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Explore the theme of kingship in Macbeth and comment on the social, historical and philosophical ideas that shape the plays content

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Introduction

Explore the theme of kingship in Macbeth and comment on the social, historical and philosophical ideas that shape the plays content By Andrew Scuoler 5 Fisher 27/10/02' In the play Macbeth, it was accepted that there was a natural order and hierarchy in everything. People believed that God had power over all beings, that the King had power over humans, and that humans had power over the animals. The King was thought to have been especially appointed by God and only God could remove him from his position. Regicide would have been thought a most terrible and sacrilegious crime, because killing the King meant doing a great wrong against God himself. Not only was regicide sinning against God, it meant disrupting the natural order and stability. By tampering with nature in such a way brings chaos and after Duncan has been murdered strange things start to happen, "A falcon tow'ring in her pride of place Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and killed." From the outset, the political instability is reflected by the ominous "thunder and lightening" as the witches cast their spells. As Kings were divinely chosen, they represented God, had absolute power over Scotland and ruled without consulting a parliament. Not only were they political leaders, they were religious leaders also. ...read more.

Middle

Despite Macbeth having good intentions at the beginning of his reign, the witches make him feel insecure and cause him kill innocent people. By the end of the play Macbeth has changed from a honourable and respected general to a "butcher", hated by everyone. Although incompetent kings often retained their title, a good king needed to be a strong political and social leader. A King's becoming graces as told by Malcolm are, "justice, verity, temperance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, and fortitude." In the play, Duncan has all of these qualities, and as a result his loyal Thanes and Kinsmen are willing to fight for him to uphold the natural order and to prevent chaos. Although Duncan is too trusting and does not see Macbeth for what he really is, he is a honourable King and is considered by his kinsmen as a great man and a good leader, "The gracious Duncan". King Duncan is generous and rewards people for their service to him, "with his former title greet Macbeth". He also does not forget those who are considerably lower down than him. This is shown to be the case after the battle with the rebel Thane of Cawdor. ...read more.

Conclusion

Edward the Confessor's intervention is portrayed as a gift from heaven and represents good overcoming evil. A dominant theme in Macbeth is stability. Against the backdrop of an eleventh century society Macbeth's main crime is upsetting the stability and bringing chaos. He denies the righteous King the throne, which at the time would have been a most heinous offence against not only the rightful King but God as well. He knows by killing Duncan he has done an evil thing. Macbeth lets his wife and the witches influence him to a dangerous degree and ultimately bring about his downfall. These forces of evil lead Macbeth to kill his King, his best friend and a woman and child. Macbeth's mental state deteriorates into paranoia and feels he has to kill people to keep his title. Although Macbeth is King, the play makes the point that the title is meaningless. Illustrated through the points of the play, kings must have respect for the people which they rule. Macbeth's personal failings as a king were his misguided decisions. Macbeth shows what happens when a king is not fit for the throne. He has no friends, respect, or control and is consequently overthrown. In the play we see Macbeth transform from a honourable warrior, "Noble Macbeth" to a villainous tyrant, "Th' usurper's cursed head!" ...read more.

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