11 thoughts on “Hail Macbeth

  1. Wondering if the blue on Lady M’s eyes/nose is a nod to Pictish tattooing? Historically, the union of Thorfinn of Orkney (maybe the real Macbeth) and Gruach was a diplomatic marriage to unite the Norse and Celts – the blue would emphasize her ethnic difference from hubby. Cool detail, if so!

  2. Bethod od Finleag was the king’s real name. The Norse influence works well since about half the Highland clans have Norse roots. For a good summary of the real MacBeth, see the introductory chapter of Eric Linklater’s “The Survival of Scotland.” Gruoch inherited from both lines. The rule of succession from Kenneth MacAlpin was that the crown would alternate between two collateral lines. The elder Duncan broke this when he named his sin, also Duncan, to succeed him. Grouch’s clan was already at feud with Duncan when she married Bethod, by which he inherited the feud as well.

  3. I would think the blue is a nod to the woad used by a number of Scots tribes. I think it’s really cool that they’re going period for this!

  4. I know that this is an old thread but I really hope that you see this and respond- if not, it is cool. I’ll just use the Contact Us form :)

    So, Lady Macbeth’s outfits absolutely fascinate me. The costume designer said that the back had a lot of volume to be raised over the head, so the shawl that you can see her wearing in pictures is actually her dress. Is this historically accurate? I loved it but I can’t find anything about the accuracy- if it was a thing it would probably be easier for me to find a way to recreate it because the functionality was just great.


    1. Hi Beth,

      The thing with this film was that, as with Anna Karenina, they weren’t going for an accurate look and instead were veering more towards a theatrical theme. Essentially, they were taking the silhouettes of a period and then overlaying their own designs. It’s generally accepted among reenactors (like myself) who cover Scottish history during the Middle Ages that they probably wore more or less what other northern European cultures nearby wore. If you lived in an area with heavy Norse influence, that probably had an effect on your clothing style; if you were closer to England, and especially if you were an elite, you probably leaned more that way.

      So, while these costumes are absolutely amazing and well-made, they aren’t accurate to Scotland during the earlier parts of the medieval period (or any period, really). However, I personally don’t care, because it’s not like they were trying to be historically accurate, and that’s ok in this case. The Shakespearean “MacBeth” is a far cry from the historical characters it draws inspiration from; remember, it was an Englishman writing a play for a king who might have been Scottish, but was probably descended from the family that overthrew MacBeth (who was actually considered a pretty okay ruler). The costumers wanted to create a sort of otherworldly feel, and I think they did it beautifully.

      I hope that helped you!

      1. Thank you Olivia, very helpful!

        I was afraid that it wasn’t at all accurate because I just couldn’t find anything like it. I think I know the inspiration though. I just love the reinterpretation so much more.

        Agree about MacBeth- read that Shakespeare flatter the account towards Banquo and his line because he was the ancestor of King James, right?

        1. That’s the legend, yeah, but who knows. The documents from the early medieval period in Scotland are pretty sketchy, with fairly little known about even the elites; it didn’t help that Scotland was kind of considered this pathetic little kingdom at the edge of the world. MacBeth himself got a leg up purely because he was king. Even his wife (variously named Gruach/Gruach/Gruath), who was probably the most desired woman in Scotland because of her elite bloodline, gets almost no mention in surviving records; her son Lulach, who was also King of Alba, also gets pretty minimal documentation.

  5. This has absolutely nothing to do with costuming in tv and film. The monastery on the isle of Iona, part of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Sotland was founded by St. Columba in 563. A burial mound near the site of the 12th century church is said to be the burial place of 48 Scottish kings, including Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, king of Alba, 1040-1057. We know him as Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Shakespeare cribbed his story from the King MacBeth in “Holinshed’s Chronicles” (1587), in the narratives of the Kings Duff and Duncan.

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