What is the social and cultural context of the play Macbeth?

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Shakespeare wrote Macbeth to be performed at the court of King James I. James had recently become King of England. He was Scottish and had previously ruled Scotland as King James VI. Aside from enjoying positive portrayals of his homeland in general, James was fascinated by witches—he even wrote a book about them! Shakespeare was pretty savvy to write a play that featured witches, set it in Scotland, and even show some of James's own ancestors in a heroic light. (The part about "twofold balls and treble scepters" when Macbeth sees Banquo 's descendants is a reference to James and his dual rule over England and Scotland.) Many of Shakespeare's plays were written at least partly for court; in fact, the only reason that theatrical companies at this time had license to perform publicly at all is that their performances for the public were officially considered to be rehearsals for their presentation of the plays at court! It was important for Shakespeare to be aware of royal preference and...

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