Context in Macbeth: social, political and literary.

The Divine Right of Kings A philosophy that suggests that the reigning monarch does not have to answer to any earthly authority and that they are chosen by God to be monarch. Duncan is a true example of this (he is from a lineage of Kings) whereas Macbeth has gained the crown by his own immoral actions- he is not part of The Divine Right.
The Great Chain of Being The belief of some Jacobeans that everything is is connected in a chain and hierarchy with God and the angels at the top, followed by the monarch and wealthy nobility, with poorer people closer to the bottom. Man were above women and the supernatural was lower still. When Macbeth kills Duncan, this disrupts this chain and it was believed by some that this resulted in chaos on earth.
Paternal Benevolence The idea that Duncan is an all loving Father figure who wants to nurture his court and Kingdom.
The Body Politic. A political Medieval idea that a state, society, or church and its institutions are conceived of as a biological (usually human) body- usually that of the King. King Duncan might represent this and so this belief makes his regicide worse- Macbeth murders the King himself and the most important institutions of Scotland.
Microcosm & Macrocosm The belief that greater events in the world of nature (macrocosm) reflected or were disrupted by events in the little world of man (micrcosm). When Ross notes that the heavens are ‘troubled with man’s act’ in the wake of Duncan’s murder
Machiavelli -To be cunning or scheming, especially politically. We might apply this to Lady Macbeth.
Dante’s Inferno (Divine Comedy) Shakespeare makes a literary contextual reference to The Gates of Hell (from Dante’s Inferno) in the Porter’s scene 2.3 to symbolise the transformation of the castle that now represents a more hellish scene. In Dante’s poem, hell is imagined as having a gate at the entrance and on the other side is ‘woe’ and ‘pain’.
Gender Conventions Men as noble, brave and masculine. Women as chaste, virtuous. Lady Macbeth consistently goads Macbeth about his masculinity whilst Lady Macbeth subverts typified femininity. She rejects woman hood in favor of becoming ‘unsex'(ed) and aligning herself more closely with the witches rather than a woman.

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