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Macbeth

Macbeth

Macbeth (died 1057) was king of Scotland from 1040 to 1057. Although he is best known through the Shakespearean drama bearing his name, his historical importance lies in the fact that he was the last Celtic king of Scotland.

The career of Macbeth is hidden in obscurity, but certain facts make it clear that Shakespeare's portrayal of the character of the man is at marked variance with reality. Macbeth was a person of great importance before he became king. As holder of the office of mormaer of Moray by virtue of inheritance from his father, he was a district chieftain and one of a handful of the most important men of the realm. His own ancestry could be traced back to royalty, and he was cousin to Duncan I (reigned 1034-1040), whom he served as commander of the royal army. His wife, Gruoch, was also descended from royalty. Macbeth came to represent opposition to the king at several points: in him northern and Celtic sentiments found a defender against southern and Saxon influences supported by Duncan; and Macbeth had personal claims to kingship in his own name and in that of his stepson, Lulach.

There was some question about the right of Duncan to be king since, as grandson of Malcolm II, he represented the first instance of the rule of primogeniture in the history of the Scottish crown. The usual principle of succession required that the crown pass to a collateral of the king, not to heirs of the direct line. As Macbeth pressed his claim, he had tradition on his side; he won the crown by slaying Duncan at Bothgowanan in 1040.

During Macbeth's reign there was only one native uprising, that led by Abbot Crinan, Duncan's father. The realm was peaceful enough for Macbeth to make a pilgrimage to Rome in 1050. An invasion from Northumberland in the name of Duncan's son, Malcolm (later, Malcolm III), was repulsed in 1054. A second invasion, in 1057, led by Malcolm was successful, and Macbeth fell in battle; but rather than accept the "Saxon" Malcolm, Macbeth's supporters took Lulach for their king. Within a few months LuIach was defeated, and Malcolm was able to inaugurate the Canmore dynasty.

This dynastic revolution seems to be the basis for the identification of Macbeth as a monster and usurper. When later Canmore kings fought Celtic forces of decentralization, they exalted their ancestor Duncan and developed a hostile vision of Macbeth, the last Celtic king, so as to discredit the Celtic cause. The first written picture of Macbeth in this new light came in the Scotichronicon of John of Fordun (ca. 1380). From this base the legend grew until it reached its fullest statement in the writing of Raphael Holinshed, the immediate source for Shakespeare.

Further Reading

William Henry Gregg, Controversial Issues in Scottish History (1910), contains a valuable chapter on Macbeth's place in the chronicles of Scotland and England. An excellent bibliography on the career of Macbeth is in William Croft Dickinson, A New History of Scotland (1965). A readable general account is in Gordon Donaldson, Scottish Kings (1967).

Additional Sources

Ellis, Peter Berresford, MacBeth, High King of Scotland, 1040-57AD, London: F. Muller, 1980. □

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Macbeth

Macbeth (d. 1057), king of Moray (1032–57) and king of ‘Scotland’ (1040–57). Macbeth's reputation as a tyrannous usurper is, of course, anachronistic. His career is none the less the stuff of drama. He lived during unprecedented uncertainty for both the kingship of Moray and the Scottish royal succession. Nevertheless, he became the only person from northern Scotland to rule the Scottish kingdom for more than a few months, and the only king of Scotland to visit Rome (in 1050) where, we are told, ‘he scattered money like seed to the poor’. He was also the first to bring Norman knights to Scotland. So strong was his position that he retained the Scottish throne in 1054, despite defeat at Dunsinnan (north of Perth).

Macbeth's family was riven by a feud that claimed the life of Macbeth's father in 1020, which Macbeth avenged in 1032 by burning his cousin Gille Comgáin, king of Moray. He married Gille Comgáin's widow Gruoch, perhaps in an attempt at reconciliation, but probably also because she belonged to the Scottish royal kindred. Macbeth, whose mother may have been a daughter of Malcolm II, only benefited from the opportunity afforded by the royal dynasty's extinction in 1034 when he killed Duncan I (probably) at Pitgaveny (near Elgin) in 1040. In 1045 he reached his zenith when he crushed Duncan's father. After Dunsinnan, however, he was forced to accept the return of Duncan's son Malcolm Canmore from exile, and in 1057 was killed at Lumphanan (west of Aberdeen) by Malcolm, probably in collusion with Gille Comgáin's son Lulach.

Dauvit Broun

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"Macbeth." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Macbeth

Macbeth.
1. Opera in 4 acts by Verdi, his 10th, to lib. by Piave (with additions by A. Maffei) based on Shakespeare's tragedy. Comp. 1846–7. Prod. Florence 1847, NY 1858, Manchester 1860. Rev. 1864–5 for Paris 1865 (in Fr. trans.), this version (in It.) now being generally used. Glyndebourne 1938 (cond. Fritz Busch). NY (44th St. Th.) 1941.

2. Sym.-poem Op.23 by R. Strauss, comp. 1887–8, rev. 1889–90, f.p. Weimar 1890 cond. Strauss.

3. Opera in prol. and 3 acts by Bloch to Fr. lib. by Edmond Fleg, after Shakespeare. Comp. 1903–9, prod. Paris 1910, Naples 1938, Cleveland 1957, Milan 1960, London (RFH) 1973.

4. Opera by L. Collingwood, lib. selected from Shakespeare. Prod. London 1934.

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Macbeth

Macbeth (măkbĕth´), d. 1057, king of Scotland (1040–57). He succeeded his father as governor of the province of Moray c.1031 and was a military commander for Duncan I. In 1040 he killed Duncan in battle and seized the throne. Possibly of royal descent himself, he acquired a direct claim to the throne through his wife, Gruoch; she was a granddaughter of Kenneth III, who had been overthrown by Duncan's ancestor Malcolm II. Macbeth represented northern elements in the population who were opposed to the ties with the Saxons advocated by Duncan. Macbeth was defeated in 1054 by Siward, earl of Northumbria, who regained the southern part of Scotland on behalf of Malcolm Canmore, Duncan's son. Malcolm himself regained the rest of the kingdom after defeating and killing Macbeth in the battle of Lumphanan. He then succeeded to the throne as Malcolm III. William Shakespeare's version of the story comes from the accounts of Raphael Holinshed and Hector Boece.

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"Macbeth." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Macbeth." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/macbeth

MacBeth, George

George MacBeth, 1932–92, Scottish poet, grad. Oxford, 1955. He was until 1976 a producer for the BBC. His best poetry, such as The Broken Places (1963), often treats violent subjects in a combination of fantasy and reality. He wrote with wit and vitality, blending an enthusiasm for many formal poetic forms and figures of speech with an exciting lack of restraint. Other volumes of poetry include A Form of Words (1954), The Colour of Blood (1967), Collected Poems (1972), and Shrapnel and A Poet's Year (1974).

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Macbeth

Macbeth (d.1057) King of Scotland (1040–57). In 1040, he killed Duncan I, his cousin, in battle and seized the throne. English intervention on behalf of Duncan's son (later Malcolm III Canmore) resulted in his defeat by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, at Dunsinane Hill, near Scone (1054). Macbeth fled north, and was eventually killed by Malcolm at Lumphanan. Shakespeare based his tragedy on a 16th-century history of the king.

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Macbeth

MacbethBeth, breath, death, Jerez, Macbeth, Seth •megadeath • Japheth • shibboleth

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