Macbeth stabbed in the back

30th July 1999 at 01:00
IT MAY be the Scottish play but Macbeth is not a Scottish play. Shakespeare is out. Rona Munro is definitely in, although her standard work, Bold Girls, is set in Belfast. She qualifies as a Scot.

Bernard MacLaverty, who lives in Glasgow but continues to write about Ireland, passes the Scottish test, as does Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum's exhaustive list of texts on Scottish literature, drama and poetry, suitable for senior pupils, includes most from Robert Burns to John Byrne but William Shakespeare fails the test of Scottishness.

Brian Monteith, Tory education spokesman, rushed to the rescue of the ancient Scottish king. "While it is not obviously historically factual, it tells us a lot about Scotland," Mr Monteith protested.

A Scottish text is defined as "a coherent and substantial body of writing . . . which deals centrally with issues of life and experience in Scotland, or which exhibits recognisably Scottish attitudes towards Scotland or the world

at large".

The curriculum council continues: "Such texts, however, while mainly produced by Scottish writers, need not be limited to Scottish authorship; the experience of non-Scots living and working in Scotland, or commenting on Scottish life and culture from outside, when coherent and substantial, can justifiably be regarded as a valuable contribution to Scottish literature."

One English teacher, who declined to be named, commented: "It's like Craig Brown's football team - anyone with a Scottish granny is in."

Mike Baughan, the council's chief executive, said: "It's not a great surprise Macbeth is excluded. It's a major piece of Shakespearian canon in the English language, although it's a play about a tragedy that has a Scottish setting."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today