The Setting of Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide, a killing of a king to rise to power, and its outcomes. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book for a specific performance. Shakespeare's sources for the tragedy are the accounts of King Macbeth of Scotland, Macduff, and Duncan in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. However, the story of Macbeth as told by Shakespeare bears no relation to real events in Scottish history as Macbeth was an admired and able monarch.In the backstage world of theatre, some believe that the play is cursed, and will not mention its title aloud, referring to it instead by such names as "the Scottish play". Over the centuries, the play has attracted some of the greatest actors in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It has been adapted to film, television, opera, novels, comic books, and other media. The historical Macbeth had become king in the year 1040 when he killed the previous king, Duncan, in battle. To put this in a historical context, this isn’t the Middle Ages; it's still the Dark Ages. It is 26 years before the Norman invasion of England, which is generally considered to be the beginning of the medieval period in Britain. In 1040 Macbeth became king and ruled for 17 years until he was overthrown and killed by Duncan's son, who became King Malcolm III. Malcolm is famous primarily because he married an English princess named Margaret who was later made a saint.
Of the eight Scottish kings who ruled during this time, seven had died unnatural deaths, including several who burned to death until suspicious circumstances. It was highly unusual for a Scottish king to die of natural causes in bed. This violent record was largely the result of how Scottish kings came to power. There was no fixed process of succession from one king to the next. In effect, when an old king died every male who was related to the royal family, no matter how distant the relationship had an equal chance for the throne. It was a royal free-for-all with the last man standing getting to be the king until he was done in by the next ambitious claimant. Macbeth is overthrown in 1057, still nine years before the Norman French invasion of England under William the Conqueror. Two hundred years passes by. The Norman kings are on the throne of England. A succession of English kings and queens has tried to extend their power north into Scotland, as generations of Scots have raided English settlements to the south. The warfare between these two historic enemies is almost constant. In the mid-1200, the English king Edward, also known as Longshanks and the Scots Killer, has invaded Scotland determined to control it once and for all. He pushes north and reaches the holy place of Scone where the Scottish kings were crowned. Here he seizes the holy relic called the Stone of Scone and takes it back to London where he places it under his throne at Westminster Abbey, where it remained for seven centuries, despite the efforts of Scottish nationalists to steal it back (Prime Minister Tony Blair finally returned the stone to Scotland after his election). The Scots fight back unsuccessfully because they are not united in their efforts. Finally one man arises who is able to weld the Scottish people into a single nation, Robert the Bruce, and he is able to lead to a Scottish victory. The English have to acknowledge the right of the Scottish State to exist. King Edward is bitterly disappointed and when he dies, he leaves instructions that if England ever mounts a new invasion of Scotland, his bones are to be carried at the head of the army. So you see how bitter the hatred is between the two nations. The film Braveheart gives you a highly dramatic sense of...
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