Introduction: In Shakespeare’s play titled “Macbeth”, there is a constant “be a man” theme re-occurring, which in different ways it repeatedly mentions what it means to be a man. Lady Macbeth, King Duncan even Macbeth himself, all contribute to the underlying theme. Each one in their specific way, especially Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, harass or bring forth persecution, attempting to imply their view of what a man should resemble. King Duncan on the other hand, commends the men who portray their status in a brutal manner.
1st paragraph: Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have a clear idea of how a man should operate. In act one, Lady Macbeth outlines the traits that she considers are important for a man. After Macbeth tells her that he “will proceed not further in this business” she mocks him for his fear and cowardness, and tells him that he will only be a man if he commits the murder. She enforces the rejection of her femininity by claiming that she would go as far as cast off the motherly feelings that go along with being a woman. She states that she herself would go so far as “while it was smiling in [her] face]” take her own nursing baby and dash its brains out if she had to in order to attain her goals. This doesn’t mean that she is rejecting her femininity and becomes a man, but rather, she becomes a woman without the sexual characteristics and sentimentality that accompany of what it is to be a woman. She therefore becomes entirely unnatural and inhuman.
2nd paragraph: Lady Macbeth is the complete opposite of Macbeth. Macbeth is hesitant as to whether to murder King Duncan or not, Lady Macbeth however, has a drive for advancement that she cannot help but bring about her own destruction. In order to cast off her femininity, she must be unsexed and in the beginning of scene five, she calls on the spirits of the air to take away her womanhood when saying “Come you spirits, that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. Stop up th-access and passage to remorse, that no compunctious visiting of nature shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between th’effect and it. Come to my woman’s breast, And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers.” She evidently sees “remorse” and “peace” as feminine virtues.
... Shakespeare's time, as now, women were thought to be naturally more kind and gentle than men. But, Lady Macbeth, who is thinking deadly (" ... The image of Lady Macbeth|s character however, is very one dimensional, her corruption of innocence and her femininity in order to ... In other words, while he's saying all these threatening things, King Duncan still lives, and his words haven't yet inspired ...
The fact that she sees femininity as soft and kind is evident in the fact that she calls the fearful Macbeth womanish, telling him that only when he has murdered Duncan will he be a man. And whereas she wants to turn her mother’s milk into “gall” she complains that Macbeth is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness.”
3rd paragraph: Lady Macbeth is not the only one that values brutality and a lack of compassion as masculine. Even kind and gracious King Duncan himself evaluates heroic action on a rather gruesome approach. When the captain is describing Macbeth’s victory in battle he says that his sword “smoked with bloody execution… [And] carved out his passage [through enemy soldiers.]” With this bloody sword Macbeth cut Macdonwald open from “his navel to his chin, cut off his head, and fixed it on top of the castle walls.” Duncan’s response to this was “O valiant cousin, worthy gentlemen!” Therefore, a “real man, in the world of this play, is one who is capable of abundant bloodshed without remorse.
4th paragraph: The issue of “manhood” is yet again raised when Macbeth organizes with the murderers to kill Banquo. When Macbeth tries to convince the two men that Banquo is their enemy, they don’t respond quite as expected. Macbeth tries to get the men angered by saying that “It was he in the times past which held you so under fortune, which you thought had been our innocent self.” He tries to tell them, through the use of bribery, that the reason for their poverty is Banquo, and that they will be rewarded richly if they kill Banquo for him. In spite of this, he gets the reaction from the first murderer who only says “We are men, my Liege.” Then Macbeth gets even more sarcastic, saying, “Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men; As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs, Shoughs, water-rugs and demi-wolves, are clept, All by the name of dogs.” He criticizes them as less-than-acceptable men, and uses the same tactic that his wife uses on him to kill Duncan; intimidation.
... in the apprehension with which Banquo greets Macbeth when they meet – unlike King Duncan, Banquo does not feel secure and ... he logically makes up his mind not to kill Duncan. Macbeth is presented as a strong character for ... the daggers. For the first time in the play, Macbeth displays an air of authority in declaring ... something of themselves with the aid of a man. The status of a woman? s husband ...
Conclusion: Although “Manhood” being a major theme in the play, the answer of what it involves to be a man, lies in the reader, and is interpreted differently depending on ones perception. However, in “Macbeth”, Lady Macbeth, King Duncan and Macbeth all value cold-bloodedness and a lack of compassion as being a major masculine characteristic, and through the many occurrences of that point, it indicates the importance associated with being a man in play.