Macbeth aka 'The Scottish Play'


Macbeth aka 'The Scottish Play'


A tragedy of greed, ambition and treachery, but also of Celtic rebellion against imperial England?

The Scottishness of the so-called 'Scottish play' has received scant attention, surprisingly, with actors such as Ian McKellen, who famously played the Thane of Cawdor in 1978, claiming Macbeth's nationality isn't relevant. 

Attention to setting and location is crucial, however, and it could be claimed that this is a play as much about the struggle for independence, and the relationship between the 'mainland' and its borderlands as it is about any individual. Recent stage and film versions also seem to be consciously recuperating the play's Scottishness.  

Some suggested further reading:

  • Claire McEachern, “The Englishness of the Scottish Play: Macbeth and the Poetics of Jacobean Union." Shakespearean Criticism, 136 (2011).
  • Derrick McClure, “When Macbeth Becomes Scots,” In A Journal of English Language, Literatures in English, and Cultural Studies (Brazil) 36 (1999): 29-51

  • Willy Maley and Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare and Scotland. Manchester University Press, 2004.






“Macbeth aka 'The Scottish Play',” Shakespearean Journeys, accessed February 22, 2024,