Thursday, January 23, 2020
Shakespeare, Kingship, and the Chain of Being in Macbeth Essay
Shakespeare, Kingship, and the Chain of Being in Macbeth Shakespeare's play "Macbeth" is largely based upon the theme of kingship. "Macbeth" was written for James the 1st, who would have been interested in kingship and believed in the "chain of being" and the "divine right" of kings. The "chain of being" is the belief that everything is connected like a chain, and is affected by anything above it. God was believed to be at the top of the chain, and the King was believed to be the highest on earth. The "divine right" was the belief that rightful kings were put there by God, and should not be removed. Shakespeare represents these with the prosperity when Duncan is king and the unnaturalness and evil, which is present when Macbeth becomes king by evil means. This is emphasised because James the 1st traced his ancestors to Banquo, whose descendents were the rightful kings of Scotland. The theme of kingship may also have been cautionary to anyone plotting to kill James, as Macbeth was written the year after the famous "Gunpowder Plot". At the beginning of the play, Duncan is the rightful king of Scotland, there by his "divine right". In his first appearance, King Duncan performs two of the basic duties of a king, punishing the bad and rewarding the good. Upon learning of the treachery of the Thane of Cawdor and the heroism of Macbeth, he says, "No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive our bosom interest: go pronounce his present death, and with his former title greet Macbeth." The chain of being is intact, and Duncan is showing good kingship by punishing the Thane of Cawdor for treason and rewarding Macbeth for his bravery. When ... ...ion, patience, courage, fortitude". This is Shakespeare's idea of the perfect king. At the end of the play, Malcolm is restored to his rightful place as king of Scotland. The people support their king again, and they shout "Hail, king of Scotland." The country is united around their king again, not separated as they were under Macbeth. Shakespeare is trying to show that when the chain of being is intact, the country is in unity. In conclusion, Shakespeare uses the theme of kingship in Macbeth to warn people about what happens if you break the chain of being. The murder and disturbance in nature, and Macbeth's madness show that nothing good can come form killing the monarch, and the countries unity under Malcolm show that everything is peaceful and prosperous under a king that is on the throne by "divine right".