The Importance of the Elizabethan Concept of Natural Order to Our Appreciation of Macbeth
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There are many ways in which the Elizabethan idea of the world's
'natural order' increases our appreciation of Macbeth. There are many
references to unnatural occurrences throughout the play, such as "By
th'clock 'tis day/ And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp."
Elizabethans believed that any attempt to alter God's ordered universe
was doomed to failure and chaos, and the King/Queen of the country was
considered to have been chosen by God. Therefore, Macbeth's killing of
King Duncan was considered to be breaking the 'natural order' of the
world, thus bringing calamity to the country. The Elizabethans thought
that displeasing God by destroying his 'natural order' would cause God
to withdraw His hand from the 'natural order' and chaos would
therefore descend upon the world.
Macbeth damages this natural order by murdering the king in his sleep.
He once was a brave knight of the king during the war against Norway,
fighting valiantly ("For brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name").
After the last battle that sent the Norwegians fleeing, King Duncan
learned of the treachery of one of his thanes, and ordered the death
of the nobleman. He took the title of the thane and gave it to Macbeth
for his bravery - and irony since Macbeth himself would soon betray
Duncan. Macbeth had just recently met the three witches (before being
told he had a new title), and after feeling sceptical about them to
begin with ("Stay, you imperfect speakers."), Macbeth takes interest
in their prophecy of him taking the throne of Scotland after he learns
their prophecy of him becoming the Thane of Cawdor becomes true ("This
natural soliciting/ Cannon be ill,").
Macbeth is then invited to the King's palace, and arrives hoping to be
named the king's successor to the throne. However, the king names his
son successor, and informs Macbeth that he will be visiting Macbeth's
home. Sourly, Macbeth heads home, and greets Lady Macbeth. Lady
Macbeth played a major part in the murder of Duncan, as it was she who
persuaded Macbeth. Macbeth knew killing the king was morally wrong ("[I]
as his host,/ Who should against his murderers shut the door,/ Not
bear the knife myself.") and also knows how wrong it is to kill the
one chosen by God to rule Scotland. However, Lady Macbeth manipulates
his pride ("And live a coward in thine own esteem?") and claims she
would do anything she had sworn to do, which Macbeth had done in a
letter to her telling of his ambitions. In the end Macbeth gives in to
his wife. After murdering Duncan, Macbeth realises that water alone
can't wash away the blood of Duncan from his...