For the plot of Macbeth, Shakespeare relied on the Chronicles of Englande, Scotlande, and Ireland, a work of the English historian Raphael Holinshed. A contemporary of Shakespeare, Holinshed was one of several contributors to a comprehensive history of the world commissioned by the printer Reginald Wolfe; in 1587 appeared the second edition of this work, popularly known as Holinshed's Chronicles, which was used by Shakespeare as source material for his famous tragedy.
In his Chronicles, Holinshed describes the usurpation of the Scottish throne by Macbeth in the eleventh century, and the murder of Malcome Duff by Kenneth Donwald in 967. Although these historical events occurred nearly a century apart, Shakespeare compressed them in Macbeth into a single narrative line spanning a few months. Seeking out further background on the character and motivation of Macbeth, Shakespeare also drew on the Rerum Scoticarum Historia, by George Buchanan; literary historians have also found in Macbeth traces of the Discovery of Witchcraft, a work by Reginald Scott, and the Daemonologie, written by Shakespeare's patron King James I in 1599.