Essay #2 - Joseph Dombrosky ARLT 100g/35224D Culture...

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Joseph Dombrosky ARLT 100g/35224D: Culture, Conformity, Revolt David Rollo The Role of the Sovereign An analysis of Shakespeare’s Macbeth Monarchy: a state or nation where supreme power and sovereignty is held in a single person. The idea of monarchy today seems an archaic system of governmental rule that many people cannot identify with, except to compare it with modern totalitarian states or dictatorships. However, it was once a prominent form of territorial rule, and many forget that it took the questioning of that royal authority to begin the process of evolution into modern republics. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a prime illustration of the beginnings of these questions. The play juxtaposes the nature of royalty, and the divine right of kings, with the royalty of nature, thus putting forth the grander idea that the ruler of a nation might be better determined by qualities rather than lineage. Despite Macbeth being a fictional play, Shakespeare largely drew upon historical references that English viewers of his time would presumably have known. One of the primary sources for Macbeth was Holinshed's Chronicles: The Historie of England . In reviewing this and other sources, it is clear that Shakespeare altered and integrated other parts of history to formulate the storyline for Macbeth . This was most likely in order to create a more dramatic story and to cater to the reigning power, King James I (James IV of Scotland). [ 1 ] The historical Macbeth was actually Mac Bethad, married to Gruoch (Lady Macbeth). Instead of taking the 1 1 Mabillard, Amanda. An Analysis of Shakespeare's Sources for Macbeth . Shakespeare Online. 2000. 30 Oct. 2007 < >.
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throne through the murder of Duncan, as in the play, Mac Bethad seized power through a civil war in which Donnchad (Duncan) died. [ 2 ] Following Mac Bethad’s ascent to power, Donnchad’s wife and sons, Máel Coluim III and Domnall Bán , fled to Scotland. [ 3 ] At this point, Macbeth begins to parallel history. According to Shakespeare’s primary source (Holinshed), Siward, Earl of Northumberland, invaded Mac Bethad’s kingdom and restored Donnchad’s son, Máel Coluim III (Malcolm) to the throne in 1054. [ 4 ] However, Máel Coluim III is said to have only taken rule over the southern part of Scotland; Mac Bethad remained in power over the rest of the kingdom until he was killed by Máel Coluim III three years later. [ 5 ] In comparing the factual history with Shakespeare’s work, there begins to surface certain discrepancies that seem to install conventional views of kingship. As opposed to Mac Bethad assuming rule after Donnchad’s death in battle, Shakespeare’s Macbeth murders Duncan in order to seize the throne. In the aftermath, the regicide is referred to in Act II.3 as a “breach in nature…” (line 111), and the night it occurred was said to be “a rough night.” (line 60). The play
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