Thane (Scotland)

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Thane was the title given to a local royal official in medieval eastern Scotland, equivalent to a count, who was at the head of an administrative and socio-economic unit known as a shire or thanage.

In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth holds the title "Thane of Glamis". In the first act, after the declaration of the forthcoming execution of the treacherous Thane of Cawdor during wartime, King Duncan names Macbeth the new Thane of Cawdor, in addition to Glamis. The Three Witches' foreknowledge of this is an important plot device, especially when Macbeth discovers that their prediction turns out to be true. This causes Macbeth to contemplate the truth of the Witches' further prophecy that he will become King of Scotland; Macbeth's behaviour based on this belief drives the central action for the rest of the play.

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Further reading[edit]

  • Grant, Alexander (1993). "Thanes and Thanages, from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Centuries". In Alexander Grant and Keith J. Stringer. Medieval Scotland: Crown, Lordship and Community. Essays Presented to G.W.S. Barrow. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 39–81.