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...
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