Understanding Macbeth: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

By Faith Nostbakken | Go to book overview

2
Historical Context

MONARCHY AND TYRANNY: THE BOUNDARIES OF KINGSHIP

Macbeth is a political play. It dramatizes a story about power and authority, about order and disorder, about the violence of civil war and the final restoration of peace. At the center of all these concerns lies the issue of kingship in its legitimate and illegitimate forms, including succession, the rightful transition of authority from one ruler to the next; regicide, the killing of the king; usurpation, the wrongful seizure of the crown; and tyranny, the cruel abuse of power by a state ruler. Questions about the proper exercise of power directly involve everyone on stage. In the course of the play, no less than three Scottish kings wear the crown: Duncan, Macbeth, and Malcolm. The English king Edward the Confessor is also mentioned with approval, and Banquo receives the politically confusing promise that he will father many kings. All the other characters, even the witches and Lady Macbeth, act either to make a king, to support and protect him, or to destroy him. There are no subplots and few digressions from this focus. Perhaps the simplicity of the plot contributes to its appeal. Many have gone so far as to say that the world vision in Macbeth is black and white because the conflict between good and evil is clearly defined.

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Understanding Macbeth: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Greenwood Press "Literature in Context" Series ii
  • Title Page - Understanding Macbeth a Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents iii
  • Publication/Copyright Page iv
  • Dedication Page vii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Note xviii
  • 1 - Dramatic Analysis 1
  • Suggested Readings 12
  • Conclusion 20
  • Suggested Readings 22
  • Note 22
  • 2 - Historical Context 23
  • Suggested Readings 54
  • Conclusion 80
  • Suggested Readings 83
  • Conclusion 111
  • Suggested Readings 114
  • 3 - Performance and Interpretation 115
  • Conclusion 123
  • Suggested Readings 125
  • Note 140
  • Conclusion 150
  • Suggested Readings 152
  • Conclusion 159
  • Suggested Readings 162
  • Note 163
  • 4 - Contemporary Applications 165
  • Suggested Readings 184
  • Conclusion 191
  • Conclusion 205
  • Suggested Readings 207
  • Conclusion 216
  • Conclusion 224
  • Suggested Readings 227
  • Index 229
  • About the Author 237
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