Macbeth is promoted from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor.  What does a thane do? Why was it a promotion?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The position of thane in Scotland at the time of the setting of the play was a position of honor. The role of a thane was to serve the king, most usually in terms of military service. A thane fought for his king.

A thane was one who had been granted land by the king in recognition and appreciation of his loyalty and service. This grant of land and rights to the castle upon it represented wealth as well as honor.

At the beginning of The Tragedy of Macbeth, Macbeth is Thane of Glamis. He is a general who fights valiantly for King Duncan in the Scottish war against Norway. When news of Macbeth's feats of exceptional bravery and military prowess reached Duncan, the King rewards Macbeth by naming him Thane of Cawdor, in addition to his being the Thane of Glamis. The Thane of Cawdor had committed treason against King Duncan and had been executed; thus, his lands and castle were given to Macbeth.

When Macbeth became Thane of Cawdor, he remained Thane of Glamis, also. This gave him even more honor, land, and wealth. Being named Thane of Cawdor wasn't really a promotion. It was an additional reward Macbeth had been given by King Duncan.

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