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Tyrannicide In Macbeth Essay

1151 words - 5 pages

"It is trew indeed, that all the successe of battels, as well as other worldly things, lyeth onely in Gods hand.... But upon that generall to conclude, that hee ever [always] gives victory to the just quarrel, would prove... enemies of the people of God to have oft times had the just quarrell against the people of God, in respect of the many victories they obtained against them." - James VI and I, The Trew Law of Free Monarchies (1598)


"And although some [lawful kings]... very rarelie may be cut off by the treason of some unnaturall subjects, yet liveth their fame after them, and some notable plague faileth never to overtake the committers in this life, besides their infamie to all posterities hearafter" - James VI and I, Basilikon Doron (1603)


In 1603 King James VI of Scotland published The Trew Law of Free Monarchies and a revised and expanded version of Basilikon Doron in London for his new English subjects (McIlwain, ix; Kinney, 61). Basilikon Doron , which was entered in the Stationer's Register on March 26, 1603 (only one day after Elizabeth's death and James' accession were announced), became immediately popular as Londoners sought an introduction to their new king (--). Shakespeare may or may not have read these pamphlets, but as a member of the newly-appointed King's Players it was certainly in his best interest to become familiar with the attitudes of his patron. We can imagine that one of Shakespeare's goals must have been to gain the King's favor without losing relevence for a wider audience. Macbeth seems to be one attempt at such a compromise. Since Henry Paul's The Royal Play of Macbeth in 1971, many have argued that Macbeth - rich with topical allusions to James' ancestry, events of his life, and the King's political theories- is a dramatization of James' works on kingship meant to flatter the King and serve as propanganda for the Globe audience (Paul, 7; Kozikowski, 197). But certainly there are elements in the play that disrupt this reading: how would a King absolutely opposed to tyrannicide respond to the overthrow of Macbeth? My question is more than rhetorical as we have no evidence that Shakespeare's play was censored in an era when it would have been if it had seriously displeased the King; Macbeth went on to become popular at the Globe long after its first performance for James at Hampton Court in 1606 (Paul, 7; Kinney 65). Shakespeare manages to present tyrannicide to a divine right King because Macbeth contains a variety of political ideologies expressed through different characters or plot points. Macbeth's actions are not endorsed by the play, but it does not necessarily follow that Malcolm and Macduff's actions are unequivocally, and it is perhaps on the issue of patience under tyranny that the play best represents Rosenberg's concept of polyphony (x). Moreover, the doctrine of the Absolutist State found in Basilikon Doron and The Trew Law of Free Monarchies was far from the only...

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