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Sakespeare View On Kinghip Essay

1438 words - 6 pages

What views of kingship does Shakespeare present in ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’?

‘Hamlet’ was written in the late sixteenth or very early seventeenth century during Elizabeth I rein. At the time when ‘Hamlet’ first appeared on stage, questions about loyalty and national security, and the figure of the aging female monarch, were current in Elizabethan England. The rein of Elizabeth I may have influenced Shakespeare into writing ‘Hamlet’ as its about spying and revenge because Elizabeth sent spies to spy on Mary just like in the play Claudius spies on Hamlet, this goes to show that there was a lot of spying going on during Elizabethan times and was seen as acceptable as the monarch was doing it. ...view middle of the document...

Macbeth, on the other hand, combines ambition with a sense of guilt and self-doubt to make a much more complex character. He lacks the fundamental sense of evil that is at the heart of Claudius; instead he takes his dreadful actions at great pains as his ambition plays tug-o-war with his sense of morality for example he feels that Duncan’s virtues as ‘trumpet tongued angels’ preach the brutality of his murder. Initially a brave and honourable soldier as described in act 1 scene 2 “brave Macbeth”, Macbeth is not naturally inclined to walk the criminal path. Prophetic witches and an encouraging wife evoke the underlying evil ambition within him, and Macbeth’s character is henceforth dominated by his incorporation of this ambition in the context of his pre-existing honourable nature. His dual nature drives him to a point near insanity. This shows how both corrupt kings, Claudius and Macbeth, may be similar in some ways but their ambitions are influenced in different ways.

Moving on to the ‘good’ kings, Shakespeare presents Duncan just about everything a king should be as he is in divine right. He presents Duncan to the reader as a dignified gentle and conscientious ruler. Duncan also has the virtue of being gracious, open, honest and sincere. Duncan shows us that he is a firm and decisive king with good leadership qualities when he deals promptly with the traitor Cawdor “Go pronounce his present death and with his former title greet Macbeth”. This also goes to show that he trusts people really easily as he assigns Macbeth to Thane of Cawdor straight away without thinking about it. Duncan however does show that he can also be fair, loyal and appreciative. Comparing Duncan with King Hamlet their characteristics are quite similar. They are both in divine right therefore they are presented in a way how every king should be.
Even though we don’t see much of King Hamlet, he is strikingly portrayed in Horatio's explanation of the war preparations to Marcellus and the others. From the speech it is shown that he was a most noble king, who ruled for interests of his kingdom, and not in his personal interests just like Duncan. However he wasn’t a weak king but a very ‘valiant’ king as he went into battle for his country, “which our valiant for so this side of our known would esteemed him” as Horatio goes on to say. He didn’t dictate any wars, but did not hesitate to go to war to defend his own kingdom but Duncan wasn’t very active and didn’t go into battle. Both Hamlet and Duncan were honest and loyal kings to their countries and were both murdered by the ‘tyrants’ known as Macbeth and Claudius for their own benefits. This shows Shakespeare strongly believed in ‘divine right’ and those kings have all the good qualities compared to Macbeth and Claudius who have all the ‘bad’ qualities of a king. For example in ‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli it says how they may be ‘prosperous’ at the time but then would turn ‘deceitful’ and ‘untrustworthy’ which is how...

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