Essay on Shakespeare, Kingship, and the Chain of Being in Macbeth

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Shakespeare, Kingship, and the Chain of Being in Macbeth

Shakespeare's play "Macbeth" is largely based upon the theme of kingship. "Macbeth" was written for James the 1st, who would have been interested in kingship and believed in the "chain of being" and the "divine right" of kings. The "chain of being" is the belief that everything is connected like a chain, and is affected by anything above it. God was believed to be at the top of the chain, and the King was believed to be the highest on earth. The "divine right" was the belief that rightful kings were put there by God, and should not be removed. Shakespeare represents these with the prosperity when Duncan is king and the unnaturalness and evil,
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Also, in the morning, Lennox says, "the night has been unruly…Lamentings heard I'th'air, strange screams of death… Some say, the earth Was feverous and did shake". Nature itself has been disturbed, as the King is the highest thing on earth in the chain of being, so when his place is broken then everything below him is disturbed. Shakespeare reinforces the fact that kingship is given to the king by God, when Macduff says, "Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lords anointed temple". Even when Macbeth is trying to excuse his murder of the kings guards, he described Duncan's body as "silver skin lac'd with his golden blood." Even Duncan's murderer gives his right to the throne credit.

At the beginning of the play Macbeth is looked on in good light, due to the successful defeat of the Norwegian invaders, God is on his side. After he murders Duncan, Macbeth took the throne. He has taken the throne by evil means, and not by divine right so he should not be there and the chain of being is broken. Shakespeare uses Macbeth's growing madness, nature's disturbance and Macbeth's growing madness to show that he is not the rightful king. After he has murdered Duncan, Macbeth loses the ability to sleep; this is a sign of evil. He says, "I heard a voice cry, "sleep no more: Macbeth does murder sleep"". Shakespeare is emphasising the point that only
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