What was the historical source for Macbeth? Did a person called Macbeth exist in real life? If so, how did his life differ from Shakespeare's play?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Yes, there really was a king of Scotland named Macbeth; however, Shakespeare's play does not present an accurate picture of the real King Macbeth.  Mac Bethand mac Findlaich was King of the Scots from 1040 to 1057.  Before Macbeth, there was a king named Duncan, and he was killed by Macbeth, but certainly not as described in Shakespeare's play--instead, the real Macbeth slew Duncan on the battlefield during a raid.  After Duncan's death, Macbeth became king and was unchallenged by others in the area.  During the later years of his reign, Macbeth got into a disagreement with England, and Scotland was raided by the English army, headed by Siward.  Macbeth did not survive this raid and was killed by Duncan's son, Malcolm III.