The Real Macbeth

Say Macbeth and the first thing that comes to mind is probably the play by the famous playwright, William Shakespeare. This classic story has become a mainstay of high school English literature classes around the world. However, few people realize that there was a real king Macbeth who lived long before the Shakespearean character evolved. In fact, the only verity of historical truth in the play is King Duncans death at the hand of Macbeth. The real Macbeth was not exactly as weak and unsuccessful as Shakespeare portrayed him. The real Macbeth had reasons for murdering

Duncan, had a successful sovereignty, and had a very different defeat. The real Macbeth was born a grandson of King Kenneth II who ruled from 971-995. His father was Finlay McRory who was a Mormaer (lord) of Moray. His mothers name was Donada but it is unknown whether she was the daughter of King Kenneth II, Kenneth III, or Malcolm II. He married Grauch (Lady Macbeth), a descendant of King Kenneth III, who ruled from 997-1005. Lady Macbeth already had a son, Lulach, by a first marriage to another Mormaer of Moray. Becoming king in eleventh century Scotland was not strictly hereditary.

There was a practice called thanistry. This meant that nobleman chose kings from a large selection of possible kings called thanes. In theory, thanistry should have worked. But in practice, what often happened was that the strongest and most cunning of the thanists would rise to power. As a result, the best person did not necessarily become king because thanistry encourage open conflict as well as the assassination or reigning kings and other thanes (Scotland 4). But, the real Macbeths murder of King Duncan I in 1040 in a battle, was seen more as a good move than as a catastrophe.

Duncans rule in Scotland was not the golden age as described in Shakespeares Macbeth. In truth, Duncan was described by Arthur M. Gunn as an impetuous and spoiled young man whose six years of kingship brought glory neither to Scotland nor his family. (Famous Scots 2) This differed from the public fury that was scene in Shakespeares Macbeth when innocent King Duncan was murdered in his sleep. Unlike, the Shakespeare Macbeth, the real Macbeth was a powerful and successful king who ruled for seventeen years. He had enough power to leave on an expedition to Rome in 1050 and then return to reign seven more years.

That was a emarkable achievement in those times. Contrasting, Shakespeares Macbeth had a very unsuccessful monarchy. He is so caught up in his guilt that he doesnt have time to sovereign let alone sleep. He hasnt been a king for a long time but already he knows that his days are numbered. I have lived long enough. My way of life is falln into the sere, the yellow leaf… (The New Folger Edition 171). In 1054, Malcolm III, son of Duncan I, and Earl Siward of Northumbria, pursued revenge and defeated Macbeth at Dunsinane. But, they did not dethrone or kill him. Macbeth ruled for another three years.

This is very different from Shakespeares play where a different character named Macduff battles against Macbeth. Ultimately, Macbeth is killed by Macduff during their fight for revenge which ends Macbeth’s tragic life as king. Although the real Macbeth was defeated permanently in a second invasion in 1057 on August 15 at Lumphanan, near Aberdeen. He was killed by Malcolm III and Earl Siward of Northumbria. Unlike Shakespeares Macbeth, the real Macbeth wasnt beheaded but rather buried on the island of Iona with many other royal predecessors . Macbeths stepson Lulach, nicknamed The Fool, initially became king upon his stepfathers defeat.

He was the first monarch to be crowned at Scone but he was defeated and killed by Malcolm III within a few months. Malcolm III officially succeeded Lulach as king on March 17, 1058. In conclusion the real Macbeth is not exactly like his Shakespeare twin. Although Shakespeare based his play on the actual King Macbeth, it is conceived that he had financial and political motivation to change some of the historical facts for his play. He probably wanted it to be more dramatic for his audience as well. In order for him to receive payment for his writing it was necessary for him to impress King James I. (Legends, 2).

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