When and where was Lady Macbeth born?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Regarding the character of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, strictly speaking, her birth year and location are never revealed in the play. We can assume that she was born in Scotland, and she is believed by some to be based, in small part, on the real-life wife of King Macbeth of Scotland who lived in the eleventh century BCE. This woman's name was Gruoch ingen Boite, and the exact years during which she lived are not known, but Macbeth reigned from 1040 to 1057.

However, Shakespeare would have been familiar with a history of England called Hollinshed's Chronicles, and that text includes references to two women that inform his character of his Lady Macbeth. In Hollinshed's account of a King Duff, Donwald, a captain, is goaded into killing Duff by his wife. Further, in the account of King Duncan, the Weird Sisters are mentioned as having some effect on Macbeth, though his wife had a far greater influence on his decision to murder Duncan.

Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, then, is a composite of these characters with a great deal of fiction thrown in, and because her real-life counterparts lived so long ago, it is difficult to know much detail about their lives. Because Shakespeare includes so little detail about Lady Macbeth in the play, we cannot know her background information with certainty.