Macbeth defamed?

Is this a murderous villain I see before me? No, it’s a cuddly, peace-loving king, says The Times headline. And it reports:

DOUBLE, double toil and trouble: Shakespeare’s portrayal of Macbeth as a blood-soaked assassin manipulated by a cunning wife has been branded a travesty by politicians who want to restore the king to his proper place in his nation’s history — and cash in on it.

Members of the Scottish Parliament want to rescue the 11th-century monarch from what they claim is the “bad press” of the play.

The MSPs have submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament which, if agreed, will see 2005, the 1,000th anniversary of Macbeth’s birth, as the year in which he acquires a new halo and his image as the tragic, twisted villain of the Scottish play is dumped in favour of that of a cuddly, peace-loving monarch.

The motion calls for the Parliament to make arrangements to mark Macbeth’s birthday and regrets that he is “misportrayed in the inaccurate Shakespeare play when he was in fact a successful Scottish king”.

The 20 MSPs who have signed the motion are also calling for the establishment of a Macbeth heritage trail in the north-east of Scotland to boost both tourism in the area, which contains a Macbeth Well and a Macbeth Cairn.

Alex Johnstone, the Conservative MSP who is spearheading the Save Macbeth campaign, said: “Macbeth gets a bad press from his association with Shakespeare. He was very probably a good king and he should be given an amnesty.