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Macbeth - Kingship Essay examples

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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...


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King Edward of England is the king least of all mentioned in the play, but still we can tell a lot about his character and what type of king he was. We can see that Edward was a good, loyal king, who wasn’t prepared to see others suffer. In act4 sc3 L141-145, a doctor comments on how some ill people touched Edward’s hand and were healed, Malcolm then after comments it is ‘a most miraculous work in this good king.’ Also, we can see that he is a good and caring king as he chooses to help Malcolm and Macduff in their Anglo-Scottish revolt.

I have really enjoyed studying this play and it is most probably the best I have read. It is amazing how Shakespeare can make one man fall into evil just because of his lust for power, and not just that it is also the way in which he is able to do it, using his imagination, he is able to enthral his audiences into disbelief. It is clear to see Shakespeare’s ideas towards kingship in the play as Malcolm lists the attributes towards a good king in act4 sc3. I think most of all that the moods of the people at the time would have been mostly in shock at this tragic tale and amazed at the way the playwright could achieve this most gripping story line.


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