History is made up of many time periods, many of these periods had a certain norm, and a way of thinking that was accepted and adopted by the majority of the people. In the Elizabethan/Jacobean time period the notion accepted and in place at the time was that of a great chain of being. This notion in which God is at the top, then comes the planets, the angels, human kind and finally the animal kingdom. Infact, it was based on psalm 8 and placed God, the all-powerful being, on the uppermost link of the chain and gave him all the power. In order for any other being or thing to possess power he / it could do so only with the permission of God or in accordance to the will of God. In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Shakespeare, pushes the concept of primogeniture and also the fact that the king is put into power by the will of God and anyone opposing the king would not only cause a great disturbance in the great chain of being but would likewise be going against the will of God.
In doing this, is Shakespeare convincing enough or is this idea hype and without substance? To explore this notion we must first look at the characters Shakespeare uses to promote this notion. An obvious character to start with would have to be the one who is king at the beginning of the play. Duncan is a righteous king, one who is greatly respected by many of his subjects. Even the man, who killed him, did so, not because of Duncan’s unjustly ruling but rather out of personal greed. Before Macbeth’s greed for power consumed him, he praises Duncan during his struggle with the decision of whether or not to usurp the throne and in doing so, cause great chaos according to the great chain of being. We see this when Macbeth says: ‘…
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This Duncan hath born his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against the deep damnation of his taking off… .’ Yet in all his greatness and although chosen supposedly by God, Duncan was only human and possessed negative qualities as well. The king, Duncan, was not in battle (along side his Generals), he is at a nearby camp (I: II, p 1).
This suggests that the king is dependent of other for his own protection. We see the naivete that Duncan possesses when he says: ‘He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.’ (I: IV; 15-16, p. 11) In fact he complete trust in a man who was in an enemy.
This also demonstrates his lack in character judgment. Duncan, as all humans, has his weaknesses but to impartially judge him we must look at him on a broader spectrum. Duncan is regarded as a good king by most of his subjects including Macduff when he says to Malcolm: ‘Thy royal father was a most sainted king… .’ (IV: III; 122-123 f, p. 71) And rightly so for he surly possesses worthy king-like qualities, he is not perfect, but one could conceive how God might give him power.
Shakespeare again, presents his notion of primogeniture when we see the usurped throne as the cause of this chaos. In order for this notion to truly work we must now look at the character that should rightfully be king but because of Macbeth does not become so until the ending of the play. Malcolm, the elders on of Duncan, a noble man who, unlike his father, is not dependant on others to protect him; he has been out fighting but may not be the greatest war hero. This is seen when he says: ‘This is the sergeant who like a good and hardy soldier fought ‘gains t my captivity.’ (I: II; 4-6 f, p.
2) He reveals a cleaver war maneuver that proves to be very successful; he has every soldier cut down a tree and disguise himself with itso when they approach Dunsinane and are spotted they could not be justly counted. We see this when Malcolm says: ‘Let every soldier hew him down a bough and bear’t before him. Thereby shall we shadow the number of or host and make discovery err in report of us.’ (V: IV; 6-9, p. 84) He shows he is a virtuous and noble man when at the end of the play he becomes king and promises to repay their debt (everyone who helped him rightfully gain the throne).
Macbeth: Many People Were Involved In the Death of Duncan There were many people involved in the death of Duncan, the King of Scotland. However, Macbeth bears the major responsibility for the murder. Macbeth committed the task by his own hand. He understood the significance of the prediction in relation to his own ambitions. Finally, Macbeth was aware of his actions and he accepted them. Macbeth ...
He is appreciative to all these men who helped him in doing so.
We see this when he says: ‘We shall not spend a large expense of time before we reckon with your several loves and make us even with you… So thanks to all at once… .’ (V: VII; 71-73 f… 85 f) Despite his cleverness and royalty of nature, Malcolm too has his negative qualities. Upon seeing the tragic scene of his father’s death, Malcolm is scared because he sees his father’s death and is not sorrowful.
He flees to England because ‘To show an unfelt sorrow is an office which the false man does easy’ (II: III; 159-160 f, p. 34) which leads you to believe that Malcolm did not care for his father. Again, upon a situation of grief Malcolm shows little to no emotions but manipulates Macduff; this last has just received word of the massacre of his family and Malcolm manipulates his emotions by saying: ‘Dispute it like man.’ (IV: III; 257, p. 76) Furthermore: ‘Be this the whetstone of your sword. Let grief Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it’ (IV: III; 266-267, p. 76) Malcolm is clearly manipulating Macduff and using his misfortune to prime him for battle.
Again, we must judge Malcolm not just upon a few qualities and weaknesses but on an overall point of view. Malcolm is the first born son of Duncan, the former king of Scotland. By birthright alone he is the heir to the throne, not to mention his various leadership qualities and that at this particular time just about any one who replaced Macbeth would do a better job than him. In fact, Malcolm was just about the complete opposite from Macbeth. We get the notion that he will reign justly for he has already promised to repay all the men who helped him regain the throne. Of coarse sometimes he uses may use conniving ways to control others; for the most part he is a decent man.
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Malcolm starts his reign on a positive note, which leads us to believe he was given the throne because he was a just man and it was the will of God. Shakespeare’s notion of primogeniture, influenced by the great chain of being and in turn the Elizabethan/Jacobean times, is strongly suggested in this novel. Shakespeare clearly supports this notion through his portrayal of Duncan and Malcolm. The fact that Macbeth’s reign caused misery and death.
‘I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; it weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash is added to her wounds’ (IV: III; 45-47 f, p. 69), in the words of Malcolm. This leads me to believe that God is punishing him, in accordance to the great chain of being. If we look at this in a modern way of thinking we would say that maybe it was fate or the notion of what goes around comes around or something in that nature and blame this for Macbeth’s down fall. Shakespeare is seemingly preoccupied with honor, heroism leadership, and human identity, in doing so he may well be creating a purely brilliant piece of literature for dramatic reasons alone, which may lead to hype. However he supports his notion of primogeniture thoroughly in Duncan and Malcolm.
In the end, it is much to close to call on way or the other.