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Macbeth before Shakespeare

Benjamin Hudson

20 January 2023

ISBN: 9780197567531

272 pages

In Stock

Price: £22.99



Macbeth before Shakespeare is a history of the medieval King Macbeth and his legend that was the basis for William Shakespeare's Tragedie of Macbeth. It traces the life of the real man and his important innovations, while showing how different legends were created in subsequent eras.

  • Traces the world in which the real Macbeth lived and how his ancestry shaped the man and legend
  • Examines Lady Macbeth as a descendant of a king and her contribution to the family's fortunes
  • Analyzes different versions of the historical records of Macbeth and later legends, with attention to Celtic and Scandinavian material

About the Author(s)

Benjamin Hudson, Professor of History and Medieval Studies, Pennsylvania State University

Benjamin Hudson is Professor of History and Medieval Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. His books include Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic (OUP, 2005) and The Picts. Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic (OUP, 2005).

Table of Contents

    Note on Methodology
    List of Abbreviations
    Introduction: A Man and a Legend
    Chapter 1: Macbeth: Place and Past
    Chapter 2: Macbeth Emerges
    Chapter 3: King of All the Scots
    Chapter 4: Fame and Defamation
    Chapter 5: Not the Beginning of the Legend
    Chapter 6: Weird Sisters and the Prior of Loch Leven
    Chapter 7: Macbeth and Renaissance Scotland
    Chapter 8: The Scot in Tudor England
    Chapter 9: Macbeth before Shakespeare
    Appendix 1: Children of Macbeth
    Appendix 2: Andrew of Wyntoun's Macbeth Episode: A Translation


"Benjamin Hudson's Macbeth before Shakespeare is a very entertaining and educating read. It succeeds very well in bringing out the man behind the myth, as well as explaining how the man became the myth. Hudson is a master of all the materials and languages required for the job, and he knows the history of Ireland and Britain around the year 1000 intimately." - Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, National University of Ireland, Galway

"Here at last we have a solid and detailed account of the historical Macbeth. Ben Hudson is the historian of Celtic Scotland in the central Middle Ages, and he provides us with a readable narrative of the origins of the kingdom of the Scots and Macbeth's role as one of its most energetic and effective kings prior to Scotland's vassalage to their Anglo-Norman neighbor to the south. We see here the process by which Shakespeare inherited the history and legends surrounding Macbeth and the 'three weird sisters,' how Scots were generally perceived in Tudor England, and whether or not there could have been surviving children of Macbeth and his Lady. This is a meticulously constructed history of Scots, Viking, and English relations in the tumultuous eleventh century and a fascinating glimpse into how this particular Scottish monarch—called by one contemporary poet 'the red king'—made his way onto the Elizabethan stage." - Christopher A. Snyder, author of The Britons

"This fascinating examination is an important contribution to medieval and early modern Scottish and British history, literature, folklore, and drama. Combining an unrivalled mastery of a complex array of sources with expert use of multiple methodologies, Benjamin Hudson deftly unveils the story of one of Scotland's most enigmatic figures across half a millennium as he explores the evolution of Macbeth from an historical, eleventh-century ruler of Scotland to the infamous Shakespearean literary villain of five-and-a-half centuries later." - R. Andrew McDonald, Brock University