I wanted to clear up that my post last week, Lies Like Truth, was criticizing the article in the Scotsman and not necessarily the academics being cited. If, in fact, they are making the claim that the article says they are, they are included in my critique, but I suspect the article doesn’t do justice to their positions. If I had to guess, and this is only conjecture, I would say that they are simply stating that the version of history told by Shakespeare first appears in Wyntoun. No big deal. The only reason it’s worth mentioning is that they were about to say so on a radio special. But that wouldn’t make a good story for the Scotsman, and thus this whole business of being “lifted, almost word for word in places” rears its ugly head.
Case in point: here’s another story from DailyIndia.com and NewKerala.com from Asian News International that seems to have been “lifted, almost word for word in places” from the original story in the Scotsman. Look at the two stories side by side and the ANI piece, appearing the next day, reads like a high school student clumsily paraphrasing from an encyclopedia. But upon closer inspection, the ANI article makes some bold statements that the Scotsman was careful only to imply, despite the fact that the Scotsman article was clearly its one and only source.
For example, the Scotsman plants the idea of the authorship question like so:
In a radio programme to be aired today, Scots historian Fiona Watson and literary expert Molly Rourke claim the story of Macbeth was penned by a Scottish monk on St Serf’s Island in the middle of Loch Leven 400 years before William Shakespeare even drew breath.
Shift around the letters, and the ANI version becomes:
Scots historian Fiona Watson and literary expert Molly Rourke are claiming that the credit for ‘Macbeth’ doesn’t belong to the Bard of Avon, but to a Scottish monk named Andrew de Wyntoun from St Serf’s Island in the middle of Loch Leven who wrote the play 400 years before Shakespeare was even born.
So we go from the idea that Wyntoun penned the story of Macbeth (the man), which is true, to the idea that Wyntoun wrote Macbeth (the play) instead of Shakespeare. Quite a leap. I can only imagine, but I hope I’m right, that Watson and Rourke would be horrified to see these claims attached to their names.
Even the title of the ANI article is dodgy:
Did a Scottish monk write Macbeth instead of Shakespeare?
Oh, I can answer that one.