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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2007

The Politics of Sleepwalking: American Lady Macbeths


More than any other aspect of Shakespeare’s play, Lady Macbeth is understood in American discourse as impervious to change. The persistence and force of her character are illustrated especially well by the apparent distaste American audiences currently feel for innovation in her role. The Wall Street Journal reported several years ago, for example, on a failed attempt to revive the play for Hollywood. On 23 May 1996, the Journal described the frustrations of Scottish screenwriter Steven Simpson, then attempting to interest Hollywood in his new Macbeth, ‘Throne of Destiny’. The screenplay dramatizes a Scottish nationalist Macbeth, in the mode of Rob Roy and William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace. It inherits a cultural and nationalist revival that began in Scotland in the 1970s. So it takes its history from George Buchanan, writing against the editorial revisions of Raphael Holinshed and Hector Boece that contributed to the ‘imperial themes’ of Shakespeare’s play. Simpson emphasizes the historical Macbeth’s first ten years of peaceful rule and the proto-constitutionalism of the Scottish monarchy. His Macbeth is obviously quite different from Shakespeare’s ambitious usurper. In him, public action and the support of counselors overcome the bad rule of Buchanan’s weaker King Duncan. This Macbeth restores the ancient liberties and rational political order that Duncan failed to maintain.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Online ISBN: 9781139052764
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