Thanks to Shakespeare, the name Macbeth has become a byword for political ambition realised by bloody violence.
Fiona Watson has uncovered, buried beneath the layers of myth, a history that is entirely different from, but just as extraordinary as, that recounted by Shakespeare.
As ruler of Alba (Scotland) Macbeth sat on one of the longest-established thrones in Western Europe.
It is true that he killed Duncan, the previous king, but this was the normal, if brutal, method of regime change in Dark Age Scotland.
The reality is that Macbeth quickly established himself as an effective and popular ruler.
As a Celtic warrior-king, he was responsible for the maintenance of his people's dominance of northern Britain.
A friend to the Church and valiant protector of his people, the real Macbeth epitomised the contemporary model of vigorous medieval kingship.
His fascinating story, long overdue in the telling, is done full justice in Fiona Watson's authoritative and compelling narrative.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 352 pages, 2 x 8pp b/w plate sections
- Publisher: Quercus Publishing
- Publication Date: 31/03/2011
- Category: Biography: historical, political & military
- ISBN: 9780857381606
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by mbmackay
This could have been a good book. Fiona Watson sets out to show that the real Macbeth was nothing like the Macbeth of the literary legend flowing from Shakespeare's play. She provides the known facts of Macbeth's life, and puts them in the context of the period. She shows that Macbeth was a king of his era, no better and no worse than his fellow kings of the 11th century. The problem is that she has a limited capacity to present the information for a general reader. Too often the detail is provided with limited success in building the general reader's knowledge. The process is exacerbated by the lack of maps to better illustrate areas of action and areas of control. One map is provided, but it lacks most of the place names used in the text, and makes no attempt to show the changes over time of the areas under control of the various kings.At then end, the author provides a summary of the later re-writings of Macbeth's life, and some of the reasons he was vilified to fit later sensibilities governing succession - which were not in place at the time. So, almost a good book. Interesting to read, but slightly frustrating. Read October 2012.
Review by lisa.schureman
Excellent book. The author brings to life the historical MacBeth, how he managed to have a peaceful and prosperous reign, went on a pilgramage to Rome with his queen, and how his people mourned his death. He is the only Scottish monarch to make such a pilgramage and his successors were too busy putting down revolts to contemplate it. Shakespeare's creature came to be long after MacBeth's Canmore successors' line itself was extinct.