Macbeth Navigator: Excerpts from
Holinshed's Chronicles, Volume V: Scotland
[Shakespeare's primary source for Macbeth was Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, first published in 1577. The outlines of Shakespeare's story are derived from Holinshed's account of Kings Duncan and Macbeth. In addition, Shakespeare seems to have taken many particulars from Holinshed's account of King Duffe, who died eighty years before Macbeth did.]
Source of these excerpts:
Holinshed, Raphael. Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 5.
London: J. Johnson, et al, 1808.
Notes: To see a note on the notes to this text, click the asterisk.*
King Duncan and King Macbeth:
- from page 264: Duncan's ascension to the throne of Scotland. | The kinship between Duncan and Macbeth.
- page 265: The characters of Duncan and Macbeth compared. | The defeat of Macdonwald by Banquo and Macbeth.
- from page 266: Macbeth's cruelty to Macdonwald. | The arrival in Scotland of Sweno.
- from page 267: Sweno defeated by Duncan's trick.
- from page 268: Macbeth and Banquo repel an invasion by King Canute of England, who pays them "a great summe of gold" to be allowed to bury his dead at "saint Colmes Inch." | Macbeth and Banquo encounter "thrée women in strange and wild apparell."
- page 269: Macbeth becomes Thane of Cawdor | Duncan proclaims Malcom Prince of Cumberland | Macbeth and Banquo slay King Duncan, and Macbeth ascends the throne. | Malcolm and Donalbain flee. | Macbeth sets the kingdom to rights, punishing evildoers.
- from page 270: Macbeth's good deeds as king.
- from page 271: Macbeth has Banquo murdered, but Fleance escapes. | How Fleance's descendants become Kings of Scotland.
- from page 273: After the killing of Banquo, nothing goes well for Macbeth. Many are afraid of him, and he is afraid of many.
- page 274: Macbeth puts many nobles to death on trumped-up charges and seizes their goods. | To increase his power, Macbeth orders a great castle to be built on Dunsinane hill. | Macduff, in fear of his life, sends workmen to the castle but does not go himself. Macbeth takes offense at this, especially since "certeine wizzards" had told him to take heed of Macduff. | Macbeth refrains from killing Macduff only because "a certeine witch" told him that he could not be slain by any man born of woman, nor be vanquished until "the wood of Bernane came to the castell of Dunsinane." | Macduff goes to England to persuade Malcolm to claim the throne of Scotland. Macbeth, through his spies, hears of Macduff's plan and goes to Macduff's dwelling, expecting to find him there. Macduff's people open the gate to Macbeth, but he nevertheless kills everyone inside.
- page 275: Macduff pleads with Malcolm to come to Scotland, take the throne, and rescue the country from Macbeth. | Malcolm tests Macduff by telling him that he (Malcolm) is lustful and greedy, and would be a worse king than Macbeth.
- page 276: Malcolm, continuing to test Macduff, says he is a liar. At this, Macduff is disgusted and weeps for Scotland. | Malcolm tells Macduff he was only testing him, to see if he might be an agent of Macbeth. | Malcolm and Macduff plan the invasion of Scotland and receive the aid of old Siward and an army of ten thousand. | Macbeth decides to defend himself at Dunsinane, despite advice to the contrary, because he trusts in the prophecies. | In Birnam wood, Malcolm orders his men to cut boughs to disguise themselves as they approach Dunsinane.
- from page 277: Macbeth sees Birnam wood move, but urges his men to stand and fight. However, when Macbeth sees the size of the opposing army he tries to run away. | Macduff pursues Macbeth, and Macbeth tells him that he cannot be killed of woman born. Macduff reveals that he was "neuer borne of my mother, but ripped out of her wombe" and kills Macbeth, then cuts off his head, puts it on a pole, and takes it to Malcom. | Malcolm is crowned king and rewards his followers by creating them the first earls of Scotland. The new earls are "Fife, Menteth, Atholl, Leuenox, Murrey, Cathnes, Rosse, and Angus."
from page 233: King Duffe falls into a wasting disease, which prevents him from sleeping, and witches are found to be causing it.
page 234: The witches are discovered roasting a wax image of King Duffe over a fire and reciting enchantments. They confess that they meant to make the king waste away, and that the enchantments were to keep him from sleeping. The witches are burnt to death, and the king recovers his health. | Donwald tries to get the king to pardon certain rebellious kin and friends, but the king refuses. Donwald, at the urging of his wife plans the murder of the king.
page 235: In Donwald's castle (Forres), King Duffe rewards Donwald and others for their assistance in putting down a rebellion, then goes to bed. | Donwald and his wife feed the king's chamberlains plenty of meat and drink, making them fall fast asleep when they return to the king's chamber. | Donwald bribes four of his servants to cut the king's throat, then bury the body in the bed of a river, so that it would never be discovered. This was done because it was thought that a murder victim's body would bleed in the presence of the victim's murderer. | Meanwhile, Donwald stays up with the guards all night, then pretends great surprise when the king's bloody and empty bed is discovered. Donwald kills the king's chamberlains and blames the murder on them. | Donwald rushes about, pretending to be looking for other guilty parties, which raises suspicions about him, but no one dares say anything, because they're in his castle. | For six months after the murder neither the sun nor moon are seen, and great winds make people fear for their lives.