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Unacceptable Female Roles in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Macbeth’s Unacceptable Female Roles

William Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth scarcely deals women a fair hand; the drama contains only misfit women in the major roles. In fact, the witches are not fully women, with their beards and supernatural aspect. In this essay we will treat on Lady Macbeth, the greatest misfit of them all, in detail, and on other women only incidentally.

A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy demonstrates Lady Macbeth’s inflexibility of will which enables her to dominate her husband:

Sharing, as we have seen, certain traits with her husband, she is at once clearly distinguished from him by an inflexibility of will, which appears to hold imagination, feeling, and conscience completely in check. [. . .] On the moment of Macbeth’s rejoining her, after braving infinite dangers and winning infinite praise, without a syllable on these subjects or a word of affection, she goes straight to her purpose and permits him to speak of nothing else. She takes the superior position and assumes the direction of affairs – appears to assume it even more than she really can, that she may spur him on. (336-37)

Lily B. Campbell in her volume of criticism, Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes: Slaves of Passion,

discusses how strong-willed is Lady Macduff:

Lady Macduff is distinctly of the opinion that her husband fled the land from fear, even without having done anything which should make him fear retribution. To Ross she says:

His flight was madness. When our actions do not,

Our fears do make us traitors.

As Ross argues that she cannot know whether it “was his wisdom or his fear”, she very pertinently argues against the wisdom that will make a man fly from the place in which he leaves his wife and children, and she instances the courage of the wren that will make it fight the owl to protect its young ones in proof that Macduff’s fear has made him unnatural in his actions.(230)

In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, Northrop Frye shows that a lady is the actual driving force in the play:

That Macbeth is being hurried into a premature act by his wife is a point unlikely to escape the most listless member of the audience, but Macbeth comes to regret the instant of fatal delay in murdering Macduff, and draws the moral that

Colonialism and Imperialism in Heart of Darkness

Imperialism Exposed in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” is, as Edward Said says, a story about European “acts of imperial mastery” (1503)-its methods, and the effects it has on human nature-and it is presumable that Conrad incorporates much of his own experience in the Congo and his opinions about imperialism into the story, as another recent critic also suggests: “he seems to approve of Marlow,” the narrator (Achebe 1492). These revelations of the author are conveyed to the reader through Marlow’s observations, descriptions, reactions, and statements. While “Heart of Darkness” is at times very critical of European imperialism, that criticism for the most part is directed at the false idealistic claims made about the enterprise and the inefficient and savage methods employed by the Belgians; the book does not question imperialism when undertaken competently, particularly by the British.

The opening discussion in “Heart of Darkness” between Marlow and his friends, is about an idealistic imperialism of conquerors, especially English, who were “bearers of a spark from the sacred fire”-the fire of civilization (1428). Marlow once too had “tingled with enthusiasm” at the thought of imperialism, as his friends do during their recollection of the past, but that was before his experience in the Congo, where he uncovers the crudeness of the Belgians. Imperialism, to Marlow, is not alw…

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…tional support he has for his country.

Marlow’s idea that the English are capable of competently approaching imperialism has no supportive evidence. In any case, the savage and inefficient methods of the Belgians prove that the idealistic claims of European imperialism are far from true. In this, it is likely that Conrad’s experience in the Congo changed his outlook on imperialism, just as it did Marlow.

Works Cited

Barnet, Sylvan, et al. An Introduction to Literature. 11th ed. NY: Longman, 1997.

Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” Barnet 1426.

Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.'” Barnet 1489.

Said, Edward W. “The Imperial Attitude.” Barnet 1502.

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