King James and the Great Chain of Being in Macbeth Essay

1026 Words 5 Pages
MaryAlice Peng
Mrs. Frindell

Honors English, 3rd period

December 2, 2010

King James and the Great Chain of Being in Macbeth

Upon the death of beloved Queen Elizabeth in England, her cousin James I was announced the new king of England. As a Catholic from the rival nation Scotland, King James I was inherently distrusted by his Anglican subjects, and his guarded, haughty personality only further decreased his popularity (Matthew). King James was also known for his strong belief in the Divine Right of Kings, in which the king is second only to God (Matthew). However, his greatest disadvantage was that he was previously Catholic; the English were never truly confident in his conversion to the Anglican Church (Matthew). Skeptical,
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However, Macbeth soon suffers immensely for disrupting the Chain due to his avarice and ambition. He assassinates Duncan in order to ensure that he will fulfill the witches’ prediction of him becoming king, thus breaking the chain. It was considered unnatural for some being lower on the chain to overleap another being higher up, and therefore in the play, nature began to lose control. Extremely abnormal events in nature begin to occur, such as “a falcon, tow’ring in her pride of place, was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed” (2.4.14-16). The nature’s reaction to Macbeth killing a king, who is God on earth according to the Divine Right of Kings, reflects Shakespeare’s appalled attitude that a being could violate the laws of the Great Chain of Being and Divine Right of Kings so blatantly (or rather, it reflects what Shakespeare wishes King James to see his attitude as.) Even when Macbeth is crowned the new king, the highest honor in the mortal world as established by the Divine Right of Kings, he suffers from his past actions. “Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more” (2.2.55-57) a voice cries out in Macbeth’s guilt-ridden mind and indeed, after killing Duncan, Macbeth fights with insomnia for the rest of the play. The horrendous act of murdering the king continually punishes Macbeth severely for it contradicts both of King

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