The Good The Bad and The Ugly: The Women of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The Good The Bad and The Ugly: The Women of Shakespeare’s Macbeth **Kicker** All creative minds are renowned for their radical thoughts and Shakespeare was no exception but would even he dare to disturb century-old conceptions of women in his time. *** What fleeting images are evoked when one reminisces on the Tragedy of Macbeth? Perhaps a sinister trio of hideously ugly old crones gathered around a simmering cauldron? Or maybe the discordant image of a fair woman upon a high windowsill invoking the power of demonic spirits? Either way, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is well known for its cast of malevolent females predominated by the fiercely ambitious Lady Macbeth and the eerie, grotesquely ugly Weird Sisters but does there exist more depth in the playwright’s portrayal of women? With Shakespeare, there always does. Shakespeare lived in the Elizabethan age, an era when the structure of society was very much patriarchal and the role of women was defined and restricted by the precepts imposed by the male hegemony. The prolonged rule of a matriarch as the head of state had greatly relieved the constraints that were imposed on females but women still found themselves under the conceptions of being the gentler but inferior sex. Consequently, there existed a notion that this weaker sex was incapable of being inhabited by the extremes of nature and disposition a man may possess. This contention meant that the underhanded cutthroat or the vicious political tyrant could only exist in male form, merely because females just did not possess the capacity for such evil. Similarly, the notion of a female as a benevolent ruler or a just peacemaker was sure to attract much ridicule. Shakespeare, however, in his great tragedy, Macbeth, seems not to adhere to these views on femininity. The ever-perceptive bard shows that the discernment of the goodness of a woman is not confined to her competence as a wife and housekeeper but illus…

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