The villiainous Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have been made infamous by Shakespeare's play, but did you know about the real Macbeths who ascended to the throne 983 years ago today?

14 August 2023

The world knows him as the murderer and usurper title character in Shakespeare's tragedy, but Macbeth, or Mac Bethad mac Findláich, was a real person who became King of the Scots on this day in 1040 after killing the ruling King Duncan in battle near Elgin.

His marriage to Gruoch ingen Boite, the granddaughter of King Kenneth III, who became Queen Consort Macbeth, strengthened his claim to the throne.

Seventeen years later, on 15 August 1057, he was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire by Duncan's eldest son, Malcolm Canmore.

Valene Kane has long wavy brown hair and is facing Reuben Joseph with her hands up around his face. Reuben has short dark hair and a beard and is looking at Valene with a concerned look.
Valene Kane and Reuben Joseph in rehearsals for Macbeth
Photo by Marc Brenner © RSC Browse and license our images

In our new production of Macbeth, the entirety of the cast are Scottish, with the exception of Lady Macbeth, who will be played by Northern Irish actor Valene Kane. Macbeth is played by Reuben Joseph, recently seen as Alexander Hamilton in London's West End.

The all-Celtic company have been chosen by director Wils Wilson to offer an opportunity to celebrate the 'Scottish Play' in a meaningful way, with a sense of authenticity.

Valene Kane

"As the only Irish actress within an otherwise all-Scottish company, there’s an added dynamic to the Macbeths' relationship which I’m looking forward to exploring in rehearsals; the idea of Lady Macbeth as ‘other’, as an ‘outsider’. I cannot wait to begin."

A large box on wheels being pushed at a running pace by three people. Benjamin Osugo wears a black long-sleeved top and green trousers, Shyvonne Ahmmad wears a pale top and blue neck tie and Ryan Hunter wears a white top and blue shorts.
Benjamin Osugo as Angus, Shyvonne Ahmmad as Malcolm, and Ryan Hunter as Ross in rehearsals for Macbeth
Photo by Marc Brenner © RSC Browse and license our images
Reuben Joseph

“I don't think there's a single Scottish actor who hasn't dreamt of getting their hands on the part of Macbeth. I’m incredibly grateful to Wils for entrusting me with this role and can’t wait for you all to see the world she is creating for the show. It promises to be Scotland as Stratford-upon-Avon has never seen it before. Hopefully, we’ll see you there on the blasted heath.”

Director Wils Wilson in rehearsals for Macbeth

Macbeth plays in our Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 19 August to 14 October.

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