Kingship Motif in Macbeth

Blog: What does IV.iii add to the kingship motif? What does it mean to be a true king?

Throughout Macbeth, the motif of kingship appears. Particularly in Act 4, Scene 3, this motif explains in detail what it means to be a king. While Malcolm lies to Macduff for about the first half of the scene, however he still mentions important characteristics that are fundamental for a true king. The first part of the scene where I notice the word “king” is on lines 91-99, where Malcolm says what a bad king would act like: “With this there grows/In my most ill-composed affection such/A stanch less avarice that, were I king,/I should cut off the nobles for their lands,/Desire his jewels, and this other’s house;/And my more-having would be as a sauce/To make me hunger more, that I should forge/Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,/Destroying them for wealth” (IV.iii.91-99). Here, while Malcolm lies, he speaks of the bad qualities a king would have, such that a bad king would “cut off the nobles for their lands” and “desire his jewels, and hits other’s house,” also commenting that he would want more and more, like a “sauce” that would “make me [Malcolm] hunger more.” A bit later, Malcolm says, “The king-becoming graces,/As justice, verity, temp’rance, stableness,/Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,/Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude” (IV.iii.107-110). He clearly lists these important values a true king must have. Here, Malcolm seems to know what is required to be seen as a good king, and quite oppositely, Macbeth uses his power and kingship though murder and crazy acts. However these crazy acts can be perfectly normal in this world where “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”(I.i.12). Next, on line 170 of Act 4, Scene 3, shows how a king should almost be holy and do the good for his country. To go with this, the whole point of the doctor’s role (begin a healer) is to help show and remind the audience/reader of how a king act.


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