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That Plagiarist, Shakespeare

The American lady was vociferous in her condemnation: “That Shakespeare was nothing but a plagiarist!”. Her outburst shattered the timeless serenity of the Innerpeffray Library in rural Perthshire. Before her, on a reading cushion, sat The Hystory and Croniklis of Scotland, John Bellenden’s Scots-language paraphrase of the Historia gentis scotorum by Hector Boece. The Croniklis were open at the description of the three weird sisters. The American lady’s shock stemmed from her realisation that it was from this source that the plot of Shakespeare’s Macbeth had been developed.

Boece-Bellenden’s chapter on the reign of Macbeth began by relating ‘ane vncouth and wounderfull thyng’, and described Macbeth and Banquo meeting the three weird sisters. This caused ‘ane gret alteration in ye realme’.

Hector Boece was born in Dundee in 1465. His early education was at St Andrews University, and continued in Paris. As a student and lecturer there, he met many of the eminent scholars of the time, and was a friend of the great Erasmus. So Boece was the obvious choice for a top-level Scottish university job that came up when, in 1495, William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI, on behalf of King James IV, to establish a university in Scotland’s north-east - Kings College in Old Aberdeen.

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About iScot Magazine

iScot Magazine December 2017 116 jam packed pages of the best craic in Scotland from the only truly independent pro Scottish magazine.