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What do we learn from Macbeth about the qualities required of a good king or leader?

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Jamie Mahoney Macbeth Coursework What do we learn from Macbeth about the qualities required of a good king or leader? Early on in Macbeth, we are shown the qualities that must be possessed to be a good king or leader through the reign of Duncan. He shows us the qualities of being an ideal king. Duncan's qualities make him a noble and righteous king. He is judicious, honest and trusting of his subjects. He gains respect from his minions (his subjects and servants), which further creates a sense of peace and tranquillity in the land. Duncan is the natural king, as God bestows kingship upon him, whereas Macbeth takes the role by his own actions. In contrast to Duncan, Macbeth is described as a tyrant due to his own corrupt mind and his relentless ambition, affecting Scotland for the worse. Macbeth transforms Duncan's prosperous country into a land "where violent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy" as murder became wholesale and people, fearful for their own lives, fear to question authority. The threat of civil disorder was never far away during the sixteenth century, and as Elizabeth's long reign drew to a close uneasiness about what the future might hold was increased by the uncertainty as to who would succeed her. None of Henry VIII's children had produced a direct heir to the throne, making James VI of Scotland next in line. The peaceful; accession of James, as James I of England, put an end to these immediate anxieties, but Shakespeare certainly remembered them when he wrote Macbeth three years later. King James was a very insecure man and this was mainly due to the fact that his parents had suffered awful fates. His father was murdered when James was only one year old and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been executed for treason when he was only 21. This made him the eighth king in the witches' prophecy, "And yet an eighth appears, who bears a glass Which shows me many ...read more.


in England" would have pleased him greatly. When one regards the stark contrast in the treatment of the minions of Duncan and Macbeth, during their reigns and, what is said about the two separate reigns, it is quite obvious who was liked and who was not. It would be common sense that if you, the king, treat people well, he will be treated the same in return. On the other hand, if a king is seen to be fearful of your subjects there will be a direct consequence of fear in the land, of people fearful for their lives. Duncan's rule therefore shows the qualities that a leader must possess if their land is to prosper. On the other hand, the attributes shown by Macbeth, during his reign, could be described quite simply, as a recipe for disaster due to tyrannical nature. We are shown the true picture of how Scotland is, through the words of Macduff to Malcolm, "Alas, poor country Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot Be called our mother, but our grace; where nothing But who knows nothing is once seen to smile" Duncan is seen as a good king. He is judicious, which is demonstrated by his execution of the original Thane of Cawdor and his decision to give the title to Macbeth, What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won" We could also take from this, the fact that he is concerned about his country and yet, on the other hand he deals fairly with his minions abiding in his country. He is trusting, yet na�ve, when referring to his former Thane, "There's no art To find the mind's construction in the face He was a gentleman on whom I built An absolute trust" This appears as being very ironic however, as he builds trust in his new Thane, Macbeth, who eventually murders Duncan. He is appreciative and admiring, "O worthiest cousin, The sin of my ingratitude even now Was heavy on me" Duncan's affection towards Lady Macbeth ...read more.


In conclusion to the question asked, about the qualities required of a good king or leader, it must be said that: Due to the belief in the divine right of kings, we are shown that during the course of the play, Duncan and his son Malcolm are the only 2 rightful kings as God bestows their kingship upon them. In addition, Macbeth is a mutation of the divine chain of order, as God does not bestow kingship upon him. The link between the king and God is stressed continually throughout the play through the use of images linking good kings to religions. Also, it could be argued that Macbeth was written for a royal audience and that the play was meant to please the king linking him to the character Banquo. There would have been good reason also, to emphasise the importance of national unity and of an undisputed succession of kings for the well being of the country. James I would have had to feel secure about his position as king after incidents, such as the Gunpowder Plot. The murder, or attempted murder, of a king was regarded as an unforgivable sin due to the supreme violation of the principles according to which God created the universe. The act of regicide was viewed with particular horror, as it was believed that the king was God's representative on Earth. Due to Macbeth's tyrannical nature, the attributes shown by Macbeth, during his reign were a recipe for disaster. Yet, in the opening stages, we view Macbeth as a brave, noble warrior making him the ideal leader. This is though, until his ambition takes over and our view of Macbeth systematically changes. Finally, throughout the play we see the qualities and attributes that a good king or leader should or should not possess if he is to prosper, gain respect and to rule to the best of his ability. Acknowledgements HN Paul - The Royal Play of Macbeth Macmillan Company - The Contemporary Background of the Play ...read more.

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