Did Shakespeare know that Duncan I did NOT die as an old man?
King Duncan I of Scotland is a historical figure, who lived from about 1001 till 1040.
In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, the Macbeth clan kills an old king Duncan, (off stage), in his bed. But in fact this real King Duncan, father of Malcolm, died young, about 39, in a battle in Moray with the Macbeths in August (14th?) 1040. Killed by his own men apparently. I wonder what tragedy lies ahead of that. He was killed at Bothganowan and he had been king for 6 years.
Did Shakespeare know of all this?
A few years ago I visited Scotland and Dundonald castle. http://www.dundonaldcastle.org.uk/2.php
It was impressive to think of how people would have lived there, in cold winters, the damp, the smell of fire and unwashed people melted with the stench of dung and the odors of roasted beef, the hauling winds bringing sounds from the lonely hills and darkness. Something like that 😉
I bought a piece of paper of the family tree of the Stewarts as it was Robert II the Bruce who founded the castle, and I learned my relationship with the English Royal family lol as they descend from the same Duncan I as I do. (So what? Okay but it is fun to know.)
Well anyway, I wanted to know more about this Duncan. I learned it was him who got killed in the Macbeth play. Why did Shakespeare use his name and his war with the Macbeths, but altered his age? Was it a mistake, or intentionally done so?
I imagined the people in his era to be not very educated, perhaps he only knew of Duncan by legends that would go around from mouth to mouth?
Did Shakespeare have access to written history books about that era? Was it from legends that he knew of this king?
Amazingly, we know a little about William Shakespeare’s education and what he read.
William Shakespeare was baptized 26th of April 1564, perhaps born on 23 April, died 23 April 1616. He was son of John Shakespeare who was a glover and alderman and probably wealthy (he married the daughter of a wealthy landowner) , so at least William, 3rd of his eight children, could get a fine education. It is said he went to the King’s New School in Stratford when he was seven, till he was fourteen. As his father had influence, he held the office of Bailiff of the Borough in 1568, his son William, maybe the brightest child in the family, would have had a free place there.
What would he have learned over there?
Latin and the classic literature. But would he have had history lessons, about the wonderful rich history of his country?
I think he had lessons alright, he wrote more King drama’s, like Henry VIII. He must have been a great historian I think.
Okay, I googled a bit and found this: “Among Shakespeare’s sources in his own language, the largest share belongs to the chroniclers who furnished material for the history plays. The compendia that he read most exhaustively were Edward Hall’s Union of the two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke (1548), the Chronicles of Raphael Holinshed (1578, 1587) and John Stow’s Chronicles of England (1580) and Annales of England (1592). Together, these offered the dramatist not only the raw data, both dynastic and anecdotal, but also the methodologies of history-writing and the special politics of the Tudor ascendancy. Of a different kind, but persistently influential, are such literary works as the didactic Mirror for Magistrates (1559) and Samuel Daniel’s poetic First Fowre Bookes of the Civile Wars (1595), while yet another approach to the materials comes from the strenuous polemics for the Protestant cause offered by John Foxe in his Acts and Monuments, known as the Booke of Martyrs (first published in English, 1563). Figures of exceptional cultural fascination, including King John, Richard III, Henry V, and Falstaff had generated their own specialized source material.” http://www.fathom.com/feature/122558/index.html So yes, he read history books, of course he did! Not only in school but after his days in New King’s as well!
He must have been a real history expert! And also of literature, and mixed the two genres into what became the best drama writing ever.
Why he changed the age and death of King Duncan – maybe for the drama of it. The effect. For his story he needed the man to be old enough to have adult sons.
William Shakespeare (The Bard) came from well to do family. By his mother he descends from William I Duke of Normandy. Now this line I have not checked, I just combined some familytrees as I found them online.
William I Duke of Normandy (Longsward)
Richard I Duke of Normandy born 28 Aug. 933 Normandy, died 20 Nov. 996
Hedwig of Normandy born 965 x Geoffrey Godfrey Duke of Brittany born 975 died 20 Nov. 1008
Eudes I de Bretagne count of Brittany born 999 died 7 Jan 1078/1079 x Orguende Cornouaille born 1022 Bretagne died 1056
Stephen I Etienne de Bretagne count of Brittany x Hawise de Guincamp Sourdeval born 1055 died 21-4-1136
Eleonore Penthieve born 1092 Brittany (Bretagne) France x Olivier II De Dinham born 1088 Dinan, France
Oliver III De Dinham born 1121 Hertland died 1183
Geoffrey III De Dinham born 1145 Hertland died 1204
Joanna de Dinham born 1244 Hertland Devonshire x Roger V Carminow born 1240 Trenowyth Cornwall
Joan Carminow born 1286 Trenowyth Cornwall x William Whalesborough born 1286 died 1346
Thomas Whalesborough born 1317 died 1391
John Whalesborough born 1345 Cornwall
Elizabeth Whalesborough x John Hampden
Eleanor Hampden x Walter Arden of Park Hill
Thomas Arden of Wilmcote
Robert Arden of Wilmcote
Mary Arden (she is probably, not sure! Roberts daughter) xJohn Shakespeare