Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches on the ...
Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches on the Heath, Chassériau 1855 via Wikipedia

The root of the word glamour (or glamor) comes from the Scottish glaumour (a corrupt form of grammar) and the French grimoire

Glamour originally refers to knowledge of the occult, such as the questionable art of black magic found in the Middle Ages. This could have involved magical spells cast by witches to make ugly persons or things appear beautiful.

Interestingly enough, the three witches in Shakespeare‘s Macbeth (1603 and 1607) proclaim that the young Scot will become Thane of Glamis.

While there doesn’t appear to be any strong etymological connection between glamis and glamour – especially since the first (surviving) written appearance of the English word glamour is 1720 – it’s possible that Shakespeare is playing on known words² that hadn’t yet been written. Or possibly he was intuiting future usage (after all, many creative geniuses do seem to get glimpses of the future).

Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more!”³

While this connection might seem a little far fetched, maybe it isn’t. Scholars suggest that the three witches use their otherworldly wiles to subtly tempt Macbeth through prophecies of worldly power and glory.

While the witches do not tell Macbeth directly to kill King Duncan, they use a subtle form of temptation when they tell Macbeth that he is destined to be king. By placing this thought in his mind, they effectively guide him on the path to his own destruction. This follows the pattern of temptation used at the time of Shakespeare.4

In any case, Macbeth’s worldly success didn’t do him much good. He ended up beheaded and his name became “a hotter name than any is in hell.”5

¹ “glamour | glamor, n.”. OED Online. December 2011. Oxford University Press.

² Just as modern writers make a play on, for instance, history and herstory.






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