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Obedience (Shakespeare and Machiavelli)

Obedience is a thing that we encounter daily. It is critical for something as large as a country to function but can be found in something as small as the family unit. Disobedience is equally evident in society; past and present. One could even argue that history is made by the choices of either obedience or disobedience. So what is our attitude towards obedience? As mentioned before it comes on many different levels. When we have the choice between obeying the request of a parent, we might not put any weight on our decision. However, in regards to a ruler of a nation, I believe that we see obedience as an absolute. You cannot disobey a president, or king. These attitudes were the same hundreds of years ago. Shakespeare and Machiavelli were both great writers of their times. Their works have passed the test of the years and are still viewed as valuable today. Machiavelli believed that obedience to a ruler was only called for when the ruler's interests were in tune with those of the people as well. Shakespeare, on the other hand, had a different view. He saw that obedience to a king was an absolute. This meant that even if the ruler was wrong, or doing evil, it was the duty of the subjects to obey that ruler.

Shakespeare lived in a time where the feudal system was the most common form of governing order. The structure of this system was simple. A "citizen  was always a subordinate of another "citizen  save for the king who was, of course, the supreme ruler. If such a system was to function properly it was imperative that all subordinates obey their superiors. So we can state that the rule of absolute obedience expands to include not only obedience to the king, but also obedience of any person to another person higher up in the "ranks.  This is portrayed clearly in Shakespeare's plays.

In looking at only two of Shakespeare's works, Hamlet and Othello, one can note how elements of the governmental structure are presented

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