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The Scottish Nation
MacBeth


MACBETH, king of Scotland, lived in the first half of the eleventh century. He is said to have been by birth maormor of Ross, and also of Moray by marriage with the Lady Gruoch, granddaughter of Kenneth IV. Her grandfather had been dethroned by Malcolm II., who burned her first husband, and murdered her brother, and who also slew the father of Macbeth. These wrongs were avenged on his grandson, King Duncan, whom Macbeth assassinated, in 1039, at Bothgowanan, near Elgin, some historians say at his castle of Inverness, and immediately usurped the throne. By the wisdom and vigour of his government he endeavoured to compensate for the defect in his title to the throne. The recollection of his guilt, however, seems to have haunted him continually. He attempted by distributing money at Rome, by gifts of land to the church, and by charity to the poor, to obtain relief from the “affliction of those terrible dreams that did shake him nightly.” Neither his liberality to the people, with the strict justice of his administration, nor the support of the clergy, sufficed to secure him a peaceful reign. The nation was never fully reconciled to his usurpation, and his tyranny increased with the resistance to his authority. He is represented as having erected a castle on Dunsinane Hill, in Perthshire, which commands a view of the whole country. But there is no reason to suppose that he ever was at Dunsinane at all, and there is not the slightest evidence that there ever was a castle or any similar structure on that hill.

      The injuries which he had inflicted on Macduff, the maormor of Fife, created in him a powerful enemy, and with other chieftains the latter fled to Duncan’s son, Malcolm Canmore, who had taken refuge in Cumberland, and urged him to assert his right to the throne. Siward, the potent earl of Northumberland, and his son Osbert, accompanied Malcolm into Scotland, with a numerous army, in 1054. After a furious battle, in which Osbert was killed, Macbeth was pursued to Lumphanan, in Aberdeenshire, where he was slain by Macduff, December 5, 1954, after a reign of 15 years. Shakspere’s imperishable tragedy of Macbeth is founded upon a fictitious narrative which Holinshed copied from Boece. No such personage as Banquo is known in history.


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