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William Shakespeare's Macbeth

The seventeenth century saw a complete change in the course of British history, specifically in the world of politics and foreign affairs. Early modern England underwent an adjustment of sorts, an adjustment known as the Union of the Crowns, which concerns the merging of the English and Scottish monarchies under one ruler, James VI of Scotland and I of England. This decisive, unifying event in the progression of the British dynastic line of monarchs created the current amalgamation of territories known today as the United Kingdom. The Union of the Crowns in 1603 coincides with the start of the Jacobean era of English and Scottish history, notably around the time of the publishing of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Written early during the rule of King James, Macbeth, easily Shakespeare’s bloodiest and most emotionally intense tragedy was greatly influenced by the political events transpiring in and around England. Shakespeare clearly alludes to his patron, King James, throughout the plot of the play, reflecting both the actual connection Shakespeare had with his sovereign as well as his obvious need to pay homage to the royal court, specifically the aristocrats funding his work. Macbeth, while not profoundly intricate or complex still resonates with modern Western literature and culture as well as Shakespeare’s seventeenth century English audience because of the timeless and intensely human nature of the play’s major theme, the problems caused by uninhibited ambition. Almost immediately after receiving a prophecy that he will become king from three “wyrd sisters” of fate, Macbeth sets out on a path of destruction that begins with the murder of the current king, Duncan, and ends with the deaths of nearly all those associated with the new ki...

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...th himself, in his overzealous ambition, murders unnecessarily, killing Duncan, and effectively losing any chance of respect and trust from the nobility who suspect him as the culprit behind the murder. Macbeth, a man who once was aghast at his own sin, staring at the spilled blood of the king on his hands, now realizes that he has “forgotten the taste of fears”. The horrors of his own crimes against his fellow man have become “familiar” amid the ambition and guilt and “slaughterous thoughts” that are now a part of his conscious mind. Ultimately as humanity continues, each individual must be aware that if their means of achieving an end result are immoral, corrupt, and perhaps violent, certainly the individual cannot realize the full potential of his or her labor; and, more often than not, the individual will fall from grace as quickly as he or she rose to success.

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