Shakespeare's Macbeth-Changes In The Name Of History

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Changes In The Name of History: An Exploration Into The Historical Characters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, turned what people knew as Scottish history into a powerful act of betrayal; a madman murdering a good king out of greed. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth for reigning king of England, King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) who had a strong belief in all things dark and supernatural, like witches. Macbeth includes multiple historical characters, all previous kings of Scotland; but why? Shakespeare uses the characters King Duncan, King Macbeth, and King Malcolm to explore the royalty of Scotland throughout time and to appease the king with a dark story about history.
Macbeth begins with King Duncan on
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In the play, he is a military general with no hope for the throne other than what the Weird Sisters acknowledge as his fate. “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” ( Shakespeare 1.3.53). They say he will be king, but do not say how. However, the Macbeth of Scottish history was a recognized Duke for Duncan I with a legitimate claim to the throne through his mother’s bloodline. He did kill Duncan, but only as a result of forming an alliance with his cousin the Earl of Orkney, and defeating Duncan in 1040; not by stabbing the man in his sleep. The real Macbeth was not a madman. He was respected for his strong leadership qualities and ruled successfully for 17 years in the same place they play is set, Dunsinane. He was known as a wise king before being defeated at the battle of Dunsinnan in 1054 by Malcolm III. Macbeth’s step-son was next to the throne, but Malcolm III defeated him…show more content…
Historically, Duncan I’s son, Malcolm III, took the throne after Macbeth’s stepson and rules Scotland from 1058 - 1093. Following his father’s murder, Malcolm III was forced to seek safety in the the court of his mother’s relatives. They later aided him in slaying Macbeth at the Battle of Lumphanan. Lulach, Macbeth's stepson, succeeded to the throne briefly before he too died at Malcolm's hands in 1058. With the death of Lulach, Malcolm became King of Scots.
The reigning king of the time, King James I had written two books on Divine Right, one, Basilikon Doron, for the edification of his son Prince Henry (1594-1612) and the other, The True Law of Free Monarchies , was a simple explanation of his theories for the general literate public. In these books he details some traits he expects of divine kings. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Malcolm is a perfect example of these traits expected by the King. Not only would this appease King James, but it restored a fictional good and rightness after useless Duncan I’s

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