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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