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Macbeth Man and Myth
Macbeth: Man
and Myth

Birnam Photo Album


Birnam Wood and Macbeth

The Royal Forest, which includes Birnam Hill, was gifted in 1160 by Malcolm, the Maiden, to Duncan, Earl of Fife, on his marriage with Princess Ada, the King's niece. This Duncan was a descendant of that MacDuff who accompanied Malcolm Canmohr on his march to oust the victorious usurper, Macbeth..

Beautiful as this hill is, with its belts of graceful birches andgreen tasselled larches, its patches of purple heather and green blaeberry knolls, its huge precipitous rocks and gentle slopes with magnificent prospects, it does not owe its world-wide fame to beauty or prominence of situation. It has been rendered classical by Shakespeare's immortal pen.

Every reader knows the story of Macbeth and great Birnam Wood. Duncan, "gentle king," whose assassination by his general Macbeth, forms part of the play, was a son of Crinan, the lay Abbot of Dunkeld. Seventeen years after King Duncan's assassination by Macbeth, Duncan's son Malcolm marched from Stirling on to Crieff, thence through the Sma' Glen, their resting place for the night. Various reasons are cited for the subsequent adornment of Malcolm's army with branches from Birnam Wood.

Thus in Shakespeare's Macbeth,

Act V, Scene 3

In a room in the castle of Dunsinane:

Macbeth tells the doctor that he is not afraid of an invasion, because of the witches´ predictions that, 1) No man born of woman can kill him and 2) the woods must march before he is defeated.

Scene 4

In the country near Birnam Wood:

Malcolm, Macduff and their army are ready to invade Macbeth´s castle. Malcolm tells his men to camouflage themselves with branches from the trees in the forest.

"Let every 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."

Scene 5

At Dunsinane:

Within the castle. Macbeth is told that Lady Macbeth is dead. Macbeth is stunned. A messenger arrives telling Macbeth that Birnam Woods is marching on Dunsinane. Macbeth realizes that the witches´ prophecy is not good for him, but he fights on, because he is certain that he will not be killed, because of the other prophecy that no man born of woman can kill him.

Macbeth: I will not yield,

To kiss the ground before young Malcom's feet,

And to be baited with the rabble's curse.Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,

And thou opposed, being of no woman born,

Yet I will try the last. Before my bodyI throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,

And Damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough'

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