MSP Calls for Macbeth Review

Imagined 19th Century Portrait of Macbeth

Imagined 19th Century Portrait of Macbeth

Prompted by historical revisions to Richard III’s reign upon discovery of his remains, Scottish MSP Alex Johnstone has called for a motion in parliament to review Macbeth’s reign.

Richard III and Macbeth were both portrayed as villains by Shakespeare, however the recent discovery of Richard III’s twisted and battle-scarred remains in a Leicester carpark has led some historians to suggest the King was unfairly maligned.

Mr Johnstone has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament arguing that Shakespeare’s Macbeth “is arguably more a reflection on the relationship between Shakespeare and his patron, King James VI, rather than an attempt at historical accuracy”.

Johnstone said the Richard III debate should act as the catalyst to right the wrongs about Macbeth, namely the murders and paranoia that run rife throughout the play. “In striking contrast to Shakespeare’s version of events, we know that Macbeth not only had a long reign in comparison to many monarchs of the time but his throne was secure enough to allow him to go on pilgrimage to Rome; an arduous trip at the time that some subsequent monarchs might not have risked for fear of being deposed in their absence.”

He added: “It is ironic that he remains an iconic monarch to this day largely because of Shakespeare, but I would rather he was iconic on the basis of facts rather than fiction. In modern parlance, it’s like suggesting people should learn about medieval Scottish history by watching Braveheart.”

Johnstone suggested the review could reignite awareness of Macbeth and Scottish history during the 11th century, and boost visitor numbers to associated sites such as Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire and Glamis in Angus.


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