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Analyse the theme of Kingship in Macbeth

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1002
  • Category: Macbeth

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While composing this work, Shakespeare was aware that its content would have to satisfy the newly crowned king, James 1. Therefore the play includes many scenes and characters with the king in mind. Most obvious being the theme of kingship and what makes a good king. He involves the idea of Divine Right and the Chain of Being to help the story in it’s ideas.

As the play commences, the two Scottish Generals. Macbeth and Banquo, have recently crushed a rebellion led by the treacherous Thane of Cawdor and restrained order to the court of King Duncan.

Duncan is presented as a noble king who is loved throughout the country. This is apparent as the Sergant tells of how Macbeth and Banquo endeavoured to aid the king “they have as cannons overcharg’d with double cracks.” King Duncan also shows his gratitude as he calls Macbeth “O valiant cousin! Worthy gentlemen” and refers to him as being “noble.” This is important because this is a quality normally reserved for kings. The king immediately appoints Macbeth as the Thane of Cawdor and states “more is thy due than more than all can play.” Duncan’s generosity is clearly illustrated and he shows great faith in Macbeth.

As part of his reward to Macbeth, Duncan agrees to visit his castle to dine with him. Duncan’s humility is shown when he says, “this castle has a pleasant seat” and graciously refers to Lady Macbeth as “our honour’d hostess!” Duncan shows he is not arrogant even though he is the most important man in Scotland. The irony of this, is that Macbeth will kill Duncan, even though he is treating them so graciously, in his own home and blame it on the slaves.

Duncan is portrayed as a virtuous and holy king, his subject Macduff states, “thy royal father was a most sainted king.” Duncan’s only negative characteristic is that he is too kind and generous and sometimes “too good to be king.” Duncan regrets that the treacherous Thane of Cawdor “was a gentle man an whom I built an absolute trust.” Duncan felt betrayed by the way the Thane of Cawdor acted and believed the change was the right decision.

The main reason why Duncan is the way he is maybe due to the fact that he inherited the throne. He received it through “the divine Right of Kings” which indicates that Duncan is God’s servant on Earth. The coronation of a king involves “anointing” which is a direct parallel to the sacraments, hence sealing the bond between God and ruler.

Another King in the play is Edward the Confessor of England. He like Duncan was the chosen ruler of his country, a righteous king. The divine help also bestows him with the power to heal the “kings evil.” This is contrasted in a way with Macbeth “destroying” power” as people flock to Edward as they flee from Macbeth.

When the evil Macbeth murders Duncan it is an unholy and unnatural act, “most sacreligous murder hath broke ope the Lord’s anointed temple.” Macduff says this after he has just murdered Duncan. This act isolates Macbeth from God as he gives up the immortal gift from the divine, his soul.

It is commonly known that the king and his kingdom are one, therefore what affects one, must affect the other. By the unnatural death of Duncan, Macbeth’s reign of Scotland was laid in turmoil. Through this action, he has caused civil war.

The most obvious characteristic about king Macbeth is his sole motive for killing and his arrogant ambition. This means that he is so determined to be King have have power across Scotland that he will kill however many times he has too. He believes that to be king would be the ultimate experience, but, as he wanted it for his personal gain; it was unrewarding and false, like Macbeth himself. Macbeth changes as a person since becoming King, he lies to his friend Banquo, when he requests his presence at his great feast, but not for his presence, but to kill him. Also he revisits the witches emphasising he is evil.

Macbeth once again shows he is evil by killing Macduff and his family, simply because he was told to by the witches, “beware Macduff.” Unlike Duncan, whose position comes from God, Macbeth draws his authority from the devil, this is ironic as the Devil is the swarn enemy of mankind. This is ironic as Macbeth is portrayed in the story as an evil figure, which may be linked with the devil.

Macbeth holds a feast for his thanes in which he invites Banquo, “I’ll request your presence” this shows that their friendship is false, and Macbeth is luring him into a trap. At the banquet, Banquo’s ghost appears which makes Macbeth uneasy, “avant and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee.” The banquet is a microcosim of Scotland as a whole, the banquet is going into chaos so is Scotland due to Macbeth being the ruler. Macbeth is seen as a disease, which is slowly destroying Scotland.

Finally Macbeth is over-thrown and Duncan’s son Malcom is rightfully crowned king. This represents a return to the “Divine right of the Kings” as Malcom was meant to be the next king after his father Duncan.

Although Malcom is a minor character in the play, he is undoubtedly the greatest king, because he restores the calm and beauty after Macbeth who had caused so much trouble. in the play, “great things will happen.” He has inherited all of his father’s “saintly” characteristics. Malcolm realises that the king is in place to serve the country, not the other way around. Malcom can be described as being the “medicine” in the play, as he is a mixture of both Duncan and Edward, but also he has two other qualities, youth and prudence. With these he will cure Scotland of the “disease” which is Macbeth.

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