Kingship in Shakesperean Plays Essay

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Kingship in Shakesperean Plays

Due to the powerful influence of the monarchy, the nature, duties and responsibilities of kingship were of particular interest to Shakespeare. The mark of a bad king was the decline of the political, social and economic climates, while the mark of a good king was the blossoming of such worlds. Therefore, the characteristics of the person occupying the kingship were crucial to the health of the nation. Shakespeare explores this issue in many of his plays by examining the traits of poorly fulfilled kingships, and the political and social ramifications of such monarchical failures. He does this most notably in Macbeth and Richard II. In both plays Shakespeare ultimately concludes that tyrants are
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In Elizabethan thought, because the king was supposedly divinely ordained, to neglect these responsibilities was a threat of the highest order. Such neglect threatened not just the king’s own position, but the spiritual, political and social health of an entire society.

Therefore, it was crucial for the health of not just the king and his own status but also of his entire realm that the monarch possessed a large amount of foresight within his nature. The importance of foresight to the kingship is discussed extensively in both Macbeth and in Richard II. In Macbeth, Duncan is a good king who unfortunately lacks both foresight and a healthy mistrust of the men and women that surround him. Ironically, he recognizes the importance of foresight to the kingship, but does not recognize the fact that he does not possess enough of it. Shakespeare clearly discusses the issue of foresight in Act I Scene 4 of the play, when Duncan says to Banquo:
Noble Banquo, that hast no less deserved, nor must be known
No less to have done so, let me enfold thee
And hold thee to my heart (Macbeth I, 4, lines XXIX-XXXII)

Banquo responds, “There if I grow/ The harvest is your own” (Macbeth, I, 4, lines XXXIII-XXXIV). Clearly, Duncan has good intentions and understands some degree of his duties as a king. He grasps the concept of rewarding his nobles for their good work, for, as Banquo says, if he rewards them properly, he will reap the
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