical. What does it mean?
  • What does dreadnaught mean, as it’s used in Bleak House?
  • I saw vertiginous in Madame Bovary. What does mean the word mean?
  • What does overweening mean, in Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes?
  • Can you hear a dirge anyplace but a funeral?
  • Does imperturbable refer to something you can't break through?
  • What are the seven ages of man?
  • What is a chimera , in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë?
  • What's dross ?
  • What is an injunction ?
  • For school I had to make a Napoleon hat, which called for a cockade. What is that?
  • If someone studies assiduously, does it mean they're working really hard or really slowly?
  • Define mood as it relates to a work of fiction. Distinguish mood from effect.
  • My sister calls me the Princess of Prevarication." What's prevarication ?"
  • What's turpitude, as in moral turpitude"?"
  • What's the definition of tenebrous ?
  • This biography I'm reading about Queen Victoria says that she refused to remove the hatchment she had for her husband Prince Albert. What does that word mean?
  • What does sine qua non mean?
  • What's lugubrious mean?
  • What's impugn mean, from Ivanhoe?
  • What does postprandial mean?
  • I love reading fashion magazines and occasionally come across the word atelier. What is that?
  • What does King Lear mean when he says that ingratitude is a marble-hearted fiend"?"
  • What is celerity , from Ivanhoe ?
  • In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein , what are disquisitions ?
  • What's shrive ? My neighbor said she's been unshriven for years, but I think her skin looks quite shriveled.
  • What's a dobbin ?
  • What's polemic ? Over winter break, my uncle told me I was polemic and asked if I was on the debate team at school.
  • I came across a list of homonyms: mu, moo, moue . I know mu is Greek for the letter m , and moo is the sound cows make, but what's a moue ?
  • What does trow mean?
  • In Far from the Madding Crowd , what does cavil mean?
  • What does Charles Dickens mean when he says “toadies and humbugs” in his book, Great Expectations ?
  • Where can I find the word naught in The Scarlet Letter ?
  • I found an old diary from the 1800s where the writer describes how he almost died but was saved by a sinapism . What is that?
  • I know what mulch is, but what's mulct ?
  • When our teacher was introducing the next reading assignment, he said we'll be using the unexpurgated version. What did he mean?
  • For some reason, the word dingle sticks in my head after having read Treasure Island years ago. I never did discover what it meant. How about it, Cliff?
  • In Dracula , what's stertorous breathing?
  • What does philippic mean?
  • I'm usually pretty good at guessing what words mean, but have no clue about exigence . What is it?
  • What's doughty ? How do you pronounce it?
  • What's sharecropping? I'm kind of embarrassed to ask, because it's one of those words everyone assumes you know what it means.
  • I'm working on my summer reading list with Kafka's The Trial. The very first sentence uses traduce , and I don't know what that means.
  • What does the cormorant (bird) symbolize in mythology?
  • I saw the word badinage in the book Uncle Tom's Cabin . Do you think that's a typo that really should be bandage ?
  • On a TV modeling contest, a judge said, Her simian walk is unbelievable." Was that a good thing?"
  • What is the definition of adverbiously , from Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • In Oliver Twist , Dodger refers to Oliver as flash companion . Can't find a definition of this anywhere. What does it mean?
  • Do elocutionists kill people?
  • For my English homework, I have to write a love poem. I'm only 13 and I haven't had my first love yet. How would I go about writing about feelings that I haven't felt yet?
  • Where on the body would I find my sarcophagus ?
  • What's stolid ? It sounds like someone who's stupid and built solid like a wall.
  • What's a wonton person?
  • In which play did William Shakespeare state that misery loves company?
  • What's comfit ? Is it a different way of saying comfort?
  • Where did the story Frankenstein by Mary Shelley take place?
  • What kind of person would a shallow-pate be?
  • What are myrmidons of Justice" in Great Expectations ?"
  • Faseeshis … no clue on the spelling, but I kind of got yelled at in school today for being that. What did I do?
  • In The Red Badge of Courage , what's an imprecation ?
  • The word portmanteau shows up in a lot of the literature I read for school assignments. It sounds French. What does it mean?
  • I did something really stupid yesterday, and my grandfather told me I was hoist with my own petard." What does that mean? And what's a petard ?"
  • How do you pronounce Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare's early comedies?
  • What's a bourse ? I read it in my finance class.
  • In The House of Mirth, what are oubliettes ?
  • In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, what are thimble-riggers ?
  • In Wuthering Heights , what's a thible ?
  • Which Hemingway story references the running of the bulls" in Spain?"
  • What's a clink? My dad mentioned that his granddad was there for a long time during World War I.
  • If somebody is toady," does it mean they're ugly?"
  • Who said all's fair in love and war" and where?"
  • Why is there so much talk about baseball, especially Joe DiMaggio, in The Old Man and the Sea ?
  • In the movie Failure to Launch , there's a line that goes, Well, she certainly is yar," in reference to a yacht. What's yar ?"
  • What does mangle mean in Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • I got detention because a teacher said I was being contumacious . What's that?
  • What are encomiums?
  • What are billets in The Three Musketeers ?
  • In Orwell's 1984 , what is doublethink ?
  • What are orts ? That's a weird word that reminds me of orcs from The Lord of the Rings .
  • What are alliteration and assonance?
  • How is John the Savage's name ironic in Brave New World ?
  • What's quinsy?
  • What is a doppelgänger?
  • What is New Historicism?
  • I found the word unwonted in a book I'm reading. Is that a typo, you think?
  • In Heart of Darkness , what does cipher mean?
  • In the play The Glass Menagerie, would you describe Tom as selfish?
  • What does Kantian mean, from a philosophical perspective?
  • What's a colonnade ? My girlfriend is freaking me out with stories of her dream wedding where she walks down a colonnade. I know this is the least of my problems, but I'm curious.
  • My grandma says she knows how I feel when I knit my brows. Is she crazy?
  • Why is Shakespeare's play titled Julius Caesar , even though he is dead by Act III and plays a relatively small role?
  • I know bier has something to do with dead people, but what is it exactly?
  • My brainy brother owns a Harley and says his girlfriend is the pillion . Is he insulting her or just showing off?
  • I ran across the word mien in a book. Is it a typo?
  • Is a younker a person or a place?
  • Does precipitancy have something to do with the weather?
  • I'm writing a grade 12 comparative essay, and I need a book that I could compare with All Quiet on the Western Front. Any suggestions?
  • A friend says she suffers from ineffable sadness. What's ineffable ?
  • What's a scow ?
  • Is a maelstrom some kind of dangerous weather?
  • What is the meaning of this saying, The cat will mew and dog will have his day"?"
  • What is a paradox ?
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray mentions a panegyric on youth. What does that mean?
  • In Madame Bovary , what's a mairie?
  • In The Kite Runner, what's palliative mean?
  • So what's oligarchy ? In government class, my teacher mentioned that word when we were talking about the Blagojevich scandal in Illinois.
  • Is intrepidity a good thing or a bad thing?
  • My grandmother told me that she thinks grandpa should see an alienist. Does she think he's from another planet or what?
  • Do you have to have licentiousness to get your driver's license?
  • I ran across the word hardihood in something I read the other day. Is it some kind of clothing?
  • I saw mention of haversack in my history book. What does that word mean?
  • I'm guessing the word quadroon is four of something. But what's a roon?
  • I'm trying to understand Shakespeare's play, King Lear . Can you explain these quotes from Act 1, Scene 1?
  • In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment , what's a samovar ?
  • I came across a music channel that featured tejano," and then I saw the same word when I was reading Bless Me, Ultima. What does it mean?"
  • In The Awakening , there's a term prunella gaiter." I'm guessing that gaiters are a type of covering for your legs, like the gaiters I use on my ski boots to keep snow out. But what the heck is prunella? Is it a purplish color like prunes?"
  • What's sedulous mean?
  • In Chapter 2 of Jane Eyre , what are divers parchments ?
  • A friend of mine said she hopes to get a counterpane for Christmas. What's that?
  • In Wuthering Heights, what does munificent mean?
  • The other day, my dad called my friends a motley crew. Is that his way of saying I should hang out with a different crowd?
  • Why is there an authorship problem with Shakespeare?
  • What is it called when something is out of place in time, like a jet stream in a movie about ancient Rome?
  • In 1984 , does Winston die from a bullet at the end of the book or is he in a dream-state?
  • I saw some old guy in a soldier's uniform selling fake red flowers. He said it was for Veterans Day. What's the connection?
  • I was kind of flirting with this really cute boy when my teacher told me to stop palavering. Did she want me to stop flirting or stop talking?
  • My grandmother says when she was a kid in China, she became Catholic because of the Mary Knows nuns. I tried to look that up on the Internet but couldn't find anything. Can you help?
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo , does cupidity mean love? I'm guessing that because of, you know, Cupid . . . Valentine's Day.
  • My theater teacher called me a name the other day. I don't think it was supposed to be a compliment. What's a somnambulist, anyway?
  • Why was Tartuffe such a jerk?
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has this word fey in it, but I don't know what it means. Does it mean short lived or fleeting?
  • In Pride and Prejudice , what's probity" &mdash
  • I never met my grandma, who my mom says lives in a hovel and wants her to move in with us. Then I saw that word in Frankenstein . What's a hovel? I thought it was like a place that had room service.
  • I have a friend who said something about phantasmagoric. That's not real, is it?
  • Which of the following literary devices is used in these poetic lines by John Milton?
  • In Faulkner's A Rose for Emily," what does noblesse oblige mean?"
  • What is love?
  • What is suggested by the coin image in Book II of A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • Why does Satan rebel against God?
  • I'm reading Candide, by Voltaire, and one of the dudes is an Anabaptist. What's that?
  • What does the poem Summer Sun" by Robert Louis Stevenson really mean?"
  • What did Shakespeare want to say about his beloved in Sonnet 18?
  • In Romeo and Juliet , who was the last person to see Juliet alive?
  • What is the Catechism?
  • What is the overall meaning of the poem Before The Sun," by Charles Mungoshi?"
  • What does ague mean?
  • Is there a reference to venereal disease in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • What is fantasy fiction?
  • What is the exposition in Othello ?
  • Who is the character Susan in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • What is a found poem?
  • What did Alice Walker mean in the essay Beauty"?"
  • Why did Dr. Frankenstein create his monster?
  • What is the name of the surgeon and the English ship he's on in Moby-Dick ?
  • What are the differences between an epic hero and a Romantic hero?
  • In Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, does Gail Wynand commit suicide or only close The Banner at the end of the novel? I'm in a literary dispute over this!
  • What did W.E.B. Du Bois mean when he wrote of second-sight?
  • What is nihilism, and what should I read to get a better understanding of it?
  • What is the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?
  • What are intelligent design and creationism and how are they related?
  • What is misanthropy ?
  • I would like to understand the poem Blight" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Please help."
  • Can you explain the significance of the question, Which came first, the chicken or the egg?""
  • In Little Lost Robot," by Isaac Asimov, why have some robots been impressioned with only part of the First Law of Robotics?"
  • Can you explain Cartesian Dualism and how Descartes' philosophical endeavors led him to dualism?
  • When reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice , what does entailment mean?
  • What does ignominy mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What does pecuniary mean? (From Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities )
  • How do I analyze Kant's philosophy?
  • What is an apostrophe in Macbeth ?
  • Is music a language?
  • Why should literature be studied?
  • In the book The Scarlet Letter , what is a vigil ?
  • The first week of school isn't even over yet and I'm already in trouble — I forgot my textbook at school and can't do my homework! What should I do now?!
  • What are the renaissance features/characteristics in Hamlet ?
  • What is the exact quote in Hamlet about something being wrong in Denmark? Something smells? Something is amiss?
  • What does Utilitarianism mean, from a philosophical perspective?
  • What was the form of English that Shakespeare used?
  • At the beginning of Act V, Scene 2 of Much Ado About Nothing, does Shakespeare insinuate that anything is going on between Margaret and Benedick?
  • What was the "final solution" in the book Night by Elie Wiesel?
  • With the many novels out there, is there a database of some sort that can narrow down your choices to a specific book of interest for pleasure reading? And if not, why hasn't there been?
  • How do you pronounce Houyhnhnms ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • I just took the quiz on The Great Gatsby on this site. How can Jordan Baker be described as a professional golfer? To my knowledge, the LPGA did not form until the mid-1950s. Shouldn't she be referred to as an amateur golfer instead?
  • What are the humanities?
  • If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost aren't names, what is God's name?
  • What classic novels take place in Florida?
  • In which Hemingway short story is the saying, "Children's shoes for sale"?
  • Who is the "lady" that Robert Plant speaks of in the song "Stairway to Heaven"?
  • Was Odysseus the one who planned the Trojan horse, in the Trojan War?
  • How do I get my smart-but-hates-to-read son interested in reading?
  • Poetry gives me problems. How can I figure out what poems are about?
  • How do you analyze a novel?
  • What does it mean to ululate ? (From Golding's Lord of the Flies )
  • Is ambrosia a salad? (From Homer's The Odyssey )
  • What is a harbinger ? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be refractory ? (From Dickens' Great Expectations )
  • What is a querulous kid? (From Wharton's Ethan Frome )
  • What does the word runagate mean? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What is the word, imprimis ? (From Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew )
  • What does the word alchemy mean? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What is an estuary ? (From Conrad's Heart of Darkness )
  • What or who is a scullion ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is a schism ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • What does it mean to be salubrious ? (From Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights )
  • What is a replication ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is vicissitude ? (From Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables )
  • Can you define indolent ? (From Wharton's House of Mirth )
  • What does the word replete mean? (From Shakespeare's Henry V )
  • What are orisons ? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What does it mean to be ephemeral ?
  • What does it mean to be placid ? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
  • What is a paroxysm ? (From Stoker's Dracula )
  • My English teacher got really mad when I said I was nauseous . Why?
  • What does it mean to be farinaceous ? (From Tolstoy's Anna Karenina )
  • What does dejection mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What is animadversion ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What does it mean to be timorous ? (From Shakespeare's Othello )
  • Someone called me erudite . Is that good?
  • What is a mountebank ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What does incarnadine mean? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be puissant? (From Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)
  • What is a purloiner? (From Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities)
  • What does it mean to be affable ? (From Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment )
  • What does it mean to be ostensible ? (From Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court )
  • What does compunction mean? (From Dickens's Bleak House )
  • What is behoveful ? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What is a precentor ? (From Golding's Lord of the Flies )
  • What does it mean to be loquacious ? (From Cervantes's Don Quixote )
  • What does imprudence mean? (From Ibsen's A Doll's House )
  • What is a conflagration ? (From Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde )
  • What does it mean to be spurious ? (From James' Daisy Miller )
  • What is a retinue ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • What does the word forsworn mean? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What does the word hauteur mean? (From Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby )
  • What are vituperations ? (From Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl )
  • What are ostents ? (From Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice )
  • What is a sockdolager ? (From Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )
  • What does insuperable mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What is calumny ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is an augury ? (From Sophocles' Antigone )
  • What does squally mean? (From Dickens' Great Expectations )
  • What does corporal mean? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be plausible ? (From Sinclair's The Jungle )
  • What is a dearth ? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
  • What does it mean to vacillate ? (From Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest )
  • What does it mean to obtrude someone? (From Dickens's Great Expectations )
  • What is a heterodox ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What is felicity ? (From Austen's Emma )
  • What does it mean to be effacing ? (From Adams's The Education of Henry Adams )
  • What is a repast ? (From Chan Tsao's Dream of the Red Chamber )
  • What does insouciance mean? (From Sinclair's The Jungle )
  • What is a soliloquy ? (From Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )
  • I was reading The Iliad and there's this word in it: greaves . What's that?
  • What does the word prodigality mean? (From Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby )
  • Is there an easy way to understand The Canterbury Tales ?
  • What does the scarlet letter symbolize?
  • What is the significance of Grendel's cave in Beowulf ?
  • How did Hawthorne show that Hester Prynne was a strong woman in The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What purpose do the three witches serve at the beginning of Macbeth ?
  • What can you tell me about Grendel from Beowulf ?
  • What figurative language does Stephen Crane use in The Red Badge of Courage ?
  • Why is Roger so mean in Lord of the Flies ?
  • How do Gene and Finny mirror each other in A Separate Peace ?
  • The old man and the young wife — what's up with story plots like this?
  • What part does vengeance play in The Odyssey ?
  • What kind of a woman is Penelope in The Odyssey ?
  • Do fate and fortune guide the actions in Macbeth ?
  • How does Frankenstein relate to Paradise Lost ?
  • How has the way people view Othello changed over time?
  • How does Henry change throughout The Red Badge of Courage ?
  • What's so great about Gatsby?
  • How is To Kill a Mockingbird a coming-of-age story?
  • Why did Ophelia commit suicide in Hamlet ?
  • What is the setting of The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What is a slave narrative?
  • What's an anachronism ?
  • Doesn't Raskolnikov contradict himself in Crime and Punishment ?
  • What is the main theme of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What does Shakespeare mean by memento mori ?
  • What are inductive and deductive arguments?
  • How does Alice Walker break the rules" of literature with The Color Purple ?"
  • What role does Friar Laurence play in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • Why did Elie Wiesel call his autobiography Night ?
  • Where did Dickens get the idea to write A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • What's the purpose of the preface to The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What role do women play in A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • Who are the heroes and villains in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
  • What are the ides of March?
  • Was Kate really a shrew in The Taming of the Shrew ?
  • What role does innocence play in The Catcher in the Rye ?
  • How are Tom and Huck different from each other in Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What is blank verse and how does Shakespeare use it?
  • How do the book and film versions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest differ?
  • What is a satirical novel?
  • What is the role of censorship in Fahrenheit 451 ?
  • How can I keep myself on track to get through my summer reading list?
  • How does Jim fit into the overall theme of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What is a major theme of The Great Gatsby ?
  • How does Shakespeare use light and darkness in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • Who is the narrator in Faulkner's A Rose for Emily"?"
  • In Lord of the Flies , what statement is William Golding making about evil?
  • How is The Catcher in the Rye different from other coming-of-age novels?
  • How does Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird show two sides?
  • Was there supposed to be a nuclear war in The Handmaid's Tale ? I couldn't tell.
  • What is experimental theater"?"
  • Does Jonas die at the end of The Giver ?
  • What is an inciting incident, and how do I find one in Lord of the Flies ?
  • How does King Arthur die?
  • In Julius Caesar , what does this mean: Cowards die many times before their deaths
  • How do you write a paper on comparing a movie with the book?
  • Please explain this Kipling quote: Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.""
  • What is a tragic flaw?
  • What is a motif, and how can I find them in Macbeth ?
  • Why didn't Socrates write any books? After all, he was supposed to be so intelligent and wise.
  • Why are there blanks in place of people's names and places in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice ?
  • Was Othello a king? A prince? He's referred to as My Lord" but I'm not sure of his actual title."
  • I need to download some pictures of Juliet. Where would I find these?
  • Why does Odysseus decide to listen to the Sirens, in The Odyssey , by Homer?
  • What does prose and poetry mean? What's the difference?
  • In The Scarlet Letter, why is the scaffold important and how does it change over the course of the novel?
  • Why does the legend of King Arthur hold such a powerful grip over us?
  • Do you like to read books?
  • What are the metrical features in poetry?
  • What are the riddles that Gollum asked Bilbo in The Hobbit ?
  • Can you tell me what these two quotes from Much Ado About Nothing mean?
  • What is connotation, and how do you find it in a poem?
  • What is a dramatic monologue?
  • What is formal fallacy?
  • In the movie Dead Poets Society, what are some themes and values that are relevant to Transcendentalism. What is Transcendentalism?
  • Why didn't Mina Harker realize she was under Dracula's spell when she witnessed her friend fall prey to him, too? Wasn't it obvious?
  • In The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Cardinal Richelieu is labeled as the villain. How could he be presented as a hero instead?
  • In Romeo and Juliet , what are the different types of irony used? Um, what's irony?
  • What is the main theme in Fahrenheit 451 ?
  • In Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities , what fact in Book the Second: Chapters 1-6, confirms Darnay's release?
  • Why is Invisible Man considered a bildungsroman?
  • In A Doll's House , what risqué item does Nora reveal to Dr. Rank that eventually prompts him to disclose his own secret?
  • What is a definition of short story?
  • What percentage of people are considered geniuses?
  • How do I write and publish my own novel?
  • Do I use the past or present tense to answer this question: What is this poem about?" "
  • A Closer Look at Internships
  • Consider Working for a Nonprofit Organization
  • Create a Top-Quality Cover Letter
  • Deciding Whether to Go for Your MBA
  • Dress the Part for a Job Interview
  • Appropriate Attire: Defining Business Casual
  • Famous Americans Who Started Out in the Military
  • The Benefits of Joining a Professional Organization
  • Five Job Interview Mistakes
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  • Lying on Your Resume
  • Make the Most of Days between Jobs
  • Military Career Opportunity: Translators and Interpreters
  • Network Your Way into a Job
  • Prepare for a Job Interview
  • Preparing for Job Interview Questions
  • Putting Your English Degree to Work
  • Putting Your Education Degree to Work
  • Take Advantage of Job and Career Fairs
  • Tips for a Better Resume
  • Understand Negotiable Elements of a Job Offer
  • Visit the College Career Office
  • Write a Resume That Will Get Noticed
  • Write a Thank You Note after an Interview
  • Writing a Follow-Up Letter after Submitting Your Resume
  • Your Military Career: Basics of Officer Candidate School
  • Your Military Career: Requirements for Officer Candidate School
  • Know What to Expect in Graduate School
  • Paying for Graduate School
  • Plan for Graduate Education
  • Tackle the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • What Does School Accreditation Mean?
  • Writing Essays for Your Business School Application
  • Apply to Graduate School
  • Basic Requirements for Grad School
  • Choose a Graduate School
  • Decide if Graduate School Is Right for You
  • English Majors: Selecting a Graduate School or Program
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  • Graduate School Application: Tips, Advice, and Warnings
  • Graduate School: Applying as a Returning Student
  • How to Find a Mentor for Graduate School
  • How to Prepare for Grad School as an Undergrad
  • How Work Experience Affects Your MBA Application
  • Master's Degree in Biology: Choosing a Grad School
  • In what countries does Toyota produce and market cars?
  • How would you use the PDSA cycle in your personal life?
  • I am confused about adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing negative numbers.
  • Who are some famous female mathematicians?
  • Given the set of numbers [7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42], find a subset of these numbers that sums to 100.
  • The speed limit on a certain part of the highway is 65 miles per hour. What is this in feet per minute?
  • What is the sum of the angles of an octagon?
  • In math, what does reciprocal mean?
  • How many grams in an ounce?
  • A number is 20 less than its square. Find all answers.
  • How much is 1,000 thousands?
  • How do I find the angles of an isosceles triangle whose two base angles are equal and whose third angle is 10 less than three times a base angle?
  • Explain with words and an example how any number raised to the zero power is 1?
  • If I had 550 coins in a machine worth $456.25, what would be the denomination of each coin?
  • What three consecutive numbers add up to 417?
  • How many 100,000,000s in 50 billion?
  • Of 100 students asked if they like rock and roll or country music, 7 said they like neither, 90 said they like rock and roll, and 57 said they like country music. How many students like both?
  • What's the formula to convert square feet into square meters?
  • In math, what is the definition of order of operations?
  • What's the difference between digital and analog?
  • What is the square root of 523,457?
  • What are all of the prime numbers?
  • Our teacher told us to look for clues in math word problems. What did she mean?
  • How do I figure out math word problems (without going crazy)?
  • What good is geometry going to do me after I get out of school?
  • I keep forgetting how to add fractions. Can you remind me?
  • My teacher talks about the Greatest Common Factor. What's so great about it?
  • Got any tips on finding percentages of a number?
  • What does associative property mean when you’re talking about adding numbers?
  • How do I use domain and range in functions?
  • How do I change percents to decimals and fractions? How about decimals and fractions to percents?
  • What should I do if my teacher wants me to solve an inequality on a number line?
  • What is a fast and easy way to work word problems?
  • How do you combine numbers and symbols in an algebraic equation?
  • How do I go about rounding off a number?
  • What is the First Derivative Test for Local Extrema?
  • Can you describe a prism for me?
  • How can I double-check my answers to math equations?
  • How do you factor a binomial?
  • I get the words mean , mode , median , and range mixed up in math. What do they all mean?
  • How do you combine like terms in algebra?
  • Can you make it easier for me to understand what makes a number a prime number?
  • Explain probability to me (and how about some examples)?
  • Solving story problems is, well, a problem for me. Can you help?
  • What's inferential statistics all about?
  • Finding percentages confuses me. Do you have any tips to make it simpler?
  • What's a quadratic equation, and how do I solve one?
  • How do you figure out probability?
  • How do you add integers?
  • How do you use factoring in quadratic equations?
  • What are limits in calculus?
  • I've looked everywhere to find the meaning of this word and I can't find it. What's the definition of tesseract ?
  • In geometry, how do you get the perimeters of a square and a rectangle?
  • What is the absolute value of a negative number?
  • A rectangle swimming pool is 24m longer than it is wide and is surrounded by a deck 3m wide. Find the area of the pool if the area of the deck is 324m 2 . Where do I even start to solve this problem?
  • How do you classify numbers, as in rational numbers, integers, whole numbers, natural numbers, and irrational numbers? I am mostly stuck on classifying fractions.
  • How do you convert a fraction to a decimal or change a decimal to a fraction?
  • I am trying to find all solutions to this algebra (factoring) problem, x 3 – 3x 2 – x + 3 = 0, and I keep getting the wrong answer. Please help!
  • Sometimes when I'm doing my pre-calculus homework I need help on some of the problems. Do you know where I can find help on the weekends or whenever?
  • How do you convert metric measurements?
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  • In basic math, the fraction bar shows division. So why does this equation show multiplication instead of division? 9/9 = 1 because 1 x 9 = 9.
  • I'm taking geometry and I'm having problem with the angles and the degree. Is there a way you can help me out?
  • The perimeter of a rectangle is 66m. The width is 9m less than the length. What is the length and width of the rectangle?
  • How many dollars are in 5,000 pesos?
  • How many ounces in a pound?
  • I'm having a hard time remembering percent of change. All I have is P (percent) = amount of change over original amount. Is there a better way of understanding it?
  • How do I figure out tangrams?
  • What are quadrilaterals?
  • What is the least common multiple of 8, 6, and 12?
  • How do you convert decimals to fractions?
  • How did the planet" Pluto get its name? I know it's named after the mythical god of the underworld, but why?"
  • What is the difference between the earth's core and its crust?
  • What does gender really mean?
  • What does plum pudding have to do with physics?
  • What is the functionalist perspective in sociology?
  • What does pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis mean?
  • Why aren't viruses considered living things?
  • Why does your breathing rate increase when you exercise?
  • Everyone says you shouldn't clean your ears with cotton swabs because you could break an eardrum. But if you do break your eardrum, will it grow back?
  • What is a mole?
  • How, and why, is body fat stored?
  • Where on the body do you find ciliated pseudostratified columnar epithelium?
  • Since she was only married for 72 days, does Kim Kardashian have to give back her wedding gifts?
  • In the United States, how can you get buried at sea?
  • What exactly is Salvia divinorum , and is it legal?
  • What is the composition and volume of whole blood?
  • Should I refer to a widow as Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?
  • Is it possible to catch more than one cold at a time?
  • Why does the Earth have more gravitational force than the moon or some other planet?
  • Did humans evolve from monkeys or apes?
  • What is the largest organ in the human body?
  • How did we end up with both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales?
  • What is absolute zero?
  • What is cell theory?
  • How come when humans flatulate, it smells bad?
  • How do I convert mL into µL, and vice versa?
  • What is the most abundant element in the earth's crust?
  • Is global warming man-made?
  • What exactly is wind? And why does it blow?
  • This sounds really disgusting, but I'm curious: Can humans drink animal blood, or any other kind of blood?
  • Why is space exploration important?
  • How is photosynthesis essential to life on earth?
  • What is the highest mountain in New Mexico?
  • What's the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
  • Who are the unbelievers" referred to in The Koran? What is it that they do not believe?"
  • What is the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites?
  • What happens when you die?
  • Why is it important to memorize where the 50 states are on a map?
  • What kind of endangered species are there? Can you give me some examples, please?
  • It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open, so when you drive a car, is it against the law to sneeze?
  • What are tectonic plates?
  • I have boy trouble. I want to ask out my friend, but I am not sure he is going to say yes. Plus, he said he had a girlfriend when we talked during school. Plus, my parents don't want me to date.
  • Why is the sky blue?
  • Do you really shrink at the end of the day and then grow in the morning?
  • What is the difference between matter" and "mass"?"
  • What does "nature versus nurture" mean?
  • What are closed contour lines?
  • What is homeostasis ?
  • What does the periodic table look like?
  • Do you know anything about the law of conservation of energy? Is it really a law?
  • I thought I knew what work means, but my physics teacher defines it differently. What's up with that?
  • How do plants know when to drop their leaves?
  • What's the surface of the moon like?
  • How does the number of neutrons in the nucleus of an atom differentiate it from another atom?
  • How do big rocks wear down over time?
  • What does genetic recombination mean?
  • How has DNA matching really made big difference in finding out who committed a crime?
  • What's the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems?
  • What is incomplete dominance?
  • Can hydrocarbons be considered compounds?
  • Can you explain what molar mass is?
  • Aren't fungi really plants?
  • What information is contained in a chemical equation?
  • What are the endocrine and exocrine systems?
  • How do electrical charges interact?
  • Are there more than three kingdoms of life? I can never remember.
  • What are the characteristics of electrically charged objects?
  • How does anomie theory explain deviant behavior?
  • Why would anybody think there might be life on another planet?
  • What are chemical solutions?
  • Do you know of any way to simplify the overall subject of biochemical genetics?
  • Can a loud noise really shatter glass?
  • How do magnetic fields work?
  • Did Clarence Darrow really call an animal in to testify at the famous monkey trial?
  • What role does the thyroid gland play in the human body?
  • What did Mendel discover about heredity when he was playing around with plants?
  • How many laws of motion did Newton come up with, and what are they?
  • What in the world is constructive and destructive interference?
  • How do viruses do their dirty work?
  • What do bones do, except give us a skeletal structure?
  • Do all viruses look alike?
  • My teacher keeps talking about solubility. What does that mean, anyway?
  • How do positive and negative reinforcement work?
  • How does nondisjunction relate to birth defects?
  • With all the germs in the world today, how come everybody's not sick all the time?
  • What is thermal equilibrium?
  • How are sound waves created?
  • What do taste buds look like — up-close?
  • How often does an eclipse happen?
  • What is the chemical composition of saltwater?
  • I was told to write a 15-sentence answer to this question: When in life do you learn to expect the unexpected? I don't really know of an answer. Can you help me figure it out?
  • My school is having a blood drive and I am considering donating blood. Can you tell me more about the whole process and if it is painful?
  • Where can I download music for free? And if I do, is it illegal?
  • How do I convince my parents to give me ten bucks?
  • How should I deal with being a perfectionist?
  • How do I convince my little brother and sisters to stay out of my room?
  • Can you eat a rooster?
  • How do I work out a problem with a teacher who loses the assignments I turn in and then accuses me of not doing the homework?
  • Could a Tyrannosaurus rex kill King Kong?
  • How would you describe a rainbow to a person who has been blind their ENTIRE life and doesn't understand colors?
  • Will a tattoo inhibit hair growth?
  • When did gays come about?
  • I was wondering if the tilt on the earth's axis is important to animal life on earth. Could you explain?
  • What are the four types of tissue found in the human body?
  • Is there any easy" way to understand the Krebs Cycle?"
  • Why are prostaglandins sometimes called tissue hormones?
  • What is cell death? And what is the difference between apoptosis and necrosis?
  • How do I find the molar mass of the elements on the periodic table?
  • What do the symbols on the Periodic Table mean? For example, Gold-Au, Silver-Ag, Lead-Pb, Potassium-K, Tin-Sn, Iron-Fe, and Mercury-Hg, where did these symbols come from?
  • How is your mind connected to your dreams? Does this have anything to do with psychology?
  • What are the three main functions of the skeletal system?
  • What are the characteristics of a moneran, protist, and fungus?
  • Why does a placebo work? And who does it work for?
  • What are two properties of metals, nonmetals, and metalloids?
  • What is lymph? Is it part of the circulatory system in our bodies?
  • Can there be life on Mars?
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  • Is it possible for a marine mammal to be infected with rabies?
  • What exactly does the RNA do?
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  • What is a bacterial colony?
  • Dealing with the myth of Cinderella, written by the Grimm brothers, how could you analyze it in terms of archetypes that Carl Jung used?
  • What exactly is blood clotting and what are the processes involved?
  • What is the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission?
  • Does a person have to have the same blood type as his or her brothers and sisters?
  • My teacher said that eating poisonous mushrooms can make you sick or even kill you, but that they're not the only fungus that can. What is she talking about?
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  • What kind of structures are opposable toes?
  • What is an oral groove?
  • Dogs are spayed, but humans have hysterectomies. Isn't it all the same surgery?
  • What does the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) do?
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  • After I take the ASVAB, what is my obligation to the military?
  • If I choose to take the computerized version of the GRE, will I be typing or writing my analytical and issue essays?
  • Are there any MBA programs that don't require the GMAT?
  • Can you use a calculator on the GMAT? What are you allowed to take in with you to the test?
  • Should I keep taking the GMAT until I get a good score?
  • How is the ASVAB scored?
  • I canceled my GMAT score right after I took the test. Now I'm wondering if I did the right thing.
  • What is the ASVAB AFQT?
  • Where can I take the ASVAB?
  • Is it better to guess on GMAT answers or would that count against me?
  • How is my GMAT score used by grad schools?
  • Is it true that the writing assessment sections of the GMAT are graded by a computer?
  • What kinds of scores are reported on the GRE, and how long will it take for me to get my scores?
  • What do I need to bring with me to the GRE testing center?
  • How are GRE scores used?
  • How do I learn stuff for in-class exams?
  • How do I get ready for a math test?
  • Can I take a calculator to my ACT exam?
  • Do you have any tips for doing well on the AP Chemistry test?
  • What can I expect in the math part of the SAT?
  • How can I prepare for the SAT essay?
  • What is the Critical Reasoning section of the SAT like?
  • Is there a fun way to learn SAT vocabulary?
  • What books should I read for the AP English Literature exam?
  • How can I make sure I finish the AP essay question in time?
  • Since I made the soccer team, I don't feel like I have enough time to study. Do you have any study tips so I can use my time better and make sure I don't get kicked off the team for my grades?
  • I'm a huge procrastinator. How can I manage my time effectively to catch up on my assignments?
  • What kind or amount of note-taking is optimal? I get lost while making a notation and miss other parts of the lecture.
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  • If you have any music or audio notes playing on tape, CD, or whatever and you fall asleep, is it true that you'll have whatever was played memorized by the time you wake up?
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  • Are the math questions on the GMAT extremely difficult and complex?
  • Does it matter whether I take the SAT or ACT in my junior year or my senior year of high school?
  • What does AP mean?
  • How can I explain to my friend what I mean when I call him tedious ?
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  • I have a bet on this: Learnt is a real word, right?
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  • Define paraphrasing.
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  • Should I say, “Can I have a banana?” or “May I have a banana?”
  • Is the proper capitalization Atlantic ocean or Atlantic Ocean ?
  • What does the word supercilious mean?
  • Is grippe something that makes you sick?
  • Does the word elucidation have something to do with drugs?
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  • How can someone become a good writer?
  • How do you cite CliffsNotes in APA, MLA, and CMS styles?
  • What period in history does histrionics cover?
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  • What is the longest word in the English language?
  • I'm learning English now, so I gave myself an English name — Vivi." However, an American told me that "Vivi" is not suitable for a name. There are some local reasons. So I want to know if "Vivi" really can't be used as a name."
  • When writing a paper, what do I do to the title of a book? Do I underline it or italicize it?
  • Please look at this sentence: Both Peter and John like soccer. Should it be: Both Peter and John likes soccer.
  • What are the four genders of noun?
  • What is it called when a word is the same both forward and backward?
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  • What is the difference between narration and first person?
  • Is it grammatically correct to say take some shots"?"
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  • What's the big deal about plagiarism, anyway?
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  • Do stationary and stationery mean the same thing?
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  • Can you help me understand the difference between the words censor and censure ?
  • I get farther and further confused. Can you help?
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  • Can you tell me when to use faze instead of phase ?
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  • How useful are automatic spell-checkers?
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  • What is future perfect tense?
  • Is it okay to split infinitives?
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  • When do I use commas with clauses?
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  • What types of words or phrases should I avoid in my writing?
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  • When should I use apostrophe-S?
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  • How can I make the most out of my first draft?
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  • How do I organize a comparison essay?
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  • How do you use possessives in front of gerunds?
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  • Which adjectives can't be modified with more and most ?
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  • What is tone exactly and how do you find it in stories?
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  • What's the difference between description and narration?
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  • What word class would the word Novembery fit in to?
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  • What are the types of tones/attitudes in writing?
  • What are the first-person, second-person, and third-person points of view? Which is used for formal essays?
  • What is a good sentence for the word plinth ?
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  • Why can't you be rude or sarcastic in your thesis statement?
  • How do you write a paper, when the topic is yourself? How do you research that kind of thing?
  • What would a raging river be like?

Clearly, gender is out of its traditional order. This disruption of gender roles is also presented through Lady Macbeth's usurpation of the dominant role in the Macbeth's marriage; on many occasions, she rules her husband and dictates his actions.

The disruption of gender roles is also represented in the weird sisters. The trio is perceived as violating nature, and despite their designation as sisters, the gender of these characters is also ambiguous. Upon encountering them, Banquo says, "You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so" (I.2.45-47). Their facial hair symbolizes their influence in the affairs of the male-dominated warrior society of Scotland. Critics see the witches and the question of their gender as a device Shakespeare uses to criticize the male-dominated culture.

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Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Profile image of Janna H Hooke

The delineation of gender roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth yields an array of critiques wrought with contention, most notable in the characterization of Lady Macbeth. While many critics argue that Lady Macbeth's quests for power are irrevocably masculinized, Stephanie Chamberlain claims in Fantasizing Infanticide: Lady Macbeth and the Murdering Mother in Early Modern England that this power is "conditioned on maternity." She argues that Lady Macbeth uses descriptions of infanticide and nursing to undermine the patrilineal order, "momentarily empowering the achievement of an illegitimate political goal." Though perhaps not adhering to traditional gender roles in her attempts to incite Duncan's murder, Chamberlain ultimately maintains that the dominant source of Lady Macbeth's power is poignantly female. While this criticism is certainly valid, the elemental aspects of the play can better be explained by viewing Lady Macbeth's momentary ascension to power as the product of a masculine invocation. In this analytical framework, her use of violent, unnatural images such as infanticide represent, not an attempt to gain power through a "maternal agency,"3 or a traditionally female channel, but a rejection of this channel altogether. Instead, Lady Macbeth attempts to gain power by invoking masculine violence and cold, male indifference. This notion is supported by and explains the unnatural tone that punctuates scenes involving Lady Macbeth and other female characters that threaten what a patrilineal society would deem the "natural gender order." This association between women with male qualities, or women trying to gain power and status through masculine channels (instead of patrilineage) and the "unnatural" provides a basis for Shakespeare to deliver consequences in congruence with the early modern English social context during which the play was written. A violation of the "natural" order, the consequence for Lady Macbeth's invocation of the masculine to access what was traditionally only available to women through their status as mothers, is madness. For the witches, it is alienation.

Related Papers

Saman A Mohammed

William Shakespeare‟s Macbeth was most likely written in 1606, three years into the reign of James I, James VI of Scotland since 1567 before he achieved the English throne in 1603. Macbeth is Shakespeare‟s shortest tragedy yet it is one of his most influential and emotionally intense plays. Macbeth portrays “the paralyzing, almost complete destruction of human spirit” (Shanley 307). Like most of Shakespeare‟s plays, Macbeth deals with the question of kingship and portrays the “problems of legitimacy and succession” surrounding serious political power that belonged to the monarch, the court and the royal councils (Hadfield 27). Numerous historical and literary studies have been conducted about various topics in Macbeth such as human desire, cruelty, and guilt. Gender role and its relation with power also have a great significance to the interpretation of the play. Shakespeare substantially emphasizes the male-female relationship and gender dynamic and does not seem to treat gender simply as binary example of male/female. Shakespeare shows the relationship between gender and power which can be related to the patriarchal discourse of early modern England. He portrays women as major determinants in men‟s actions but “their function varies throughout the canon” and also in distinct categories of either “good or evil, victims or monsters” (Berggren 18, 11). Men are portrayed as strong willed and courageous, but female character like Lady Macbeth is also given a ruthless, power-hungry personality, which is typically, in the period, more associated with masculinity. Lady Macbeth, one of the main characters in Macbeth, is deeply ambitious and her role is essentially important to further understanding Shakespeare‟s presentation of female characters. In this paper, I will provide a brief context of Macbeth in terms of contemporary issues about sovereignty. I will closely examine the role of women in Macbeth, precisely Lady Macbeth, in Macbeth‟s downfall, particularly focusing on how and why Lady Macbeth is an unsettling and disruptive force to the order of the sovereignty. The paper will cover the contemporary issue of witchcraft, to suggest that Lady Macbeth‟s gender can be associated with supernatural subversion, as well as sexual temptation and the period‟s perspective about it. The paper discusses masculinity in relation to Lady Macbeth and the relationship between the plays actions and the natural order to suggest that natural order better reveals Lady Macbeth‟s disruption as well as the notion of monster in Macbeth. This essay will end by discussing the significance of the events that happen to both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after the murder act and a conclusion.

macbeth gender roles thesis

Alec Leibsohn

Mohammad Jashim Uddin

Feminism is the most common term nowadays as since the 19th century women have been struggling for their rights and for banishing the patriarchal dominance. Women are more united and aware to establish the equity and equality in society, but men in the name of social and religious behaviour always try to enchain women and use how they wish. For these, they change their strategies frequently. As feminism is a discourse and academic discipline, people have attempted to know why and how men have started dominating women. Consequently, reading Shakespeare is important as he creates a lot of women characters in his tragedies. And a deep reading of Shakespeare's Macbeth from a feminist perspective shows how technically Shakespeare introduces Lady Macbeth as a criminal and the so-called fourth witch. Even nowhere does Shakespeare mention what Lady Macbeth's real identity is. That's why, the paper aims at reading the text from a feminist perspective to search the treatment of Shakespeare towards Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and to know why Lady Macbeth's identity is ignored here. To fulfil these, the paper briefly describes the nature of patriarchy and feminism, then the textual analysis critically with these features. Finally, it shows its findings and proves that Shakespeare is not also free from patriarchal tendency.

Vaughn Feuer

Sophia-Maria Nicolopoulos

The aim of the paper is to address instances of violence in William Shakespeare's masterpiece Macbeth (1606) and in Rupert Goold's 2010 TV adaptation, starring Sir Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood. Set in an unidentified Soviet regime, the director ingeniously represents on and offstage violence by placing emphasis on gruesome details and raw animalistic instincts. Firstly, I will shortly elaborate on the nature of violence in Elizabethan drama and then, I will extensively discuss specific instances of violence in Shakespeare's tragedy by referring to scholarly works on the topic. Finally, based on the key terms of film analysis, I will provide my own interpretation of Goold's TV film.

Ramona Rizescu

Journal of Educational and Social Research

Amir Hossain , Arburim ISENI

In this paper, our purpose is to depict the feminist message as articulated in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler by portraying Lady Macbeth and Hedda Gabler who are representatives of Elizabethan England and the 19th century Scandinavian Bourgeois society and culture respectively. Through these female protagonists, both dramatists wanted to expose their contemporary situation of the female community. Both Hedda and Lady Macbeth have raised a fiery voice or initiated a dreadful revolution against the patriarchal rule, power, and domination with a view to attaining self-pelf, self-power, and self-domination. In these two plays, both Shakespeare and Ibsen have prioritized the female identity, revolt, and dominance more than the male order and custom. This paper also aims to discuss the character of Lady Macbeth as the matriarchal influence upon the patriarchy, the ambitious crime, woman’s idea upon masculinity, Lady Macbeth’s effort to repudiate womanhood, her femininity versus her unnatural resolve, her fear and remorse, her sleep-walking; Hedda is also viewed as a maladjusted, neurotic, unfulfilled, unnatural woman, full of nervous energy and longings-gliding to irresistible selfdestruction. Here, I have tried to highlight the critical judgments of several critics based on the character-analysis of the two powerful female protagonists. Considering the femme fatale characters of Shakespeare and Ibsen, the most renowned and powerful playwrights writing in English and Norwegian language respectively, especially the powerful and domineering female protagonists cum heroines, Lady Macbeth and Hedda Gabler, this paper proposes to draw attention to the play-texts of both dramatists as the embodiment of the 21st century radical feminism as well. Keywords: "Lady Macbeth", "Hedda Gabler", Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Post-Feminism

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Role of Gender in Macbeth

  • by Guiding Literature
  • April 1, 2023 April 1, 2023

Gender plays a significant role in Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth.” The play presents a world where men and women are expected to behave in certain ways based on their gender, and characters who defy these gender roles often face consequences.

At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is presented as a powerful and manipulative figure who is able to control her husband and influence his actions. She encourages Macbeth to pursue his ambitions and become king, and she is willing to use any means necessary to achieve this goal. However, as the play progresses, Lady Macbeth becomes increasingly consumed by guilt and eventually descends into madness. This suggests that while Lady Macbeth is able to wield power and influence, ultimately she is unable to escape the gender expectations of her time and is punished for her defiance.

Lady Macbeth: Warrior or Worrier? - Oxford Education Blog

Macbeth, on the other hand, is presented as a traditionally masculine figure. He is ambitious, brave, and willing to use violence to achieve his goals. However, as he becomes more ruthless and paranoid, he also becomes increasingly isolated and ultimately meets a tragic end. This suggests that while Macbeth is able to embody traditional masculine traits, he too is ultimately limited by his gender and is unable to achieve true success or happiness.

The play also presents a contrast between the masculine and feminine ideals of the time. The witches, who are traditionally seen as a feminine and subversive force, represent chaos and disorder. They are able to manipulate Macbeth and spur him towards violence, suggesting that they have a power that is beyond traditional masculine authority. However, the witches are ultimately punished for their defiance, suggesting that they too are limited by their gender and are unable to escape the consequences of their actions.

The portrayal of gender in “Macbeth” is also evident in the way that the female characters are treated by the male characters. Lady Macbeth is often belittled and dismissed by the male characters in the play, who see her as an overly ambitious and unnatural figure. Lady Macduff, another female character, is also presented as powerless and vulnerable, ultimately meeting a tragic end at the hands of Macbeth’s henchmen. This suggests that in the world of the play, women are viewed as inferior to men and are often victimized by their actions.

In conclusion, gender plays a significant role in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” The play presents a world where men and women are expected to behave in certain ways based on their gender, and characters who defy these gender roles often face consequences. Lady Macbeth is a powerful and manipulative figure who ultimately meets a tragic end, while Macbeth embodies traditional masculine traits but is ultimately limited by his gender. The play also presents a contrast between the masculine and feminine ideals of the time, and portrays female characters as often victimized by the actions of the male characters.

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Gender and Manliness in Macbeth

  • Atteq ur Rahman

Macbeth has remained one of the most fascinating works produced by Shakespeare which is why commentators have analyzed it from multiple dimensions. This paper analyzes the gender roles that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and Macduff and Lady Macduff perform during the action of the play. It traces how the concept of manhood in the sixteenth century hierarchy of gender roles is challenged and defended by the mentioned couples respectively. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth display a deviation from the gender roles already established in the then society. They defy the stereotypical gender roles between a dominant husband and a submissive wife which were quite common in medieval times. In contrast, Lady Macduff and Macduff reflect the established equation of gender roles as per the norms of the society they lived in. In the course of the play, the notion of manliness has been challenged, and reshaped throughout the action of the play; however, in the first part, it is mainly reduced to inhumaneness of character and blind aggression. The aggressive and inhuman ideals of masculinity are countered in the second half of the play with the focus shifting to Lord and Lady Macduff.  The playwright shifts the audience’s attention to these two characters at a point when Lord and Lady Macbeth appear to fail in their “perverted” way of life. However, at the end of the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s faulty sense of gender expectations stops them from differentiating between manliness and monstrosity, which ultimately transforms them from becoming a worthy gentleman and honorable lady.

Adelman, Janet. "Born of Woman: Fantasies of Maternal Power in Macbeth." In Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender, ed. Garner, Shirley Nelson, and Madelon Sprengnether. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996. pp.105-134. Print.

Berger, Harry, Jr. “Texts against Performance in Shakespeare.” In The Forms of Power and the Power of Forms. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. Genre15: 49-79. 1982. Print.

Bever, Edward. "Witchcraft, Female Aggression, and Power in the Early Modern Community." Journal of Social History. 2002. pp. 955-988.

Burnett, Mark Thornton. “The fiend-like Queen”: Rewriting Lady Macbeth.” Parergon 11.1: 1-19. Print.

Davis, Michael. “Courage and Impotence in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.” Sarah Lawrence Essays 4 (February) 7-29. 1979. Print.

Fawkner, Harald William. Deconstructing Macbeth: The Hyperontological View. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1990. Print.

French, Marilyn. Shakespeare’s Division of Experience. New York: Ballentine Books. 1983. Print.

Jean E. Howard. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. 2579-2632. Print.

Kahn, Coppelia. Man’s Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1981. Print.

Kimbrough, Robert. “Macbeth as Prisoner of Gender.” Shakespeare Studies 16: pp. 175-90.1983. Print.

Klein, Joan Larsen. "Lady Macbeth: Infirm of Purpose." In The Woman's Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, ed. Lenz, Carolyn Ruth Swift, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1980. pp. 240-255. Print.

Ramsey, Jarold. “The Perversion of Manliness in Macbeth.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 13, No. 2, Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama (Spring, 1973), pp. 285-300

Shakespeare, William. "The Tragedy of Macbeth." The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the Oxford Edition. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Katharine Eisaman Maus

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Macbeth — Gender Roles and Lady Macbeth


Gender Roles and Lady Macbeth

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Published: Jun 29, 2018

Words: 1185 | Pages: 2.5 | 6 min read

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Macbeth and Issues of Gender

William Shakespeare's Macbeth is both the author's shortest and bloodiest play. It is therefore a natural choice for high school students. Plays are meant to be performed and not merely read, as is usually the case in the high school classroom. Therefore, it is a happy occurrence that instructors may now use video recordings, audio recordings, and DVDs to bring the performance element into the classroom. But performance on film was not Shakespeare's medium. On stage, the audience gets to look where it wants. The actors get to say their lines without fear of winding up on the cutting floor. When we switch from a play to a film, the director is king, and we now have possibly quite a different experience.

The artistry of cinema and the difficult task of taking a stage play and reinterpreting it for a different medium offer students and teachers a plethora of interesting, and sometimes controversial choices to examine. The intention of this curriculum unit is to examine many of these cinematic alterations and interpretations and to use them to enrich the classroom discussion of Macbeth . How do the costumes add to or conflict with our understanding of the characters? Does the casting seem appropriate? For instance, is a particular Lady Macbeth too old, too young, too sexy, or too ugly to have caused the reactions in Macbeth that we see? Why was a particular location chosen? Was the director looking for authenticity, trying to convey a message, or did he simply run out of money? What changes in mood occur when lighting or the background music are added? Many such questions and more may be posed when considering a scene of Macbeth on film, or of any adaptation of literature to film.

Macbeth is an appealing play for both male and female twelfth grade high school students. The subject matter of the play is known to involve murder and violence, and at first glance, not much more than a man whose ambition got the better of him. We have in Macbeth what appears to be the ultimate man, one who knows exactly what he wants, a man of action. However, Shakespeare is capable of writing far more nuanced characters than that. I propose that we look at many non-linguistic issues of film to help illuminate the subtleties in the language of Shakespeare.

Macbeth is introduced to us before he ever appears on stage. This is a technique that Shakespeare often employs. We learn of Macbeth's "valiant," "brave," and "noble" virtues, his exploits on the battlefield, and of the admiration of his king before he steps foot onto the stage. The exploits of Macbeth in battle are vividly described. We learn that Macbeth unhesitatingly "unseam'd" the "merciless Macdonwald" "from the nave to the chaps," and with a bit of foreshadowing of future events, "fix'd his head upon [their] battlements." We learn that "brave Macbeth" killed so many that his sword "smok'd with bloody execution." We discover that, even when "shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break," and the opposition begins "a fresh assault," neither Macbeth nor Banquo were anymore dismayed than eagles are by sparrows, or lions by gentle rabbits. Thus they turn the tide of battle so completely, and vanquish their enemies so thoroughly, that "poor Sweno, the Norweyan lord" must beg to have their dead soldiers buried on Scottish soil.

"The narrative casts forth an image of Macbeth as an almost superhuman engine of destruction," says Derek Cohen. "The phrase 'carv'd out his passage' is no neutral description of warrior's progress, but a terrible image of bloody slaughter as Macbeth makes a corridor of bodies between himself and Macdonwald. The smoking sword speaks not only of the hidden demonism of the hero, but also the wrath with which he wreaks his righteous havoc" (Cohen 130).

As a result, we are thoroughly prepared to meet a man who is decisive, brave, undaunted by overpowering enemies — a man who knows what he needs to do and does it, and certainly a man who does not flinch from bloody acts. So it is with great surprise, perhaps astonishment, that we see this great man of the battlefield, this man among men, brought to his knees by the powers of "equivocation," manipulation, and persuasion by the women of the play. Or is that what has happened? Was it instead a form of permission for Macbeth to act out his ambitions already lurking in his heart? We have already heard about Macbeth's ambitions and thoughts so horrible that he wonders, "why do I yield to that suggestion/Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair/And make my seated heart knock at my ribs" (I, iii).

Scholar Dennis Biggins says that "Shakespeare carefully avoids portraying a Macbeth helplessly caught in the grip of irresistible demonic forces; the Weird Sisters' malice is evident in all their traffickings with him, yet nowhere are we shown invincible proof of their power over him" (256). Was this man, who fights so bravely on the battlefield, so weak and uncertain of his own actions once at home that he can be swayed with a well-constructed argument, or a trick of fortune telling? What comments is Shakespeare making about gender stereotypes of his time? What happens when a man or woman attempts to "o'erleap" the role that has been spelled out for them in society and go another way?

This curriculum unit will address these questions. Students will examine selected scenes from four screen adaptations of Macbeth: Roman Polanski's Macbeth (1971) , Orson Welles' Macbeth (1948) , Men of Respect (1990) , and Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (1957), or its more direct translation, The Castle of the Spider's Web . Each director has his own approach, visible in camera angles, lighting, sound, casting, omission and inclusion of Shakespeare's lines, and the addition of scenes never written by Shakespeare. We will examine Macbeth through the questions it raises about the nature of men and women. How are the witches and Lady Macbeth depicted? Who do they cast? How are they dressed? How do they sound and move? Students will view selected scenes of the women in Macbeth to enrich their discussions of Shakespeare's apparent attitudes. What is Shakespeare's original intent, and do the directors aim to be faithful to this, or do they alter the meaning of the play as written to suit a contemporary audience or personal point of view?

The world that Shakespeare has created in Macbeth is a world of men and women living with gender stereotypes: crossing them, fighting against them, and the blurring of roles. Interestingly, according to Holinshed's Chronicles of Scotland , the inspiration for many of Shakespeare's plays, we learn that in the days of the historic Macbeth, once the actual King of Scotland, women were not kept in a quiet, weak, uninvolved role. We learn from Carolyn Asp that "Holinshed actually writes of this period that 'in the daies also the women of our countries were of no lesse courage than the men; for all stout maidens and wives. . .marched as well in the field as did the men, and so soone as the armie did set forward, they slue the first living creature that they found, in whose bloud they not onlie bathed their swords, but also tasted thereof with their mouthes"(158). Shakespeare, on the other hand, creates a world where it is unnatural for women to fight. In Act IV, scene iii, Ross is explaining to Macduff how bad things go under the rule of Macbeth, so bad in fact, that "your eye in Scotland would. . .make our women fight." Asp believes that "this comment suggests that Shakespeare took liberties with his source in order to create an artistic world in which he could examine male and female stereotypes"(158).

Men and women do have differences, to be sure, and Kimbrough refers to these differences as "infinitesimal." The differences really exist not in the body, he says, but in the mind, and by Shakespeare's era, the separation between men and women had become "an absolute division of humanity, not into subtypes of one species, but into separated types, each treated as if it were itself a separate species" (175). The separate species of the male was on top, women below. Shakespeare examines these strict distinctions in his plays. Women dress as men, as just one example, who were really boys playing women. He enjoys the opportunity to examine human nature, and clearly, he can see the reality beyond the roles played by men and women - the each is capable of the characteristics and strengths of the other. "Shakespeare sensed that humanhood embraces manhood and womanhood. Shakespeare sensed that so long as one remains exclusively female or exclusively make, that person will be restricted and confined, denied human growth. . .his works move toward liberating humanity from the prisons created by inclusive and exclusive gender labeling" (Kimbrough 175).

Although both the men and women of Shakespeare's Macbeth are important, the focus of this curriculum unit is the women of the play: Lady Macbeth and the witches. Macbeth may appear at first to be a stereotypical, uncomplicated man, and will become more complex later on; Lady Macbeth, however, reveals her complicated personality from the start.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is one of the strongest women in all of Shakespeare's plays. However, consider how she must contend with the role of women in her world. In order for Lady Macbeth to carry out her plans, she feels she must pray that the gods "unsex [her] here." Even then, it is not her intent to carry out the murder of Duncan herself, but to spur on her husband to "catch the nearest way." "And the irony of this attempt to masculate herself is highlighted by the fact that she was trying to be the 'good and dutiful' wife of the newly emerging middle-class culture, trying to 'better' her husband" (Kimbrough 187).

Shakespeare's Scotland is a warrior society with little place for women. "Women are subordinate to men and divorced from political influence because they lack those qualities that would fit them for a warrior society"(Asp 158). We have already seen how Macbeth's first entrance into the play follows his brave actions on the battlefield.

In Macbeth , and elsewhere in Shakespeare, as in Elizabethan literature in general, to be 'manly' is to be aggressive, daring, bold, resolute, and strong, especially in the face of death, whether giving or receiving. To be 'womanly' is to be gentle, fearful, pitying, wavering, and soft, a condition often signified by tears. That machismo was a positive cultural virtue in Shakespeare's day is what gives point to Lady Macbeth's strikes against her husband. Indeed, the play opens and closes with ceremonial and romantic emphasis on brave manhood. In the beginning, such is the theme of the description given of 'brave Macbeth' by that 'good and hardy soldier' whose 'words become thee as thy wounds. /They smack of honor both.' (Kimbrough 177).

Lady Macbeth is not aligned with the stereotypes in Shakespeare's Macbeth , but nonetheless she must contend with them from both inside and outside herself. Asp outlines many examples of ways that the characters of Macbeth cannot overcome their male/female stereotypical roles. Despite Lady Macbeth's desire to be more like a man for the task at hand, she proves to be still the weak female when it comes to the actual deed. She needs wine to maintain her courage. As she says, "That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold" (II, ii). She jumps and starts at every sound saying, "Hark! Peace! It was the owl that shriek'd" while waiting for her husband to return from his murderous act. She thinks of killing Duncan herself when she has the daggers in her hands, but holds back, saying, "Had he not resembled/My father as he slept, I had done 't"(II, ii). The speech of both Macbeths is "staccato," demonstrating the fear they are both feeling at that moment.

Macduff arrives, discovers the murdered Duncan, and awakens the household. Lady Macbeth enters feigning outrage by the disturbance, and Macduff replies with concern for her gentle nature as a woman, "O gentle lady, /'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak:/The repetition, in a woman's ear, /Would murder as it fell" (II, iii). In fact, he is correct to be concerned, because shortly thereafter, she is overcome by the news of murder. It is not Duncan's death that overwhelms her womanly sensibilities, but the news that Macbeth has gone beyond their plan and murdered the chamberlains who had been "mark'd with blood" of Duncan. Macbeth admits, "That I did kill them" (II, iii), and Lady Macbeth exclaims, "Help me hence, ho!" (II, iii) as she faints, Macduff requesting, "Look to the lady" (II, iii). Despite her attempts to go beyond her own gender, in the end, she proves that she remains a "lady."

Derek Cohen states, "The equation of manliness with violence, a truism in the criticism of Macbeth, has a curious double edge. It is from Lady Macbeth that Macbeth himself takes his images of manliness. His fears and scruples, his anxious dependence on his wife's opinions bespeak a sensitive 'femaleness' in his own nature which is visibly belied by her brutality. We are left in gender limbo"(133).

So Shakespeare seems to have deliberately chosen to examine what happens when a man or a woman departs from sexual stereotypes. In the case of Lady Macbeth, we see the tragic result of one who pushes for the ultimate act of violence, in a manly fashion, not able to predict the "manliness" she will unleash in her husband, or the distance it will create between herself and her "partner in greatness."

Women as Forces of Evil and Lady Macbeth

Women are a dangerous presence in Macbeth . According to Stephanie Chamberlain, fear of the power of women was a strong force in early modern England. Women could wield control over patrilineage in ways men could not. Women could be unfaithful in marriage, thus changing the lineage, and a husband could be duped into raising another man's child. Women could pass on traits, both wanted and unwanted, through nursing, rearing of children, and neglect of children. It was feared that women would commit infanticide. Chamberlain tells us, "Perhaps no other early modern crime better exemplifies cultural fears about maternal agency than does infanticide, a crime against both person and lineage"(3).

Coursen suggests, in fact, that the story of Adam and Eve underlies the entire play. He says, "The myth vibrating beneath the surface of Macbeth is of the original myths - that of the fall from a state of grace" (375). When she says, ". . .look like the innocent flower, /But be the serpent under't (I, v), he believes that "The serpent suggests the deception which slithered into Eden to tempt Eve," and that "Lady Macbeth here is the tempting serpent and, of course, is also the deceived" (376).

In Act I, scene seven, we see Lady Macbeth acting as the ultimate temptress. She skillfully pulls out all the stops to manipulate her husband. When Macbeth informs his wife that "We will proceed no further in this business" (I, vii), she impugns the ultimate definition of manhood, his sexual prowess, when she replies, "Art thou afeard/ To be the same in thine own act and valor/As thou art in desire?"(I, vii), and then almost immediately questions whether or not he would choose to "live a coward." He replies, "I dare do all that may become a man" (I, vii), feeling he must defend himself against her accusations. She does not stop there. First she acts as if the idea originated with Macbeth and not herself saying, "What beast was't then/That made you break this enterprise to me?" (I, vii) and adds, "When you durst do it, then you were a man" (I, vii). She continues to wheedle seductively, saying, "And, to be more than what you were, you would/Be so much more the man." (I, vii). Next, in the very same speech, Lady Macbeth utters the cryptic lines stating that, rather than back out of this promise to kill Duncan, she would sooner take "the babe that milks me:/I would, while it was smiling in my face, /Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums/And dash'd the brains out" (I, vii).

When Macbeth responds with, "If we should fail?" (I, vii), we see that she had indeed succeeded in convincing him to go through with the murder of Duncan after all. And she is not through yet. She has the entire plan worked out, and all her husband must do is follow instructions. Macbeth is so in awe of his wife's power and force at that point that he states that she should "Bring forth men-children only;/For thy undaunted mettle should compose/Nothing but males" (I, vii). Apparently, Macbeth feels he must prove his manhood to his wife even though seemingly all of Scotland has acknowledged his bravery and courage. By the end of a scene like this, what man could stand up to such a woman?

The Witches

Fear of women in early modern England is also evidenced by the accusations of witchcraft toward primarily women. "In the period 1300-1500 about two-thirds of all accused were women. A closer examination. . .indicates, however, that many of the male one-third were persecuted in the early fourteenth century, and by the end of this period the trials. . .show an overwhelming concern with women" (Anderson 172). The question is why were women the targets to such an overwhelming degree of this barbaric persecution, and why was this so readily accepted? Where were the defenders of women?

Anderson and Gordon point to the lowly position of women in the Middle Ages, "even in the earlier period of 'courtly love'" (Anderson 173). They quote Eileen Power when they say, "a fundamental tenet of Christian dogma was the subjection of women, while: 'The view of woman as instrument of the Devil, a thing at once inferior and evil, took shape in the earliest period of Church history and was indeed originated by the Church.'" (173).

The belief in witchcraft, therefore, was not new when King James took the throne of England in 1603. However, as in many things, Elizabeth took a moderate approach to their prosecution. King James, on the other hand, fancied he was an expert, wrote his own book on the subject entitled Daemonologie , and even participated personally in some witch trials (Best 1). A renewed and more enthusiastic persecution of witches was exported from Scotland along with their monarch. Between 1560 and 1707, somewhere between three thousand and four thousand five hundred had "perished horribly" in Scotland, more thanin England, despite a much more meager population (Anderson 176). One of King James' acts once he took the English throne was to "extend the death penalty" to many more accused witches than had been the case under Elizabethan law.

The English, however, never matched the Scots in these large numbers. In fact, Anderson and Gordon report a study by Notestein suggesting that "self-confident and independent women who increasingly appear in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century drama probably mirrored real changes taking place in all levels of English society" (177).

Do the women of Shakespeare's Macbeth reflect a set of conflicting opinions about women of his day? "The relative mildness of English witchcraft and witch persecution can, therefore, be attributed to the difficulties involved in translating an image derived from a sexual mythology which saw women as generically inferior and inherently evil into one which could appear credible to a society which saw women in a different light" (Anderson 181).

So we have a very conflicted image of women as source material for Shakespeare's Macbeth . On one hand, we have the text from Holinshed telling us that women were courageous and powerful members of the army in the Scotland of the eleventh century. On the other had, we have the women of Shakespeare's own time circumscribed to a very definite and subordinate role, while ever more independent women begin to appear. Simultaneously, and perhaps in part because of this, women are feared and persecuted, and seen as "inherently evil." Are the witches in Macbeth the ultimate personification of that much-feared independent woman? Wouldn't women of 2007 be able to relate to operating in a society filled with conflicted feelings?

Lady Macbeth, of course, has her husband, and she very solicitously refers to him as "My thane." Lady Asaji , in the Japanese version, is careful to say "My Lord" when speaking to Washizu. The superior position of the men must not be ignored if they hope to be at all persuasive. In Early Modern England, the patriarchal family was a value enforced from many directions, especially the Christian Church. Bever explains, "European male leaders considered patriarchal families to be the foundation of society. . . 'Assertive and aggressive' women challenged this order, and could be beaten by their husbands, punished for moral offenses ranging from scolding to adultery, or, at the extreme, burned for witch craft" (956).

The witches in Macbeth fly in the face of the patriarchal society. Early in the play, the witches seem to have no such male superior. Macbeth and Banquo meet three strange women on the heath with no man in sight. Or are they women? Banquo wonders this when he says, "you should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret /That you are so" (I, iii). So even their appearance sets them apart from normal women.

Prior to this we hear about one escapade of the witches who take revenge against a sailor's wife who would not share her chestnuts! What does the witch do? She goes after the woman's husband. "Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o' the Tiger;/ But in a sieve I'll thither sail, / And, like a rat without a tail, / I'll do, I'll do, I'll do" (I, iii). The other witches offer to send additional wind to help her. She plans to keep the sailor awake so that "Sleep shall neither night nor day/ Hang upon his pent-house lid;" (I, iii), and then proudly displays "a pilot's thumb" (I, iii). Shakespeare is letting us know a thing or two about these "weird sisters." What is his take on them? I would ask my students to speculate. They do not seem to be as malevolent as Macbeth will later become. We do not hear of brutal murders at their hands. Yet they are not dutiful wives or carefully chaperoned daughters. They are disorderly and disheveled, outside of society's norm, and worst of all, seem to enjoy that position.

Lady Macbeth and the witches have been depicted a wide variety of ways in theater performance and screen adaptations. Directors differ widely in their opinion of the proper way to portray her. Just think of the difference between stern and masculine Dame Judith Anderson in the NBC production of Macbeth in 1954 versus feminine, young and sexual Francisca Annis in Roman Polanski's Macbeth . Students will be asked to examine several productions of Shakespeare to evaluate these differences.

Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, or Cobweb Castle

Early in his career, Akira Kurosawa was pulled to make a film of Macbeth . However, when he heard that Orson Welles was already doing the same, he postponed his project and completed his version in 1957. This black and white film is in Japanese with subtitles, but would still be exciting enough to hold the attention of many students. Kurosawa follows the general outline of Shakespeare's story, though in a somewhat simplified version. He saw a connection between medieval Scotland and medieval Japan, while also being relevant to contemporary society. One place where we see subtle differences is in his depiction of Asaji, his Lady Macbeth. Anthony Dawson says, "The scene mirrors and departs subtly from Macbeth . Washizu is even less ambitious than his counterpart, more troubled and uncertain, while Asaji is much darker and more implacable than Lady Macbeth. She is the driving force throughout and . . . is unalloyed evil. . ." (167). What are her exact words? "Is she more evil?' would be a question for my students to answer for themselves.

Kurosawa creates a connection between the witch (only one in this screen version) and Lady Asaji. He uses elements of Noh Theater to portray both women while not doing so with the male characters. "It is the two women who live in this stylized and ritual world" (Richie 119). Dawson also sees a strong connection between the two female characters in the film. He states, "In Throne of Blood there are really only two women, and they are mirrors of each other - Asaji and the strange, ambiguously gendered spirit in the forest, who spins her wheel and knows, perhaps even controls, the fates of vain and mortal men who 'end in fear.' It is a man's world, but it is the woman who makes things happen" (167). This witch is notable for her androgynous appearance. She is dressed like a woman, but appears to be a man in woman's clothing. This is taking women with beards one step further, and is in complete contrast to the very lady-like appearance of Lady Asaji. Why this appearance of the witch chosen will prompt much discussion, I hope.

Lady Asaji has the most steely, single-minded persona imaginable, practically unmoving behind her white mask as she proposes the murder. However, like Lady Macbeth, her "womanly" fear appears once Washizu leaves the room to commit the deed. "Asaji, now alone, first sinks to her knees, then leaps up and moves wildly to the bloodied wall while percussion and flute beat a frenzied accompaniment. Incipient madness? Fear? We aren't sure, but it feels like a way of conveying the doubt implicit in Lady Macbeth's 'Had he not resembled/My father as I slept, I had done't.'" (Dawson 167-8)

Orson Welles' Macbeth

Orson Welles made his version of Macbeth in 1948 , thesame year that Laurence Olivier's Hamlet was due to be released. The studio producing Hamlet was so enamored of Laurence Olivier and this project that no expense was spared, either in the making of the film, its subsequent advertising, or its distribution. Life magazine featured an eleven-page spread trumpeting its arrival. The international press waited for the film in gleeful anticipation. Mr. Welles, on the other hand, was derided from the start. He had to make do with the smallest budget, and reviews panned his movie from all directions, especially in comparison to Olivier's Hamlet . Life magazine's review said, "'Orson Welles doth foully slaughter Shakespeare in a dialect version of his 'Tragedy of Macbeth'" (Anderegg 74). Nonetheless, it is today appreciated by many film critics and is an interesting film to compare to the other adaptations of Macbeth .

Welles depicts a world that is primitive, and the sets are sparse, but in fact this lends to the atmosphere of an eleventh century Scotland. Michael Anderegg, considered by Dudley Andrew, Professor of Film at Yale University, to be among the very best critics of Shakespeare films in the USA, explains that

. . .the opening precredit sequence of Macbeth . . .exemplifies Welles's approach throughout: the viewer is immediately caught up in a series of seemingly unconnected images and sounds, a melding together. . .of the rational and the irrational, the concrete and the abstract, the specific and the general. Underlying the images - of clouds, the sea, the witches, rain, flames - is a mélange of sound and musical effects. . .These incongruently juxtaposed images and sounds not only set the tone and create the atmosphere for the events to follow, but provide as well, in microcosm, an exposition of Welles's mode and methods: the film, in its entirety, will be like the mud voodoo figure of Macbeth the witches pull up from the murky depths of their cauldron - a crude, primitive, roughly molded but at the same time powerful and evocative substitute for Macbeth himself, conjured up from the materials at hand, magically brought to life by the imaginative manipulation of eccentric conjurers" (Anderegg 80-81).

Anderegg's view of the film could serve as an excellent starting point for students to consider the rest of the film

The scene based on Act I, scene seven between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, when he first arrives home after the fateful predictions, contains numerous line deletions, a reordering of lines, and an execution of the traitor Cawdor in the background as Macbeth kisses his wife. We first glimpse Lady Macbeth lying on a bed of furs, such as the ancient Scottish might have used, and she is reading Macbeth's letter. She writhes on the bed as she reads it. When she speaks to deliver her "unsex me here" speech, she has a Scottish accent. This Lady Macbeth is not young, but when Macbeth returns to the castle, the sexual relationship is apparent.

Daniel Juan Gil makes much of the fact that Welles does not use the traditional method of filming conversations through use of the "shot/reverse shot," which is "an editing pattern that cuts between individuals according to the logic of conversation" (Corrigan 176). According to Gil, Welles' idiosyncratic film techniques are ripe with meaning. For instance, he believes that because of the lack of the shot/reverse shot filming, something that so signifies normal social contact, we are witnessing "a sign of profoundly sexualized, socially deviant intimacy that binds Macbeth and Lady Macbeth" (3). He also says the "the extreme high/low shots. . .mark King Macbeth's social deviance" (5).

Drawing my students' attention to the various possibilities of how one scene can be filmed would be fertile territory for interpreting a filmmaker's intent. We can look at camera angles, such as high and low shots, as well as how often a director has placed cuts in his scenes. For instance, if the director uses quick cuts, as opposed to Welles' famous long shots, what mood does it create? What meaning, if any, can we infer?

The witches in this screen adaptation are kept at a distance from the viewer. We are not able to see their faces clearly, nor can we see whether or not they possess the beards mentioned by Banquo. They have long, wild hair and are holding what appear to be large pitchforks. Sarah Hatchuel says, "The forked staffs they hold connote evil and demonism, and are directly opposed to the Christian crosses carried by the Scotsman (who are recent converts from Paganism) throughout the film" (3). She also believes that by making it impossible to see the faces of the witches " through numerous out-of-focus shots, fading in/out and dissolves, creates a world in which certainty is lost and the instability of form and meaning reigns" (4). In fact, Welles has inserted a scene with soldiers in prayer on their knees that was not written by Shakespeare. I would ask students to consider reasons for Welles to have inserted this religious motif. Welles takes a definite stand on who is at fault for the tragedy. The witches "pour ingredients and shape, out of clay, a voodoo doll representing Macbeth. As J. Lawrence Guntner notices, Macbeth is therefore presented as 'their creation and their toy'" (Hatchuel 3).

Roman Polanski's Macbeth

Polanski directed the most bloody version of Macbeth shortly after the Manson murders of Sharon Tate, his wife, and the other unfortunate visitors in his home. Anyone watching in 1971 would have been thinking about these much publicized brutal murders. Several very violent scenes, in fact, have been added to the film that do not appear in Shakespeare's original play. For instance, we not only hear about the murder of Lady Macduff and family. We see the murderers enter her private accommodations, finger and break her belongings (much as the Manson murderers may have done at Polanski's own home), and we are also "treated" to the brutal rape of a servant in the background. It is also interesting to note that the executive producer of the film is Hugh Hefner. Students may want to speculate what influence someone like Hugh Hefner may have had on the production. Of all the film adaptations of Macbeth using Shakespeare's original language, this Lady Macbeth is the most young, beautiful, and sexual. Was it really necessary for the witches to appear naked in the cave when Macbeth returns to question them? Francesca Annis as Lady Macbeth is shown naked as well once she has lost her mind, (her long hair covers all frontal nudity). Do these choices have a valid reason that adds to our understanding of the play?

Polanski's three witches are strange in appearance, though none have beards. He begins the film with a strong hint that the witches are responsible for what happens when he shows them on a beach digging a hole, and in that hole they place a dismembered hand holding a dagger. In this adaptation, women appear to be more powerful, and they are more brutally treated. Is there a connection?

Men of Respect

This film stars John Turturro, Stanley Tucci, Rod Steiger, Peter Boyle and other stars that students are bound to recognize. It was released in 1990, but does not seem at all dated to students in 2007. I love showing this film after we read Macbeth because it takes not only the spirit of Shakespeare's play, but imitates nearly every nuance and event while updating the language and setting. Macbeth is now Mikey Battaligia, Banquo becomes Bankie Cuomo, Donalbain becomes Donny, etc. Instead of witches, Mikey and Bankie suddenly find themselves in the strange parlor of an old woman (with two male companions) who goes into a trance and tells them their fortune. Instead of thanes of Scotland, the characters are members of the mob, pledging total loyalty to the "Padrino." An excellent way to review the reading of Macbeth is to ask students to point out all of the counterparts and related sequences from Men of Respect that are in the original Shakespeare.

The close connection between Mikey and his wife is made quite apparent in the scene where he lies naked in bed next to his clothed wife while she massages his neck. (It is still possible to show older high school students because his leg is strategically crossed. You do see John Turturro's backside, however. The movie is "R" rated, I believe, mainly for its violence.) "Why is he naked in this scene?" I would ask my students. Is it merely to demonstrate the sexual relationship, or is it there to add to the sense of Mikey's vulnerability?

How is this modern-day woman, this mob wife, portrayed? Is she as strong or as weak as we imagine Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth to be? One would imagine that a powerful woman today would be more acceptable, but yet she is still the woman behind the man urging him on to take his rightful place at the top. Is the powerful woman of today real, or does her position in the world of organized crime change her circumstances? I look forward to hearing the opinions of my students.

I love teaching Shakespeare's plays to high school students. The plots are exciting, and I get to see my students progress from needing every single line explained in detail to being able to get the gist of the play on their own by the time we are half way through. This is exciting to me. In the past, when we finished reading the play, as a reward and as a method of reviewing, we would watch at least one screen adaptation in full. This curriculum unit is intended to try another approach. It would never be possible to show more than two films in class in their entirety. With all there is to accomplish, even that much is most likely too much. With the use of film clips that focus the attention of students on particular elements of study, we have a case of "less is more."

I have several specific objectives for this unit. All of them involve increasing students' critical thinking and skills of analysis in one way or another. It has been my experience that by asking students to compare two things - two characters, two stories, two poems, two styles of writing, or in this case, two versions of the same work of literature (one a play, the other a film), more becomes apparent in each. Someone once said that to know happiness, one must also know sadness. It is through comparison only that each is knowable. When Lady Asaji is as still as marble, Washizu looks that much more anxious. When we look at a picture of Dame Judith Anderson as Lady Macbeth, Francesca Annis's beauty, youth and sexuality become that much more apparent.

The primary objective of this curriculum unit is to provide a means of further analyzing the characters of Shakespeare's Macbeth through the use of comparison. We will have already read a good portion of Macbeth . Watching, analyzing, and comparing clips of four film adaptations will enhance my students' ability to listen, and to think critically about what they are watching. Students will be asked to attend to details beyond their usual practice, so an additional objective is to make more informed and active moviegoers of a previously passive audience. As part of the follow-up to the unit, students will have an opportunity to enhance their analytical writing skills.

This unit is designed to develop students' skills in "reading, analyzing, and interpreting literature" as stated in Pennsylvania State Standard 1.3. In particular, State Standard 1.3.E. is to "analyze drama to determine the reasons for a character's action taking into account the situation and basic motivation of the character."

The particular objective of Lesson Plan One is to prepare students to begin thinking about gender issues. Just what does it mean to be a man or a woman? In Lesson Plan Two, it is my objective to consider gender issues, but also to give my students perhaps their first experience of a close reading of a film. Students will be introduced to a new vocabulary of film techniques. Then they will be asked to apply these definitions and point out how the director has placed the camera, used the lighting, decorated the stage, etc. to portray his vision of the play. In Lesson Plan Three, prior to viewing Throne of Blood , I believe it is important to acquaint students a bit with Noh Theater and the Samurai Warrior tradition. We will then slowly watch a clip of the film and do a close reading of a scene between Lady Asaji and Washizu. How has Kurosawa skillfully used the techniques of film to express his point of view? In what ways do we see Lady Macbeth anew after watching Kurosawa's version? In Lesson Plans not fully elaborated in this unit, I would continue the process with Men of Respect and Polanski's Macbeth . We would also consider how the time period of each film has impacted the director's vision.


Brainstorming, often used as a prewriting activity, is a technique to get out as many ideas as possible without any editing. This way, ideas are more likely to flow. This is the opposite of sitting in front of a blank page saying, "Oh, that's not a good idea. I can't use that one either, " and before you know it, you have writer's block. Brainstorming sessions can free one's mind from these self-critical and restricting thought processes.


A storyboard is a term taken from filmmaking. Directors such as Hitchcock sometimes created storyboards prior to filming. These are drawings of scenes, frame by frame, as the camera will later film them. In the storyboards, camera angles, long shots, close-ups, etc. would all be evident. In the classroom, this technique allows students to, in a sense, make their own film. Students would draw a scene frame by frame as they imagine it.

Role Playing

Role Playing allows students the opportunity to take on the persona of a character, or to improvise the reactions of one character in a given scenario. These are done like mini-plays or skits. I ask students to volunteer to do these in front of the class. Often, once things get rolling, and some students think they can do better than what they've seen, even more reluctant students will volunteer to participate.

Character Mapping and Graphic Organizers

Character Maps are one form of many types of graphic organizers. A chart or other form of visual representation can help students who have difficulty conceptualizing ideas, or who are reluctant writers. The web has numerous examples of character maps and other graphic organizers that teachers can download for free, but I find it best to create my own so that it is more specifically addressing the concepts on which I want my students to focus. One example is on the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) web site at http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/ lit-elements/. At this site, you can create your own character map with blanks to be filled in by students at a later time, or have students complete one online themselves. At http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/ plot-diagram/, there is a cool graphic organizer that students can complete on the structure of a story.

Classroom Activities

Lesson plan one.


To prepare students to consider the theme of gender stereotyping, I would begin by place the word "Men" on one blackboard and "Women" on another. I would ask students to name all of the adjectives, feelings, or any other words that come to mind as they think of each of those words. I will write the words on the blackboard as they brainstorm their ideas.

Another possible technique would be to divide the class into several groups and the give each of them chart paper and markers to brainstorm these ideas within their own groups. This would be followed by taping the responses to the walls of the room to discuss the results and to compare the ideas of the various groups. We would then discuss what the class saw as similarities and differences.

To have students begin to think about Lady Macbeth's tactics, I would ask volunteers to role-play a scenario where they get to try their hand at persuasion. One example might be the following:

To the girls: Pretend your boyfriend has sent you a text message asking you to see Fifty Cent, Ludicrous, or another popular Hip Hop artist in concert. You are thrilled! Then you see him the next day and he has changed his mind. Say everything you can think of to persuade him to change his mind.

To further explore issues of gender, I would now ask the boys and girls to switch places, substituting Beyonce for Fifty Cent, where the boy is attempting to persuade the girl. I would follow this with a discussion of what it felt like to do this. Was it different to watch a girl trying to persuade a boy than the other way around? What does this tell us about how we see the roles of men and women, and what it is okay for them to do in our eyes?

As this one-period introductory lesson is ending, I would then explain to my students that we will be watching film clips from four different screen adaptations of Macbeth of corresponding scenes. I would direct my students to watch the film clips keeping in mind what ideas they currently have about what is a man or a woman. We would consider questions such as: In what ways do you believe Shakespeare followed or differed from those concepts? How, in particular, is Macbeth and Lady Macbeth presented in each of the films we are about to see? How does each of the characters either fulfill or contrast with what you expect from a man or a woman?

Lesson Plan Two

Prior to viewing Orson Welles' Macbeth , it is important to provide my students with background information about possible film techniques. A list of terms that I would use is located in the Appendix.

Next, I would ask my students to discuss their personal views and images of witches. I would ask them to draw a storyboard of the scene on the heath where Macbeth and Banquo first encounter the witches.

Once students are familiar with these terms, we will do a close reading of two scenes. The first scene would be the opening scene with the witches. I would give students a copy of the statement made by Michael Anderegg located in the earlier section on Welles' Macbeth . I would ask students to watch for the elements noted by Anderegg, and to see if they agree with his opinion. Also, we would compare this very brief section with the many pages in Shakespeare's text. Some questions for discussion would include:

  • hy did Welles omit so much from the original text? (I would mention that Welles was pressured to cut much from his original film due to poor reviews and pressure from his studio.)
  • hat meaning could be gleaned from "voodoo" doll of Macbeth on which the witches place a crown?
  • here in the original text do we find the line, "Something wicked this way comes," and why might Welles have placed it here?
  • hy is there so much fog? Does it appear to be realistic? How would it help the director who has a small budget? Could there be any other meaning?
  • hat effect does the insertion of a man with a cross aimed at the witches have on the viewer at this point?
  • escribe Welles as Macbeth. What adjectives would you use to describe him just based on his appearance in this first scene?

The next scene we would consider is the scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, beginning with her reading the letter informing her of the predictions of the witches. I would play the scene slowly, stopping after each few frames of film so that we may examine just what Orson Welles has done to create his intended mood. I would prepare a script of the scene (also located in the Appendix) so that students can concentrate on those techniques, as well as to provide them with a place to take notes. I would ask students to fill in the camera angles, to describe the mise-en-scene as the scenes change, to comment on the lighting with each frame, etc. These would be presented in the form of a chart or graphic organizer.

Questions to consider after completion of the chart:

What feeling do you get when the camera looks up at a character versus when the camera is aimed downward? What interpretation do you associate with these camera angels? Do they always mean the same thing? Does the high or low camera angle meaning something different in one scene versus another? Give some examples.

Lesson Plan Three

Background material for viewing Kurosawa's Throne of Blood

Kurosawa's Macbeth is an undisputed masterpiece. It is also a wonderful stepping off point for a discussion of Shakespeare's characters. However, it is essentially Japanese and will not be easily understood by my students in two main areas. Those are characteristics of Noh Theater and the principles of a Japanese Samari. I plan to avoid dwelling on either concept, but to give just enough background information so that students are able to understand what they are watching.

Characteristics of Noh Theater

It would be important to explain just a few basic elements of NOH Theater to my students - just enough so that they understand what Lady Asaji's strange make-up is all about. I would present the following information to my students, and ask them to look for any of these characteristics in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood as we watch portions of that film. We would also discuss the effect on our emotions as we see Lady Asaji in her white mask-like face. Does it increase emotion, or does it just distract from the intended emotion? The information below is borrowed (though excerpted and reorganized) from Ishii Mikko's article "The Noh theater: Mirror, Mask, and Madness." I would give this list to my students on a handout for us to read together and discuss:

  • Characters wear masks.
  • Stories are often of historical events known by the audience, and involve life's primary emotions: love, hatred, sorrow, vengeance, and jealousy.
  • Stories are told in a highly stylized form expressing feelings and ideas using poses and gestures that everyone in the audience would recognize. For example:
  • For Deep Sorrow: lowering the head and raising both hand to eye level.
  • For Even Deeper Sorrow: repeating this gesture. No tears are shed. The character represents the sorrow quietly but profoundly.
  • A journey of a hundred miles to a distant mountain or shore: a few steps on stage.
  • The consummation of love between a man and woman: a light brushing together of their sleeves.
  • The sequence of events follows a traditional formula. For instance the play begins with. . .a traveling monk or a courtier, announcing his intention of making a journey to a faraway place. He takes a few steps upon the stage and then announces that he has reached his destination. . .
  • A chorus, which is seated throughout the play at one side of the stage, comments on. . .the events; accompanied by instrument music. It also sings some part of his emotional speech to enhance the tension.

To further assist my students to understand enough about Noh Theater to be prepared for the film, I would show them images of masks. I would project images from the following web sites to the class for them to see prior to viewing the film. First we would look at a series of masks at a site called the "Noh Theater Page," which shows many of the masks worn in performances. The address is: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~rlneblet/noh/. I would ask students to comment on the various emotions these masks might represent. Next we would visit http://www.artelino.com/articles/noh_theater.asp, an art auction site, to see several fully costumed characters.

I would share the following quote with my students. Michea Carter, in her 2006 Yale National Initiative curriculum unit entitled "The Delicate Marriage of Theater and Film," quotes the actress who played Lady Asaji in Throne of Blood :

In Kurosawa: A Documentary on the Acclaimed Director (2000), Isuzu Yamada is interviewed on her experience being directed by Kurosawa during the filming of Throne of Blood . Speaking extremely highly of the respect and warm regard she holds for Kurosawa, Yamada remembers the struggle she endured mastering the techniques of Noh theatre for her performance. She says that Kurosawa was adamant that her face remain stiff and unmoving as a mask. Her eyes were not to blink and her head was not allowed to make sudden movements of any kind. She was literally directed to control her physical and emotional self as if she were wearing a heavy mask on her face; thereby she forced all emotion to be displaced through her subtle body language and intense vocal variations. Yamada remembers a moment when after tapping a scene; Kurosawa made her tape the scene again because she blinked her eyes. (Carter 10).

Clearly, Kurosawa wanted that extreme mask-like appearance for Lady Asaji.

To demonstrate how Lady Asaji's stillness makes Washizu appear even more tense and nervous, I would ask my students to conduct a role-play where one person kneels while speaking, remaining as still as humanly possible (including not blinking) while the other responds to what is being said with facial expressions, grunts, and body movement, such as sitting down, standing up, and walking. We would try this with several different pairs of students and several different scenarios.

The Samurai Tradition

Instead of handing students my own distillation of the meaning and traditions of the Samurai, I would assign them in-class group work to examine the following web sites: http://www.britannica.com/eb/ article-9065252>, http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2127.html, and http://cjj2004.tripod.com/budoryu/id60.html. I would give students these suggested web sites rather than just allow them to do their own search because most of what they would find concerns games rather than actual history. I would ask each group of students to write their findings on chart paper in list form so these can be easily read and posted in front of the classroom. I would suggest to students that they focus on what appear to be the primary principles of a Samurai Warrior. These sites also offer illustrations of Samurai that I will download and copy for display during our discussion. Once these have been posted, I will ask students to keep these in mind as we watch Macbeth's counterpart in the Japanese film Throne of Blood so that we can make comparisons.

Viewing Throne of Blood

I would begin the scene in which Lady Asaji is trying to convince her husband, Washizu, to murder His Lordship. Before any words are spoken, I would ask students to describe the mis-en-scene. Describe the room. Who is there? What are they wearing? Describe Lady Asaji's make-up. What is the lighting? What is the camera angle (in other words, does it come from straight ahead, from above, or from below)? As the scene begins, how are the characters positioned in relation to one another? How would you describe the mood the director is trying to create?

Prior to viewing the rest of the scene from Throne of Blood , I would distribute a worksheet containing all of the lines spoken by Lady Asaji and Macbeth's counterpart, Washizu. This script (see below) will enable my students to have a place to comment on specific elements of action and filmmaking while they watch. While viewing the clip, students will be instructed to fill in comments and observations about each of the following:

  • What is the expression on the character's face?
  • What is the character doing physically (merely sitting still, pacing, standing, etc.)? What sounds do you hear in the background? Is there any music, sounds of nature like wind or birds, or silence?
  • With what intensity are the words on the script spoken? Are they said softly, loudly, yelled, grunted, or what?
  • What is the tone of voice?
  • What movements did either character make? (Note: remember that in Noh Theater, just a slight movement can mean a great deal.)
  • Who is higher in connection to the other character when this spoken?
  • What do you believe the character is thinking or feeling at that moment?
  • Is this line in keeping with Shakespeare's original idea or does it differ? How much does it differ?
  • Copy any lines of Shakespeare next to the lines in the script that seem to be paraphrased from the original Macbeth .

The script would be typed with columns and plenty of space to allow students to comment liberally. We would stop along the way to allow for students to answer the questions and for discussion. Also, I would show the clip a second time, allowing students to comment as each several lines has been spoken. This would give me the opportunity to point out camera angles and other things that they may have missed on the first viewing.

I have written down all of the subtitles and will present this to my students in the form of a graphic organizer so that they can conveniently address the issues in the listed above as they watch. This script can be found in the Appendix of this unit.

After watching the scene, on a graphic organizer, I would ask students to compare the reasons Lady Asaji gives for the killing with those of Lady Macbeth. Who is more convincing to you? Compare the reasons Washizu gives for not killing the Lord. Compare these to those given by Macbeth. Who is more convincing? I would also ask students to complete Character Maps for each of the primary characters (see strategies).

This curriculum unit is aimed for an advanced twelfth-grade class where writing is an essential component. I would ask my students to write an essay in which they discuss three groups: Organized Crime, Samurai Warriors, and Thanes of Scotland in Macbeth's era. What is similar about the underlying principles in each of these groups? How would each in its own way make them a perfect environment for a character like Macbeth?

Annotated Resources

Recommended for teachers.

Anderegg, Michael. "Shakespeare Rides Again: The Republic Macbeth ." Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture. Columbia University Press: New York. 1999.

This chapter, from a book by the same author, reports on the struggles faced by Welles in the production and the response to his Macbeth . Anderegg provides an excellent and very detailed description of the particulars of Welles' images that produce his desired atmosphere, tone, and characterization.

Anderson, Alan and Raymond Gordon. "Witchcraft and the Status of Women — the Case of England." British Journal of Sociology . June, 1978. This article notes that the vast majority of accused witches were women, a fact deserving of study. The use of women as scapegoats, they state, would not have been possible except for a prior belief in the inferiority of women - that they were weak and therefore more easily swayed by the devil.

Asp, Carolyn. "'Be bloody, bold and resolute:' Tragic Action and Sexual Stereotyping in Macbeth." Studies in Philology . Spring 1981. This does an excellent job of tracing the stereotypes throughout Macbeth , while also showing us that these were Shakespeare's creation for personal exploration and not historically correct. Ms. Asp also makes the interesting point that a society that reverses the "manly" quality of violence also suffers for it.

Bever, Edward. "Witchcraft, Female Aggression, and Power in the Early Modern Community." Journal of Social History . 2002. pp. 955-988. This chapter, while quite long, is worthwhile. It details many reasons for the scapegoating of women, but it also outlines ways women did indeed act aggressively in a society that allowed them few outlets.

Biggins, Dennis. "Sexuality, Witchcraft, and Violence in Macbeth ." Shakespeare Studies . Volume 8. 1975. pp. 255 - 273. Biggins argues that the violence in Macbeth has a sexual component, as do the actions of the witches. I find his argument, detailed as it is, that the actions of the witches are sexual, unconvincing.

Carter, Michea. "The Delicate Marriage of Theater and Film." Yale National Initiative. 2007. http://teachers.yale.edu/ curriculum/search/viewer.php?skin=h &id=initiative_06.01.05_u#b This excellent curriculum gives extensive information about various types of Japanese theater that might be of use in preparing students for viewing Throne of Blood .

Chamberlain, Stephanie. "Fantasizing Infanticide: Lady Macbeth and the Murdering Mother in Early Modern England." College Literature . West Chester University, PA. Summer 2005. The thesis of this article is that women were feared in early modern England for their power over patrilineage by means of infidelity, by infanticide, or by what is passed on by nursing and rearing of children. The idea of women as dangerous is then carried into the play Macbeth .

Cohen, Derek. Shakespeare's Culture of Violence . St. Martin's Press: NewYork. 1993.

This text examines the use of violence in a number of Shakespeare's history plays as well as Othello , King Lear , and Macbeth . I found his explanation of different categories of violence to be quite interesting and useful.

Coursen, Herbert R., Jr. "In Deepest Consequence: Macbeth." Shakespeare Quarterly. Autumn, 1967. pp. 375 -388. The author suggests that the true power of Shakespeare's Macbeth is its connections to the story of the Garden of Eden and Adam's fall from Grace after being lured by Eve to eat the apple.

Dawson, Anthony. "Reading Kurosawa Reading Shakespeare ." A Concise Companion to Shakespeare on Screen. Diana E. Henderson, editor. Blackwell Publishing: Malden, MA. 2006. This is an excellent, well-written, clear chapter explaining ways in which Kurosawa "reads" Shakespeare - sometimes exactly capturing the intent of the Bards scenes, sometimes going a different direction. Exact movements of the characters, the sounds effects, the images, the music are all outlined I detail to make his point. This was all very useful as a preview of what I would like my students to do when they watch the films.

Gil, Daniel Juan. "Avant-garde Technique and the Visual Grammar of Sexuality in Orson Welles' Shakespeare Film." Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. 2005-2006. http://klotho.english.uga.edu/cocoon/ borrowers/request?id=251798. Photographs are included.

Kimbrough, Robert. "Macbeth: The Prisoner of Gender." Shakespeare Studies . Volume 16. 1983. pp 175 - 190. Kimbrough makes a very convincing case that Shakespeare is playing with gender roles that were firmly ensconced in England of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Hatchuel, Sarah, "Prithee, see there! Behold! Look! (3.4.69): The Gift of the Denial of Sight in Screen Adaptations of Shakespeare's Macbeth." Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. 2005-2006. http://klotho.english.uga.edu/cocoon/borrowers/ request?id=250387 This excellent article discusses visual strategies in several adaptations of Macbeth: the theater production in1979 by Trevor Nunn starring Ian McKellen, the version by Orson Welles, Jeremy Freeston's 1997 Macbeth , and Roman Polanksi's screen adaptation. Photographs are included.

Mikiko, Ishii . "The Noh theater: Mirror, mask, and madness ." http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl? ctx_ver=Z39.882003&res_dat=xri:pqil:res_ver=0.1& rft_val_fmt=ori:format:pl:ebnf:fulltext&res_id=xri:iimp& rft_id=xri:iipaft:aarticle:fulltext:00323688 This is an extremely long article on Noh Theater (34 pages), and includes far more information than is needed to give students a quick introduction on the subject.

Reynolds, Bryan. "Untimely Ripped: Mediating Witchcraft in Polanski and Shakespeare." The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory . Lisa S. Starks and Courtney Lehmann, editors. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press: Madison. 2002. This chapter establishes the links between the violence in Polanski's Macbeth and the tragic and brutal murders of his wife, Sharon Tate.

Recommended for teachers and students

"Basic Information." Japan-guide.com. January 14, 2004. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2127.html

Best, Michael. Shakespeare's Life and Times . Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria: Victoria, BC, 2001-2005. http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/>. Not only does this web site give extensive information about Shakespeare, his work, his life, and other related topics, but also it does so in an attractive, easily searchable manner, and even tells students how to cite it as a resource. I wish all web sites did that.

Binnie, Paul. "Japanese Noh Theater." artelino - Art Auctions. 2001 - 2007.

http://www.artelino.com/articles/ noh_theater.asp While the purpose of this web site is to auction art, it nonetheless provides a clear explanation of Noh Theater and gives a few dramatic illustrations.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film, Fifth Edition . Pearson Longman: New York. 2004. This would be primarily a resource for teachers, but it may also be of interest to advanced students who are especially interested in film analysis. I like the tips on writing for my Advanced Placement students. More than anything else, it is a useful source of definitions about filmmaking for the novice.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth with Reader's Guide with guide edited by Solomon Schlakman. Amsco Literature Publications, Inc.: New York. 1972. The print is large and clear, and the definitions are all on the left-hand page directly across from the corresponding line. However, there are no illustrations, no color, and no photographs - just the text followed by questions for further study in the back of the book. I use this text because we have sufficient copies for my students to take home, but we use the large, more attractive version in class.

"Samurai." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 6July2007. http://www.britannica.com/ eb/article-9065252

This site provides some basic information on the Samurai. I love that they give the citation format.

"History of the Samurai." Budo Ryu Ninjutsu.Com . 2004.

http://cjj2004.tripod.com/budoryu/id60.html This site gives the history of the Samurai in a brief few paragraphs, and lists the basic principles of a Samurai Warrior.

Swerzenski, Jared. "National Immigration: Excerpts from "The Japanese Experience" Visual Culture Project." Clark University. http://www.clarku.edu/activelearning/ courseroadmap/nationalimagination/jared.cfm This web site contains some beautiful images plus a few pertinent facts concerning Samurai. Students may enjoy seeing the images. It is not sufficient information to provide background for what are the samurai.

Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood . VHS. The Japanese Classic Collection: Home Vision Cinema. Toho Company, Limited and Brandon Films. 1957.

Men of Respect . RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video. VHS. Central City Film Company, Inc.: Grandview Avenue Pictures, Inc. 1990.

Roman Polanski's Film of Macbeth . DVD. Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment. 2002.

Orson Welles' Macbeth . Republic Pictures. 1948.

Appendix A: Film Terms and Techniques

The following definitions are taken from Tim Corrigan's book entitled A Short Guide to Writing About Film that I think will assist my students in thinking, writing, and talking about film. I would give these out on a handout, and we could refer to it as we discuss the films we will be watching.

Angle - The position of the camera or point of view in relation to the subject being shown. Seen from above, the subject would be shot from a "high angle"; from below, it would be depicted from a "low angle."

Close-up - An image in which the distance between the subject and the point of view is very short, as in a 'close-up of a person's face.

Composition - The arrangement and relationship of the visual elements within a frame.

Cutting - Changing from one image to another.

Frame - The borders of the image within which the subject is composed.

Long shot - An image in which the distance between the camera and the subject is great.

Medium shot - A shot that shows an individual from the waist up.

Mise-en-sce?ne - "a French term roughly translated as 'what is put into the scene' (put before the camera), refers to all those properties of a cinematic image that exist independently of camera position, camera movement, and editing. . . Mise-en-sce?ne includes lighting, costumes, sets, the quality of acting, and other shapes and characters in the scene" (46).

Point of view - The position from which an action or subject is seen, often determining its significance.

Shot/reverse shot - An editing pattern that cuts between individuals according to the logic of their conversation.

Voice-over - The voice of someone not seen in the narrative image who describes or comments on that image.

Appendix B: Script from a scene in Orson Welles' Macbeth

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be

What thou art promised.

Come you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full

Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,

Stop up th' access and passage to remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between

Th' effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,

That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,

Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,

To cry, "Hold, hold!"

Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!

Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!

Thy letters have transported me beyond this ignorant present, and I feel now

The future in the instant.

My dearest love, Duncan comes here tonight.

And when goes hence?

Tomorrow, as he purposes.

He that's coming must be provided for!

We will speak further.

Put this night's business into my dispatch.

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men

May read strange matters. To beguile the time,

Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,

Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,

But be the serpent under 't.

Chants in Latin.

When Duncan is asleep -

Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey

Soundly invite him - I'll drug his servants' wine.

King Duncan is my kinsman

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angel trumpet tongues against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,

Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin hors'd

Upon the sightless couriers of the air,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the wind.

Appendix C: Script from a Scene in Throne of Blood

Have you made up your mind, my Lord?

It has all been a bad dream. I have been haunted by an evil spirit.

No more of this!

Take over the Cobweb Castle?

I cannot dream of such a. . .

Why not, my lord?

It is not beyond your reach.

As a samari. . .

Who does not want to be the lord of a castle?

I am satisfied with the way things are.

I will keep this castle and remain loyal to his Lordship.

I want to live in peace.

But there cannot be peace.

If Captain Miki tells His Lordship of what happened in the forest. . .

Then, there would be no peace here.

His Lordship would regard you as a usurper.

He would most certainly have his men besiege the castle immediately.

You have only two ways to choose.

Stay here and wait for your own destruction

Or kill His Lordship. . .

And take over the Cobweb Castle.

But, that is high treason!

Did you forget. . .

His Lordship killed his own master. . .

To become what he is now.

He was compelled to preserve his own life.

His Lordship trusts me.

I would give my heart for him.

Does he know what lies deep in your heart?

In my heart? There is nothing.

I know otherwise.

I have no such ambition.

That may be so. . .

But will His Lordship still believe it?

Even after he learns from Miki about the prediction?

Miki. Miki will never mention such a thing.

He is my best friend.

He is ambitious.

Children kill for less.

In this world you must strike first. . .

If you do not want to be killed.

It is possible that Miki has already betrayed you.

I am worried.

Asaji! You must stop doubting my friends.

About 300 men from the castle are hiding on the hill at the rear.

Appendix D: Pennsylvania State Standards

1.2.B. Use and understand a variety of media and evaluate the quality of material produced:

  • Compare, analyze and classify how different media offer a unique perspective on the information presented.
  • Categorize and analyze the techniques of particular media messages and their effect on a targeted audience.

1.3.A. Read and understand works of literature.

1.3. B. Analyze the use of literary elements by an author including characterization, setting, plot, theme, point of view, tone and style.

1.3.E. Analyze drama to determine the reasons for a character's actions taking into account the situation and basic motivation of the character.

1.3.F. Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama.

1.5.C. Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.

1.5.E. Revise writing after rethinking logic of organization and rechecking central idea, content, paragraph development, level of detail, style, tone, and word choice.

1.5.F. Edit writing using the conventions of language.

1.6.B. Listen to selections of literature (fiction and/or nonfiction).

1.6.D. Contribute to discussions.

1.6.F. Use media for learning processes.

1.8.A. Select and refine a topic for research.

1.8.B. Locate information using appropriate sources and strategies.

1.8.C. Organize, summarize and present the main ideas from research.

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macbeth gender roles thesis

Lady Macbeth

Ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

History, Memory, and Storytelling  Theme Icon

Gruadh (Lady Macbeth) lives in a world strictly segregated by gender. Women in the eleventh-century Scotland of the novel are expected to be quiet and domestic, to either be wives and mothers or to pursue some female-dominated occupation like midwifery. Their lives are dedicated to running a household and to producing and raising babies. Everything outside of the walls of the home, meanwhile, is the domain of men. Gruadh, too, is burdened by expectations that she will act like a “lady”—that is, that she will be docile and subservient, content to do little more than sew and rear children. However, Gruadh is not satisfied with being boxed in, and in the end, this trait serves her well. As a queen, she is required to be both traditionally masculine and feminine, soft and maternal yet unsentimental and brave. Gender roles are more flexible than they appear, and it is only by incorporating aspects of masculinity and femininity into her identity is Gruadh able to be a successful ruler and equal partner to second husband, and eventual king, Macbeth .

Gruadh is constantly pressured to be more lady-like and stick to women’s work. Early in the novel, her father, Bodhe , rejects her request to learn sword craft. He points out that she knows how to read and run a household, and suggests this, and the knowledge she will once day have a powerful husband, is enough. He sees being a woman, even a powerful woman, as antithetical to being a warrior. Gruadh learns how to run a household (a woman’s traditional job) from Dolina , her stepmother, and runs the households of both her first husband, Gilcomgan , and her second. Although sometimes when Gilcomgan is gone she is able to practice sword fighting, he discourages her, saying, “I want sons of you […] not wounds.” He only wants her in one role—that of a wife and mother.

Catriona , a medicine woman, argues that men “understand life and death differently than women. Ours it to give birth, life, and comfort. We cannot bring ourselves to take life, knowing its struggle and value.” Gruadh resents this “saintly show of opinion,” and, indeed, the novel ultimately presents such expectations of femininity to be dangerously restrictive. Gruadh argues that she would kill if she had to, and later makes good on that promise, killing a soldier who attacks her and Lulach .

Gruadh is aware of how a woman should comport herself but finds it difficult to act in the way expected of her and often directly chooses not to. Maeve , Gruadh’s nursemaid and friend, tells Gruadh that she is infertile because “willfulness and old grief” are “poisoning your womb. You want to be a warrior, and you want to be a mother.” Her suggestion is that not only are Gruadh’s masculine attitudes unladylike, they’re literally changing her body so she cannot perform the duties expect of a contemporary wife.

After her husband is killed by Macbeth, who then comes to her castle to forcibly wed her, Gruadh does her best to show him that she is not frightened and refuses to run. Instead, although many months pregnant, she chooses to confront Macbeth herself. Maeve warns that “a woman will not dissuade men intent on mayhem,” but Gruadh is not deterred, grabbing a sword to defend herself and her home, reasoning that she could “let the edge of my blade turn them away.” Upon seeing her, Macbeth similarly notes, “It is not seemly for a woman to be warlike, especially one in your state,” but Gruadh doesn’t care what is seemly when she is protecting her family. Although Gruadh understands how a woman “should” act, when it goes against her priorities or principles she ignores societal pressure to be feminine.

In the end, Gruadh’s refusal to follow strict guidelines of femininity serves her well. As Macbeth’s wife, Gruadh understands that she must maintain the domestic sphere but also that she must learn more about traditionally “masculine” areas of politics and the military. She notes, “I knew that a mormaer ’s wife must be aware of such issues, and the wider scope of the world beyond her household.” When Macbeth prepares to meet Duncan in battle, Gruadh insists on coming with him. She tells her husband “I will not wait in the hall with my needlework to hear word of your fate,” explaining, “You are Moray , and I am the lady here. Our region, and your very life are threatened this day. If the people see both of us riding at the head of our army, I believe they will rally behind Macbeth with greater loyalty than before.” Although he tries to resist Gruadh will not be dissuaded and the pair march together.

Graudh’s estimation proves correct: Macbeth observes, “Your presence is attracting more to our army, just as you thought,” and Gruadh even inspires other women to take up arms and join the attack. Although not quite yet a queen, she demonstrates that she has the intelligence, strategy, and bravery required.

As a mormaer’s wife and as queen of Scotland, Gruadh is required to be both hard and soft, to understand motherhood and the creation of life as well as war and the destruction of it. Although the binary of masculinity and femininity is reductive (men can and should be interested in domestic affairs and parenthood, women can and should be interested in politics), Gruadh manages to inhabit the best characteristics of both halves of this binary, and this helps her become a successful and powerful queen. What she understands, and what few others manage to grasp, is that the role of a queen requires strength and independence generally not expected from women. After Maeve argues that a woman “tends to matters inside the home” while a man “tends to matters outside,” Gruadh thinks to herself, “ A queen tends to both .” 

Gender Roles ThemeTracker

Lady Macbeth PDF

Gender Roles Quotes in Lady Macbeth

Drostan, who has long known me, has a fine hand with a pen and hopes to write a chronicle about me. This would be an encomium, a book of praise, for his queen. I told him it was a silly notion. […] From what my advisors say, Malcolm Canmore— ceann mór in Gaelic, or big head, two words that suit him—will order his clerics to record Macbeth’s life. Within those pages, they will seek to ruin his deeds and his name. My husband cannot fight for his reputation now. But I am here, and I know what is true.

History, Memory, and Storytelling  Theme Icon

“A princess of Scotland has no use of those skills.” “Scathach was also a princess,” I pointed out. “Scathach of the old legends, who had a school for fighting on the Isle of Skye and taught the heroes of the Fianna their skills—”

“I know the tale,” he said curtly. “Those were older days. It is not your place to fight, but ours to defend you, if need be.” […]

“I am your direct heir now,” I reminded Bodhe. “I must be prepared, since you say I could be a queen one day, and my husband a king. So men will always argue over me, and more deaths will occur on my account.” […]

“You have a warrior spirit,” he admitted, “for a gently raised daughter.”

“Scathach of Skye,” I reminded. “No one would have stolen her away.”

Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon

“The truth is in what Moray offers,” [Bodhe] said. “Every mormaer of that region has an ancient right tot be called Rí a Moreb, king of Moray. His wife can be called ban-rí, queen. Just now, Gilcomgan and King Malcolm support one another. But if the Rí a Moreb ever summoned men to revolt, the strength of that army would be such that the mormaer of Moray could himself be king over all Scotland.”

“And marriage to me could ensure that for Gilcomgan. Or for our son,” I added. […] He looked hard at me. “Even carrying the blood of Celtic kings, you cannot rule alone. You need a strong and ambitious husband. “Our blood needs one,” I corrected bitterly.

In the afternoon I looked up toward the ridge of a hill and saw a stand of tall pikes thrusting up like slender trees. The point of each carried a decapitated head, black and gruesome, pitch-soaked to preserve them a long while, until they decayed to skulls […] Aella gasped, near to retching, and hid her eyes with her hand. Bethoc looked away. But I stared, horrified and transfixed, even when Ruari and Conn drew their horses alongside to urge us onward. I remembered that my guard and my only brother had been beheaded but […] never piked.

I would not shrink form the grim display Someday I might have to show toughness for such things, even if I quailed within. As wife to Scotland’s most powerful mormaer, it was in my interest to understand the ways of men and warfare. My own life might turn on that knowledge one day.

Together they had conspired to kill Gilcomgan and wrest Moray from him. Macbeth had overtaken my future, and my child’s, out of his own ambition and desire for revenge. My fingers let go the clutched yarn, red strands unraveling like blood to pool on the floor. I turned to leave, to suppress my anger, as Bodhe might have done. But I was not my father.

Swords sparked bright against the wall, where a few of them leaned, unused. One of them was my own. I snatched it up and turned back to face the men. “Upon this sword, which Bodhe gave to me,” I said, “I swear to protect my child from all your cold scheming. Listen to me,” I said through my teeth when Macbeth stepped forward. “No more of Bodhe’s blood shall suffer for your ambitions!”

They stood still, king, husband, and housecarls. An oath made on a blade was a fierce thing and never taken lightly. I wanted them to understand that I was not helpless, no pawn to stand by while their plans destroyed by father’s proud line. Wild Celtic blood ran strong in me, a legacy of warriors, warrior queens, and sword oaths. It was not the wisest thing I have done; it was something foolish, something brave.

Peace and acceptance were not pretty threads in my wool basket that winter. I realized that I was alone in my resentment and anger. Others readily accepted Macbeth as the new mormaer, soon calling him Moray when they addressed him. […]

One day Maeve pulled me aside. “Find some peace for yourself,” she said. “This grief and torment will poison your babe.”

That night I sought out Elgin’s little wooden chapel, intending to pray for serenity and forgiveness. When I pushed open the door, I saw that Macbeth was already there, on his knees before the alter. He wore only a simple long shirt and trews, and for a moment I did not know him. His head was bowed, glinting dark gold in the light of candles. I saw him cover his face, and then he prostrated himself on the worn planks of the floor like a suffering pilgrim. Faith is a private thing to my thinking, and here I witnessed an intimate side of the man. He appeared contrite, even tormented. I guessed at his sin, the murder of his first cousin Gilcomgan. By the teaching of the Church, it could blacken his soul and affect him for all eternity come judgment Day, if not expunged.

Backing away, I closed the door. I felt a stir of sympathy for a man who felt such clear anguish within himself. When I wanted to hate him most, I could not. By inches and breaths, my resentments faded, much as I strived to stoke them.

“I hear,” Macbeth said, “that wives of other mormaers, even kings, stay at home where they are safe, and keep mute about steel-games unless asked for their opinion.”

“I am none of that cloth.” […]

Walking through dry sand to meet my friends, having witnessed by husband do cold murder, I yet felt a stirring admiration for him as a capable warlord. That day, as at other times, he had demonstrated uncompromising will, as well as physical ability and courage. He revealed a strong sense of what was right and what was not, and what was possible between those points—and he took steps to achieve it.

Whether or not he knew it, I considered myself his capable equal, not a subservient wife. Raised by a warlord in a nest of warriors, I would not be regarded as significant in my small household circle, only to be dismissed beyond its boundaries.

“Men,” Catriona said, “understand life and death differently than women. Ours is to give birth, life, and comfort. We cannot bring ourselves to take life, knowing its struggle and value.”

Somehow this saintly show of opinion irritated me. “If I had to kill to save a life, mine or my son’s,” I said, “I would do it.”

“Rue is trained at arms,” Bethoc said proudly.

“Lady Gruadh has a stiffer backbone than I do,” Catriona said. “It is my work to bring life into this world. My heart is far too tender to destroy it.”

“That is not my intent,” I defended. “The lady of a powerful region must have a martial spirit as well as a virtuous one. I would not hesitate to put on armor and take up a sword, if such was needed for the good of all.”

“There must be some kind of justice and recompense for these deaths!” “Justice will be brought,” Macbeth said low.

“When?” I asked, splaying my hands, slim fingered and beringed, on the table. Such feminine hands for such hard masculine thoughts. The urge sprang in me like a dark wolf within. I did not like it, but fed it nonetheless. It is the way of things, Bodhe would have said. “When will you avenge my kinsmen? Tomorrow? A year from now?” […]

“If one of Bodhe’s bloodline held the throne someday,” my husband then said, “it would be far more lasting revenge than bloodshed now.”

“The old legends are filled with such women—the great Irish queen, Macha, and Princess Scathach of Skye, who trained warriors in her fighting school, and also her sister Aoife, who bested Cu Chulainn and bore his son […] Celtic women have fought beside their men since before the names of kings were remembered. And even though Rome forbids Gaelic women to fight, it is rightful enough according to our customs.”

“They forbid with good reason,” Maeve said, bouncing Lulach on her lap. “Women have enough to do and should not have to go out and fight men’s battles, too.” […]

“The eyes of the Church cannot easily see beyond the mountains of the Gaels,” I said, “where warlike behavior in a woman is not sinful heresy, and is sometimes even necessary.” And I remembered my early vows—as a girl taking up a sword to defend herself, as a woman swearing on a sword to defend her own. Another facet of my obligation to my long legacy came clear: if others were so set on eliminating my line, and I and Lulach the last of it, then I would be steadfast as any warrior.

“Your weapons practice and your desire for vengeance,” Maeve told me one day, “are hardening you, dulling the bed of your womb. How can you expect to conceive a child when you feed yourself on spite and anger? Those are poisons for the body.”

She made me think, I admit, and she made me wonder. But I did not stop, not then. […]

“Your wish for vengeance is sinful,” [Father Osgar] told me one day after confession, when we walked a little. “But it is understandable. Let prayer and faith heal you.” “I cannot give it up,” I said. “I am not yet done with this.”

“Give it up or keep it close,” he answered, “but know that until you find some peace in your heart, I will pray on your behalf. Grief is sometimes like a sharp-toothed demon that gets hold of our hearts. But its grip weakens with time, and one day you will be free of it.”

“Your husband Macbeth will be remembered among the greatest of his ilk, the kings of Scotland,” she said. “One of your sons will be a warrior. Not the others.”

“Others,” I repeated, pleased. “Monks, then, or abbots? Bards, perhaps.”

“They will not be,” she murmured slowly, eyes very dark, “warriors.”

A shiver slipped down my spine. […]

“Carry this warning to your husband. I have told him the same, but tell him again from me. Beware the son of the warrior whose spilled blood will make him a king.”

I stared. Her cloak, when she turned, was a swirl of utter blackness, so that I stepped back for fear the portal to the other side, open that night, might overtake me.

I did not repeat her message to Macbeth.

Although I had a place on his war council, lately he had not included me, claiming I needed rest. I did not. I needed something more to do, for my household was smoothly run, and my son was finding his way in the world more and more without his mother. With no other little ones to fill my arms, as I should have had by then, I lacked enough to do. […] I watched carefully as I could over Macbeth’s Moray in his absence, and the responsibly was no chore. Later I realized that in small and large ways, I had begun to prepare myself for what might come. Queenship in its many aspects was not a teachable thing, yet instinctively I tutored myself with charitable works and sword training. Inch by ell, I became the small queen of Moray in more than name alone.

I brought my dilemma to Macbeth, too. “What if God is punishing me for grievances and ambitions, for sometimes wanting you to be king, no mater the cost?”

“Be patient,” he said, as he often did. “What will we give our children without the kingdom that is our lineage, and theirs? All will come to us in time, including sons.”

Maeve, who wanted me to produce another babe so that she could knee-nurse again before she was too old, said she knew what was wrong. “It is willfulness and old grief, poisoning your womb. You want to be a warrior, and you want to be a mother. A woman keeps to home and family, and tends to matters inside the home. A man keeps to war games an tends to matters outside.”

A queen tends to both, I wanted to say, but did not. She would not understand.

“I made a sword vow years ago to protect my own, and I will keep it. I have a home and a son to protect, and I have a husband to support as best I can. All my life I have lived a female among Celtic warriors. My sword arm is trained, my bow and arrow are swift, and I have already bloodied the blade. Know this—my determination is in place. I will go with you.”

Macbeth took my horse’s bridle. “Each one who rides with me contributes to the whole. Your skill I will not argue, but your fortitude is little tested. You would require guards to protect you, and that detracts from the whole.”

“Have you not made it your purpose to uphold the old ways, the ancient ways, of the Gaels and the Celts?” The horse shifted under me, and I pulled the reins. Macbeth still held the bridle. “Celtic women have always fought beside their men.”

Watching the prow of the boat surge through lapping waves, I knew that I had protected Malcolm from retaliation. By honoring my promise to his mother and following my own heart as a mother, I had prevented his murder as a boy. And he had returned, just as the mormaers had warned. I had brought this tragedy about.

But if that chance came again, I could not order the deaths of children. A devil’s bargain, that, to choose sin or grief. Closing my eyes, I rested my face in my hands and struggled, overcame a weeping urge. What I had done had been most rightful, though it came with a hard price. It was the way of things.

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macbeth gender roles thesis

Gender in Macbeth

There were few social codes that were more important to people in jacobean england than the codes of conduct for how men and women should behave. our gender assigned us the role that we should play in society and breaking or bending them would have been frowned upon by anyone in the mainstream., but at the heart of macbeth is a couple who break the traditional gender roles, and in doing so flip the entire kingdom on its head., most modern writers tend to focus on how lady macbeth challenges the traditional gender role by being a woman who desired political power, though i'd argue that this misses the real core of the play which was macbeth wrestling with his masculinity., in a post feminist world, it's easy to look at historic men as having freedoms that women didn't have, and although this was true, it didn't mean that men weren't also shaped by powerful expectations on how to behave., the unwritten codes of masculinity and femininity were powerful. macbeth and his wife break them, seize power and bring havoc on the kingdom..

macbeth gender roles thesis

Masculinity in Macbeth

Given how many men would have seen battle, it's no surprise that a lot of masculinity has its roots in the army: you remain loyal to your brotherhood; you don't flinch at the sight of blood; you shouldn't feel emotions like fear or sadness; you should be brave and honourable; you remain true to your word, and maintain a sense of honour and dignity, protecting both with your life., in fact, it wasn't uncommon for men during elizabethan or jacobean england to fight to the death if they were accused of lacking honour, or breaking their word. you can see some of the 'best' of jacobean masculinity by looking at the codes of chivalry that medieval knights used to live by., however, there's also a strange irony here: a lot of the old codes of masculinity were also rooted in protecting women, and as times have gone by the idea of protecting women started to change until it became oppressing them. when you think about the outcomes, it's no surprise that 'protecting' and 'oppressing' end up being so similar, though the initial desire is very different. whichever way you look at it, by jacobean england - and for many centuries afterwards - women were kept locked up at home and were actively discouraged from seeking any role in public life., as a play macbeth encourages this attitude by presented the horrors that come about when masculinity is tempted and led astray by a woman (in many respects it's really just a re-telling of the story of adam and eve. ), on these terms the plot is quite simple:, macbeth is a good man - heroic, brave, loyal, etc... but he cannot stand up to the women in his life (either his wife or the witches) and so he breaks one of the most fundamental codes of masculinity and betrays and murders a man who is his friend, his family member, and his king - while the man was visiting his house macbeth explores what happens when a man chooses his loyalty to his wife over his loyalty to his masculine code of honour. in the end, as was to be expected ends up breaking even more codes of honour: he kills his best friend; he kills macduff's wife and child; and, in the end, he can't even save his wife., one of the most telling features of macbeth, however, is the role of the play's hero: macduff. firstly, macduff chooses his loyalty to the kingdom over his wife (which is why his wife gets killed without his protection); and secondly he is, quite literally, the furthest any man can be from womanhood: he is not even of woman born. and, in fact, to look at the actual language being used, macduff wasn't just 'not born of woman' his birth was an act of violence against women because he was from his "mother's womb untimely ripped.", key quotes:, the sergeant's speech during a1 s2 - so much of this speech is setup to establish macbeth as a heroic, brave and honourable man. the fact that he has earned " brave macbeth " as his name - and remember how important names were to jacobean men; the fact that his sword " smoked with bloody execution " confirms that he is killing with duncan's law on his side; and the fact that he " carved his passage ," while " disdaining fortune " suggests that he makes his own rules and doesn't worry about money or fate to guide him., my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, / shakes so my single state of man that function / is smother'd - here, m a cbeth is arguing that the thought of killing duncan is so abhorr e nt to his masculin ity (his "state of man") that "function is smothered" which means he won't be able to act on it. there's a really interesting extension thought here which argues that the "state of man" is actually the patriarchy itself - the "state" by which "man" governs. and in this respect, you could argue that the way he's influenced by the witches and his wife is actually a threat to the patriarchy itself., he's here in double trust - this comes from the speech macbeth delivers in a1 s7 where he lists a whole host of reasons why killing duncan is an affront to his masculinity, not least the fact that duncan trusts him and macbeth is about to break his word and betray and murder a family member, a friend and an honourable king., to show an unfelt sorrow is an office / which the false man does easy. - malcolm says this after his father's dead body is discovered. essentially, malcolm doesn't trust those around him because he knows that they lie. the key here is that a "false man" can lie and cheat, things which were traditionally considered to be more feminine traits - though when women did them they were considered to be sly and cunning, both of which were considered more feminine., when you durst do it, then you were a man, i dare do all that may become a man; / who dares do more is none., macbeth spends quite a lot of the play trying to prove that he's a man. during the opening he single-handedly fights off the norwegians to prove his masculinity. his wife, however, has different ideas of what constitutes a man and she wants to see him take the throne. in order to do this, she challenges him by claiming that he's not a real man unless he kills duncan. this puts macbeth in a difficult situation, as if he betrays duncan then he's betraying his masculine loyalty, but if he doesn't his wife will think him less masculine and he'll feel the shame from that. in the end he kills duncan, and suffers the consequences., killing banquo and macduff's wife and children - having first betrayed his masculinity by siding with his wife's vision of it and killing duncan, macbeth does two of the worst things a man can do: he kills his best friend, a defenceless woman and a child. and if that wasn't bad enough, in both of these cases he went one step worse and arranged for someone else to actually carry out the murders. before she's murdered though lady macduff launches into an attack against her husband for leaving them defenceless. in the play this serves two purposes: on one level it makes her death seem less tragic, as she clearly didn't understand why it was more important for macduff to stay with his king rather than defend his family; and on another level it emphasises how little either she or lady macbeth really understand about the roles and responsibilities of men - and remember that the two of them are the only female characters in the play who were even given names, so it's really a comment about women in general., feel it as a man - when macduff hears that his wife and children are dead malcolm tells him to "dispute it like a man." malcolm is both encouraging macduff to join him in his battle against macbeth, and he is reminding him that it is his male duty to avenge himself. macduff says he will but first he must "feel it as a man." this is really telling, as it shows that macduff can transcend genders. but he's not like lady macbeth who wants to be rid of gender, macduff will revenge himself like a man, but first he will feel it - which means embracing what is considered more feminine., from my mother's womb untimely ripped - the more i read macbeth the more misogynist i find it - which means that the play seems to be quite insulting to women. this isn't to say that shakespeare was a misogynist, but this is definitely a misogynist play, and this fact is never better highlighted than remembering the fact that macduff - the hero of the play - was as far as it is possible to be from womanhood. bear in mind that shakespeare could have chosen anything unique about macduff to give us that great twist at the end, but he chose to use someone whose main feature is that they are not, in any way, associated with women. and not only that, this man is so far from women that he was created from an act of violence against women. this is pretty horrific to think about, but perhaps more understandable when you reflect on the fact that this was written to please king james who lost his mother when he was less than one-year-old and who, quite possibly, could have related to someone who was from their mother "untimely ripped.", femininity in macbeth, one of the first things to reflect on in macbeth is that there are only a few female characters in the play: the three witches, hecate, lady macbeth, lady macduff and a servant of lady macbeth's. that's it. and from that list, the three witches, hecate and lady macbeth are all pretty evil characters, while lady macduff only really appears briefly before being killed., this play is not shakespeare's finest moment when it comes to female parts., having said that, by modern terms, lady macbeth is a pretty rockingly good part to play - she's got some amazing lines, and really runs the show... right up to the point when she gets killed / kills herself for reasons that remain a little unclear. you can read more about this when i looked at guilt ., but the fact is that the female characters in this play are almost all evil, corrupting influences; and the only one that isn't is lady macduff whose only real job is to die. this isn't a surprise though, because, as a play, macbeth is just very misogynist. this doesn't mean that shakespeare was a misogynist, though this particular play probably is; and it doesn't mean that interpreting the play this way makes me - or you - a misogynist, since calling out misogyny where you see it is a feminist act, not a misogynist one., it's actually quite hard to look at the feminine in macbeth though - the witches are clearly evil, and are described almost straight away as looking like men; lady macbeth is also evil, and almost straight away she casts a magic spell to remove gender from her. so really, even the female characters have their genders quite muddled., what there is in this play, however, is a group of women who desire power - the witches like causing havoc and control macbeth to bring that, while lady macbeth is clearly the ambitious one in her relationship. in this respect, the play itself is a warning against allowing women too much power. when women try to seize power, the natural order collapses. to get another view on this, it's worth checking out this page that looks at the play as being a reworking of the story of adam and eve ., as a final point about this, it's worth bearing something important in mind:, shakespeare wrote this play to please king james, and king james had quite a troubled upbringing: his dad was killed, then his mum married the man who'd killed him; then she was exiled from scotland, and then jailed in england - and all that happened before james was one year old. in the end, james was brought up by his uncle, a man who'd openly said that he didn't think women should ever sit on the throne. james's mum was eventually beheaded by queen elizabeth when james was 21-years-old., given his quite tumultuous upbringing, it's not a surprise that james had some clear issues with women. issues that eventually led him to write a book that justified his fear of witches, and led him to try, torture and then burn at the stake a woman called agnes sampson , who'd apparently drowned a cat in order to invoke a storm that made james's wife a little seasick., anyway, the net result is that although this play is very misogynist, that's not necessarily shakespeare's fault because he wrote this play to impress the new king, who probably was really quite misogynist. in fact, there is some evidence to suggest that shakespeare didn't even like this play very much, evidence to suggest he thought it was a " tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. " and that's the kind of line that makes me wonder what he'd think about us all teaching it 400 years later....

macbeth gender roles thesis

Macbeth and Oedipus

This is a bit of a weird one, so hold onto your hats before you go down the rabbit-hole....


  1. Gender Roles In Macbeth by Zachary Pinault

    macbeth gender roles thesis

  2. Gender Roles in Macbeth

    macbeth gender roles thesis

  3. Gender Roles in Macbeth by Violet Teodorescu- 25

    macbeth gender roles thesis

  4. Explore the gender roles in Macbeth and the Taming of the Shrew Essay

    macbeth gender roles thesis

  5. Macbeth Essay

    macbeth gender roles thesis

  6. Gender |Roles in Macbeth

    macbeth gender roles thesis


  1. Lady Macbeth and gender expectations

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  3. Herbert Schachtschneider -- Macduff's Aria -- Macbeth (sung in German)

  4. Thesis (Antithesis But the Roles are Reversed) [APRIL FOOLS SPECIAL]

  5. Macbeth (Verdi) Teatro Solis Montevidéo 2013



  1. How does Shakespeare play with gender roles in Macbeth?

    Clearly, gender is out of its traditional order. This disruption of gender roles is also presented through Lady Macbeth's usurpation of the dominant role in the Macbeth's marriage; on many occasions, she rules her husband and dictates his actions. The disruption of gender roles is also represented in the weird sisters.

  2. What are some essay topics on gender and power themes in Macbeth

    Thesis statements about gender roles and power in Macbeth can take many forms, but the most important thing is to connect the question you have with a literary device or type of figurative language.

  3. (PDF) Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth

    Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Janna H Hooke. The delineation of gender roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth yields an array of critiques wrought with contention, most notable in the characterization of Lady Macbeth. While many critics argue that Lady Macbeth's quests for power are irrevocably masculinized, Stephanie Chamberlain claims in ...

  4. Gender Roles in Macbeth

    In many cases, gender roles are subverted in Macbeth. Only one woman, Lady Macduff, exemplifies traditional gender roles for women. The male characters in Macbeth are sometimes presented as crying ...

  5. Role of Gender in Macbeth

    by Guiding Literature. April 1, 2023. Gender plays a significant role in Shakespeare's play "Macbeth.". The play presents a world where men and women are expected to behave in certain ways based on their gender, and characters who defy these gender roles often face consequences. At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is presented as a ...

  6. The Subversion of Gender Roles in Macbeth

    The Subversion of Gender Roles in Macbeth. William Shakespeare's story of Macbeth is about a war hero, mesmerized by prophecies and delusions of grandeur, who seeks power and stability in a sea of blood. The play challenges traditional gender norms surrounding masculinity and femininity with the two anti-protagonists, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth ...

  7. Gender and Manliness in Macbeth

    Macbeth has remained one of the most fascinating works produced by Shakespeare which is why commentators have analyzed it from multiple dimensions. This paper analyzes the gender roles that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and Macduff and Lady Macduff perform during the action of the play. It traces how the concept of manhood in the sixteenth century hierarchy of gender roles is challenged and ...

  8. PDF Macbeth: Gender and Gender Authority

    The unit will analyze and discuss the gender identity of those influencing Macbeth and the authority of gender on Macbeth's ethics. In this unit, the students read the tragedy Macbeth by William Shakespeare, excerpts from "The History of ... why Shakespeare introduces the witches and the role that their feminine presence plays in Macbeth ...

  9. "Gender in Shakespeare's Macbeth : performances and performativities

    Critics and audiences alike have been guilty of reducing Lady Macbeth and Macbeth to the most basic form of their characters--evil. Because of their non-normative, complex gender roles, they are often misunderstood. Through the application of gender theory and performance theory, the anxieties within Macbeth surrounding and concerning gender can be explained as an issue of performance.

  10. The Gender Role In Macbeth: [Essay Example], 1090 words

    The Gender Role in Macbeth. In the text, the female character of Lady Macbeth is often shadowed by her partner Macbeth. When in public, the female characters are simply just there for the men, but in private, such as with Lady Macbeth, they can do much more and have more of an influence over the men. In this time, the only way for a female to ...

  11. Gender and Manliness in Macbeth. in SearchWorks articles

    Abstract. Abstract: Macbeth has remained one of the most fascinating works produced by Shakespeare which is why commentators have analyzed it from multiple dimensions. This paper analyzes the gender roles that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and Macduff and Lady Macduff perform during the action of the play. It traces how the concept of manhood in ...

  12. Essay on Gender Roles in Macbeth

    Published: Mar 5, 2024. Gender roles are a significant theme in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, and they are explored through the characters of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth himself. The play presents a complex and nuanced view of gender roles and their impact on individuals. At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a strong and ...

  13. What is the relationship between gender and power in Macbeth

    Males possess the power. Lady Macbeth would like to. She would alter her gender if she could. She wants to be an aggressive, powerful warrior and ruler, but she is limited by her gender to using ...

  14. AQA English Revision

    In your answer you should: · Look at gender in the extract above and. · Look at gender in the play as a whole. Plan: P1: Introduction about gender and outline brief argument. P2: Focus on Lady Macbeth and her deceptive ways. P3: Focus on Macbeth and his role as victim. P4: Conclusion of argument, and modern vs Jacobean context.

  15. E T C Title of document: Gendering ''The Scottish Play'': Ideas on

    focuses on Lady Macbeth's role as a mother who also displays masculine traits. A survey of scholarly research on this topics leads to the conclusion that what it lacks so far is a comparison of men and women in Shakespeare's plays, in terms of assigned gender roles, their interaction, and the way they are performed.

  16. Gender Roles and Lady Macbeth: [Essay Example], 1185 words

    At the beginning of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is a prominent woman with a respected husband who loves and acknowledges her. Later, she mentally transforms into a man in order to be cold-hearted enough to murder King Duncan. Even though Lady Macbeth tries to keep her secret by being "unsexed", the secret keeps her guilty.

  17. 07.01.03: Macbeth and Issues of Gender

    Macbeth admits, "That I did kill them" (II, iii), and Lady Macbeth exclaims, "Help me hence, ho!" (II, iii) as she faints, Macduff requesting, "Look to the lady" (II, iii). Despite her attempts to go beyond her own gender, in the end, she proves that she remains a "lady." Derek Cohen states, "The equation of manliness with violence, a truism in ...

  18. Gender Roles in Macbeth and What It Means to Be a Man

    A great theme of the play is ambition, and it is what spurs on practically everything that takes place. Of course, the ambition is overzealous and fueled by greed, but nonetheless, it is what Shakespeare uses to examine gender roles in Macbeth.From the moment the Witches tell Macbeth that he is to be King, he cannot shake the idea from his head.

  19. PDF Gender

    Gender. The concept of gender, and the roles the characters are confined to because of it, come up throughout the play. Masculinity is seen as the desired trait and the male characters are often offended if someone questions their manhood. Lady Macbeth, for example, asks if Macbeth is a "man" (3.4) and Macduff explains he must feel his ...

  20. Gender Roles Theme in Lady Macbeth

    Gruadh (Lady Macbeth) lives in a world strictly segregated by gender. Women in the eleventh-century Scotland of the novel are expected to be quiet and domestic, to either be wives and mothers or to pursue some female-dominated occupation like midwifery. Their lives are dedicated to running a household and to producing and raising babies.

  21. Gender Roles In Macbeth

    Firstly, the typical masculine and feminine roles in society are reversed to emphasize that the natural world is out of order. As Macbeth and Banquo run into the three witches, Banquo asks them, "You should be women, /And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/ That you are so" (1.3.45).

  22. AQA English Revision

    Our gender assigned us the role that we should play in society and breaking or bending them would have been frowned upon by anyone in the mainstream. But at the heart of Macbeth is a couple who break the traditional gender roles, and in doing so flip the entire kingdom on its head. Most modern writers tend to focus on how Lady Macbeth ...

  23. Gender Roles in Macbeth By William Shakespeare

    In William Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, a tragedy is caused by the reversal of gender roles as characters attempt to gain power. In Macbeth, it shows how the desire to fulfill gender roles according to the ideal representation of masculinity set by society leads to consequences such as losing one's identity or committing immoral acts that will be regretted in the future.

  24. Gender Roles in Macbeth Essay Topics

    One way to help your students think about gender roles in Macbeth is by having them write essays on the topic. This lesson includes a series of essay topics designed to help students become more ...