Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Scottish Play and Scottish Ploys

I see that there’s to be a production of Macbeth in a translation into Scots, made by Robin Lorimer twenty years ago. It had to happen I suppose, for the English bard has been put into every other language, it seems. The next stage I should think will be to render him into Gaelic, seeing as how MacBeth was our best Gaelic king (as a commentator on the news story notes). Another writes in Scots (of a sort) thus:

Hearin onythin in guid braid Scots is a fell guid thing. Wi this Lorimer owersettin mony folk that wadna normally gang tae a Shakespeare production, wull nae doot hae thair een stappit open tae see a bit o internaitional cultur thae wad itherwise nae conseeder at aw. There maunna be ony boonds tae Shakespeare, an shairly MacBeth o aw the bards warks shuid be heard in Scots! Forby thon, is it nae a sad thing that the abuin article haed tae say “not to be confused with Gaelic”. Haein been tae twa-three Scots language plays afore, an seein folk wi tears in thair een because o hearin thair ain Scots Tung, I hae nae doot at aw that this play wull “blaw thaim awa”. I’ll awa an jyne thon queue for tickets!

But one has to suspend one’s disbelief when viewing the play (in any language). It’s really a fantasy out of the partisan historian Holinshed, and a great libel on a king who was to say the least more sinned against than sinning. Assassinations and usurping were not at all unusual back then [and since??], and MacBeth was actually a pretty good monarch, his reign lasting a bit longer than Shakespeare makes out. He shortens things up and telescopes time so that poor Macbeth reels towards his deserved ruin headlong. This is naturally better for drama, but makes a pedantic historian grit the teeth. Forbye this, the murder of Duncan (based actually on that of Duff) is portrayed as an individual act (no fellow conspirators), whereas history makes the noble Banquo just as involved, and Duncan himself is portrayed not as a weak ineffectual king unworthy of the throne but as a practically saint-like capable ruler. This agrees pretty well with Shakespeare’s new monarch James, who held to the comforting idea that kings are by God appointed (as the vicar of Bray says), and moreover traced his descent from the innocent Banquo.

The results are in for the council elections in Britain, and Labour rather surprisingly have done rather well in Scotland against all odds. But I suppose the Unionist mob and the howls from the partisan media (including the “unbiased” BBC) about SNP hypocrisy had their effect. Nothing daunted, Alex Salmond and his minions put a brave face on and note that overall SNP councillors total 402, more than before and more than Labour. Meanwhile the poor Liberal Democrats suffered rather badly, mostly I suppose because folk are fed up with the shenanigans of the Westminster coalition, but in spite of what Jenny Dawe says, in Edinburgh at least the fury and frustration of the citizens about the tram fiasco have finally been able to be demonstrated.


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