Kingship In Macbeth Essay Topics

Kingship in Macbeth

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Duncan is depicted as Shakespeare’s idea of a fair king that others should admire. Duncan speaks to all people with respect, when the bloodied captain brings news to Duncan in act 1 Duncan greets him by calling him a “valiant cousin” and “worthy gentleman”. As well as showing respect to his subject he also held in utmost respect, as he is frequently called great king and chants of god save the king are also frequent throughout act 1 scene 3. Even after his death people still speak highly of Duncan. Macbeth the man who killed Duncan refers to him as gracious in act 3 scene 1.

Macduff also tells Malcolm that his father was “a most sainted king”, Malcolm later comments that “angels are bright still, though the brightest fell”. Duncan also proves himself to be a fair and rewarding king, after the betrayal and death of the Thane of Cawdor, Duncan rewards Macbeth for his loyalty and heroic deeds against the Norway, by awarding him the title Thane of Cawdor. Duncan acts wisely in naming an heir, his son Malcolm, so that the line of ascension to the throne is clear and that Scotland will remain politically stable and the natural order is followed.

He was trying to prevent the very political chaos that resulted when Macbeth murdered him. Because of all these characteristics Shakespeare presents us with a charismatic and likeable king. Duncan is loyal to Scotland and rules with Scotland’s best interests first and his second. In contrast to Macbeth, who rules with only his interests at heart and eliminates anyone who gets in his way, because of this the period of Duncan’s rule was one of prosperity for Scotland.

With all his merits Duncan did have some faults, one that is a consequence of his good nature and that is his trust, because of his good nature Duncan is too trusting of those around him a weakness that would eventually lead to his death. We can see the trouble that Duncan has in seeing people’s true intentions, when he comments that there’s “no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”. Even though Duncan is aware he cannot see others true intentions, readily trusts Macbeth and Sleeps in his estate without adequate protection, resulting in his death at the hands of Macbeth.

Author: Cari Minns

in Macbeth

Kingship in Macbeth

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Kingship in Macbeth

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Macbeth – Kingship In the monarchical society depicted in this play. The King was regarded as God’s direct representative on Earth. The universe was viewed as an ordered structure in which every creature had its place. An offence against the King, the head of this ordered structure, was considered an offence against God, and an offence on the ordered scheme on which human welfare depended. The King embodied the moral and social welfare of his subjects and, with this in mind, the theme of Kingship can easily be understood.

In the play, the exercise of royal power, whether with potential for good or evil, is so significant a theme that Shakespeare prevents four versions of it. Firstly, there is the kind, almost ideal kingship of Duncan, whose murder creates the perversion of this ideal. This is followed by the cruel reign of the usurper Macbeth. King Edward, though an indirect character, has supreme royal power and his reign represents the opposite to Macbeth’s reign of terror. While Macbeth’s reign highlights the capacity for evil hidden in kingship, Edward’s represents the capacity for absolute goodness.

Finally, speculation remains as to Malcolm’s potential as future King of Scotland. Such was the Godlike power that the King exerted over his subjects, the path was left open for the triumph of good or evil. “Gracious Duncan” is the first example of a benign and worthy King. From his introduction in to his untimely death, Duncan appears to have been the ideal King, who exemplified the “King becoming graces” sought by Malcolm. Duncan is the essence of graciousness, humility and temperance. He is admired by his subjects for his justice, gratitude, generosity and humility.

He is generous in his praise of those whom he feels have served him well, in particular Macbeth, “O worthiest cousin/ More is thy due than more all can pay. ” Duncan’s benign guidance is rewarded by the loyal support of his people. However, Duncan is not entirely without fault. While his strengths as a King lie in his mild-tempered nature and generous character, his weakness is displayed in his overly-trusting nature. He is too trusting to notice the corruption in a treacherous subordinate, “He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust,” and of this naivete the Thane of Cawdor took full advantage.

Duncan himself declares “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. ” However having scarcely been saved from rebellion by the “bloody execution” of his great warriors (on whom he is heavily reliant,) Duncan once again displays a foolish lack of judgement in his haste to pronounce Macbeth “worthy Cawdor. ” In doing so, he once again affirms an “absolute trust” in a disloyal subordinate. Although Duncan is invested with certain flaws, he is primarily a force of goodness in the play. The trust he places in others is noble in a King, as it is the insecure mind which harbours suspicion.

Duncan’s murder, therefore, is unnatural, against the moral order, a heinous crime against the course of nature. The regicide is so unjust that even Macbeth himself realises its callous, horrific nature, “This Duncan hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels trumpet tongu’d against the deep damnation of their taking off. ” Macbeth’s obvious distress and guilt in the face of his crime is indicative of Duncan’s benigh reign, yet nevertheless he commits regicide and succeeds to the throne as a usurper.

Macbeth’s unlawful accession to the thrown perverts the ideal and upsets the natural order. Life giving imagery associated with Duncan reflected the harmony in nature, the peaceful concord that existed during his reign, “I have begun to plant thee and will labour to make thee full of growing,” while under Macbeth, “Scotland bleeds. ” Macbeth’s reign exemplifies the latent potential for evil in kingship. He acquires regal power illegally and abuses it when he has it, to the detriment of his country, killing all those who oppose his rule. Macbeth, however, is unhappy in his “great office. The achievement of power has not brought him contentment, “To be thus is nothing but to be safely thus. ” He fears that his “borrowed power” will be taken from him in the same way he achieved it and therefore he seeks immediately to establish a dictatorship, in order to fortify his position on the throne. His reign, for which he “play’d most foully” is marked by tyranny, corruption and death, as Scotland “sinks” under the rule of the “dwarfish thief” who cannot measure up to the fruitful and just reign of his predecessor. The potential for evil in kingship is explored through the many murders committed by Macbeth.

He is able to maintain his regal power only by resorting to murder and terror against his subjects, culminating in the callous murder of Macduff’s family in Act 4 Scene 2. This heinous crime, fuelled only by a deep-rooted insecurity, is indicative of the potential for evil in kingship. As the “untitled tyrant,” Macbeth unleased the full reign of evil present in his nature and thus let loose into Scotland a disruptive evil force. Under Macbeth, Scotland, “sinks beneath the yoke/It weeps, it bleeds and each new day/A new gash is added to her wounds. The heinous nature of Macbeth’s “blood-soak’d”Reign supports the notion that kingship bears potential for both good and evil. Edward, King of England, provides a welcome alternative to the diabolical cruelty of Macbeth. There is a pointed contrast between Edward and Macbeth. Having disregarded the natural order, Macbeth used his regal power for purposes of destruction and ruination. However Edward, like Duncan, was chosen by God as one of his direct representative’s on Earth. He is a true and rightful King as is seen as a saintly force, endowed with virtue and holiness, whose powers of miraculous healing represent the divinity of kingship.

The court of Edward, where Malcolm sought refuge from Macbeth’s murderous designs, is presented as a holy place, presided over by a King who enjoys divine sanction and special gifts from God that “speak him full of grace. ” Edward is portrayed as a “holy King,” a fitting opponent to the diabolical cruelty of Macbeth. As the opposing forces of goodness assemble, liturgical language and imagery become more fluid and frequent. Words such as “prayer” and “blessing” are frequently employed to illustrate the beatific reign of Edward and to convey his healing power and graciousness.

The absolute goodness of King Edward highlights the opposing forces of good and evil in the play and represents the potential of kingship not only to generate goodness but to transform evil into goodness. The final image of kingship in the play revolves around Malcolm. His function in the play is highly significant as it is his duty to restore the status quo. As the rightful heir to the throne, the son of a good King and a holy mother, his smooth accession to the throne secures his acceptance by his subjects. Not only does this entitle him to the kingship, but it also promises a beinign reign.

However, Malcolm appears young and ineffectual and seems a slight figure to dispel the dark cloud of Macbeth’s reign, certainly when compared to the strength of character of Macduff. His hasty departure following the murder of his father is the frenzied action of a fearful, doubtful character. However, Shakespeare allows for Malcolm’s maturing and he quickly grows into his role. He does not squander his time in England, rather he actively seeks King Edward’s aid. Malcolm is cautious and careful, wary of becoming “a weak poor innocent lamb to appease an angry god. His caution is commendable and desirable in a future king and he displays none of the naivete of his father, “To show unfelt sorrow is an office which the false man does easy. ” He subjects Macduff to an elaborate tests to assure his loyalty to Scotland and he recalls the king-becoming graces, “Justice, loyalty, temperance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude. ” Malcolm’s vision of kingship is admirable and marks a hopeful outlook for the future of Scotland. Malcolm acquires authority and is obeyed.

His succession to the throne is significant in restoring the natural order, and it is evident that Malcolm will use his regal power for purposes of good. The future of Scotland looks bright under the new King, although it is hard to imagine his asserting his authority without men of Macduff’s calibre on his side. The theme of kingship in the play Macbeth is indeed a crucial one. There seems to be more to attaining regal power than merely sitting on the throne. One must be a King and inherit rightfully by succession, and thereby prosper with the grace of God.

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Malcolm, like Edward and Duncan, is the rightful heir to the throne and this status promises a benign reign. It is evident from the above examples that the position of King is such a potent one that there is immense potential for absolute good or absolute evil. With the death of Macbeth, and the subsequent accession of Malcolm, the universal order is finally restored and Scotland will subsequently thrive. Under Macbeth, Scotland suffered and it is clear then that a country’s suffering or prosperity is a direct reflection of the moral nature of its King.

Author: Cari Minns

in Macbeth

Kingship in Macbeth

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