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At the time in which Shakespeare lived and worked, religion was part of the daily lives of the majority of people in England. Belief in God was stronger than it is today and people displayed their devotion through regular worship. It was also a time of religious turmoil in England. The Protestant Reformation begun by Henry VIII and continued by his daughter, Elizabeth I was still under way. When Elizabeth I died and the Scottish King, James I ascended the English throne, there was initially fear that he would be more tolerant of religion and that Catholicism would once more come to dominate.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, people believed in the divine right of kings. The monarch was on the throne by God's grace and therefore, they were viewed as being the representation of God on earth. This meant that their rule was absolute and to challenge the king was to challenge God himself. Richard III is viewed as a villain because his right to rule was questionable. In Macbeth, the murder of Duncan was especially shocking to Elizabethan audiences because to kill the king was to kill God. The actual murder of Duncan does not take place on stage because it was considered too provocative and Elizabethan audiences required little excuse to riot.
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