Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Jacob Sider Jost




This paper examines William Shakespeare's Richard III, Richard II, and Macbeth, focusing particularly on the patterns of usurpation, regicide, and tyrannicide that exist within them. Each case study attempts to situate the play within its historical context, both that of the source material, and that of the contemporary political environment in which Shakespeare was writing. By applying the sociologist Max Weber's theories of leadership authority as presented in Economy and Society and "Politics as a Vocation" to each play, we can see that a tension between charismatic authority and traditional authority is being explored. Some of the figures in these plays, such as Richard II and Richard III represent traditional authority, while others, such as Richmond and Bolingbroke, represent charismatic authority. At the end of each play, a different type of ruler is being upheld. The goal of this study is to show that ultimately, the ideal ruler is one who has a dual claim of both charismatic and traditional authority, as embodied by figures such as Henry V and Malcolm. Finally, when we look at these three plays chronologically, we can see an acceleration and condensation of the processes which culminate in this idealized dynastic-charismatic ruler.