MACBETH Macbeth may have been performed before King James in 1606 but it contains many echoes of James's interests. Unlike Holinshed, Shakespeare did not make Banquo an accomplice to Duncan murder. Instead, he lays full responsibility on the Macbeths. This alteration presumably pleased King James, who hated the king-killers. In fact, Banquo never existed. He was invented as the source of Stuart royalty.
King James's interest in witchcraft was very well known. He was fascinated by witchcraft as any of his subjects. In 1590, it was alleged that a group of witches tried to kill him. He visited oxford in 1605 and was greeted by three witches who hailed him as descendant of Banquo.
During the gunpowder plot, 5th November in 1605a medal was struck to commemorate the kings escape. The plot is believed to be referred to in Act 2 Scene 3, line 50 "dire combustion"ÃÂ. Everguard Digby, one of the conspirators, was a favourite of the king almost identical to the thane of Cawdor's treachery.
Shakespeare was a playwright, not a historian but he knew that history provided splendid material for plays; war, conflict, ambition, the downfall or great rulers. Duncan's rule had been ineffectual and unpopular. He was thirty-eight when he was killed, possible by Macbeth, who was elected High King of Scotland in 1040. Macbeth rule for seventeen years "ÃÂ for the first ten as a competent, reforming king. He gave Scotland a long period of comparative peace and stability. There is no evidence that Macbeth dabbled in witchcraft; indeed, he was a strong supporter of the church. However, Shakespeare never slavishly followed any source. He selected, altered and added to achieve maximum dramatic effect. He invented Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking and death, the banquet scene and Banquo's ghost, and most of the cauldron scene. Shakespeare...