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Macbeth. Context By Patrice Timis. Historical Context. Macbeth was written in 1606 – soon after King James VI had taken the crown in 1603 Macbeth was the first play Shakespeare wrote for a monarch other than Elizabeth I, who died in 1603

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By Patrice Timis

Historical context
Historical Context

Macbeth was written in 1606 – soon after King James VI had taken the crown in 1603

Macbeth was the first play Shakespeare wrote for a monarch other than Elizabeth I, who died in 1603

Shakespeare was influenced by gender stereotypes, the supernatural and Macbeth’s Scotland when writing the play Macbeth

Macbeth s scotland
Macbeth’s Scotland

Shakespeare set Macbeth in Scottish history, soon after the English rule

Macbeth refers to 11th century Scotland

Shakespeare created an evocation of medieval Scotland, whose mood would frame the fictional Macbeth

Shakespeare related the play to King James IV in the play as he also became successor in England

Witches and supernatural
Witches’ and Supernatural

Scotland maintained in a belief in witch craft and prophecies

Witchcraft was seen as an evil practice – it was related to the devil

Witchcraft was punishable by death

King James IV loved to study witchcraft


During the Elizabethan era there were social expectation about gender roles

Shakespeare was not influenced by societies expectation for women

For example Lady Macbeth -> challenges Macbeth

This was very different in society and caused controversy in views


“I have given suck, and know how tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me, I would, while was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this” Act 1 Scene 7 line 54 - 58


Folk law heroes and fictional heroes has always been an influence of many plays

1600’s was a time peak for ‘villain hero’s’

Shakespeare’s writing was influenced by Macbeth – a ‘hero’ in history

His presence of hero’s in play are down played

Social context
Social Context

The monarchy controlled England and Scotland socially during the 1600’s

Religion was a main power and influence in Scotland & England in the 1600’s

Shakespeare had made evident remarks about the monarchy and religion in the play Macbeth


The monarchy was very sacred & influential

English monarchy managed to control the country

People were not to abuse the monarchy

In Macbeth Shakespeare had managed to criticize the monarchy -> criticising the kings authority

Q uotes

“If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature? Present fears Are less than horrible imaginings: My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man that function Is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is But what is not”. Act 1 Scene 3 line 9


Religion and religious beliefs controlled many parts of Europe in the 1600’s – including England and Scotland

Religion was almost government itself ->

King or Queen had a large power over the church

and religion

Macbeth’s religious beliefs/meaning ->The witches representing the devil/evil& Macbeth ‘giving’ his soul


“Put rancors in the vessel of my peace Only for them; and mine eternal jewel Given to the common enemy of man, To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!” Act 3 Scene 1 page

Practice essay question
Practice essay question

The context of the play would be helpful for character and plot construction. An example question could be:

“ How does Shakespeare evolve the characters based on the contextual themes?”