Spurred by the prophecies of three witches and the ambitions of his scheming wife, the Scottish noble Macbeth plots the death of his lord King Duncan in William Shakespeare's famous tragedy. Although Macbeth has fought loyally for Duncan and has saved Scotland from a dangerous rebellion, his desire for power overcomes his sacred feudal obligations to the king. Macbeth welcomes Duncan to Macbeth's castle of Inverness; that night, as Duncan sleeps, Macbeth steals into the king's chamber and stabs him to death with a dagger. When the dead king is discovered the next day, Macbeth blames the killing on Duncan's two pages and conveniently kills them as well. Convinced that Macbeth has done the honorable thing, the lords of Scotland accept him as the new king.
Based on English chronicles, Shakespeare's play rewrites the story of Duncan and Macbeth for dramatic effect. The historical Duncan was a young and inexeperienced Scottish king; he reigned in the eleventh century over a chaotic country where lords battled for supremacy and foreign invasions posed a constant threat. Historians believe the real Macbeth, who bore the title of "dux" or duke, held authority at least equal to that of the king. In 1040, Duncan led an attack on Northumbria, in the north of England, suffering a disastrous defeat. In August of that year he raided Macbeth's domain at Moray, and was killed in battle by his own army, which fought against the king under Macbeth's leadership. After this event, Macbeth was accepted as the new king by the lords of Scotland; his reign lasted until his death in battle against the future king Malcolm III in 1057.