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Keywords

Macbeth, Sexuality, Gender, Shakespeare, Witchcraft, Early Modern England

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | European History | Literature in English, British Isles

Abstract

The most popular characters in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, second only to Macbeth himself, are the Weird Sisters. Despite being called “Sisters” the women are oddly androgynous and there is very little in their physical appearance or behavior to indicate their gender. Even more importantly, there is nothing to indicate their place in the Scottish patriarchy of which Macbeth and Banquo are firmly established. As the first actors to appear on stage and arguably the manipulators of Macbeth’s fate, the genderless Weird Sisters would have disturbed deeply rooted understandings of gender definition and hierarchy in viewers. This disturbance allows Shakespeare to redress binary understandings of masculinity through the characters of Macbeth, MacDuff, and King Duncan. By looking at definitions of masculinity and patriarchy in Early Modern England it is becomes evident that Shakespeare is rejecting a narrow definition of what it means to be a “man”. He instead embraces a much broader concept of gender which challenges many common masculine stereotypes in favor of a contradictory and complex view of masculinity and patriarchy.

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