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William Shakespeares tragic play Macbeth is set in 11th-century Scotland The overarching political system then was feudalism a system that was based on the holding of land and placed an increasing emphasis on local protection local government and local self-sufficiency World History Section 9-4 pp 214 Shakespeare however lived during the late 16th and early 17th century a time in which kings with absolute authority and divine right WH Section 18-3 pp 430 ruled a strongly centralized nation His plays naturally revealed his preference of a strong centralized monarchy over a feudal government which was stable but outdated Therefore Macbeth arguably Shakespeares most political play reflects a seemingly stable feudal system full of subtle weaknesses while simultaneously showing the trend towards centralization and foreshadowing the future Age of Kings In accord with the setting of the play the customs and titles held by the characters in Macbeth reflect feudal traditions and clearly reveal a feudal government The main tenet of feudalism is the exchange of vows described by Galbert of Bruges The count asked if he was willing to become completely his man and the other replied I am willing Afterwardthe count gave investiture towho by this agreement had given hisoath Sources Section 7-7 pg 216 The count gives his vassal a reward in return for loyalty In Macbeth Duncan condemns the traitorous Thane of Cawdor to death and simultaneously gives Macbeth a second fief for his victory in battle Macbeth Act 1 Scene 3 ll 74-76 These actions are a disguised and cunning attempt to ensure or strengthen the unwavering loyalty of Duncans vassals Macbeth replies by stating that your Highness part is to receive our dutiessafe toward your love and honor Macbeth Act 1 Scene 4 ll 26-27 This dialogue itself illustrates a subtle exchange of vows described by Galbert As it is the equivalent of a contemporary written contract breaking the oath of loyalty given during the ceremony of investiture
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