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What do "Thane of Glamis" or "Thane of Cawdor" mean in Macbeth?

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jaanaa | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted September 24, 2012 at 2:07 PM via web

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What do "Thane of Glamis" or "Thane of Cawdor" mean in Macbeth?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 24, 2012 at 4:02 PM (Answer #1)

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*Original question has been edited down to a single question (per eNotes policy).

In Act I, scene three, the witches' wait for Banquo and Macbeth in order to make their cunning predictions concerning the two men. When Macbeth approaches, three different witches address him by three distinct titles: Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and "Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!" (I.iii.52)

Of course, these are titles that represent a feudal position in King Duncan's kingdom.  A 'thane' is another word for a high ranking nobleman like a Baron.  Macbeth is already Thane of Glamis, but when the witches also name him as being Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth reveals his surprise at the witches' prediction:

"By Sinel's death I know I am Thane of Glamis;
But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives,(75)
A prosperous gentleman; and to be King
Stands not within the prospect of belief,
No more than to be Cawdor" (I.iii.74-78).

In this scene, Macbeth eagerly accepts the witches' lofty predictions, hoping that indeed they will come true. 

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