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Political History And Corruption In Macbeth

1950 words - 8 pages

Political History and Corruption in Macbeth

     To understand many of William Shakespeare's plays, one must understand the history of the time period. A.L. Rowse gives a history of William Shakespeare's time, the late sixteenth to the early seventeenth century and how the government of the time was authoritarian but popular. The person of the Monarch (derived from the Greek "monorchia", the rule of one), the Crown, was something even the lowest character could understand. The monarchs have many different titles, including king, queens, sultan, emperors, empresses, tsars, and kaisers, depending on the type of governments and the location of the state he or she rules.


Oftentimes, the monarch was based on the need for a strong ruler who could gather the countries best men to form and command a military that was used to defend the country. The monarch was absolute and only responsible to God and was considered to be God's representative in all worldly and royal matters. A strong central government was needed to maintain order and provided a stable atmosphere in which trade could flourish. Productive leadership qualities were very noticeable in Henry the VIII, and even more so in his daughter, Elizabeth (Rowse 226-263). Furthermore, "There is no doubt that she regarded herself as appointed by God to rule over her subjects" (Rowse 264). Henry the VIII inherited a kingdom from Henry the VII which lacked natural recourses yet it was surrounded on three sides by water. Even though Henry's kingdom was protected by water, the Scots lived to the north and were allied with France. The Scots were England's ancient and bitter enemy.


Henry's chief concerns had been to control the independence of the nobility and to enrich the crown. He accomplished this by eliminating his enemies and taking their land, by raising taxes, and by avoiding involvement in expensive wars leaving him with an abundance of money which he used to set out on a different course -to expand England's power in Europe.


No one dared to be rebellious against the king in fear of their own lives. The king was treated with respect and honor because of the beliefs of the time. The belief was the divine right of kings. According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary the definition is "the right to rule directly from God, not from the consent of the people"(575). People of this period believed that there was a greater power controlling life, God, and as long as this divine right was maintained, chaos would not take control. Therefore, in the eyes of the people the murder of the king would not only be a crime against the state but more importantly it would be a crime against God.


During the Elizabethan era, Shakespeare was beginning to emerge from the ordinary people of Elizabeth's kingdom. The World Book Online Americus Edition points out that William Shakespeare was a poet who wrote at least 37 plays, which have been divided into comedies,...

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