Archive for October, 2010

Did Shakespeare know that Duncan I did NOT die as an old man?

William Shakespeare

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.

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.)

Duncan I

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.

The New King’s School

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.”  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


John Whalesborough


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


William Shakespeare


Horizontal Vertigo

It was an empty beach, with just this man, in his mid thirties and, at a distance, a young woman and two little blonde children. The man walked towards the roaring sea, he didn’t feel the cold.
The seagull over his head cried a lonely hungry cry. The beach was wide, he could have yelled and no one would hear him. And he felt like yelling, screaming.

He looked at her, the mother of his children, and he was afraid.
What if one day he would loose all of this?

He thought of the day they had met, in the Millenium wheel in London, sitting next to each other. His vertigo made him panic, and she, a total stranger, a foreigner, had calmed him down. They had been together ever since.

And now he felt a panic similar to the one in the wheel. What if he would loose his job? What if she would leave him, go back to England? What if she died?

They were not married, as he dreaded to ask her. After all, she could say no, or go over the top screaming of excitement, he hated that.
He watched her as she helped the children in their coats and she looked at him calmly, worried. She knew him so well.
She did not deserve him. She would be better off without him.

The waves rolled on the beach, the sea licked at his Wellingtons, withdrew only to attack his feet with more force.
He walked away from the water, started running. In the safety of her arms he ended his run.

“What is all this then?” she smiled.
“Vertigo. Will you marry me?”
She nodded calmy.
“Sure. Take the little one, will you, she is sleepy.”
He took the child and put her on his shoulders, and they walked further along.

At the end of the voyage called life

“It was a good life,” K. said, the old man sitting next to me on the bench near the harbour. We were watching sailing ships entering port. “And now it is over. My life is over.”

I didn’t know what to say. He didn’t look half dead to me at all.
“Are you dying?” the man standing and leaning on his bike, asked in surprise.
“Not officially, Willem, but hey, I am 84, just like you. My time is up. It makes sense for me to expect my final marching orders.”
“Well, save journey then,” his mate Willem said with a cynical laugh, and he added: “I will see you tomorrow,” got on his bike and rode away.
“Willem isn’t a realist,” the old man told me. “He thinks he will live forever, being the first human to do so. He is crazy. We all die one day or another. And my day is now. I won’t see him again. Ever.”

K. gave me the goosebumps with his preminision, he was so certain. Yet he looked healthy enough, young even, not older than 70 maybe.
We watched the sails go down, the ships had entered port and a group of young people stepped ashore to do some shopping. They were laughing and they were loud and the old man nodded his head.
“They are right to be happy. They are young.”
I had enough of his gloom and doom and left him on the bench, alone.

The next day the weather was bad, stormy and rain was pouring. Not a good day for me to go outdoors. Still I was convinced the two old friends would be there, at their usual spot, watching the ships go by. They never minded the weather.
Although it was raining, I had to go to do some groceries and in the shop, dripping and with steamed glasses, I overheard two old ladies.
“And she found him dead, in his bed. He died just like that! He will be missed at the harbour.”

I felt a sort of shock.
Had K. died? Had he been right about his prediction? It was amazing!
“What do I hear, did K. die?” I asked to be sure.
“K.? No, not at all! That man is a picture of health! No, it is Willem. He died in his sleep this night. Must have been his heart.”
“It won’t be the same on the quay side,” the other said. “That is for sure!”
The noise of the rain overtook their words. It rained as if the sun would never shine again.

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