Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor! Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter’. 

Macbeth is best known as the subject of William Shakespeare 's tragedy Macbeth and the many works it has inspired, although the play itself is of limited historical accuracy. 

Macbeth, a ‘ruddy-complexioned, yellow-haired tall one in whom I shall rejoice’, who kept Vikings at bay and quelled rebellions within his kingdom, was a rightful claimant to the Scottish throne. 


In 1040 Macbeth killed Duncan in battle near Elgin, to become King of Scotland. He was crowned at Scone and began his seventeen year reign. 

Macbeth’s life had progressed far towards legend by the end of the 14th century, and it was historians that blackened Macbeth’s name. Among them was Ralph Holinshed who spoke disparagingly of Macbeth in his Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1587. It was on Holinshed’s Chronicles which Shakespeare sourced historical content for his play Macbeth. 

In the Scottish play, Macbeth is condemned as being ‘luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious [and] smacking of every sin that has a name’. 

In stark contrast to Duncan who was referred to as a ‘most sainted king’, Macbeth’s reign is said to have a most negative impact upon Scotland; ‘I think our country sinks beneath the yoke, it weeps, it bleeds and each new day a gash is added to her wounds.’

Shakespeare and Glamis

King James VI of Scotland had befriended the 9th Lord Glamis and often visited the Castle. In 1603 Lord Glamis accompanied him to England where he had united the two crowns. It is possible that Shakespeare heard stories about Glamis and his imagination was fired. 

Among the oldest and eeriest parts of the Castle, Duncan’s Hall commemorates an actual event – the killing of King Duncan by Macbeth, but as we have noted it didn’t happen here!