bnormal subject of confused gender roles within the first of the act play. The three Weird Sisters — who Macbeth and Banquo comes across on their journey home from fighting a war against Scotland – are the start of this “gender confusion” which is seen throughout the play with Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, as well as in Macbeth’s speech to the three murderers as he tries to convince them to agree to his plan and kill Banquo. As Banquo approaches these witches, he cannot determine whether they are men or women. They possess all of the qualities women can be attributed for, yet this confusion comes from the fact that they have beards upon their faces. Having this scene be the very first of act Shakespeare’s Macbeth, foreshadows to the reader that gender roles will be confused through out the play. At the start of this play, Lady Macbeth is obviously the person in charge of their family. Upon hearing the news of Macbeth’s prophecy told by the three Weird Sisters, — that he will replace the present king, Duncan, when the time comes — she immediately begins planning King Duncan’s downfall. Macbeth is viewed as inferior and meek compared to his “manly” wife. Yet, it seems as though their positions in their relationship are switched after the murder of Duncan takes place. Lastly, King Macbeth’s conversation with the three murderers he chose to fulfill the task of “getting rid of” Banquo and Fleance strongly shows the suggestion of confused gender roles. Macbeth clearly asks them if they are indeed men. All of these examples clearly prove the suggestion of confused gender roles that will be seen throughout this play. All of these gender role confusions show the readerWithin the first act of the play, the reader is introduced to the three Weird Sisters. Having this meeting being one of the first events in the play foreshadows not only this confusion of gender roles, but the idea of the supernatural world as well.
-what are these,
So withered, and so wild in their attire,
That look not like th’ in habitants o’ th’ earth
And yet are on ‘t? Or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand
By each at once her choppy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips. You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.” (I, iii 40-49)
Banquo is very direct with these witches with his confusion, as he bluntly states that he is confused by them because he is unsure on whether they are in fact women or men. The fact of these characters being witches foreshadows the idea of this play containing other “supernatural” things, which we the reader come across later on in the play.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship is a “different” kind of relationship. In the beginning, Lady Macbeth is introduced to the reader as this evil woman plotting to murder the present king Duncan and anyone else who might come in her husband’s way to become king. Upon Macbeth’s arrival Lady Macbeth tells him that she will take charge of the preparations for Duncan’s visit and murder. She takes their relationship into her hands, telling her husband to “Leave all the rest to me” ( I, vi,86.) Lady Macbeth could be viewed as possessing manly qualities, for she does seem to take control of their relationship. Yet, after Macbeth commits this sin of murdering his own king, his personality and train of thought is obvious and drastically changed. Though he does manifest guilt, he soon begins planning his next victim. Also, when Ross and Lennox find their King murdered in his bed, Macbeth proceeds to kill the guards whom he had framed, in an act of rage. This rage never seen to the reader until now, after he murders Duncan. After this unfortunate assassination of a great king, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s role in their relationship seems to switch. It is now Macbeth who takes charge of the present situation, and does not inform Lady Macbeth of his intended plans of killing Banquo. He regards her as “dear chuck” and tells her to pretend that she does not know anything that he is planning on doing. Macbeth’s referral to Lady Macbeth as “Dear chuck”, is a phrase which reveals that Macbeth now has control of their relationship. Lady Macbeth is no longer viewed as possessing those manly qualities after the murder of Duncan.
The last referral to the subject of gender role confusion is in Macbeth’s conversation with the three murderers chosen to fulfil this dreadful task of murdering not only Banquo, but Fleance as well. Their apparent apprehension to take on such a task fills Macbeth with a sort of anger, and he questions them, “are you man?”. This obviously would want to make three tough men, as these, want to take on such a task to prove to their king their manhood . . . and they do agree to it.