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Mr. Cleon M. McLean Department of English Ontario High School
The Moral Dilemma in William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” A Look at Gender 1. 2.
Shakespeare employs the archetypal relationship paradigm of Adam and Eve to characterize the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively. The notion of “responsibility” is not formed in the same way, theoretically speaking, between the two genders. Males’ formulization of responsibility stems from a sense of “commitment to obligation or duty” (Aeneas’ reason for leaving Dido). On the other hand, females’ formulization of responsibility stems from “responsiveness to relationships”. To be clear, Shakespeare reverses these two gender roles. This is why Macbeth has a “dagger of the mind…[and a] heatoppressed brain” (2.1.38-39), because he knows he has a friendly relationship with King Duncan; and Lady Macbeth would “…shame/To wear a heart so white [as Macbeth’s]” (2.2.63-64), for she truly sees her participation in regicide as the fulfillment of her obligation. Below are some ideas from Carol Gilligan’s (a student of Lawrence Kohlberg) In Different Voices, and Remapping the Moral Doman: New Images of Self in Relationships
Male-related, though not absolutely animus—i.e., masculine persona identity separation/autonomy (relationships may be hierarchical or contractual) detachment: the ability to put one’s self in the place of another (this is, in a sense, an abstraction that leads to moral knowledge that always leads back to the self). Here, “self” is determined through depersonalization or object relations, such as mirroring and reflection—words devoid of motion; lifeless. (egoism) E.g., Boy, “I want to play pirates.” rights and rules Formal logic of fairness
Making Moral Judgments Truth Choice Images of the Self (different images give rise to different moral agencies). Traditional contrast between egoism and altruism E.g., 2 girls and 1 boy want to play different games. Girls=next-door neighbors; boy=pirates.
Female-related, though not absolutely anima—i.e., feminine persona intimacy relationship (in the form of constraint or cooperation) attachment: the ability to know others as a joining of stories (this, in a sense, implies the possibility of learning from others in a way that transforms the self). Here, “self” is determined through interactions and connections (altruism) E.g., Girl, “Okay, then you can be the pirate that lives next door.” (This joining of stories transforms the games into a new one that neither gender had originally intended) caring Psychological logic of fairness
Fairness Informs notions of “justice” 4. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “We see only what we know”. 5. Mourning (sorrowful; grieving) and Melancholia (gloominess; depression)
Psychologist John Bowlby: mourning signifies grief over the loss of an attachment whose felt reality can be sustained in memory; melancholia signifies the isolation felt when an attachment is found to be fragmentary.