Historical Macbeth Compared To Shakespere

’s Macbeth Essay, Research Paper


Historical MacBeth compared to Shakespeare’s MacBeth

Although most of Shakespeare’s play ” MacBeth ” is not historically


MacBeth’s life is the subject of the tragedy. There are characters

and events

that are based on true events and real persons but, Shakespeare’s


” differs significantly from history’s MacBeth.

The first example of a difference

between the Shakespeare “MacBeth” and

historical MacBeth is the death of Duncan

I. In Shakespeare’s ” MacBeth “,

Duncan I was murdered by MacBeth. A prophecy

said to MacBeth by one of the

three witches “All hail, MacBeth, that shalt

be King hereafter1 .” was what

prompted Gruoch, MacBeth’s wife to plot the

murder of Duncan I as he slept

in their castle. In history, MacBeth established

himself as the King of

Scots after killing his cousin Duncan I, in battle near

Elgin not as in

Shakespeare’s play by killing him in his sleep. Duncan I was

killed on August

14, 1040. MacBeth then reigned as king for seventeen years.


previously stated Duncan I and MacBeth were cousins, a fact not

brought out

in the play. Shakespeare loosely based the play,” MacBeth ” on

events he found

in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and

Ireland. ” Raphael

Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland,

are the materials

that furnished Shakespeare with his plot2. The chronicles

were an account of

the history of the country of which they came from.

Another major difference,

is that Duncan I was not the ageing and

respected king Shakespeare makes him

out to be, In real life, Fiona Summerset

Fry author of History of


says ” He was actually an impetuous and spoilt young man whose six

years of

kingship brought glory neither to Scotland nor

to his family3.”

In the play’s

last scene, McDuff kills MacBeth and automatically becomes

the new King of

Scots. In actual history MacBeth is killed by Malcom III

but Lulach, MacBeth’s

stepson, becomes the king after the noblemen of Moray

fight for his succession.

Lulach reigned for seven months and was then

dethroned by Malcom III of Caenmore.


is presented in the play as clumsy and unorganised. In reality

though, he

was one of the best kings that Scotland ever had. ” During his

reign, he went

on a pilgrimage to Rome for several months4.” His kingdom was

in well enough

order and he was in high enough regard with his nobleman that

he could leave

for a long period of time. Another way you could tell that

MacBeth was a good

king because, ” He organized troops of men to patrol the

wilder countryside

and enforce some type of law and order5.” As far as

historians know, this was

the first type of law and order in Scotland before


Shakespeare had

financial and political motivation to change some of the

historical facts.

In order for him to receive payment for his writing it was

necessary for him

to impress King James I. Shakespeare also changed the name

of his acting company

to the ” Kings men,” because he wanted to establish

himself as a better writer.

He could do this by having the King’s influence.


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