In the eleventh century the typical married couple would be a housebound wife that has no self confidence and handles everything her manly husband tells her to while, he does nothing but bring home that night's dinner. In Shakespeare's Macbeth he tries to break the gender roles set in society. We see him do this by giving Lady Macbeth and the witches "manly" traits and making Macbeth seem very feminine.
To understand what gender roles Shakespeare is trying to break we first need to understand what they were. Women were meant to wait on their husbands hand and foot while also taking up trade in what the husband did for a living. She would get no education and was usually married in her mid to late teens. The only way she ever became a land owner was through a death leaving her the only one to tend to the trade. In that respect she would have the same responsibilities as a man plus what she did before but, she would never quite gain the same respect a man would doing half of that work. A man would have his entire life planned out before he was seven years old. At seven the man would go to school for a short time until his father deemed that it was time for him to take up the family trade and help his father. His marriage would be arranged and he would own his wife and children. When his father died he would take over the entire trade and begin the cycle with his child once again. The only difference between the nobility and the peasants was that the nobility had more respect but, the woman would still have the same duties. However, in Macbeth Shakespeare is trying to make women " oppose male authority, dominance, and courage."(Brinzeu, 256).
One of the biggest examples of gender breaking or reversing would be, the lady of the house herself, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is the person who wears the pants in their relationship. She proves this early on in the play by stating that Macbeth is 'too full o' the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way"(Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 5 Line 16).