Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How would you defend Macbeth in a trial against the crime of being a murderer, tyrant and usurper?

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First, we should establish who we mean by Macbeth. If we are referring to the historical figure who was King of Scotland from 1040 to 1057, then the defense is easy. There is no good evidence that Macbeth was a murderer, a tyrant or a usurper. He seems to have been a good king by the standards of his time and he, or his troops, killed Duncan honorably in battle when Duncan invaded Macbeth's territory. Our defense is that Macbeth was grossly defamed by Shakespeare, Holinshed and numerous other sources; no crimes can be proved against him. We should probably also sue Shakespeare and his sources for libel.

If we are referring only to the character in Shakespeare's play, however, we would have to defend him against his murder of Duncan, and his suborning the murders of Banquo, Lady Macduff , and her children (we do not know exactly how many children, but Macduff refers to "all my pretty chickens," which suggests at least three). Tyranny and usurpation are less precise charges than murder, and will...

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