Abstract

In this essay, Floyd-Wilson argues that when Macbeth calls the English "epicures," he invokes an ethnological discourse articulated in William Harrison's Description of Scotland and derived from the Scots translation of Hector Boece, which maintains that when Malcolm Canmore took the throne, the influx of English immigrants corrupted the Scots, formerly temperate in mind and body. In depicting the period immediately preceding this transformation, Shakespeare inverts the Scottish narrative of degeneration by presenting the ancient Scots—the Macbeths—as anything but temperate. But Shakespeare also moves the question of ancient Scottish temperance beyond the more typical realm of Galenic non-naturals into an environment saturated with demonic spirits. The witches and evil spirits in Macbeth are predominantly elemental in nature, marking them as indigenously northern. Consequently, the Macbeths' native environment may predispose them to a corruption more dangerous than English manners and foreign dishes. The play's supernatural ecology rests on analogous conceptions of somatic vulnerability and material influence that characterize the period's ethnological distinctions.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-3555
Print ISSN
0037-3222
Pages
pp. 131-161
Launched on MUSE
2006-07-17
Open Access
No
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