Thursday, October 8, 2009

Macbeth Historical Background

On a separate sheet of paper, answer the questions below:

Macbeth: A lesson in history and Shakespeare’s sources.

You are going to spend this lesson acquainting yourself with one of Shakespeare’s favorite sources, Holinshed’s Chronicles of the History of England and Scotland. He drew on this document for information to use in the writing of his histories, but he also used parts of the document as a source for some of the tragedies. It was a major source for Macbeth.

Your objective is to find the “history” behind the play. How much of Macbeth is history, and how much of the play is Shakespeare’s invention? What changes did Shakespeare make, and why did he make them? What events are the same, and why did Shakespeare keep those events intact? Do you think the weird sisters are Shakespeare’s fiction? You may just be surprised. . .

Go to the facsimile web page to see a copy of an actual page from Holinshed’s Chronicles. Try to figure out the subject matter of the page. Note the illustrations. After you have spent four or five minutes trying to figure out Page 239, click on the right (forward) button to go to Page 240. Look at both Page 240 and Page 241 for the illustrations and any information you can put together. Do not spend too long trying to puzzle this out; I merely want you to get an idea of the original document.

Facsimile web page

Next, go to the Clicknotes site. Click on the first link (page 264). Begin answering the questions below, clicking on each page as you finish.


Answer the questions below, according to Holinshed.
1. Who was Macbeth’s father?
2. Who was Macbeth” mother?
3. What was the relationship between Macbeth and Duncan?
4. What kind of man was Macbeth?
5. What kind of man was Duncan?
6. What caused the change in Duncan’s reign from a quiet and peaceful time?
7. What happened to Duncan’s messenger at the hands of the rebels?
8. What did Makdowald do?
9. Is the Malcolme mentioned on this page the same as the Malcolm in the play?
10. Who goes with Macbeth to defeat Makdowald?
11. What did Makdowald do when it became obvious that he was going to be defeated?
12. What did Macbeth do to Makdowald?
13. After the rebels were subdued, who attacked Scotland?
14. What kind of man was Sueno?
15. What did he do to the people he defeated?
16. Who were the three Scottish leaders of the battles against Sueno?
17. Where did Duncan flee?
18. Describe the tricks the Scots played in order to defeat Sueno.
19. Who escaped the battle at the castle?
20. Who sends ships to avenge Sueno?
21. Who was sent to get rid of the new enemies of Scotland?
22. In what year of Duncan’s reign did the wars with Denmark occur?
23. Describe the three people that Macbeth and Banquo meet as they journey to Fores.
24. What did they tell Macbeth?
25. What did they tell Banquo?
26. Did Macbeth and Banquo take the news seriously? How do you know?
27. What happened to the thane of Cawder and his things?
28. What did Duncan do that caused Macbeth to decide to act against him?
29. What was the real Lady Macbeth like?
30. Did Macbeth act alone? Who else was in on the plot?
31. In what year was Duncan buried?
32. Who were Duncan’s sons, and where did they go after the assassination?
33. At this point, what kind of king does Macbeth appear to be? What are some things he does? (269-270)
34. According to Holinshed, if Macbeth had attained the crown by rightful means, what would have been the opinion of him?
35. What causes Macbeth to be afraid, and what specifically does he fear?
36. Describe the murder of Banquo.
37. Where did Fleance flee?
273 - 274
38. How did things go for Macbeth after the murder of Banquo?
39. What were the benefits to Macbeth resulting from the deaths of the nobles.
40. Why, according to Holinshed, did Macbeth build Dunsinane?
41. Why did Macbeth become angry at Makduffe?
42. Who had told Macbeth to take heed of Makduffe?
43. Why hadn’t Macbeth had Makduffe put to death after the warning?
44. Where did Makduffe go to save his life?
45. What did he hope to be able to do there?
46. How did Macbeth know about Makduffe’s plans?
47. What did Macbeth do at Makduffe’s castle?

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