Was there an actual Macbeth?



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Shakespeare took the skeletal outline of Macbeth from Holinshed's Chronicles and these historical annals do record that Scotland was ruled by a King Macbeth between 1034 and 1037 AD and that he succeeded to the throne after the assassination of King Duncan. But Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy is substantially different from the account given in Holinshed. Three discrepancies stand out in this regard. First, in Holinshed's history, Banquo is a co-conspirator who connived with Macbeth to murder the king. Second, according to the historical account, Duncan was not a mature, strong king who is unjustly slain; he is, instead, a weak-willed young man unequal to the task of governing his realm. Third, although Holinshed's Macbeth was married, the character of Lady Macbeth as an active participant in the evil deeds committed by Macbeth is entirely Shakespeare's creation.

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