Macbeth vs. Macbeth

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

2swords

William Shakespeare based the titular character of his–some might say spookiest– play on an actual figure from Scottish history. However, he took some creative license in his portrayal of the king, changing some facts and traits to make the story more compelling to his audience. Let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences between Mac Bethad mac Findlaich (the real Macbeth) and Shakespeare’s character:

King Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Becomes king after defeating King Duncan I in battle Murders to become king
Must protect his kingdom from outside attacks Murders more to protect his throne
Well-liked king who promoted Christianity and had peace for many years Dangerous, impulsive leader
Killed in battle by Malcolm III Killed in battle by Macduff
No evidence of witchcraft in his rule Consulted witches multiple times to secure throne

As you can see, Shakespeare went for more of a dramatic effect when writing this character, rather than aiming for accuracy. Other than for entertainment purposes, why do you think he did that? What do you learn from his Macbeth that you might not from the real one? When you see the show, what else do you notice about Macbeth? Do you think he mirrors his historical counterpart well, or no?

 

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