The Theme of Kingship Is Examined in the Play of Macbeth

1 January 2018

“A true king is neither a husband nor father; he considers his throne and nothing else” – Pierre Corneille. In the play The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, some dominant male characters can be seen as contenders for the position of a king; meanwhile, others do not represent any of the “king-becoming graces”. These graces are qualities that can be seen in characters such as Malcolm and Duncan but are significantly absent in other characters like Macbeth. When compared to other characters, Macduff would make the best candidate for king due to his notable demonstration of kingly graces.

One of Shakespeare’s more interesting themes is the theory of kingship, which is developed in Macbeth through the presentation of three men. These men are Duncan, Malcolm, and Macbeth. Each of these three characters demonstrates three different and fascinating types of kingship, which evidently adds to the play Macbeth. In short, Duncan is a good man but an incompetent king, Macbeth rules according to the Machiavellian concept and Malcolm’s character emerges as a good man and a good king.

Even before the second Forres scene (act 1, scene 4), the point of Duncan’s downfall, we see that Duncan is a good man but an incompetent king. Duncan is a kind man because he openly and graciously greets his nobles with praise. However, he is a poor leader and hence king because in the first Forres scene (act 1, scene 2) Duncan did not fight along with his soldiers. Some might say that this is justified because Duncan is an old man; others may see this as a reason why Duncan should not reign. When a king doesn’t fight alongside his troops, it decreases their morale and opens the opportunity for a coup. Another reason Duncan should not rule Scotland is that he is too trusting in his nobles. Duncan’s “absolute trust” for the Thane of Cawdor nearly cost Duncan his life and country. As depicted in the second Forres scene, Duncan makes this same mistake again in the Thane of Cawdor who is this time Macbeth.

During the second Forres scene, Duncan makes possibly the most reckless speech he could have made. This speech in turn costs him his life. Three terrible mistakes emerge in his speech and actions: he rewards unfairly; shows his emotions too freely; and again, he trusts too eagerly. Duncan rewards Macbeth with the title and land of the Thane of Cawdor, in addition he says that he will have greater rewards later in time, indicated by the words “I have begun to plant thee, and will labor to make thee full of growing.” While Macbeth gets many tangible gifts, Banquo simply receives a token of Duncan’s admiration, an embrace. A good ruler should never reward unfairly, for the receivers may become jealous or conceded, and may even wish to over through the king. Secondly, Duncan cries halfway…

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