People’s ambition and drive are often key factors in their social status and power. People who are successful will be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals. Sometimes emotions are ignored in order for one to be able to make tough moral decisions. Although this can help one achieve their goals, it can also be detrimental to the well-being of others. Male power positions encourage emotional indifference. While women are expected to show compassion and warmth even in business, men are celebrated for their inability to feel empathy. In this culture, masculinity is defined by a suppressed emotional response and a strong-willed mentality. Characters in Macbeth society consider political power to be extremely important. They are determined and power-hungry, and will do anything to improve their dominance. They strive to be the most powerful, dominant, and manliest person in society. The amount of power and honor they have held is what determines one’s legacy. Other areas can be neglected if one is too focused on power. To achieve success, one can forget about personal relationships and loyalty. Power and masculinity are often a determining factor in one’s ability to feel and express their emotions.
Macbeth is shown to value masculinity, power over the course. Lady Macbeth is his first wife and he has an incredible relationship with her. As they plan King Duncan’s murder, they become very close friends. Lady Macbeth is responsible for Macbeth’s guilt, as she bears the burden of his failure. They will be together, she believes. Macbeth soon rejects his wife’s feelings of love after becoming king. He plots to murder his long-time friend Banquo, and his son while Lady Macbeth keeps it secret. He becomes more introverted. He kills innocent people without thinking. His emotional separation from his wife and his rise to power are accompanied by his power gains. This highlights the fact that power can corrupt and isolate. Macbeth discovers his wife’s death in the final scene. Macbeth was too focused on the forthcoming war to grieve or get emotional. Although he loved Lady Macbeth deeply, he has lost touch with her completely as he pursues power. Macbeth is unable to grieve his wife without a clear conscience, knowing that her selfishness led her to an early death. When he thinks about the importance of his wife’s throne, he feels profound regret. (77) Macbeth feels cheated by his wife. He tried tirelessly to be king, but he only realized the true cost when it was too late. Macbeth is an example of masculinity and power. As Macbeth ascends to the highest political post, he behaves more’manly. He no longer relies upon his wife and shares his powers with her. Instead, he makes her conform to the stereotypes of passive and quiet wives. This distorted view of masculinity is further displayed by Siward, who loses sight his great love for his wife. Siward is an English army leader and shares many of his characteristics with Macbeth. He is determined to win the battle and will do everything to defeat the enemy. He puts a lot of importance on honor and bravery. Siward’s death can be accepted as long his son didn’t give in to the enemy nor sacrifice his honor. This is a play on the theme of masculinity overblown. Young Siward’s battle-ready death is all that is left to be remembered. His death is interpreted as an expression of his masculinity. Young Siward isn’t considered a tragic death of war, but a thrilling entry into manhood. Siward does not grieve the fact that he died an honourable death. Siward’s first reaction to his son’s death was “Why then, God’s soldier!” I don’t think I could have more sons than I do hairs. So his knell is knoll’d. Siward believes his son is a soldier who has fulfilled his purpose. He views his son as only a tool to help him advance his power. His “purpose” is to use and discard his son. Siward emotionally neglects his son in his pursuit of power. Siward’s response is very similar to Macbeth’s. They both used their loved ones to gain political power and neglected their personal relationships.
Macduff stands out against Siward as well as Macbeth. Macduff is unique in that he displays a balanced masculinity/feminine character. He is strong and brave, but he allows himself to feel the “feminine”, sorrowful emotions. He is devastated by the news of his husband’s murder and that of his children. He is told uncaringly that he must “dispute this like a gentleman” (67). He replies, “It will be done, but I must also feel it that way: I don’t recall such things being, those were my most precious possessions.” Did heaven watch and not accept their part? Sinful Macduff. They were all struck at thee!” (67). Macduff blames Macbeth and then himself for failing to protect his family. Macduff believes Macbeth killed Macduff’s relatives to hurt him. Macduff does not try to excuse his part in their deaths like Lady Macbeth. He is weighed down by this responsibility and he seeks revenge for their deaths. Macduff kills Macbeth for revenge. Macduff does not hide the trauma of his loved-ones, like Siward. His character is a shining example of how gender roles are integral to success. He is an honorable soldier, but rejects toxic masculinity.
Macbeth and Siward have different reactions to dying. These are just a few examples of how difficult it can feel to grieve when society discourages emotional displays. If you want to be manly, dominance and power are your defining characteristics. It is not possible to display any emotion if you don’t have them. Macbeth tries not to be feminine and tries to dominate without female support. He is driven to his death by this extreme inequalities of gender roles.
Macduff is however the hero of Macbeth’s play. He shows us that both femininity and masculinity must coexist for success. Macduff would have been unable to bring justice on Macbeth if he had not bottled up his grief over his children and wife. His emotional equilibrium gives him the strength, motivation and will to conquer Macbeth. Macbeth is emotionally disabled because of his exaggerated views on masculinity. He cannot grieve his loved ones. Rejecting masculine expectations allows one to feel emotion and love freely. Each of the masculine and female traits must be balanced in order to succeed.