Write on the theme of kingship in "Macbeth".This is my first essay on the play - where do I start? What should be the main points?

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Loads of places to look here. One of the most impressive places to quote from I would argue would be one of the least-appreciated scenes in the play: Act 4, Scene 3. This starts off being a debate between Malcolm (playing devil's advocate) and Macduff about what makes a good king.

Malcolm gives a useful list (in the same scene) of the kingly virtues:

The king-becoming graces,
verity, temperance, stableness,
perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude...

The two key questions to ask, I'd reckon, would be whether these virtues are embodied by Duncan and by Macbeth - and then justify that answer in the text. Duncan, even Macbeth (his murderer!) admits, is a kindly and excellent king. Macbeth, of course, doesn't get such good reports. Take a close look at the banquet scene or the scene in which Macbeth invites Banquo to the banquet: and analyse what sort of a king Macbeth has become. Is he, as the final lines of the play have it, simply a "butcher"?

When you've looked at the kings within the play, it'd also be good to look at the king it was written for. James I was fascinated by witches and demonologie (he even wrote his own book about it!) and was Scottish - a fair demonstration, most critics think, that the play was written for him. How might the play work as a play played out in front of a king?

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