Why did Shakespeare write Macbeth?

Shakespeare wrote Macbeth as a tribute to King James I, who became king a few years before the play was first performed. Shakespeare also wanted to caution against abuses of power and the instability which follows from political violence.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is often thought that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth specifically for King James VI of Scotland, who in 1603 became James I of England. There is a tradition that the play was first performed at court before the king, though there is very little evidence for this. What is clear is that the play was designed to appeal to the new King of England in a number of ways. It deals with two characters he believed to be his ancestors: Banquo and Fleance. Banquo is presented in a very positive light, as a noble foil to the villainy and treachery of Macbeth. James was also a learned authority on witchcraft, having published a book on the subject in 1597.

The appeal of a Scottish play, catering to the interests of the new king and featuring an account of how his ancestors came to power, seems clear enough for Shakespeare, who had made his reputation under Queen Elizabeth and was doubtless eager to secure the patronage of the current monarch, who was interested in literature and theater. However, it is...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1053 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on