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Kingship: Macbeth and his role as King

Updated on June 13, 2011


In Macbeth’s time a King was considered to be God’s representative on earth. Duncan was looked up to as a devout King who was holy. In Act 1 Scene 7 it says “His virtues will plead like angels trumpet-tongued against the deep damnation of his taking off.”

Duncan as King

Duncan is a good King and has all the qualities needed, and his court is a court of order and tradition. He admires and rewards heroism, which we see when he awards Macbeth by making him the new Thane of Cawdor, but also punishes disloyalty which we also see when he has the treacherous previous Thane of Cawdor hanged.

Unfortunately Duncan is too trusting of his Thanes when he accepts Macbeth’s hospitality and is murdered in his sleep. The Murder of a king is considered as an act of sacrilege because he is considered the people’s link to Heaven and God. When Duncan is killed it seems like that link is broken and Scotland is plunged into darkness. Very soon after the killing strange things are happening such as their horses eating each other or unusual weather.

Macbeth Vs Duncan

Compared to Duncan’s honest and orderly reign Macbeth rules Scotland like a tyrant. His court in contrast to Duncan’s is a place where Scotland “weeps and bleeds, each new day a gash is added to her wounds.” The place is considered to be diseased.

Because he has killed the rightful king his reign would be an unnatural one in which he is not God’s representative on earth. This is supposedly the cause of all the unnatural happenings such as the horses eating each other and other repercussions of the deed are felt throughout nature. His reign is one of disorder, which many of his subjects realised at his banquet, when he saw his best friend, Banquo, appear as a ghost, because he had just arranged for him to be murdered. Lady Macbeth quickly hurries the guests out and encourages them all to leave in any order which was very untraditional. “Stand not upon the order of your going”. Many people who had not yet suspected Macbeth of murdering Duncan would have changed their minds. The people of Scotland loved their King Duncan because he cared for them and was a good King, but when Macbeth was in control it was a massive change and he only cared about himself staying alive and in power.

King Edward

In dissimilarity to Macbeth, King Edward of England had a “healing benediction” and was a good king. King Edward was the definition of Kingship as he would not only be a good ruler but be able to heal a moral wound. He is associated with good things such as “heaven”, “sanctity” or “full of grace”, but Macbeth is associated with evil things like “hell”, “disease” and “damnation”. King Edward is more similar to Duncan than Macbeth as they are both considered saintly kings.


Once Malcolm returns to Scotland and becomes the rightful king, and it seems that the link between Heaven and Earth is restored as light and normality is returned to Scotland. Malcolm repairs the line of succession by becoming king, as Duncan announced before he died that Malcolm would be his successor. The people of Scotland welcome a just ruler, similar to Duncan, in comparison to their last ruler, Macbeth’s, tyranny.


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    • jayjay40 profile image

      jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

      Very well written hub, a realy good read.