Sunday, August 12, 2012

Macbeth


12 August in 1668

… Home to dinner, where Pelling dines with us, and brings some partridges, which is very good meat; and, after dinner, I, and wife, and Mercer, and Deb., to the Duke of York’s house, and saw “Mackbeth,” to our great content, and then home, where the women went to the making of my tubes, and I to the office, and then come Mrs. Turner and her husband to advise about their son, the Chaplain, who is turned out of his ship, a sorrow to them, which I am troubled for, and do give them the best advice I can, and so they gone we to bed.’

That lover of the theater Samuel Pepys saw “Macbeth” this day, 344 years ago (per his diary).  Shakesperian scholar William J. Rolfe, draws on writing from Walter Scott to show that Shakespeare’s use of material about Macbeth was not especially  historically accurate. 

‘Shakespeare drew the materials for the plot of Macbeth from Holinshed's Chronicles of Englande, Scotlande, and Ireland, the first edition of which was issued in 1577, and the second (which was doubtless the one the poet used) in 1586-87….Although, as Knight remarks, "the interest of Macbeth is not an historical interest," so that it matters little whether the action is true or has been related as true, I may add, for the benefit of my younger readers, that the story of the drama is almost wholly apocryphal. The more authentic history is thus summarized by Sir Walter Scott:

"Duncan, by his mother Beatrice a grandson of Malcolm II, succeeded to the throne on his grandfather's death, in 1033: he reigned only six years. Macbeth, his near relation, also a grandchild of Malcolm II, though by the mother's side, was stirred up by ambition to contest the throne with the possessor. The Lady of Macbeth also, whose real name was Graoch, had deadly injuries to avenge on the reigning prince. She was the granddaughter of Kenneth IV, killed 1003, fighting against Malcolm II, and other causes for revenge animated the mind of her who has been since painted as the sternest of women. The old annalists add some instigations of a supernatural kind to the influence of a vindictive woman over an ambitious husband. Three women, of more than human stature and beauty, appeared to Macbeth in a dream or vision, and hailed him successively by the titles of Thane of Cromarty, Thane of Moray, which the king afterwards bestowed on him, and finally by that of King of Scots; this dream, it is said, inspired him with the seductive hopes so well expressed in the drama...'

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