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Macbeth: A True Story
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Macbeth: A True Story

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  44 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
A respected historian of medieval Scotland releases the authentic historical Macbeth from a prison of literary and folkloric mythThanks to Shakespeare, the name Macbeth has become a byword for political ambition realized by bloody violence.Fiona Watsonhas uncovered, buried beneath the layers of myth, a history that is entirely different from, but just as extraordinary as, ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 31st 2011 by Quercus Publishing (first published 2010)
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This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, it's well written, excellently referenced and approaches a fascinating subject. On the other, it doesn't deliver what it promises.

What you may expect from this when browsing the history section of your bookstore is a biography of Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, king of Alba and the basis for later traditions including Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece. However, what Fiona Watson has produced is less "Macbeth: A True Story" than "Scotland: A True Sto
Rowena Williamson
Aug 21, 2014 Rowena Williamson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this a fascinating look at this period of Scotland. Although at times it does read like a textbook, that didn't bother me. I've read Dorothy Dunnett's King Hereafter, a fiction version of MacBeth, which I'll review at another time, and can see that both authors did extensive research to bring the legendary king to life. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in 11th Century live. Imagine what it would be like to travel from Scotland to Rome at that time. While Shakespeare wrot ...more
This is a well written and researched book. My only real issue with it is only about 1/4 of it is actually about Macbeth. The majority of the book is about the history of Scotland, its monarchs, its surrounding lands, its medieval relationship with Ireland, etc. More than half way in there are a few chapters about Macbeth, and then it's back to the history of life AFTER Macbeth in the surrounding areas (England, Scotland, etc). It's all very interesting (if not also very confusing at times), jus ...more
Jesse Dixon
Nov 02, 2011 Jesse Dixon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In Macbeth: A True Story, Fiona Watson portrays Macbeth as a king that was popular and largely successful under prosperous times during his reign. This is in contrast to the Macbeth portrayed by Shakespeare which shows Macbeth to be an unpopular king that unrightfully took the throne through murder and betrayal. Throughout the book there are italicized sections of fiction which have scenes that show the possible scenarios and events of the times, and pictures in the middle of landmarks and objec ...more
Cydni Perkins
Sep 17, 2013 Cydni Perkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a truly fascinating book, and I'm really glad I read it. I would recommend, for anyone who wants to read it, to go ahead and read the introduction first. Read it even if, like me, you find introductions superfluous in general and you typically make it a point not to read them. The introduction is where the author lays out her plan for the book and explains why she formatted it the way she did. As she says, Macbeth was a king who can only be truly understood in context with the world he ...more
Morag Gray
Aug 09, 2012 Morag Gray rated it liked it
I know the play, of course, and the opera. This book has a little bit about Macbeth the king, and it seems he wasn't such an evil character at all. Succession by murder was the way kings came to the throne in his day. Once there, he reigned in relative peace and prosperity - after all ,this was the age of Viking raids - for nearly twenty years. He was the only Scottish king who made a pilgrimage to Rome.

Much of the book is about shifting political alliances and explaining a model of hereditary k
Jan 17, 2012 Sabina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I can't quite bring myself to call this a biography, not when you find yourself halfway through the book and Mac Bethad mac Findlaich (Macbeth) hasn't even been born yet. However, that doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile read. Watson supplies a lot of political, religious and cultural background information leading up to Macbeth's reign from 1040 - 1057. Reality is nothing like the Scottish Play as it turns out and even though Macbeth is one of those people we simply don't know that much about (s ...more
Sep 13, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. The author brings to life the historical MacBeth, how he managed to have a peaceful and prosperous reign, went on a pilgramage to Rome with his queen, and how his people mourned his death. He is the only Scottish monarch to make such a pilgramage and his successors were too busy putting down revolts to contemplate it. Shakespeare's creature came to be long after MacBeth's Canmore successors' line itself was extinct.
I wanted to like this more than I did. While there were some sparkling moments, I found myself struggling to engage in the many, many characters that made up the complicated political world of 12th Century Scotland. Also, MacBeth did not appear until more than half way through the book, which was tough when he was the character I was most interested in reading about.
Feb 18, 2012 Tammy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Library Journals's recommended to purchase or not.... Only for armchair historians of the Middle Ages, fans of Shakespeare's "Scottish play," and readers of historical fiction ---- That is all --- so ME!
This book is about much more than Macbeth. It's really the history of early Scotland, before such a place existed. The story of Macbeth is nothing like the one written by Shakespeare.
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