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Macbeth’s Kingship in Act 3, Scene 4

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  • Word count: 555
  • Category: Macbeth

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How does Shakespeare convey Macbeth’s relationship with his subjects and contemporary attitudes towards Kingship In Act 3, Scene 4? In Jacobean society, there was a very rigid idea of what a King should represent and how he should act. Ideas such as Divine Right, order, stability and health, and contemporary beliefs such as Heaven and Hell meant the concept of Kingship was of great interest to the Jacobean people.

However, important events taking place around the time that the play was written somewhat unsettled these contemporary ideas, lust as Macbeth Itself does. The throne had recently passed from a childless English Queen, Elizabeth, to James, a Scottish King interested in witchcraft, unsettling the balance between men and women at the time. This is represented in the play by the relationship and power struggle between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

The Gunpowder Plot in 1605, a year before the play was first performed, directly contrasted the image of a King being placed by God and therefore being untouchable, and the Clvll War although taking place sixty years after the play, saw the King beheaded, another direct contradiction to Divine Right. The contemporary ideals of the time coming under pressure may have been Shakespeare’s motivation for writing Macbeth. The scene opens with Macbeth addressing the Lords, inviting them to sit down.

He is attempting to assert his kingship by saying “You know your own degrees, sit down;” but also tries to appear friendly and mingle with the guests. When he says he’ll ‘play the humble host;’ he embodies the Irony of the scene, as he Is Indeed ‘playing’ or pretending at not just being a kind and harmonious host, but at being King entirely. This links in with the murder of Duncan earlier in the play, as Macbeth was also the deceitful host. Macbeth speaks to the Lords as if King, yet Shakespeare uses constant irony and language that suggests he does not belong on the throne.

Here Ill sit ith’mldst” shows him trying to blend in and secure Kingship, though at this point the murderer walks In, representing the constant Interruptions Shakespeare Injects as Macbeth comes closer to gaining the trust of those around him and ultimately becoming a successful King. Lady Macbeth proves more successful at this, stage- managing the scene as Macbeth loses his grip on the situation. “Sit, worthy friends. My Lord is often thus” shows how she keeps formality with their subjects, and “My worthy Lord, your noble friends do lack you” shows her use of formal address even within their relationship.

Macbeth attempts to act out a traditional and contemporary reign, yet ironically contradicts these ideals at every point in the banquet scene. The murderer’s entrance and side conversation oppose Jacobean ideals of the King being Holy and ighteous, though Macbeth’s many euphemisms for death and reluctance in naming the deed show that he Is desperate to be a rightful King, and Is not confident in the ghost of Banquo is in keeping with the underlying idea of murder and regicide that runs throughout the play.

At the end of the scene Macbeth admit that “blood will have blood” and says “l am in blood Stepped in so far”, showing that blood is constantly on his mind, and “Returning were as tedious as go o’er” his decision to continue with the bloodshed to try and achieve ‘rightful’ Kingship.

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