Give Macbeth a break!

NORTHEAST MSP Alex Johnstone is calling for the good name of Macbeth to be restored after centuries of ‘misportrayal’ at the hands of Shakespeare.

He submitted a Motion to the Scottish parliament on Monday calling for greater efforts to be made to increase awareness of the reign of Macbeth.

Mr Johnstone said: “The discovery of what are believed to be the remains of Richard III has sparked fierce debate about the nature of his reign, especially because of his portrayal by Shakespeare. This has strong parallels with the situation in Scotland where Macbeth’s reign is characterised by Shakespeare as being one of murder and paranoia, but of course the reality is very different.

He went on: “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.

“I am of the strong belief that the coverage of Richard III should act as a catalyst here to right the wrongs about the reign of Macbeth. 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.”

The Motion reads: ‘That the Parliament notes the discovery of what is believed to be the remains of the English king, Richard III; considers that the subsequent debate on the merits of his reign were prompted in no small part by his portrayal by Shakespeare; contrasts this debate with the treatment of Macbeth, king of Scotland from 1040 to 1057, by Shakespeare in the play, Macbeth, which was not written until around 550 years after the death of the king at the Battle of Lumphanan; believes that the play is arguably more a reflection on the relationship between Shakespeare and his patron, King James VI, rather than an attempt at historical accuracy; deeply regrets that the perceived successful reign of King Macbeth remains, it believes, misportrayed to many on the basis of his treatment by Shakespeare, and acknowledges calls for greater efforts to be made to increase awareness of the reign of Macbeth and the Scottish history of the period, which it considers could boost visitor numbers to places associated with this iconic monarch, such as Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire and Glamis in Angus’.