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What was Shakespeare's attutude toward King James I?

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted March 4, 2013 at 5:53 PM via web

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What was Shakespeare's attutude toward King James I?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:48 AM (Answer #1)

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Shakespeare's attitude towards his new king, King James I, who took the throne of England in 1603 after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, thereby uniting Scotland and England into one kingdom, is perhaps best expressed in the play Macbeth, in which the lineage of James is particularly referenced, as he was able to trace his ancestry back to Banquo. In many ways, this play represents a very positive view of the new king, and was performed in his honour. At one stage, in Act IV scene 1, in the final prophecy of the witches, deliberate reference is made as to how James I has descended from Banquo in the line of kings that Macbeth sees:

...and some I see

That twofold balls and treble sceptres carry.

The two balls and three sceptres are part of the royal insignia of Great Britain, which of course alludes to the lineage of James I and the fact that he was able to trace his ancestry directly back to Banquo. This is something that is further highlighted in the play by the last king entering carrying a mirror. Some critics believe that this mirror was to be held up to the king as he watched the play, further reinforcing his claim to the throne and his noble lineage. Therefore, given the presentation of King James I in Macbeth, it is possible to argue that Shakespeare thought very highly of his new monarch and paid him every respect and honour due to his position.

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