MacBeth, King of Scots – not quite what Shakespeare portrayed!

On October 2nd, a new film version of Shakespeare’s MacBeth is released. Undoubtedly Shakespeare’s work is an outstanding piece of theatre. But how closely does it follow the historical MacBeth’s reign? Not very closely as it turns out. In fact, there is not a huge amount known about MacBeth despite his reign encompassing seventeen years, a pilgrimage to Rome, and being alongside a critical piece of English history; the build-up to the Norman Conquest.

I have put together this article to explore what we really know about MacBeth, and investigate some of the possibilities that the gaps in our knowledge raise. I have tried to clearly distinguish between fact, contemporary opinion, my own educated guesses, and speculative trains of thought, and to make the story reasonably coherent. It is intended for the interested non-professional, so don’t expect extensive footnotes and references, because I haven’t put them in! I will in time produce a fully illustrated version of this, but as my time is at a premium at the moment, I wanted to get the article out there for you to read at about the same time as the film. I hope that you enjoy it and that it inspires you to look into this fascinating and formative period of Scottish history, and an individual I believe was one of the most important of its early Kings.

Click the link below to download the pdf.
MacBeth King of Scotland