Holinshed's Influence On Macbeth

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Published in 1577, Rapheal Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland was the key source for William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The framework of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ originated from Holinshed’s account of King Duncan and Macbeth, but he changed facts to fit the social and political context of Shakespeare’s time, and to craft dynamic characters instead of static. Several intentions were behind Shakespeare’s modifications, but they served three key purposes; Dramatic; Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a more exhilarating story than Holinshed’s Chronicles, Thematic; Shakespeare creates a multifaceted portrayal of Macbeth. Politically, the play caters to the philosophies of King James the first, governing monarch. Furthermore, Shakespeare’s…show more content…
Macbeth is presented as a gallant nobleman in The Chronicles, similar to Shakespeare’s noble Macbeth, whom King Duncan sends to destroy the rebellion steered by the Thane of Cawdor. The role of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the death of Holinshed’s Mackdonwald is modified for Macbeth to be heroic. “Macbeth found the carcasse of Mackdonwald lying dead amongst the residue of the slain bodies, he caused the head to be cut off (Chronicles 264).”

In contrast, Shakespeare’s Macbeth does not merely find the body of Thane of Cawdor, but intrepidly slays him during the battle to elevate Macbeth as a hero. “For brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name,with his brandish’d steel,Which smok’d with bloody execution, ( I.ii.15-23)”.

It is vital that the audience is aware of Macbeth’s strengths early in the play, because it evolves Macbeth as a tragic hero when the audience witness Macbeth’s downfall, instigated by the witches and Lady Macbeth.
Macbeth is seen as intelligent and kindhearted by Lady Macbeth who illuminates Macbeth’s personality" too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness/Thou wouldst be great (1.v.15-19)”.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth experiences immense feelings of guilt for his role in the murder of King Duncan, which derived from The Chronicles. Holinshed describes King Kenneth who experiences a guilt ridden conscience, once the slaughtering of his nephew takes
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“Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep nomore!Macbeth doth murther… shall sleep no more! (II.ii.32-41)”. This reveals his guilt-ridden conscience.

Shakespeare portrayed Macbeth as a kindhearted man for a dramatic effect which relates to social context. Holinshed portrayed a static character, evident by the lackluster details about Macbeth’s role in Mackdonwald’s murder, would not excite his audience at the Globe Theatre. Macbeth’s personality as a dynamic character changes throughout the play as opposed to a static character like Lady Macbeth, whose fixed goal is to kill King Duncan. A dynamic character allows Shakespeare to create a tragic hero, since Macbeth is of noble birth, goodwilled and transitions to evil natured and faces his downfall.

The alterations Shakespeare makes for King Duncan and the events that surround his demise, reveals Shakespeare’s feelings regarding the monarchy, which serves dramatic and thematic purposes. These changes exemplify Duncan’s kingly virtues and underlines the calamitous ramifications for slaying the monarch. Shakespeare’s Duncan is an esteemed ruler and thus, starkly different from Holinshed’s Duncan. Macbeth brings out Duncan’s excellence, “Hath borne his faculties so meek, Will plead like angles…

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