The Thane & The Scottish Play

By: Jillian Kossak

Who is the Thane of the Scottish Play?


The Thane of Cawdor, otherwise known as Macbeth, is the main character of "The Scottish Play." After defeating the Norwegians and the previous Thane of Cawdor in battle, Macbeth of Scotland, meets three witches who foresee his future. The witches tell Macbeth that he will not only become Thane of Cawdor but he will also become King of Scotland after the current king, King Duncan. The vision of Macbeth's future as told by the witches eventually comes true as King Duncan honors Macbeth with the title of Thane of Cawdor. However, Macbeth longs for more power that can be obtained as King so Macbeth kills Duncan and drives the heir to the throne, Duncan's son Malcolm, out of the kingdom. As the play continues, Macbeth's greedy and evil ways quickly take over him as he begins to act upon his instincts rather than thinking through his actions, leading to the deaths of many more Scottish individuals, including his best friend Banquo. Despite his corrupt strength as King, in the end, Macbeth is killed by a man named Macduff who restores the throne to the rightful heir, Malcolm.

Basis of the Play

1.) Macbeth and the War

Macbeth defeats the Norwegians, much to the delight of his King, Duncan, of Scotland.

2.) The Witches

After battle, the seemingly heroic Macbeth and his good friend Bunquo are visited by three witches. The witches tell Macbeth that he is destined to become Thane of Cawdor and then later King of Scotland. Bunquo, on the other hand, is told that although he will receive less honor than Macbeth at the moment, he will be much happier than Macbeth in the long term as he is destined to become the father of a long line of kings.

3.) Becoming the Thane of Cawdor

Later on, King Duncan gives Macbeth the honor of becoming Thane of Cawdor, but bestows his kingdom to his son Malcolm in the event of his death.

4.) Lady Macbeth and the Murder of King Duncan

After hearing of promising news of Macbeth's future foreseen by the witches, Lady Macbeth feels compelled to help her husband become king by devising a plan for Macbeth to kill King Duncan and drive Malcolm out of the kingdom. Her plan is to intoxicate and drug King Duncan's servants while Macbeth kills King Duncan in his sleep. By drugging the servants, Lady Macbeth believes that the blame of King Duncan's murder could be placed on the servants. Although hesitant at first, Macbeth eventually follows his evil instincts and kills Duncan, driving Malcolm out of the kingdom out of fear that he too would be killed. Once Malcolm flees Scotland, Macbeth becomes king as he is next in line given he is Thane of Cawdor and, at first, the Scottish people do not seem to be suspicious of Macbeth having a role in the murder of King Duncan.

5.) Suspicions and the Murder of Bunquo

Although the plan to kill Duncan and become King seemed flawless in the eyes of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, certain individuals begin to feel suspicious that the servants were paid by someone to kill Duncan. At the same time, Macbeth remembers that the witches that predicted his rise to the throne also predicted that his best friend Bunquo is destined to become the father of a line of kings. Due to the promising future predicted for Bunquo's family, Macbeth becomes fearful that he may have his kingship taken from him by Bunquo. To avoid losing the throne, Macbeth hires murderers to kill Bunquo and his son, Fleance, but only Bunquo is murdered.

6.) Malcolm, Macduff, and the Tyrannical King's Revenge

After the death of Bunquo, it is realized that the source of the murders is Macbeth, yet Macbeth is able to get away with the murders because of his title as king. Knowing that Macbeth is the murderer and ignoring that he is King, Macduff, a citizen of Scotland, and Malcolm, the late King Duncan's son (and rightful heir to the throne), travel to England to meet with the successful and well-liked king of England, KIng Edward. It is Macduff and Malcolm's hope that King Edward will help them restore peace in Scotland through assisting in the death of Macbeth. When Macbeth hears of Malcolm and Macduff's plans to meet with the King of England to fight against Macbeth, Macbeth revenges against Macduff by hiring murderers to kill Macduff's wife and children. Through the death of his family, Macduff is further infuriated by Macbeth and his chaotic and destructive actions. To avenge Macbeth, Malcolm and Macduff join an army together with the help of King Edward and fight Macbeth.

7.) The End

In the end, Macbeth's seemingly invincible nature is shattered when Macduff kills Macbeth in battle. Following the death of Macbeth, the kingship is restored to Malcolm and Scotland once again has faith that peace and happiness may be restored.

Picture Citation


Kelly, Miles. MACBETH, Scottish KING. 2005. FotoLibra. Fotolibra. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.

Works Cited

The Play

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Francis J. Ferguson. 1st ed. N.p.: Dell, 1959. Print.