I have long toyed with writing this post, which (now I'm going to make my readers jealous) encapsulates a snippet of conversation I had in person with Canadian uberhunk Substance McGravitas and nerdlicious brainiac N__B. The deciding factor in the timing of this post was the discovery of the probable remains of Richard the Third, a man depicted in historical and dramatic accounts as an evil usurper, guilty of simultaneous infanticide and regicide, though this depiction may very well be a gross exaggeration. This post is not going to be a defense of Richard 3-D, but a defense of another man whose character was destroyed by Slick Willy Shakespeare... a man whose wife was also defamed by Stratford-on-Avon's greatest monster.
Yeah, you got it, I'm talking about MacBeth MacFindláech, heroic king of Caledonia. Contrary to the libelous account by the poison-penned playwright, MacBeth, the Mormaer of Moray (eel jokes in the comments will be considered out of plaice) ascended to the throne in 1040 after defeating his awful predecessor, Duncan in a pitched battle. Duncan was an incompetent expansionist who ruled as a tyrant and became embroiled in a two front war. As an aside, what is it about competent successors to foolish imperialists that gets them labeled illegitimate usurpers? Really, WTF? MacBeth had a peaceful relationship with Thorfinn, Jarl of Orkney, with whom Duncan had fought. MacBeth's rule lasted for seventeen years, and the fact that he was able to make a joint pilgrimmage to Rome with Jarl Thorfinn suggests that his rule was a peaceful one. MacBeth was defeated at the battle of Lumphanan by Malcolm the Third, Duncan's son in 1057. To demonstrate Malcolm's quality of character, he sheltered Tostig Godwinson for a while before Tostig fell in with some guy named Harry, and all hell broke loose. 'Nuff said.
So, why would shady Shakespeare go out of his way to destroy the character of MacBeth, who ruled wisely over a prosperous land? It would seem that Bill was trying to gain the favor of King James the First, whose Stuart dynasty traced its roots to a shadowy figure named Fleance. As an aside, if I ever form a Belle and Sebastian-y dreampop band, I will name it Fly Fleance Fly. So... Shakespeare was trying to suck up to a bad king by maligning a good one. Real jerk move there, Shakespeare!
And Lady Macbeth? She was no red-handed murdress, merely a- heh heh- grouch.