Macbeth was in 1606 and coincided with the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne as James I.
The story itself is about a man, Macbeth, who is encouraged by his wife and a wit he’s prophecy to commit regicide which consequently ends in his defeat and ultimately his death and his previously ruthless wife joining him, committing suicide.
James I, who was a patron of Shakespeare’s company, had survived an early assassination attempt, his father was murdered and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots was executed as a traitor.
As both men had been touched by treason, it is not surprising that Shakespeare chose it as the main theme of Macbeth.
However, Shakespeare seems to have wanted to go much further than simply writing a morality tale about traitors. He questions the accepted social norms, too. At a time when women were legally the property of their husbands, and were expected to have at least two and preferably more children, Shakespeare makes the Macbeths childless, and Lady Macbeth her husband’s equal.
He clearly had to please James, it would not have been politic to go against the most powerful patron in the country, and he does this in a number of ways. Macbeth uses literary licence to make Banquo, who was James’s ancestor, a hero. He introduces the weird women specifically as witches, although he later refers to them both as fates and weird women, in deference to James’s interest in the supernatural and lifelong obsession with witchcraft.
King James also passionately believed in the hierarchy and the Divine Right of Kings and to disobey the King was to disobey God. In Act 1 Sc 1 it is suggested by the ‘weird sisters’ that in order to preserve this hierarchical nature of society violence and war are necessary.
Therefore, the masculine attributes of bravery and honour play a mojor role in this play.
Duncan, who seems to regard Macbeth almost as a saviour, describes him as being “valiant” , “worthy” and “noble”. Ross calls him “Bellona’s...