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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: December ::
Re: Scotland
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2871  Thursday, 20 December 2001

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 15:59:43 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2864 Re: Scotland

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 21:15:42 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2864 Re: Scotland


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 15:59:43 -0500
Subject: 12.2864 Re: Scotland
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2864 Re: Scotland

> << In both cases, the fact that the succession reverts to election seems
> a lost chance for a more peaceful dispensation, which will in the long
> run be established forever, we might hope, under a king like James. >>
>
> Wasn't James himself an elected monarch? Elizabeth had been pressed
> repeatedly to make that election and eventually did so - everyone was
> told - on her deathbed. Election was an essential part of Elizabethan
> politics. How else could she have remained the 'virgin queen'? What's
> really terrifying about 'Macbeth' is Macduff's willingness to overlook
> Malcolm's supposed sins in that essential but frequently cut scene in
> the English court. Malcolm had a right through both succession and
> election, and fortunately he was only playing with Macduff! Maybe the
> message of the play - if there is one - is that it's not who they are
> but what they're like that's important.

>Ros King

James had the strongest claim to succession by descent of Henry VII. In
any case, there's a big difference between a warrior elite voting to
elevate one of their own and the monarch electing her own successor.
Moreover, if Malcolm's character is the point of the play, it is also
the point of almost all the source histories that vary in many points
but include this episode.  It's usually glossed as Malcolm's wise
caution.

Clifford

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 21:15:42 -0500
Subject: 12.2864 Re: Scotland
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2864 Re: Scotland

Ros King writes that James was an elected king, which is true if you
consider an election with one voter an election. One could argue that he
was elected because of his "rights of memory". (Elizabeth perhaps
intended to restore primogeniture.) This use of "election" may be
standard usage, but I think the word is generally taken, in Hamlet and
Macbeth, to refer to an election by the nobles. Maybe Hamlet's "dying
voice" is just such a one-man election though.

In any case, my point was that I think we're supposed to take the move
from election to inheritance as a good move for a Shakespearean king to
make. It will tend to create a more peaceful world, without wars over
succession, though of course plenty of other things can still go wrong.
Claudius makes this move for selfish reasons, but he's outwardly acting
like a good king.  Duncan, I think, is actually acting like a good king.
However, he doesn't realize, at least clearly enough, what should be
obvious. Macbeth expects to be named the heir because of his heroic
deeds, and he resents Duncan's naming Malcolm instead. Here's another
theme in Macbeth: Duncan is good, but has the naivety that too often
accompanies goodness. He can't see "the mind's construction in the
face", so he's killed by a traitor with a false face. That's why
Malcolm, before he becomes king, has to demonstrate his ability to lie
to Macduff, to test whether he's telling the truth.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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