Friday, 23 September 2011

Witches and Bitches: Women in The Scottish Play

I recently went to see Verdi's opera of Macbeth, and it really got me thinking. As you may know, I find the portrayal of witches as evil hags offensive. I think that society has, (and to some point, still does) persecute strong women. Whether or not a woman has magical powers or not is not the question, it is the notion that women should not be able to have any power in society. Women in the past, who embraced their powers of healing to help others were called witches, and murdered. This is historical fact. It is a fact that men didn't want women to be involved in the running of communities. They were just there to have babies, men were the ones meant to be in charge. I could rant about this for ages, if I want, but I'll move on to the particular subject of this discussion.

The women portrayed in Macbeth are strong, powerful women. The witches have power over land and sea and humans. They can see the future, and use it to make people do as they wish. They seemingly manipulate Macbeth into murder, and the near destruction of his own country.

Lady Macbeth is another strong woman. Already a powerful woman, thanks to her husband’s position, she craves more power through him, and it is she that convinces him to do the murder and says that he is not a man if he cannot do it. She sees her own sex as weak, saying that she must be 'unsexed' and become not a woman to do the vile things she has to do. Therefore she is saying that hard decisions and actions are really a man's job, and not a woman's. She is saying that women are weak creatures who cannot do these things. In the end, her actions destroy her, and she commits suicide.

In both these examples, the strong women are seen as evil, and their actions clearly show it, manipulating a seemingly good man into murder, more than once. We are immediately shown that we should fear the witches power, and that they are unnatural, because they have beards, and therefore do not look like a normal woman should. We are taught that we should fear that which is not traditionally seen as female and stick to the role of woman as beautiful and nurturing. We are threatened with what we might become if we do not. 

Lady Macbeth chooses to act like a man, and in doing so, destroys herself. Tortured by the events she creates (as of course, she should be, having led someone to murder) she goes mad, and ends up killing herself. This is her punishment for being so unwomanly.

Of course, this is an era where women and men were not seen as equal, even though there was a queen on the throne, and most people at the time would have been unlikely to question this. But this is a different time, now, when we can analyse these elements, and ask ourself what we want to be teaching people, especially children, about women and witches. Do we want them to fear strong, powerful women, or learn to respect them for all they have achieved?

4 comments:

  1. This is legitimately a great post.
    <3Lovely

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  2. Thanks so much, I really appreciate it!

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  3. WOMEN HAVE POWER! Great Post.

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  4. thank you. It's great when other people agree with what you're saying! thanks to you both!

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