Supporter Spotlight: Kevin Cosgrave
7 Nov 2022
We’ve done the research, so you can bluff your way through. Here’s a quickfire guide to all the thrills, spills, and chills of Macbeth. Compiled by Andy McLean.
William Shakespeare dreamed up a lot of this play, but he also borrowed several characters and details from a history book, Holinshed’s Chronicles. Macbeth was a real person who lived in Perthshire, Scotland about 1,000 years ago. It’s believed that he was a chief of the northern Scots and lived in a fort high up on a hill in the Dunsinane area. Macbeth became King of Scotland after his army killed Duncan in battle. Years later, Duncan’s son Malcolm fought Macbeth and eventually defeated him, taking the throne for himself.
Macbeth A Scottish general admired for his cold-blooded feats in battle. Macbeth appears to be rawer and tougher than a gang of Hells Angels at a raw and tough convention in Rawandtuffville.
Lady Macbeth Smart, ambitious and a close confidante to her powerful husband. She and Macbeth have lost at least one child in infancy, and now have no living children.
Banquo A Scottish general who bears the same scars of war as his friend and ally Macbeth. Banquo’s son, Fleance, is often to be found at his father’s side.
The Weird Sisters ‘Weird’ used to mean ‘prophetic’, and these three appear to have an uncanny ability to see the future. They use their knowledge to tempt and toy with Macbeth. They also seem to get upset when you call them ‘witches’.
Duncan The autocratic ruler of Scotland, Duncan trusts his allies and maintains his power by violently crushing any rivals. But when you live by the sword…
Malcolm and Donalbain Duncan’s eldest son, Malcolm, is next in line to the throne. He and his brother, Donalbain, are (justifiably) wary of Scotland’s brutal power plays.
Macduff This Scottish general is a brave soldier who is deeply loyal to Duncan and his family.
Superstition has it that merely uttering the word “Macbeth” will provoke bad luck and misfortune. In fact, many theatre people refer to “The Scottish Play” instead of saying “Macbeth” aloud.
Is the play really cursed? It’s hard to say. But Bell Shakespeare’s history with the play is spattered with some undeniably strange happenings.
It all started when our founder, John Bell, starred in Macbeth for the Royal Shakespeare Company in England in 1967. His director Peter Hall contracted severe shingles, forcing the production to be postponed by six weeks. Thirty years later , during rehearsals for a Bell Shakespeare Macbeth, director Peter Evans was hospitalised with appendicitis, throwing preparations into disarray. And just before the opening night of our 2012 production, many of the cast and crew were struck down with severe food poisoning!
All just a coincidence? Or something more sinister? You decide.
The number- one rule in the theatre business is to give your audience what it wants, and so William Shakespeare did exactly that with Macbeth.
The patron of Shakespeare’s acting company was none other than King James I, a Scottish King who ascended the English throne in 1603. James was so fascinated by witches that he wrote a book about them, and he was thought to be a direct descendent of Banquo.
So it can be no coincidence that Shakespeare’s play includes witches, a flattering portrayal of Banquo, and a reference to a King of England who cures disease by touching the afflicted (something that James believed he could do). And, of course, the play celebrates the uniting of Scotland and England.
When Macbeth was staged in the royal court, James must have lapped it up. Which would have been extremely good news for Shakespeare and his colleagues.