Is ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ (2021) Movie Based on a True Story?

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH Based on True Story Or Not

The Tragedy of Macbeth,’ directed by Joel Coen, is a riveting story about an army commander who comes across a prophecy saying that he will become King of Scotland.

The picture, which stars Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, dabbles in German Expressionism in order to highlight the severe psychological problems that General Macbeth and Lady Macbeth confront as they scheme to usurp power from the monarch.

The black-and-white film is solemn, slow, and precise, forcing us to confront the truths and implications of our desires right away.

Many people wonder if the Coen film is based on truth because political betrayals and killings for the purpose of power were always a part of history.

So don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Let’s see what we can find out!



Is The Tragedy of Macbeth Based on a True Story?

‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ is based on a genuine story in part. However, it is true that it contains a significant amount of fiction as well as actual facts from the past.

To grasp what these are, it’s important to return to the film’s source material, William Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Macbeth.’

This play by the world’s most famous and influential playwright is thought to have been written between 1606 and 1607. It deals with themes of guilt, power, & ambition.

The Tragedy of Macbeth Witches

Shakespeare is recognised for exploiting historical individuals to create incredible plays with universal themes about human experiences and emotions; Macbeth is one of these characters.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, on the other hand, bears few resemblances to the real-life 11th-century Scottish ruler, Mac Bethad mac Findláich (whose anglicised name is Macbeth), on whom he is based.

The actual Macbeth ruled for 17 years and was known for his bravery and wisdom, as well as his support for the introduction of Christianity.

Lady Macbeth is also a fictional figure; her real-life equivalent was called Gruoch (also spelled as Grauch).

According to history, Macbeth defeated King Duncan I (Donnchad mac Crinain) in combat in 1040 and gained the throne.

Scholars know that the English dramatist based his Macbeth persona on Raphael Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland,’ a well-known source of history throughout the 16th century.

Of course, he added his own creative genius to the historical tale, diving deep into the brains of humans — who have wrestled with a thirst for power for generations — and extracting the terrible desires that drive them.

Because the Thane of Lochaber was the king’s ancestor, Shakespeare changed Banquo’s backstory to avoid offending King James I.

Banquo, according to Holinshed’s research, aided Macbeth in his plan to murder King Duncan.

Banquo, on the other hand, becomes Macbeth’s adversary throughout the play; following his murder, his ghost haunts the power-hungry Macbeth, acting as a corporeal expression of his guilt.

We meet the three prophesizing Weird Sisters who inform Macbeth that he would first become the Thane of Cawdor and later the King of Scotland in Shakespeare’s play.

In the mind of Macbeth, a general in King Duncan’s army, the seed of ambition is thus sown.

Later, his wife, Lady Macbeth, becomes obsessed with power and encourages her husband to do the greatest crime in order to gain the kingdom.

The Tragedy of Macbeth‘ is an accurate adaptation of Shakespeare’s play that concentrates entirely on the characters’ arguments, desires, and decisions.

The Tragedy of Macbeth 2021 Movie Witches

The film, which was shot entirely on a soundstage, portrays the intensity that underpins Macbeth’s thought processes and judgments; we nearly feel like we’re seeing a play on stage, which is absolutely how Shakespeare’s works should be viewed.

The Coen directing effectively reflects the foreboding power dynamics between the characters and seeks to communicate the underlying nature of Shakespeare’s famed play — tragedy — with its extreme close-up shots and some point-of-view shots.

We watch, fascinated, as the general gives in to his innermost desires after becoming Thane of Cawdor and slaying the King of Scotland, believing wholeheartedly in the prophecy.

The consequences of Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s foolish ambition soon come back to haunt them both.

Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who wanted to restore his nephew and Duncan’s son, Malcolm Canmore, to the throne, challenged King Macbeth in 1054, according to history.

King Macbeth was murdered in the Battle of Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire in 1057, and his son Malcolm Canmore reclaimed his father’s throne.

We observe how remorse and terror overtake Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play and its cinematic adaptation starring Denzel Washington, forcing him to commit progressively horrible acts just for the sake of his reign.

The film’s historical, regal, and tragic elements are accentuated by the use of classical language similar to that found in Shakespeare’s original and unabridged plays.


The film and the play differ in because Coen’s Macbeths are older than Shakespeare envisaged them to be; yet, this guarantees that their drive for power becomes much more cold-blooded and planned.

Thus, as one comes to terms with the cyclical cycle of life, power, revenge, and death, the impact of Macbeth’s eventual collapse — brought about by Macduff, the Thane of Fife, who returns Duncan’s son to the throne — is hard-hitting.

“The objective was to do it [‘The Tragedy of Macbeth‘] much more as a film in terms of embracing what the medium affords you aesthetically, psychologically, and formally, but not losing the essence of the play-ness of the piece of literature,” Coen said.

‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ is thus somewhat based on fact and reimagines historical personalities for the sake of the plot; nonetheless, it accurately reflects humankind’s drive to chase power at all costs, disregarding all morals in the process.

It also serves as a reminder that Shakespeare will always remain relevant because he was able to tap into the dark truths that lay in the minds of people at all levels of society.