Macbeth: an Embellished History! Part 1


If someone were to ask you if you knew the story of Macbeth, you might think someone was insulting your intelligence, but the real story has been obscured by the riveting rendition by the Bard. Historically Macbeth’s wife actually had a reasonable claim to the throne as her grandfather had been King. Her grandfather, King Kenneth III, was killed by King Duncan’s grandfather in battle, and the Moray’s {Macbeth’s family line} had an inveterate rivalry with the Scottish Kings. Historically, King Duncan was not killed during an overnight sojourn with Macbeth but at the Battle of Pitgaveny. Shakespeare may have borrowed the idea of a lavish banquet coupled with an impending act of treachery from a legend regarding a golden apple and the Scottish King Kenneth II. It goes something like this: a highborn woman’s son had been sentenced to death by the King; and because her son had justly deserved this punishment, the King didn’t suspect she would seek retaliation on him. But this was a malicious and vindictive woman who had in fact helped her son commit the murder which he was being sentenced for; moreover, another reason the King didn’t suspect any complicity on the mother’s part was because the crime was actually the murder of this woman’s own father (the young man’s grandfather). After the King carries out this sentence on her son, she then invites this King to visit her own dwelling for an extremely lavish banquet [perhaps flattering him for his Virtuous Justice]. Knowing the King’s taste for magnificence, after the end of this great feast, she leads him to an adjoining room glazed in copper, with flowers, marvelous imported furniture, rich tapestries interwoven with gold, and also a majestic bronze statue of the very King himself holding a glimmering gem-laden golden apple. They stood in front of the statue admiring all of its intricate detail until she told him that the golden apple was a gift for him. She walks away at this point pretending to admire a tapestry in the corner; and he, brimming with joy and gloating over his lavish gift, takes the glimmering apple into his hand…and BOOM! It sets off a hidden contraption she had built into the statue, imparting multiple lethal wounds all over his body. Her retribution for her son is satisfied. Shakespeare chooses to make the Macbeths’ motive for murder ambition rather than revenge, yet by incorporating the device of offering hospitality as an accomplice to one’s odious intentions, he emphasizes the theme of deception, a recurring theme in the tragedies. After Macbeth’s death in 1057, it was actually his wife’s son Lulach {his stepson} that inherited the crown, but because he was ambushed shortly thereafter by Malcolm, who was then coronated and reigned for over thirty years, Shakespeare chose to excise that detail. Although Shakespeare paints Macbeth’s reign as brief and full of strife, his time as King was primarily stable, and the lengthy seventeen year reign he enjoyed should not be abridged from his life’s story. Reserved for Kings held in high regard, he was buried in the anointed ground of Iona.

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