James I and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth
In 1606, William Shakespeare was commissioned to write a play for KingJames I. The play was to be performed at Hampton court while James Iwas entertaining his brother in law king Christian of Denmark.
Shakespeare wrote ‘Macbeth’ for the occasion. It was not a new story.Shakespeare found it in ‘The history of Scotland’ by RaphaelHollinshead,
but Shakespeare’s play is far more than a dramatic rewrite ofhistorical facts.
Shakespeare made many changes to the original story to ensure twothings. Firstly, that it was suitably adapted so that generalaudiences would have appreciated it, that it had an interesting plotand was generally entertaining. But secondly that it was especiallysuited to James I particular tastes and interests, so that he wouldfind it a ‘pleasing play.’
As a play it is very entertaining, not just for king James, but alsofor general audiences of his time. This play was written to entertain,and it does so in a number of ways. ‘Macbeth’ has a plot that includesmurder, action, tragedy and romance, all of which are exciting andstill appeal to audiences of today.
The play was written very well so that it would be exciting to watchon stage. Battle scenes, ghosts and apparitions, visions and murderwould look very impressive in a time before special effects. Forexample, the scene in which Macbeth and the audience can see the ghostof Banquo but none of the other characters can. This is a veryentertaining element of the play. It successfully shows Macbeth’sterror and Lady Macbeth’s confusion. The audience, who know what isgoing on, find the bewilder…
… whichJames I would have found Macbeth pleasing; the entertaining plot withinteresting characters, beautiful language, moral teachings, themes ofparticular interest to James both as a man and a king and asatisfactory ending. In fact nobody can list all of the reasons whyJames I would have enjoyed the play, and there may be many more. Butcertainly Macbeth would have been, and still is, a very entertainingplay for anyone who watched it. Filled with action, suspense, murder,mystery and riddles it can not fail to please any audience. James Iwould have appreciated the play like any other audience member, butaspects such as the supernatural, being set in Scotland, having hisancestor portrayed as a hero and Divine Right of kings included inMacbeth ensures that James the I would have found it a ‘pleasingplay’.