Comparing the Murder of the King in Hamlet, Richard II, Henry VIII, Macbeth and Julius Caesar

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Murder of the King in Hamlet, Richard II, Henry VIII, Macbeth and Julius Caesar

Kings are everywhere in Shakespeare, from Hamlet to Richard the Second, from Henry the Eighth to Macbeth; many of the plays contain a central element of a king or autocratic head of state such as Julius Caesar, for example. They focus more specifically on the nature of that person's power, especially on the question of removing it; what it means on both a political and psychological level, how it can be achieved, and what will happen afterwards. This is not surprising, considering the times Shakespeare was living in: with the question of who ruled and where their authority came from being ever more increasingly asked in Elizabethan and Jacobean
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This image of sacrifice is very important when we look at the reasons for killing the king. During the English Civil War the Puritans are reputed to have commonly recited the chant

" 'Tis to preserve his Majesty

That we against him fight."

( Mack: Killing the King; pg 308 )

The thinking behind this came from an idea that had been around for many centuries but which had become more and more prevalent in Elizabethan times, actually setting a legal precedent as a defence then, often when the monarchy wished to reclaim lands sold by a usually young, inexperienced sovereign. Lawyers of the court claimed that the king had two bodies; firstly the body natural, prey to the follies and frailties that all human beings were capable of, but then superseding that the body politic which was infallible and immortal. The perfection of the body politic overruled any failings of the body natural. The body politic of the sovereign passed from one body natural to another when the reigning monarch died. This idea had originally been implemented to maintain the monarchy's power between the death of one sovereign and the coronation of another: during the interim period only Christ was said to rule but this had led to the Pope claiming territory as Christ's earthly representative. By

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