Macbeth's reign should receive a Richard III-style revision, says MSP

Patrick Stewart in Macbeth Patrick Stewart starred in a 2010 version of Macbeth

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Historical revisions sparked by the discovery of the remains of Richard III should prompt a review of Scottish king Macbeth's reign, an MSP has suggested.

Alex Johnstone is to table a motion to the Scottish Parliament.

"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," he said.

Richard III and Macbeth were both portrayed as villains by renowned playwright William Shakespeare.

Start Quote

It's like suggesting people should learn about medieval Scottish history by watching Braveheart”

End Quote Alex Johnstone MSP

But, following the discovery of his bones beneath a Leicester car park, some now suggest that Richard III was unfairly maligned.

"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," said the Conservative MSP.

"This has strong parallels with the situation in Scotland, where Macbeth's reign is characterised by Shakespeare as being one of murder and paranoia.

Iconic monarch

"The arts can engender an interest in the past, but they should never act as a substitute for knowledge of actual events.

"In modern parlance, it's like suggesting people should learn about medieval Scottish history by watching Braveheart."

Mr Johnstone said the reality is very different in Macbeth's case.

"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 said.

"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."

Mr Johnstone thinks a review of Macbeth's reign could increase awareness of the king and Scottish history from the period, as well as boosting visitor numbers to associated sites such as Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire and Glamis in Angus.

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