Play is based loosely on an episode from history, the death
of King Duncan at the hands of his kinsman Macbeth.
"King Malcolm II ... reigned from 1005 to 1034 and was the
last king in the direct male line to descend from Kenneth MacAlpine,
who united the Scots and Picts
in 843 A.D. and is considered the founder of Scotland.
One of Malcolm's three daughters, Bethoc,
married Crinan, the secular hereditary Abbot of Dunkeld. Through her,
the Abbot's son [Duncan] was installed
by Malcolm as the King of Cumbria in 1018. After Malcolm II's murder
by his nobles at Glamis,
Duncan killed his opponents and seized the throne as King Duncan I.
His first cousins, Macbeth (of Shakespearian fame) and Thorfinn the Raven Feeder,
Norwegian Earl of Orkney, united to advance
MacBeth's claim to the throne through his mother,
another daughter of Malcolm II. Duncan reigned
from 1034 until he was defeated in battle by their
combined armies and killed by MacBeth in August
1040 at Elgin. Scotland was then ruled by Thorfinn in the northern
districts and MacBeth in the southern districts." --
James E. Fargo, FSA Scot.,
Clan Donnachaidh History.
Shakespeare's immediate source for his story is
Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland
is extracted from Allardyce and Josephine Nicoll's Holinshed's Chronicle as
Used in Shakespeare's Plays (1927).
Holinshed's Chronicles , a digital facsimile of
selected text and woodcut illustrations from the 1577 edition of
Holinshed's Chronicles of England,
Scotland and Ireland at the Center for Elctronic Text and Image at the
University of Pennsylvania Library; includes the passages on
Macbeth and Thorfinn
In researching Macbeth for her novel, King Hereafter,
Dorothy Dunnett concluded that Macbeth and Thorfinn Earl of Orkney were one and the
same, "Macbeth" being a baptismal name, but that research
has never been published. What is certain is that early
Annals and Scottish Regnal lists call Macbeth the son of
Findlaech; and Thorfinn surely succeeded Sigurd "the Corpulent"
as Earl of Orkney.
Beyond that, stories conflict. Macbeth and Thorfinn are variously allies,
antagonists, and half-brothers (not that these are mutually exclusive
in medieval Scotland!).
The wife of Macbeth is called "Gruoch" or "Grauch" in
the genealogies. She was the granddaughter of Kenneth III, and
by her first husband Gillacomgan, the
mother of Lulach, who succeeded Macbeth as King of Scots for
four months in 1057-1058.
After the defeat of Macbeth and Thorfinn, Duncan's brother Malcolm
(later Malcolm III Canmore) may have married Ingibiorg, the widow of
Thorfinn (or was it Gruoch, widow of Macbeth?) as his first wife.
Macbeth, a hyperlinked
history at Scotland's Past.
on the historical Macbeth by Michael Davidson of
Bates University are in the database of the "Mediev-L" discussion list.
Scottish Origins up to William Wallace by Robert M. Gunn
tells a story of Macbeth and Thorfinn as allies
in Chapters 3 and
General History of the Highlands: Macbeth through to Malcolm III 1093
at Electric Scotland.
as hypertext, at MIT.
Macbeth, from Shakespeare and the Globe:
Then and Now at the Encylcopedia Britannica Online.
To Strut and Fret
Upon the Stage: A Theatrical Interpretation of Sources for Macbeth ,
an essay by Joseph "Chepe" Lockett.
Angels and Ministers of Grace: Theatrical Superstitions Through the Ages
by Kristen McDermott, from the Journal of Mythic Arts: Winter 2005. New URL.
Notes on the Illustrations ·
6 March 2005