Analysis Of Feudalism In William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1063 words - 4 pages

William Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth is set in 11th-century Scotland. The overarching political system then was feudalism, a system that was "based on the holding of land" and placed "an increasing emphasis on local protection, local government, and local self-sufficiency" (World History, Section 9-4, pp. 214 **). Shakespeare, however, lived during the late 16th and early 17th century, a time in which kings with "absolute authority" and "divine right" (W.H, Section 18-3, pp. 430) ruled a strongly centralized nation. His plays naturally revealed his preference of a strong centralized monarchy over a feudal government, which was stable but outdated. Therefore, Macbeth, arguably Shakespeare's most political play, reflects a seemingly stable feudal system full of subtle weaknesses while simultaneously showing the trend towards centralization and foreshadowing the future Age of Kings.In accord with the setting of the play, the customs and titles held by the characters in Macbeth reflect feudal traditions and clearly reveal a feudal government. The main tenet of feudalism is the exchange of vows, described by Galbert of Bruges: "The count asked if he was willing to become completely his man, and the other replied: 'I am willing;' [...] Afterward...[the count] gave investiture to...who by this agreement had given his...oath" (Sources, Section 7-7, pg. 216). The count gives his vassal a reward in return for loyalty. In Macbeth, Duncan condemns the traitorous Thane of Cawdor to death and simultaneously gives Macbeth a second fief for his victory in battle (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3, ll. 74-76). These actions are a disguised and cunning attempt to ensure or strengthen the unwavering loyalty of Duncan's vassals. Macbeth replies by stating that "your Highness' part is to receive our duties...safe toward your love and honor" (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 4, ll. 26-27). This dialogue itself illustrates a subtle 'exchange of vows' described by Galbert. As it is the equivalent of a contemporary written contract, breaking the oath of loyalty given during the ceremony of investiture is a severely punished act of treachery. Hence Macbeth ponders the immorality of his assassination plot: "He's here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed" (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7, ll. 12-14). Lastly, the titles and personalities of the characters themselves are feudal (for example the various "Thanes") - clearly portraying a stable feudal world.However, Shakespeare, as a playwright in monarchial England, understandably also exposes and illustrates the basic flaws of feudalism. The feudal pyramid consisted of "many knights...with a small fief", above them their royal vassals "who held larger fiefs", and "over all...the king" (W.H, Section 9-4, pp. 215). Maintaining order among the powerful nobles was a difficult task for any ruler; only a strong king would be able to exercise authority and keep any revolts or rebellious acts to a minimum...

Find Another Essay On Analysis of Feudalism in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

Images of Blood in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1214 words - 5 pages Images of Blood in William Shakespeare's Macbeth   In Shakespeare?s tragic play Macbeth, the symbol of blood is portrayed often and with different meanings. Blood as a symbol is developed throughout the play until it becomes the dominating theme. Perhaps the best way to show how the symbol of blood changes throughout the play is to follow the character changes in Macbeth. First he is a brave honored soldier, but as the play

Use of Tension in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1965 words - 8 pages Shakespeare´s play 'Macbeth' is set in the heart of Scotland. The king at the time is king Duncun, a noble and honest king. He has two sons and many Thanes and noble men, one being Macbeth. Macbeth has fought his way up the ranks of the army to become one of Duncun´s most trusted Lords, but an encounter with three witches puts wickedness into the heart of an otherwise noble and loyal man. In act 1, scene 1, a scene

The Evils of Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

6019 words - 24 pages The Evils of Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth The question that I have been given is to evaluate Shakespeare's characterization of Lady Macbeth and to decide on an correct description of her character, as I think Shakespeare intended it to be - is she a cruel, calculating, cold blooded killer; or is she just a confused and distraught lonely woman? Throughout the play, she shows qualities and performs actions

The Breakdown of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1664 words - 7 pages The Breakdown of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Throughout the play of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth goes through several drastic personality changes, which finally leads her to breakdown. In some ways I feel the breakdown and collapse of lady Macbeth is quite unexpected, but on the other end of the scale it could be seen to be inevitable. I will cover the points for and against, how the collapse could be seen to

The Downfall of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1791 words - 7 pages The Downfall of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth William Shakespeare's Macbeth has been a theatrical favorite since Elizabethan times. Its timeless themes of ambition, fate, violence, and insanity collaborate to produce a captivating plot. The audience traces the disintegration of a tragic hero and his willful wife. Lady Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's most forcefully drawn female characters, plays an important role in the play

The Development of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

2451 words - 10 pages The Development of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth In Act 1 Scene 5 Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are very close he addresses her in the letter as, ‘my dearest partner of greatness’ Lady Macbeth is keen to see Macbeth to discuss the murder with him, but fears he is, ‘too full of’ the milk of human kindness’. This proves how well she understands her husband. She respects him by calling him, ‘Great Glamis

The Changing Attitudes of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

970 words - 4 pages The Changing Attitudes of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth In Shakespearean England, women’s role in society was very different to what it is today. Today, women are allowed, and in fact, almost expected to be educated, independent, confidant, outspoken, and to go to work, to provide for themselves. In the 1600’s, it wasn’t like that. Women were gentle, kind, and fragile. If they were well off, they were

Malcolm in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

759 words - 3 pages Malcolm in William Shakespeare's Macbeth In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Malcolm is one of the more cautious characters in the play. He has the ability to realise appearances can be deceitful and that the person on the outside may not be as innocent as he or she is putting across. As Duncan's son he is the natural heir to the throne and is eventually made king at the end of the play after the death of Macbeth. Malcolm

Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Play

3857 words - 15 pages Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Play Our first impressions of Macbeth are that he is a hero, he is brave and fearless, and although we get this impression we also get the feeling that he is ruthless. Macbeth has just been in battle against "The merciless Macdonwald" and a Captain is talking about how Macbeth and his fellow Captain, Banquo, performed in battle. "Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, till he

Evil in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1743 words - 7 pages Evil in William Shakespeare's Macbeth In this essay I shall look at ho evil is portrayed in Shakespeare's Macbeth. I believe evil is the first step on Macbeth's road to destruction and turns him into the bloody tyrant he becomes. The main evil wrong doing in the play is the murder of the innocent king Duncan. Evil is also presented in the form of the witches who influence Macbeth to stray from all goodness. Macbeth

Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Play

3628 words - 15 pages Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Play The question is asking us to show our opinions to whether he is a person injured/destroyed in seeking to obtain an object or whether he is a person guilty/capable of great wickedness. The question tells us that Macbeth is a man of superhuman qualities. The play is written in 1606. Shakespeare wrote it as a tribute to King James VI of England. King James was fascinated by

Similar Essays

Analysis Of Macbeth And Lady Macbeth In William Shakespeare's Play

3840 words - 15 pages Analysis of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Play "This dead butcher and his fiend-like queen" Macbeth is a play of murder and witchcraft. Many actors when performing it on stage are too superstitious to use the real name, and call it " The Scottish play" instead believing that this way they will avoid bad luck being brought on themselves. The quotation from Malcolm's speech (V.ix.36) seems to

Downfall Of Macbeth In William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1683 words - 7 pages Downfall of Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth This play is a tragedy. In this essay I will discuss what effect the witches, lady Macbeth and Macbeth have on the rise and fall of Macbeth. Macbeth at the beginning of the play is successful warrior in the Scottish army. The king of Scotland, Duncan, hears of Macbeth's bravery and he calls him a 'Valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!' (Act 1 scene 2, line 24). This

Change Of Macbeth In William Shakespeare's Macbeth

2593 words - 10 pages Change of Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Throughout the course of the play, Macbeths character changes from good to evil. As the audience we are given plenty of opportunities to look at the way in which he changes and the influences that help bring about the alteration in character. Shakespeare also uses dramatic devises to highlight Macbeths change. In this essay I am going to explore

Analysis Of Major Characters In William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1280 words - 5 pages Analysis of Major Characters in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Macbeth ======= Because we first hear of Macbeth in the wounded captain's account of his battlefield valor, our initial impression is of a brave and capable warrior. This perspective is complicated, however, once we see Macbeth interact with the three witches. We realize that his physical courage is joined by a consuming ambition and a tendency to