The exercise of authority

What makes a good ruler? 

The question of what makes a good ruler is debated through many of Shakespeare’s plays. In Act IV of Macbeth, Malcolm lists the virtues appropriate to a king as:
‘Justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude.’     
  • Leadership in battle is important; Othello is seen as a good new governor for Cyprus because of his warlike qualities
  • Judgement of character is also important; Othello, though ‘noble’, is open to criticism for his choice of deputy, who supposedly has a problem with alcohol. This is shown much more starkly when Othello fails to perceive Iago’s evil motives through his naivety and gullibility and so causes the play’s tragedy.
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