Shakespeare's Ideas and Attributes Towards Kingship in Macbeth

Phil Morley

With detailed reference to the characters of Macbeth, Duncan, Malcolm and Edward in the play ?Macbeth?, analyse William Shakespeare?s ideas and attributes towards kingship and assess what you think the audiences reaction to the play would be at the time.

Shakespeare?s ideas towards kingship can be seen throughout the play. He shows that a king should be chosen by divine right and shows the attributes of what a good king should be.

The play ?Macbeth? is set in medieval Scotland at the fictional time of King Duncan. Scotland is currently at war with the Norwegians when news of their victory comes through, with thanks to the two leaders of the army Macbeth and Banquo. On their travel home Macbeth and Banquo stumble upon some old hags, and they predict Macbeth?s future to him. This startles Macbeth and his hunger for power grows so much that he and his wife plot to murder the well-respected King Duncan. Under Macbeth?s reign, Scotland becomes a country of turmoil because of the wicked leadership. Macbeth murders his best friend and another friend?s family and because of this Tyranny, paranoia sets in on Macbeth who sees many ghostly visions of people he sent out to be murdered. Scotland greatly suffers under his reign, this turns Lady Macbeth mad, and she eventually commits suicide. Macduff, eventually goes to England to ask for the help of the noble king Edward, who is highly respected for help to overthrow the leadership of Macbeth, and so the Anglo-Scottish revolt sees Macbeth to his death and Malcolm the son of Duncan is proclaimed king of Scotland.

Macbeth is the main character in the play and starts the play as a very hard fighting, loyal soldier whose bravery had just led the way to a victory over the Norwegians. It could be an essay in its own right to talk about how the character of Macbeth develops and changes, at the beginning he is a god-like hero ?a firm, strong, loyal character. But through allowing his ambition to suppress his good qualities, he becomes ?this tyrant? (act4 sc3 L12 ?Malcolm), this ?dwarfish thief? (act5 sc3 L12 ?Angus) and this ?hellhound? (act5 sc6 L42 ?Macduff). The character of Macbeth is a study of how one person can degenerate from ?Bellona?s bridegroom? (act1 sc2 L55) to ?this dead butcher? (act5 sc6 L108). Ambition is his fatal weakness. He allows, first the witches? prophecy act1 sc3 L46-50 and then his wife?s ambition for him, to undermine his integrity act1 sc5 L58-68. He is not easily won over by evil, his love and respect for Duncan is evident throughout the play. Because Banquo knew the prophecy of the witches, he ordered his death in case he thought that he might have killed Duncan, act3 sc1 Line start ? 10 Banquo says he has all three as the witches predicted. Under his reign of tyranny, he kills and slaughters. A dominant feature about the play is that when there is a bad king, the country as well suffers, and many characters talk of how Scotland is suffering act4 sc3 L168-169 ?Where sighs, and groans, and shrieks that rent the air, are made, not marked?. Act4 sc3 L40-41 Malcolm says, ?it weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash is added to her wounds.? In the same scene Macduff also says, ?bleed, bleed poor country.? Also, ?Each new morn, new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face, that it resounds as if it felt with Scotland, and yelled out like a syllable of dolour.? People don?t talk highly of Macbeth unlike Duncan, words like ?black? and ?treacherous? and also ?tyrant? are to name but a few. Macduff comments, ?not in the legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damned in evils, to top Macbeth.? In act4 sc3 L57-60 Malcolm says, ?I grant him bloody, luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin that has a name.? Macduff shows a point that he believes that a king should be chosen by divine right (this also shows that Shakespeare as well believes in divine right) in act4 sc3, ?with an untitled tyrant?? But this is very different from the start of the play where words like ?worthy thane? were used to greet Macbeth. Also totally different to what is said about Duncan, ?my liege?, ?great king? and