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Macbeth was one of William Shakespeare’s finest plays. Although many people have read Macbeth, not many people know that King Macbeth of Scotland actually existed and what influenced Shakespeare to write about him. English culture and society as well as the historical figure Macbeth impacted Shakespeare’s infamous play.
The historical King Macbeth reigned in Scotland for 17 years from 1040-1057. He had a wife named Coruoch and a stepson named Luloch. Although Macbeth did kill Duncan, he was not the gentle king as described in Macbeth. Killing a king was not uncommon at this time as, Macbeth’s 7-9 predecessors were killed as well. In 1050, Macbeth went on a religious pilgrimage to Rome to seek absolution for Duncan’s death. Unlike Macbeth, Malcolm (rather than Macduff) killed the historical Macbeth. Luloch, known as the “Idiot,” reigned for five months after Macbeth’s death until Malcom overthrew him. Although there are differences between Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the historical figure Macbeth, it is obvious that Shakespeare based his character on this Scottish king.
The person who influenced Shakespeare to write Macbeth was King James I of England, who reigned from 1566 to 1625. King James, who was also known as King James 6 of Scotland, succeeded the throne of Queen Elizabeth. James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was known as a tragic queen since she killed James father. At age sixteen, rivals kidnapped James and at age 20, James’ mother was executed. King James was intellectual, scholarly, and an “insatiable curiost.” His ideal of heaven was the Oxford Library. In 1584, while he was only 18 years old, James wrote Essays of Apprentice in Fine Arts of Poetry. He discussed a new translation of the bible, The Authorized Version, which is the most popular bible today. James also wrote in defense of the Divine Right of Kings- that kings were chosen by God, but they must rule well. King James succeeded in ruling an authoritarian government, but he ruled no better than today’s democratic governments. He was known as the wisest fool in Christendom. James was also eager for social reform. He wrote A Counterblast to Tobacco, which is much like the anti-smoking campaigns of modern times. When Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, he was obviously aware of James concern with witchcraft. King James wrote the Daemonologie, an account of his experiences with witchcraft. Once a witch tried to melt James’ image in wax, and another witch tried to poison him with toad venom. James is skeptical of witchcraft, but does not dismiss it. One significant event during King James’ reign was the gunpowder plot. A party of Christian zealots attempted to blow up Parliament. Henry Garnet, a Jesuit, knew of the plot but lied under questioning sine he thought it was justifiable to conceal the truth. James resented this, and many people sympathized with him.
The writing of Macbeth was aimed at the head of King James. James was Scottish, like Macbeth, and enjoyed the play. Shakespeare and his actors were known as the “King’s Men” and Grooms of the Chamber. They received increased pay and production time. King James found an ancestor in Banquo and believed that man could ally himself with evil, but cannot create it. Macbeth emphasized the savagery of Scotland, which was all too real for James, who knew the throne of Scotland was worth struggling for. It was King James who conceived the term “Great Britain” when he united England and Scotland.
Macbeth was deliberately written for King James I, who influenced many factors of the play. While Macbeth was a real king, Shakespeare intertwined the history of Macbeth with events of King James’ life to create this masterpiece.
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Characters in Macbeth, Fiction, English-language films, Literature, Film, British films, Regicides, House of Moray, Macbeth, Banquo, Macduff, Daemonologie
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