In Act 1, Scene IV, Analyze and interpret the given extract to discuss the methods which Shakespeare uses to portray the character of King Duncan and his relationship with his men. Examine in...

In Act 1, Scene IV, Analyze and interpret the given extract to discuss the methods which Shakespeare uses to portray the character of King Duncan and his relationship with his men. Examine in detail relevant examples from the extract(Attached).

-the representation of King Duncan in the extract

-Relationship with his men through their interaction in the extract

-what happens to King Duncan, Macbeth and Banquo eventually (if their relationship changes, etc)


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In the extract, King Duncan is portrayed as a gracious monarch who looks after the welfare of his soldiers. When informed by his son Malcolm of the manner of the Thane of Cawdor's death, King Duncan voices no hostility regarding his former subject; in fact, he refers to the executed man as a "gentleman." King Duncan's mild speech reinforces his benevolent and trusting nature; he admits that he placed "absolute trust" in his subject. We get the idea that Duncan never saw the betrayal coming.

The extract also shows that King Duncan is very much a monarch who rewards loyalty and valor. When Macbeth enters his presence, Duncan immediately lavishes profuse words of praise and appreciation on his subject. The king tells Macbeth that he may be guilty of the "sin of ingratitude." He proclaims that his "thanks and payment" for Macbeth's loyalty seem inadequate, dwarfed, in fact, by Macbeth's immense accomplishments on his behalf. 

As we know, Macbeth fought with Banquo and Malcolm to protect the Scottish throne from Irish rebels. Accordingly, King Duncan is unsurprisingly grateful to his subjects. Shakespeare highlights the reciprocal affection between Duncan and his men in this excerpt. On the surface, the mutual respect between king and subjects is apparent. In response to King Duncan's effusive praise, Macbeth engages in similar rhetoric. He tells Duncan that he has thus far only been performing his expected duties toward his king. 

Macbeth likens King Duncan to a father and his subjects to children who owe their monarch absolute allegiance. He tells Duncan that, in fighting to secure the Scottish throne, he is only doing what his duty requires. Pleased by what he hears, Duncan tells Macbeth that he will be richly rewarded for his devotion to king and country. King Duncan also tells Banquo that he will receive similar rewards for his loyal service. 

While Banquo's gracious words toward King Duncan appear to be genuine, we are not so sure about Macbeth's. We still remember Macbeth's monologue in act 1, scene 3, in which he contemplates the possibility of murdering Duncan to secure his position as future king. Although Macbeth castigates himself for his "horrible imaginings" in that scene, we suspect that he has had ambitions to be king for a while.

The witches' diabolical prophecy has only served to remind Macbeth of his latent aspirations. The ease with which he contemplates the murder of a king he professes to love is appalling; we are led to distrust Macbeth almost immediately.

Later in the play, Macbeth's actions prove that we are right to distrust him. He kills King Duncan himself and hires assassins to execute Banquo. In this excerpt, Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to reinforce the superficial nature of Macbeth's relationship with both King Duncan and Banquo.

While we know that Macbeth nurses selfish ambitions, neither Duncan nor Banquo are aware of any discrepancies between Macbeth's speech and his behavior. In this vein, Duncan's words are apt and also prescient: "There’s no art/ To find the mind’s construction in the face." Because of King Duncan's trusting and perhaps naive nature, he never sees Macbeth's betrayal coming.