Duncan and also MacBeth – well known names many thanks to Shakespeare and the Scottish Play, ‘Macbeth’. However how historically precise is Shakespeare’s story, if in ~ all?

For centuries, the clans had been waging battle on every other. Viking warriors had been raiding the coasts of Scotland. King Malcolm that Scotia, king the the Scots and also Picts, routed the angles of Lothian in the fight of Carham in 1018 and also became the most powerful man in Scotland.

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When King Owen that the Britons of Strathclyde passed away later that year without issue, Duncan (Malcolm’s grandson) became the rightful heir through marriage. Malcolm was thus able to hold together the four Kingdoms the Scotland under one throne. Scotland in the early on 11th century had actually finally end up being a single nation.

Duncan – King the Scotland 1034 – 40

Duncan came to be King of Scotland top top the fatality of Malcolm in 1034. He to be a much weaker character than Malcolm and a terrible leader. That led a disastrous project into Northumbria and also was compelled to retreat ignominiously back to Scotland.

His cousin MacBeth, cook of the northern Scots, additionally had a claim to the throne through his mother. MacBeth created an alliance with his cousin the Earl of Orkney, and they defeated and also killed Duncan close to Elgin in 1040.

MacBeth – King that Scotland 1040 – 57

Mac Bethad mac Findláich or MacBeth together he is well-known in English, the Mormaer the Moray, declared the throne on his own behalf and also that the his wife Grauch, and after the death of Duncan made self king in his place. Respected for his solid leadership qualities, MacBeth was a wise king that ruled properly for 17 years. He stayed in a strengthened castle at Dunsinane north of Perth. His rule was secure enough for him to go on a trip to Rome in 1050. But the peace was not to last: Duncan’s boy Malcolm had fled come Northumbria ~ the loss of his father and had never offered up his case to the throne. In 1054 with the support of Earl Siward, that led an army against MacBeth, beating him in ~ the battle of Dunsinnan. MacBeth continued to be king, restoring Malcolm’s lands come him. But in 1057 in ~ Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire ~ above 15th August, MacBeth was lastly defeated and also killed and Malcolm ended up being King.

Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’

Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, written nearly 400 year ago, is widely welcomed as one of his good tragedies and also rated together ‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’ and also ‘Julius Caesar’. But how historically exactly is it?

It is generally embraced that Shakespeare composed the beat sometime between 1604 and 1606, as soon as there was a new king top top the throne, King James I and also VI of Scotland. Shakespeare would certainly have obtained approval because that a Scottish play from the new King. Specifically one with witches in it, because that it was famed that the King to be interested in witches, witchcraft and also the mythological (in 1597 James had actually written a publication on spirits and also witchcraft dubbed ‘Daemononlogie’).

Shakespeare shows up to on purpose mix fact and also fiction in the play. Apparently using Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles that England, Scotland and Ireland’ (1587) as his source, Shakespeare set the fight between Duncan and MacBeth in 1040 at Birnam Hill in Perthshire, rather than close to Elgin wherein it in reality took place. In the beat MacBeth die at Dunsinane conversely, in truth it was at Lumphanan wherein he was defeated and killed in 1057.

Shakespeare’s beat takes location over a year vice versa, in reality, MacBeth ruled for 17 years.


Charles Kean and also his wife as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, in costumes aiming to it is in historically specific (1858)

As for the personalities of the two main characters, Duncan and MacBeth, again Shakespeare’s portrayal is no historically correct. In the pat Duncan is shown as a strong, wise and also elderly king vice versa, in truth he was a young, weak and ineffective ruler. Shakespeare’s Macbeth has virtually no legitimate claim to the throne vice versa, the actual MacBeth had actually a respectable case through his mother’s side – indeed both MacBeth and also his mam were descended from Kenneth MacAlpin. Shakespeare also gives MacBeth the location ‘Thane of Glamis’ however in fact Glamis was not known as a thanage in the 11th century.

In Shakespeare’s play, MacBeth’s girlfriend Banquo is presented as a noble and also loyal man, resisting evil, a contrast to the personality of Macbeth. In Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles’ however, Banquo is displayed as exactly the opposite: the is one accomplice in MacBeth’s killing of Duncan. The new king, James I and VI of Scotland, asserted ancestry native Banquo v the Stewart line of kings. To have shown Banquo together a murderer of kings would not have actually pleased James! undoubtedly there is debate regarding whether or not Banquo in reality existed at all in history.

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All in all, the confuse mix the fact and fiction i m sorry runs v the play is bewildering.

However it has to be asked – who, exterior of Scotland, would have actually heard that these two Scottish kings had actually it no been for Shakespeare and also the ‘Scottish Play’?