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Macbeth: History of Scotland from an English Perspective

Macbeth is a play about tragedy. It tells the tale of one man’s evil rise to becoming king and his tragic downfall that led to his death. Nevertheless, it is also a play about the political history surrounding that king. Shakespeare took the story of Macbeth from Raphael Holinshed’s Scottish Chronicle in 1570 and even more from the second edition, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1587. From these books he was able to take bits and pieces of history, combine events, omit others, create his own tale of King Macbeth and make it appealing to the King and people of his time.

At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, it was the beginning of the seventeenth century. The reign of Macbeth was actually during the mid-eleventh century. He became king in 1040 after killing King Duncan who according to Fisher “was an ineffectual king” (Fisher, 43). Macbeth would then rule for the next 17 years, having appeared “to have been a good king, active and conscientious, if not always able to hold on to the whole of the territory he had gained through the murder of Duncan” (Fisher, 44). Quite the opposite in the play, Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as an evil and cruel king during the whole time of his reign. Glover points out this untruth, “Macbeth’s character has suffered unjustly at the hands of Shakespeare, as he ruled Scotland well for some seventeen years, and there is evidence that the country enjoyed some prosperity during his reign” (Glover, 39). Yet Macbeth’s reign did end in 1057 when he was killed by Malcolm, Duncan’s son, in the battle of Lumphanan. However, it wasn’t until after Macbeth’s step-son Lulach ruled for about a year, that Malcolm became king after killing him in 1058. This is where Shakespeare ends the play wit…

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… each other. This helps in understanding why Malcolm was able to flee to England with no trouble. Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is an attempt on the authors part to incorporate underlying tones of Scottish political history to impress King James who united England and Scotland.

Works Cited

Cantor, Paul A. “Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland.” Shakespeare as Political Thinker. Alvis, John E., and Thomas G. West, eds. Delaware: ISI Books, 2000.315 – 351.

Fisher, Andrew. A Traveller’s History of Scotland. 3rd ed. New York: Interlink Books,1997.

Glover, Janet R. The Story of Scotland. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1960.

Nostbakken, Faith. Understanding Macbeth: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Rae, T.I. Scotland in the Time of Shakespeare. New York: Cornell University Press,1965.

Inevitability of Change Revealed in Cry, the Beloved Country

Inevitability of Change Revealed in Cry, the Beloved Country

Things grow old and die. Change is inevitable: a candle will eventually burn out, trees will fall to the ground, and mountains will crumble to the sea. This inescapable process is clearly illustrated by the character Stephen Kumalo in the book Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. The Kumalo seen in the beginning of the book is a completely different person from what he is in the end. He is initially very kind and caring, but by the end of the book, he is a far less naïve person, one who is able to lie even to his own brother. The events that transpire and the changes they cause in the protagonist, Stephen Kumalo, clearly show that Cry, the Beloved Country is a book concerned with the effect external events can have on a man caught in the middle of them.

The book begins in a small South African village called Ndotsheni, where Kumalo is the pastor of the only church. Like all pastors, Kumalo is a kind, religious, tolerant, and caring man. In chapter 2, very early on, Kumalo is demonstrably very conscious of other people’s feelings, as is shown by what he says to his wife:

I am sorry I hurt you, he said. I shall go and pray in the church. (p. 10)

When he gets into an argument with his wife and unintentionally hurts her feelings, he is quick to apologize and, as an attempt to make up for what he has done, goes into the church and presumably begs the Lord for forgiveness. Only a man with true compassion and love would go to such great lengths to make up for a wrong.

In chapter 4 of Cry, the Beloved Country, Kumalo makes a journey …

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…g of the book.

Kumalo never would have considered, even for a moment, lying or hurting anyone or anything before he came to Johannesburg. During his stay there, he is transformed from a gentle minister to a deceiving, insecure, hateful, frightened man. The reasons for this change are not because of him, but because of things that happened to him and around him, and were completely out of his control. Had his sister not been in need of help, he surely would never have gone to Johannesburg, but he could not hope to have prevented his sister’s illness when he knew nothing of it until it had already happened. The subsequent events cause changes in Kumalo that he could not have foreseen or prevented, nor could anyone else in his position. Change, welcome or not, will come to everyone and everything

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