Killing Kings

Several of Shakespeare’s plays, including historical and tragedy, involve the political intrigue which results in the killing of a king. While the action revolving around this event may involve many more obvious themes, it is interesting to note the common idea which Shakespeare invariably includes when his play addresses the killing of a king. Each character who murders, or is the instigator of the murder of, a king and takes his place faces the consequences for his actions. Often, Shakespeare makes these consequences more or less severe according to how involved the character is in the murder and how “pure” his motives may have been. However, regicide is never taken lightly in these dramas and no matter how good the motive.

There are three noteworthy plays involving the killing of kings in which the murderer takes over the office. In Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke first deposes King Richard II and then implies that it would be easier if he was dead. He is the least involved in the killing of the former king and his punishment is the least severe, as is seen in Henry IV Part One and Henry IV Part Two. In Macbeth, King Duncan of Scotland is murdered by Macbeth. Macbeth does not even have the excuse of deposing an evil king, only...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 725 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4186 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in