Is Macbeth a true story?

No, Macbeth is not a true story. While many of the characters of Shakespeare’s tragic play were real people, historians agree that the plot of the play bears little resemblance to historical reality.

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Shakespeare’s tragedyMacbeth is not itself a true story, but many of the figures and events in the play are rooted in real history. The historical Macbeth was a Scottish warlord who lived from 1004 to 1057.

Macbeth became king of Scotland in 1040 after killing the ruling King Duncan ...

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Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth is not itself a true story, but many of the figures and events in the play are rooted in real history. The historical Macbeth was a Scottish warlord who lived from 1004 to 1057.

Macbeth became king of Scotland in 1040 after killing the ruling King Duncan I in battle. After three years of consolidating his power and fighting rivals for control of Scotland, Macbeth reigned as the Scottish king for fourteen more years. By most accounts, Scotland seems to have thrived under Macbeth’s rule, which was largely peaceful—a stark contrast to his bloody and tyrannical reign in Shakespeare's play. Macbeth was a major proponent of Christianity and even visited Rome to receive a papal blessing. He was killed defending his kingdom against attacks from the English earl Malcolm, who would later become King Malcolm III.

Although this history is now well-known, Shakespeare did not have access to the wide variety of highly vetted historical sources we can access today. Shakespeare’s primary source as he wrote Macbeth was Holindshed’s Chronicles, a sweeping and sensationalized history of the British Isles published in 1577 that was wildly popular in Shakespeare’s time. Holinshed’s account of Macbeth is of dubious historical accuracy; for example, the three witches included in Shakespeare's play were first introduced Holindshed’s version of the story.

Beyond his reliance on questionable sources, Shakespeare was simply more interested in telling a good and engaging story than in penning a fully accurate historical play. Shakespeare changed characters, altered plot lines, and added dramatic nuances to bring life and drama to historical events. Ultimately, the reason most people have heard the name Macbeth isn’t because of his historical significance of the Scottish king; it’s because of the haunting character created by Shakespeare.

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