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The show of the eight kings before Macbeth would have been viewed by Shakespeare's audience as an obvious compliment to King James I. Shortly after coming to the throne in 1603, James became the patron to Shakespeare's acting company and changed their name to the Kings's Servants. It was believed that the Stewart family of Scotland was descended from Banquo, and the parade of eight kings represented the eight Stewart kings thus far. In 1371 Robert II began his reign as the first Stewart monarch. Next to the throne was Robert III, James I, James II, James III, James IV, James V and last was James VI, who became James I of England. In the play, James I is holding a glass which reflects the many Stewart kings to follow.
The procession of eight kings in the witches second prophecy which is made to calm Macbeth's fears also contains an acknowledgement to King James I.
Shakespeare puts a mirror in the hand of the eighth apparition so that it can reflect the image of the real King James I, who was in the audience at a performance of Macbeth.
The reason the apparition shows the eight kings is to bring to fruition the prophecy the witches gave to Banquo. Remember? Banquo will not be king, but his children will, and so will his children's children. This is the whole reason Macbeth wanted Banquo AND Fleance (his son) to be killed when he arranged the murderers to go after them.
The last king in the apparition holds a mirror to reflect a never-ending line of kings descended from Banquo. They all look like Banquo, too. By the way, this play was written for King James I of England who was supposedly descended from Banquo. This is why the character of Banquo is shown as such a good and honorable person, and why the never-ending line of kings is shown...King James I being one of them.
Macbeth's reaction? He is furious, of course. He does not want to be deposed. He is angry that Fleance escaped his murderers' grasp. It makes him uneasy to think that his own children will not ascend to the throne and that their will be no Macbeth Dynasty in Scotland.
Macbeth was desperate to know whether banquo' s issues would ever rule Scotland so he demamded the witches for answers and they in return did it with the procession of eight kings. The first king resembled banquo as well as the second and the third who wore crowns on their heads. As the procession continues Macbeth cannot believe that Banquo's look alikes would be marching on till Dooms Day. He then sees that the rest of the kings held orbs and sceptures which depicted that they would not only rule one kingdom and a time but two or more kingdoms at one time. Macbeth then finds that the eighth king that had appeared also looked like Baquo in all the ways possible and he also held a glass in his hand as though showing that the many kings to follow him will be his descendants only and not Macbeth's and he also shows him a cruel and wicked smile as though pointing out that these were all this descendants. This procession shows that Banquo's issues would rule Scotland and not Mscbeth's own descendants being the king himself. Macbeth also finds out that there was a lot of truth in the witched prophercies at first only when he met the witches for the time time with banquo on the barren land.
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