With detailed reference to the characters of Macbeth, Duncan, Malcolm and Edward in the play Macbeth, analyse William Shakespeares ideas and attributes towards kingship and assess what you think the audiences reaction to the play would be at the time. Shakespeares 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.
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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 Macbeths 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 Macbeths reign, Scotland becomes a country of turmoil because of the wicked leadership.
Macbeth murders his best friend and another friends 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 Bellonas 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 wifes ambition for him, to undermine his integrity act1 sc5 L58-68. He is not easily won over by evil, his love and respect for Duncan is evident throughout the play. Because Banquo knew the prophecy of the witches, he ordered his death in case he thought that he might have killed Duncan, act3 sc1 Line start 10 Banquo says he has all three as the witches predicted.
Under his reign of tyranny, he kills and slaughters. A dominant feature about the play is that when there is a bad king, the country as well suffers, and many characters talk of how Scotland is suffering act4 sc3 L168-169 Where sighs, and groans, and shrieks that rent the air, are made, not marked. Act4 sc3 L40-41 Malcolm says, it weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash is added to her wounds. In the same scene Macduff also says, bleed, bleed poor country.
Also, Each new morn, new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face, that it resounds as if it felt with Scotland, and yelled out like a syllable of dolour. People dont talk highly of Macbeth unlike Duncan, words like black and treacherous and also tyrant are to name but a few. Macduff comments, not in the legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damned in evils, to top Macbeth. In act4 sc3 L57-60 Malcolm says, I grant him bloody, luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin that has a name.
Macduff shows a point that he believes that a king should be chosen by divine right (this also shows that Shakespeare as well believes in divine right) in act4 sc3, with an untitled tyrant But this is very different from the start of the play where words like worthy thane were used to greet Macbeth. Also totally different to what is said about Duncan, my liege, great king and after his death he is called an angel. Duncan is Shakespeares idea of a perfect, impartial king. Shakespeare shows Duncan to be an example to all other kings and people, he shows love for his country when he asks the captain news from the war.
He speaks to people with respect and dignity when t….. he bleeding captain brings news of the war act1 sc2 L24 o valiant cousin, worthy gentleman! People talk to him with the utmost respect, they know that he is a truly great king my liege, great king and cries of god save the king are dominant in act1 sc3. He also shows that he can be fair and rewarding because he praises the brave Captain and he also puts the Thane of Cawdor to death for betrayal against his country and then awards Macbeth his title for his heroic doings against Norway.
He also can be a charmer and very polite when he is greeted by Lady Macbeth at their household act1 sc6 L10-15. Even after his death people still speak highly of him, even Macbeth refers to Duncan as gracious (act3 sc1 L65) and when Macduff argues with Malcolm, he appeals that his father was a most sainted king (act4 sc3 L109). Malcolm also says, angels are bright still, though the brightest fell. This means that there still are good kings to come although the best has gone.
Therefore the view of Duncan is consistent throughout the play (unlike views of the Macbeths) all attest to his worth and merits. He seems decisive as a king, and clearly inspires loyalty in his Thanes. If he has a weakness it is a consequence of his goodness his trust. He comments himself that it is impossible to see the minds construction in the face (act1 sc4 L12-14), but this recognition does not cause him to behave, perhaps, with a little more discretion. Trusting Macbeth, he too readily steps into his house without appropriate safeguards, which ends up being fatal for him.
It is awful to reflect that our final view of Duncan is him kissing Lady Macbeth (his hostess) (act1 sc6) to whom we subsequently learn he has sent a diamond to her by means of a present. After his death, Macbeth still talks highly of king Duncan. Duncan wasnt only a great king but a loving and caring father of his heir, Malcolm. This is shown because Malcolm emerges similar to his father. Malcolm is the rightful heir to the throne of Scotland by divine right. He appears to be a worthy king as we get to see his character mostly in act4 sc3 where he has a long conversation with Macduff.
Malcolm can see that the country is in turmoil and he rightfully blames black Macbeth as he puts it. Also unlike Macbeth, we can see that Malcolm doesnt act without thinking, as he tries to win some confidence out of Macduff saying that he himself mightnt be fit enough to one day be king. Malcolm talks of his own faults in act4 sc3 saying that he cant get adultery off his mind, he calls himself voluptuous and with his carnal attitude also says, your wives, your daughters, your matrons and your maids, could not fill up the cistern of my lust.
He also says to win encouragement from Macduff that black Macbeth will seem as pure as snow meaning that Macbeth will be a better king than he will. It is obvious to see that Malcolm will be a good king because he lists words that a good king must have. This also implies Shakespeares ideas to what qualities a good king should have At the end of the play Shakespeare includes Malcolms last words of the play to be similar to Duncans speech when he was king, this proves that Malcolm becomes a good king, following in his footsteps and restoring Scotland to its former glory.
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 wasnt prepared to see others suffer. In act4 sc3 L141-145, a doctor comments on how some ill people touched Edwards 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 Shakespeares 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.