‘The theme of kingship is examined in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth’ discuss this statement with reference & quotation. Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth details the fall from grace of its tragic hero, as he struggles with his conscience and ambition in his quest for the throne of Scotland. Macbeth’s desire for power and King Duncan’s unpolluted goodness are displayed in an almost painful contrast. The despotism evolved from Macbeth’s ‘vaulting ambition’ is a worthy example of the human kind’s ability to let arrogance, opportunity and emotional instability become a weak man’s armour.
In Shakespeare’s time a King was considered to be god’s representative on earth. He was looked upon as equal to god. 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 character and attributes of what is takes to be a good king. We first meet Duncan behind the scenes of two battles waiting anxiously for any news.
From this time until his brutal murder, he is presented as a noble King of Scotland. Duncan is pictured as the perfect, impartial king in the play. Shakespeare shows Duncan to be an example to others.
Duncan’s love for his country is one of his main qualities. We can see this when he eagerly seeks for any news from the captain who has returned from the front lines. When Duncan hears of Macbeth’s bravery in battle, he rewards Macbeth for his heroism by naming him the Thane of Cawdor while punishing the disloyalty of the treacherous previous Thane of Cawdor by having him hanged. Duncan also vows that his royal blessings will continue to fall on Macbeth. Here we see the king executing his power righteously by rewarding those who are loyal and punishing disloyalty.
Duncan acts responsibly in naming an heir to his throne – his son Malcolm. He did this so that the line of ascension to the throne is clear and that Scotland will remain politically stable. Duncan was trying to prevent the radical chaos that resulted when Macbeth murdered him. Unfortunately Duncan was too trusting and dependent of his Thanes. As the King, he did not lead his men into battle directly, but heavily relied on his Thanes to act on his behalf. He is a very poor judge of character. He completely misjudged Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as loyal friends while they were plotting King Duncan’s downfall.
Even Macbeth recognised the noble character of the King before murdering him in his sleep. Macbeth speaks of Duncan’s goodness and loyal nature and considered the consequences of his death. He states that even the angels will mourn for Duncan and that ‘tears shall drown the wind’ when the righteous king dies. Macbeth is the main character in the play and starts the play as a very brave, fierce and loyal warrior. His bravery has just led the way to a great victory over the Norwegians. He was a hero. But soon his ambition overpowered his good qualities and he became ‘this tyrant’, this ‘dwarfish thief’ and this ‘hellhound’.
He is degraded from ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’ to ‘this dead butcher’. He allows the witches’ prophecy to determine his steps, which finally lead him to destruction. I believe that Macbeth could have been a worthy king if he did not let his ambition and greed take control. If fate had made him king, he could have been a noble king for Scotland. In my view, Macbeth isn’t worthy of kingship if he lets his ambition and greed govern his choices. King Edward of England is least mentioned in the play, but we still see a lot of his good character. We see that he is a good, loyal king, who is unwilling to see others suffer.
A doctor comments on how ill people are cured on King Edward’s touch. Malcolm comments afterwards that it is ‘a most miraculous work in this good king. ’ He is a good and caring king who chooses to help Malcolm and Macduff in their problems. He generously provides them with the army force that they need to win their battle. From this we can also conclude that he is a friendly king towards the neighbouring countries – always seeking peace and not violence and trying to conquer new land for his own kingdom. Finally Malcolm, who is the rightful heir to the throne of Scotland, appears to be a worthy king.
We learn of his character mostly in his conversation with Macduff. Malcolm foresees the future of Scotland and unlike Macbeth, we see Malcolm acting after giving serious thoughts to his actions. He humbles himself before Macduff by calling himself unworthy to be king and that Macbeth might be a better fit for the title ‘black Macbeth will seem as pure as snow’. As a reader, it is obvious to see that Malcolm will be a good king as he does not force his right to be king, but patiently waits for God to set things right and to make everything for his good.
Also in the end of the play, Malcolm’s last words of the play is similar to Duncan’s speech when he was king; he is following in Duncan’s footsteps and in the path of restoring Scotland to its former glory. From the outset of the play to the closing scenes, we see the theme of kingship being examined from every side possible. No matter how we look at it, we always see that Duncan is the rightful king, the one that rewards the good and punishes evil, and Macbeth is the tyrant, not willing to be stopped by anything in his quest for the throne.
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