How is Macbeth, set in Scotland, linked to the Gunpowder Plot?      

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Some scholars detect direct references to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in the text of the play itself, which is believed to have been completed the year after Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament. For example, one observer has pointed to Lady Macbeth 's line that her husband should...

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Some scholars detect direct references to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in the text of the play itself, which is believed to have been completed the year after Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament. For example, one observer has pointed to Lady Macbeth's line that her husband should look like the "innocent flower,but be the serpent under it." This, some have argued, is an allusion to a medal that James I had struck to commemorate the plot after the execution of the conspirators.  The Guy Fawkes conspirators had also planned to assassinate King James, and this would have been fresh in the mind of all who witnessed the play, adding gravitas to what is already a very tense play. More than that, though, some have argued that Shakespeare meant to flatter James with the play. James was Scottish, (James VI of Scotland) and became king as a descendant of Henry VIII. As a Scottish king, he traced his lineage back to Banquo, who is portrayed as a decent, honest man in the play. Again, Shakespeare's audiences (which included the King himself) would have been more than aware of this context. Some have even argued that Shakespeare, who had some indirect ties to some of the conspirators, may have (rather prudently) attempted to flatter James, most visibly with his portrayal, conjured by the witches, of the descendants of Banquo who would be kings. In general, Macbeth is a warning against upsetting the natural or divinely ordained order by killing the man that, people believed at the time, God had chosen to be king.

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