On this day in 1054 (maybe), England under the reign of Edward the Confessor invaded Scotland, leading to the defeat and finally the death of Macbeth, King of Scotland. Yes, that Macbeth. Of course, he appears to be nothing like the character in the play. It was, like so much of Shakespeare’s work, just another occasion to suck up to the rich and powerful. The royal line of the people who killed Macbeth were still in power.
What I found most interesting reading about the real Macbeth was that at that time, all these people seemed to do was fight wars. And it got me thinking about the nature of history. The standard take on history is that it is the story of “great men.” But consider the following analogy. Imagine that you were studying ants. Would the story be one queen after another? Of course not. That would be silly. All the queens do are lie around and pump out babies. If you want to know the history of ants, you would look at their slow evolution and migration.
I think it is the same with humans. All the royals of all the countries do is fight with each other. Meanwhile, the “little” people continue on, farming the land, making minor but important improvements to the way of life. Certainly the development of pottery has been far more important than the combined total of everything that royal classes have ever done. Because in sum, all they’ve done is fight among each other to see who gets to sponge off the masses.
The whole thing with Macbeth was that Duncan I of Scotland led an attack on Moray, which was led by Macbeth. Duncan got killed in battle. I wish that happened more often. Modern leaders have learned that they can just send others to fight and die. Anyway, Macbeth became king and Duncan’s wife ran away with her two little brats, and they waited 14 years plotting their revenge. Of course, after Macbeth was dead, they set about creating a history where Macbeth was this horrible character, whereas all the evidence indicates that Macbeth was a decent ruler, all things considered (mainly: that he was a ruler).
None of this takes away from the fact that Macbeth remains Shakespeare’s greatest play. Although I’ve been thinking about that. The main reason for that is that there is nothing in it that really annoys me. It has great moments too. And it is also that it seems more real to me. Othello doesn’t really have any major gaffs, but I don’t accept Iago as a realistic character. The same goes for Richard III. Although Macbeth does have the usual prophecy problem: if you are fated for something, why are you changing what you would normally do? Just the same, people are like that.
Anyway, maybe today is the day that the English marched on Macbeth. That sucked for him.