MacBeth


Word Count: 1183

History is made up of many time periods, many of these
periods had a certain norm, and a way of thinking that was
accepted and adopted by the majority of the people. In the
Elizabethan/Jacobean time period the notion accepted and in
place at the time was that of a great chain of being. This
notion in which God is at the top, then comes the planets,
the angels, human kind and finally the animal kingdom. In
fact, it was based on psalm 8 and placed God, the
all-powerful being, on the uppermost link of the chain and
gave him all the power. In order for any other being or thing
to possess power he/it could do so only with the permission
of God or in accordance to the will of God. In The Tragedy
of Macbeth, Shakespeare, pushes the concept of
primogeniture and also the fact that the king is put into
power by the will of God and anyone opposing the king
would not only cause a great disturbance in the great chain
of being but would likewise be going against the will of God.
In doing this, is Shakespeare convincing enough or is this
idea hype and without substance? To explore this notion we
must first look at the characters Shakespeare uses to
promote this notion. An obvious character to start with
would have to be the one who is king at the beginning of the
play. Duncan is a righteous king, one who is greatly
respected by many of his subjects. Even the man, who killed
him, did so, not because of Duncan\'s unjustly ruling but
rather out of personal greed. Before Macbeth\'s greed for
power consumed him, he praises Duncan during his struggle
with the decision of whether or not to usurp the throne and
in doing so, cause great chaos according to the great chain
of being. We see this when Macbeth says: "… This Duncan
hath born his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his
great office, that his virtues will plead like angels,
trumpet-tongued, against the deep damnation of his taking
off…." Yet in all his greatness and although chosen
supposedly by God, Duncan was only human and possessed
negative qualities as well. The king, Duncan, was not in
battle (along side his Generals), he is at a nearby camp (I: II,
p1). This suggests that the king is dependent of other for his
own protection. We see the naivete that Duncan possesses
when he says: "He was a gentleman on whom I built an
absolute trust." (I: IV; 15-16, p.11) In fact he complete trust
in a man who was in an enemy. This also demonstrates his
lack in character judgment. Duncan, as all humans, has his
weaknesses but to impartially judge him we must look at him
on a broader spectrum. Duncan is regarded as a good king
by most of his subjects including Macduff when he says to
Malcolm: "Thy royal father was a most sainted king…." (IV:
III; 122-123f, p.71) And rightly so for he surly possesses
worthy king-like qualities, he is not perfect, but one could
conceive how God might give him power. Shakespeare
again, presents his notion of primogeniture when we see the
usurped throne as the cause of this chaos. In order for this
notion to truly work we must now look at the character that
should rightfully be king but because of Macbeth does not
become so until the ending of the play. Malcolm, the elder
son of Duncan, a noble man who, unlike his father, is not
dependant on others to protect him; he has been out fighting
but may not be the greatest war hero. This is seen when he
says: "This is the sergeant who like a good and hardy soldier
fought \'gainst my captivity." (I: II; 4-6f, p.2) He reveals a
cleaver war maneuver that proves to be very successful; he
has every soldier cut down a tree and disguise himself with it
so when they approach Dunsinane and are spotted they
could not be justly counted. We see this when Malcolm
says: "Let every soldier hew him down a bough and bear\'t
before him. Thereby shall we shadow the number of or host
and make discovery err in report of us." (V: IV; 6-9, p.84)
He shows he is a virtuous and noble man when at the end of
the play he becomes king and promises to repay their debt
(everyone who helped him rightfully gain the throne). He is
appreciative to all these men who helped him in doing so.
We see this when he says: "We shall not spend a large
expense of time before we