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Macbeth Glossary

kerns and gallowglasses (1.2.16)

Terms for Celtic soldiers.

Kerns were Irish or Scottish light-armed foot soldiers. A kern would carry a shield of wood and either a sword or bow and arrow.

The gallowglass were mercenary armored warriors who served primarily as bodyguards to Celtic chieftains. They were hand-picked for their strength and massive size, and they would usually carry a battle axe or a halberd (an axe on long pole).

Gallowglass comes from the Gaelic galloglach (gall = foreigner + oglach = soldier).

Back to Macbeth (1.2)

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Macbeth Glossary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. < >.


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"The purpose of the scene is to tell us something about Macbeth, who has only been named in the preceding scene. We learn here that he is a Scottish nobleman, a near kinsman of the old king, and a valiant warrior. In a single day he has routed two hostile armies, one of the Scotch rebels under Macdonwald, whom he has slain with his own hand, the other that of the invading Norwegians under Sweno. He has been assisted by another nobleman, Banquo, but the main glory of the victory is ascribed to Macbeth." Thomas Marc Parrott. Read on...


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