How Far Did William Shakespeare Manipulate Historical Facts For Dramatic Effect In Mac Beth?

1159 words - 5 pages

How far did William Shakespeare manipulate historical facts for dramatic effect in MacBeth? Although Shakespeare based his play MacBeth on "The Chronicles of Scottish History" by Rafaell Holinshed, he did not entirely follow the straight facts. Many scenes and characters were either invented or altered in some fashion. The point of this essay is to explain and differentiate the historical truths, and Shakespeare's input in this play. The play is actually based on two different events, according to Holinshed's Chronicles. The first event occurred in 967, when a man called Donwald murdered King Duff of Scotland. This was because King Duff murdered many nobles on the suspicions of witchcraft. Donwald, whose friends had been murdered, began to resent King Duff, and with the help of his wife, had the king murdered at Forres by his servants. Shakespeare took many ideas surrounding Duff's death, and added them to his play. The second event was when MacBeth seized the throne in 1040, after killing his cousin, King Duncan MacCrinan. The reason for this was because Duncan named his heir; his son Malcolm III. MacBeth, who envisioned himself as king, felt very upset. In 1039, Ducan, lead a war against the Norwegian Earl of Orkney. MacBeth, who was a commander in Duncan's army, joined forces with Thorfinn of Norway, and caused Duncan to be murdered at Bothgowan. Then through his wife, he managed to claim the throne, for she of royal descent. He reigned for 17 years, when Malcolm III, eldest son of Duncan, murdered MacBeth, and wore the crown for only a few months. The only fact in the entire play that can be accounted for as the total truth is that MacBeth murdered King Duncan. Shakespeare's interpretations of these two facts are totally wrong from a historical point of view. He could have believed that it would be more interesting for MacBeth personally to murder the king, and not hire servants as Donwald did, ""¦they gladlie obeied his instructions, & speedilie going about the murther , they enter the chamber (in which the king laie), a little before the cock crows, where they secretlie cut his throate"¦" (Holinshed's Chronicles) perhaps for dramtic effect, Shakespeare chose to have blood on MacBeth's hands, which made the audience realize how sinful the murder of Duncan was.Duncan's innocence is another point of contention between the Chronicles and the play. In Holinshed's Chronicles, it is stated that Duncan was a poor leader, ""¦but after it was perceiued how negligent he was in punishing offendors, manie misruled persons tooke occasion thereof to trouble the piece and quiet of the state"¦".(Holinshed's Chronicles) and so his murder was justifiable. This fact wasn't included in the play, instead Duncan was described by MacDuff as, "a most sainted king;" (Act IV, scene iii, line 109). MacBeth even describes him as such, "Duncan /Hathe borne his faculties so meek, hath been / So...

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