Essay: How women are depicted in Macbeth and Frankenstein

Women can either make or break the world. They have the capability to run the world or completely destroy it, there are many different women in the world and each of them contributes individually. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth it is clear to see that the women in Frankenstein and Macbeth contrast each other.The women in both texts are so distant from each other because the women in Macbeth are portrayed as evil and malevolent and always up to no good, while the women in Frankenstein are seen as good, pure and completely docile. In addition, the ladies are both described contrastingly in light of their mental and physical appearance this prompts how each one set of ladies are dealt with in an unexpected way. From positions of power and control to status from object of desire to object of revenge.Lastly the female characters both play very different roles in both texts because they both contribute to the texts. The women in both Frankenstein and Macbeth are seen as polar opposites because the in Macbeth the women are seen as vindictive, malicious and spiteful whiles the women in Frankenstein are more passive, submissive and harmless.

The effects of evil are much stronger and obsessive in the women in Macbeth in contrast to the women of Frankenstein who are thought of as angels and saints. The women in Macbeth are manipulative and persuasive unlike the women of Frankenstein who are gentle, and peaceful. In Macbeth there is a relationship between the women and unnatural forces that happen to be evil, which concerns both roles of the three witches and Hecate and lady Macbeth. The disaster introduced by the women in the play is seen as unorthodox and out of place. In Macbeth anything evil is usually unacceptable but these evil acts seem to be coming from the women. This is shown when Lady Macbeth says ‘take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers, /Wherever in your sightless substances/You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night, /And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, /That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, /Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, /To cry ‘Hold, hold!’ ‘ (Shakespeare 1 .5 55-61). A character who embodies the goodness in Frankenstein is Justine. Justine is a benevolent and peaceful character even though she is seen as guilty for the murder of William. Every one of her peers’ sees how good Justine is and that’s why they find it hard to believe that she would be able to do something so horrendous. Justine claims ‘God knows how entirely I am innocent. But I do not pretend that my protestations should acquit me; I rest my innocence on a plain and simple explanation of the facts which have adduced against me, and I hope the character I have always borne will incline my judges to a favourable interpretation where any circumstance appears doubtful or suspicious’ (Shelley pg.42).In Macbeth the women are harsh and are compared to terrible things while the women in Frankenstein are pure and are compared to divine things. The women are associated with evil from the very begging of the play with the three witches who are depicted as sinister beings. They are similar to a demonic version of the three fate sisters in Greek Mythology who control everyone’s destiny. The non-religious aspect of three witches is maintained with their comparison to the fates and to showcase their unsavoury behaviour , such as making potions like ‘Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, /Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf /Of the ravined salt-sea shark, / Root of hemlock digged i’ th’ dark, / Liver of blaspheming Jew, /Gall of goat and slips of yew’ (Shakespeare 4. 1. 22-27) In Frankenstein the perception of women is a link between innocence and spiritual goodness. This is especially seen in Caroline and Elizabeth. Caroline Beaufort is seen an extraordinary woman who nursed her dying father “with the greatest tenderness,” (Shelley pg.15) Caroline Beaufort is also thought of as a good natured person who thought that it was her duty to carry out good deeds. It was just while carrying out these divine duties that she encounters Elizabeth. In the beginning Elizabeth is being described as “a being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp.” The angelic imagery goes on to when Elizabeth is said to be a “blessing” on their family. This is seen when Elizabeth takes over the mother role when Caroline dies. It is clear to see the difference in the two sets of women because of the division of evil versus good.

The women are defined by the way they look and the way they think. The physical appearances of the women in Macbeth cause them to be treated badly in contrast to the women in Frankenstein whose beauty helped them. In Frankenstein the subject of beauty is used frequently to describe the many females such as Elizabeth, Safie, Caroline, Justine and Agatha. Seemly enough beauty seems to be one of the main focuses in the text when it comes to the women. The only reason that Victor’s family adopts Elizabeth is that she’s pretty. They emphasize her beauty when she is described as “fairer than pictured cherub” (Shelley pg.17), but her beauty is seen to be beyond that of a normal human women. As Frankenstein puts it, “None could behold her without looking on her as a being heaven-sent’ (Shelley pg.18) her beauty, like her goodliness, is illusive. Elizabeth’s beauty is that of the sublime. Her beauty is described as “fairer than pictured cherub” (Shelley pg.17) and also “None could behold her without looking on her as a being heaven-sent’ (Shelley pg.18). The witches in Macbeth however were not so fortunate to receive beauty and because of this they were treated badly, which possibly lead them to act out in evil acts. Shakespeare transforms the weird sisters into ugly hags, and they distinctly take on more sinister roles. They are very often insulted by others saying things like ‘What are these, /So wither’d and so wild in their attire, /That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth, /And yet are on’t? Live you? Or are you aught/ That man may question? . . . By each one her choppy finger laying Upon her skinny lips. You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so (Shakespeare 1.3.40-49).The women in Macbeth are more independent and are stronger then the women in Frankenstein who are passive and weak. Lady Macbeth is powerful, very intelligent, and a force to be reckoned with. Lady Macbeth constantly has the power in her relationship with Macbeth and repeatedly needs to convince him to have the strength to follow through with her plan of murder. Lady Macbeth from her first appearance in the play has shown her strength and yearning for prosperity it is evident when she has accepted that in order to be Queen, someone or some ones must be murdered and does not let Macbeth weaken under the pressure. Lady Macbeth then takes matters into her own hands by saying ‘The raven himself is hoarse /That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan/ Under my battlements. Come, you spirits, That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe topful, Of direst cruelty!’ (Shakespeare 1.5. 45-50). The female characters such as Caroline, Elizabeth, and Justine are submissive characters. They are innocent, beautiful, weak and entirely accepting of their fate to the point of suffering and dying. Justine for example is described during the trial as, ‘always engaging, [and] was rendered, by the solemnity of her feelings, exquisitely beautiful.’ (Shelley pg.41) Justine is a push over and this is seen very often, in cases such as allowing her mother to mistreatment her and also not objecting to the injustice of her arrest. She is described as ‘always engaging, [and] was rendered, by the solemnity of her feelings, exquisitely beautiful.’ (Shelley pg.41). The physical and mental state of the women in Macbeth and Frankenstein distinguish the difference between the two.

The women in Macbeth play an important role in the text as do the female characters in Frankenstein. The female characters in Macbeth make the text what it is because they are the ones who helped with the problem while in Frankenstein the female characters are only in the text to serve a utilitarian function. Lady Macbeth is an alluring character because she is the one who is the most influential in establishing Macbeth as the king of Scotland. She is the crucial force in the murder of Duncan and of covering up the crime when he visits Macbeth’s castle. It was Lady Macbeth notMacbeth who said ‘Infirm of purpose!/ Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead / Are but as picture, ‘Tis the eye of childhood /That fears a panted devil, If he do bleed /ill gild the faces of the grooms withal /For it must seem their guilt.’ (Shakespeare 2.2.68-73 ). Elizabeth serves the purpose of exacting revenge. Frankenstein’s monster, well aware of his weakness, filled with the madness that resulted from being neglected by his creator, murders Elizabeth in order to hurt his creator as deeply as possible. She has been demeaned because she is only used for revenge; this is also very similar to the other female characters. While Frankenstein was ‘inspecting every corner that might afford a retreat to [his] adversary’when suddenly [he] heard a shrill and dreadful scream’ (Shelley pg. 102).This is where he finds Elizabeth dead. The female characters in Macbeth are the ones who started the whole problem while the women in Frankenstein merely helped the situation. The characters in the text Frankenstein that influence the problem, the creature, are Agatha and Safie. These two influence the monster by making the monster crave to exhibit and embody all virtue and sensitivity. They teach the monster his first lessons on healthy human relationships and love. While Agatha taught it compassion Safie taught it without knowing she taught it how to speak and read. The creature had observed Agatha and how ‘listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filled with tears, which she endeavoured to wipe away unperceived’ (Shelley pg. 58) he also ‘listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the Arabian, the strange system of human society was explained to me. I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty, of rank, descent, and noble blood.’ (Shelley pg.61 ). The witches had the most influence on Macbeth and his decisions. The witches influence on how Macbeth made his decisions played a crucial part in contributing to his ultimate doom. The witches were trying to create anarchy. They planted villainous lies and promises into Macbeth’s head that later seeped into his conscience. But the only one to blame was Macbeth for he was the one who listened. It was Macbeth who went to the ‘sisters, [to] cheer we up his sprites / And show the best of our delights./ Ill charm the air to give a sound /while you perform your antic round /that this great king may kindly say / Our duties did his welcome pay’ (Shakespeare 4.1.143-148). It’s easy to see how different both sets of females contribute to their texts.
The ladies in both Frankenstein and Macbeth are seen as perfect inverses in light of the fact that in Macbeth the ladies are seen as pernicious whiles the ladies in Frankenstein are more inactive. The ladies in both writings are so removed from one another on the grounds that the ladies in Macbeth are depicted as malicious and noxious and constantly planning something naughty, while the ladies in Frankenstein are seen as great, immaculate and totally resigned. Likewise, the ladies are both portrayed contrastingly as a result of their mental and physical appearance this prompts how each one set of ladies are dealt with in an unexpected way. From positions of force and control to status from object of craving to question of vengeance. In conclusion the female characters both assume altogether different parts in both writings on the grounds that they both help the writings in specific ways.The way the women were depicted in Macbeth and Frankenstein truly showed how women were seen in those days and how truly different they are.

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