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Malcolm (Macbeth)

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Title: Malcolm (Macbeth)  
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Subject: King Duncan, Donalbain (Macbeth), Malcolm III of Scotland, Sleep No More (2009 play), Macbeth (2010 film)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Malcolm (Macbeth)

Creator William Shakespeare
Play Macbeth
Date c.1603–1607
Source Holinshed's Chronicles
Family King Duncan, father
Donalbain, younger brother
Role Natural heir to the throne and rival of Macbeth
See also Malcolm III of Scotland

Malcolm is a character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth (c.1603–1607). The character is based on the historical king Malcolm III of Scotland, and is derived largely from the account in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of Britain. He is the elder son of King Duncan, the heir to the throne, and brother to Donalbain.[1] In the end, he regains the throne after mustering support to overthrow Macbeth.

Role in the play

Malcolm, like his father, represents order.[2] He first appears in Act I, scene 2 (1.2), where he is talking to a sergeant, with Duncan about Macbeth's exploits on the field of battle. Malcolm later appears in Act 1.4 talking about the execution of the former Thane of Cawdor with Duncan. Macbeth then enters and receives congratulations for his victory. In Act 1.4, Duncan declares Malcolm to be his heir ("We will establish our estate upon Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter The Prince of Cumberland" – Duncan, Act 1.4 37–39). This act frustrates Macbeth.[3]

Malcolm is a guest at Macbeth's castle when his father is killed in Act 2.2. Macbeth is the person who executed Duncan.[3] He and his brother are informed of the death in Act 2.3. They are suspected of the murder and as a result Malcolm is not declared the Monarch immediately. Feeling the suspicion and false emotions, he and his brother decide to flee Scotland after the murder. While Donalbain flees to Ireland, Malcolm flees to England ("To show an unfelt sorrow is an office Which the false man does easy. I'll to England." - Malcolm Act 2.3 138–39; "To Ireland I; our separated fortune Shall keep us both safer. Where we are There's daggers in men's smiles;" – Donalbain, Act 2.3 140–2). Their flight heightens their suspicion ("Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's two sons, Are stol'n away and fled, which puts upon them Suspicion of the deed." – Macduff, Act 2.4 25–27), while Macbeth assumes their father's throne.

In Act 4.1, Macbeth sees three apparitions summoned by the

Malcolm raises an army in England,[5] and marches on Scotland with Macduff to reclaim his birthright from Macbeth. The Scottish noblemen lend their support to restore order to the land after observing Macbeth's extreme behaviour. In Act 5.4, Malcolm confers with Englishman Siward (the Elder) and his officers about strategies for obscuring their forces ("Let very soldier hew him down a bough And bear't before him. Thereby shall we shadow The numbers of our host, and make discovery Err in report of us." – Malcolm, 5.4 4–7) and about Macbeth's defense plans ("We learn no other but the confident tyrant Keeps still in Dunsinane, and will endure Our setting down before't." – Siward, 5.4 8–10). In Act 5.6, the battle commences as Malcolm, Macduff and Siward command forces against Dunsinane Castle. In Act 5.8 Malcolm and Siward storm Macbeth's castle. Siward receives news that his son was slain. Malcolm consoles him with an opportunity to grieve. Macduff enters with Macbeth's head and declares Malcolm the King ("Hail, King! for so thou art: behold, where stands Th' usurpers cursed head." – Macduff, 5.8 54–55). Malcolm takes over as king and notes that order has been restored and that his intentions are good ("by the grace of Grace We will perform in measure, time, and place:" – Malcolm, Act 5.8 72–73). He invites everyone to his coronation.

Critical comments

Sylvan Barnet described Malcolm as "chaste, trustworthy, and patriotic".[1] As the natural heir to the throne, Malcolm is Macbeth's foremost rival. He and his allies are "God's soldiers" and their eventual victory marks a restoration of moral order according to Barnet.[1]

After deposing Macbeth and resuming his rightful place, Malcolm delivers the final words of the play as a speech contrasting himself and the former tyrant.[1] During his final speech, he grants earldoms to Macduff and others, while reclaiming his birthright.[6] The ending of Macbeth is often viewed as anticlimactic or at least failing to meet expectations, because Macbeth is killed by Macduff, rather than Malcolm or Fleance, who are perceived to have greater reasons to seek vengeance.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b Gill, p. xix.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Gibson, et al., p. xii.
  7. ^ Thompson, Introduction.


External links

  • Folio VersionMacbeth:
  • Full-text onlineMacbeth:
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