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What does Macbeth tell us about Shakespeare's views on kingship?

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Introduction

What does Macbeth tell us about Shakespeare's views on kingship? Macbeth was written by William Shakespeare in around 1606 and is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy. He wrote Macbeth whilst James I was on the throne. James believed strongly in divine right. This may have helped Shakespeare's views on kingship. In Macbeth there are four kings: Edward of England; Duncan; Malcolm and Macbeth. Of these four only Macbeth did not rule by divine right as he murdered the previous king so as to gain the throne. Also of these four only Macbeth can be described as a truly bad king. Duncan epitomizes just about everything a king should be. Shakespeare presents Duncan to the reader as a dignified gentle and conscientious ruler. Duncan also has the virtue of being gracious, open, honest and sincere. Duncan shows us that he is a firm and decisive king with good leadership qualities when he deals promptly with the traitor Cawdor. He is also a very generous man. For example in Act 2 Scene 1 Duncan gives Lady Macbeth a diamond as a present. Duncan shows that he can also be fair, loyal and appreciative. We see this in particular when he bestows a title on Macbeth (the Thane of Cawdor) ...read more.

Middle

Even Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 6 respects Duncan by saying to him, "at your highnesses pleasure". Overall I believe that Shakespeare wants to portray Duncan as a good king. He bestows on Duncan the virtues of being gracious, open, honest and sincere. He is also portrayed as a fair, loyal and appreciative king. If Duncan has a weakness it is usually a consequence of his innate goodness - his trust. Our first impression of Macbeth is that of a hero, a brave warrior and a man loyal to both king and country. As the play progresses, however, this favourable image of Macbeth rapidly disappears and with it the audience's sympathy and respect for him. This is because Macbeth allows his ambition to be king to suppress his good qualities. As Macbeth murdered Duncan so as to be king Macbeth rules by force and not by divine right. Macbeth committed heinous crimes. He murdered his king Duncan. He massacred women and children. He murdered his friend, Banquo. Macbeth is shown to be quite weak in character as he comes under the influence of the witches. ...read more.

Conclusion

to Malcolm and Macduff by the doctor and in comparison Macbeth doesn't have these powers Macbeth is also deceitful and a good example of this is when he talks to Banquo as if he were a dear friend while behind his back Macbeth is preparing to have him killed. Malcolm, in Act 4 Scene 3 lists the qualities that a king should possess. Namely, "Justice, verity, temperance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage and fortitude". A good king should not come to the throne by murder, but by divine right. In Macbeth Shakespeare presents his views on what virtues a king should and should not possess. Shakespeare also underlines what can happen if a king doesn't possess the necessary virtues to rule - it can bring war and destruction to the country. Shakespeare uses Macbeth to show this. Shakespeare also alleges that kings that gain the throne through divine right have god's blessing to rule and hence will rule well. This is in contrast to Macbeth's rule, which brings havoc to Scotland. In summary I conclude that Shakespeare upholds the accepted idealised vision of kingship. He outlines the catastrophes that can happen if the throne falls into the wrong hands. Claire Freeland English Coursework ...read more.

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