I found the topic of women's roles in Shakespeare quite fascinating considering I had never given it much thought. During the process of reading and discussing any one of his plays, I have never heard a teacher, or peer for that matter, mention the role of women in great detail. Surely we have discussed what particular women are doing in a scene and how it affects the protagonist, but we have never focused keenly on that woman's role and what it means to be a woman during that time. The focus has always been on the men. Even in plays such as Macbeth, where the protagonist is pressured into performing questionable acts by his overpowering wife, our class conversations rarely involved her. Her character was merely skimmed over, only truly discussed when a student was found confused by one of her many monologues.
Although the roles of many of Shakespeare's female characters are often overlooked, it could be argued that it is with good reason. His plays consist of male leads which could be seen as an obvious explanation as to why the female roles are less discussed. However, in Macbeth it is clear that he is controlled by his wife and that her characteristics are not those of a stereotypical woman of her time. Even though she possessed a considerably controversial role for that time period, few times was she discussed during class, when it is clear now that she should have been.
It is clear that women were thought to have few purposes during Shakespeare's time. They were considered delicate and poised and their only contribution to society would be to marry wealthy and birth many. With this mindset in place, Shakespeare was still able to create a female role, Lady Macbeth, that possessed very few of these characteristics, if any. She resembled what only a man was thought to be. Her character was means for conversation during Shakespeare's time, so why is it that she is overlooked in ours?