Although most of Shakespeare’s play ” MacBeth ” is not historically accurate, 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 “MacBeth ” 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.
As 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 Scotland 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.
MacBeth 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 1100. 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.