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About this Lecture
In this module, we consider the theme of kingship in Macbeth - a theme which interested Shakespeare in a number of his plays. Firstly, we explore King James' own interest in the theory of kingship, looking in particular at his Basilikon Doron, a pamphlet which he wrote in the late 16th century and in which he argued for the divine right of kings, and the criminality of their usurpation. After this, we look at how Shakespeare was required to adapt the historical account of Macbeth's reign to better suit James' own views on kingship; in particular - since James' claim to the throne was based on Macbeth's death - it was importnat was Shakespeare to present Macbeth as a dangerous and illegimate tyrant, rather than the legitimate king he appears to be from the historical records.
This course focuses on Macbeth, looking in particular at several key aspects of the play. In the first module, we focus on the appeal of the play, both when it was first peformed in the early 17th century, and for contemporary audiences. In the second module, we explore the theme of the supernatural in Macbeth, looking at King James' fascination with witches, the character of the witches in the play, and the role of fate and free-will. After that, we look at the role of women in the play, focusing in particular on their position in the patriarchal societies of 11th-Century Scotland and Jacobean England, and thinking about the extent to which the major female characters of the play fit into the patriarchal mould. In the fourth module, we consider the theme of kingship, looking at how Shakespeare adapted his sources to make Macbeth look less legitimate as a ruler, before turning in the final module to thinking about the play in performance, thinking in particular about the various different ways that one might present the play in production.
Stephen Siddall was Head of English at The Leys School in Cambridge for 31 years and has taught Shakespeare courses for university students and for the University of Cambridge International Summer School in Shakespeare. Between 1988 and 2005 he directed 15 Renaissance classic plays for The Arts Theatre, Cambridge and, more recently A Doll's House and Waiting for Godot for the Horseshoe Theatre Company. He has also directed for BBC television and for the (open air) Pendley Shakespeare Festival. For Cambridge University Press he has written a student guide for Macbeth (2002), Shakespeare on Stage (2008) and Landscape and Literature (2009)
Cite this Lecture
Siddall, S. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Macbeth - Kingship [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-macbeth/kingship
Siddall, Stephen. "Shakespeare: Macbeth – Kingship." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-macbeth/kingship