Banquo’s Daughters and the Lost #MeToo Macbeth, and Early Modern Alt-Media

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This article investigates the disturbing accusation, first recorded in 1652, that Macbeth abducted and possibly raped a daughter of Banquo’s. Since Banquo himself was apparently fabricated by the Aberdonian chronicler Hector Boece in the 1520s to romanticize the Stuart dynasty’s origins, his daughter has no historical basis and tales of her grim fate likely represent a literary embellishment on the scene in which Malcolm reports Macbeth had confessed that kingship would awaken his insatiably lustful nature. These rumours, circulating at least by the early 1650s, would eventually culminate in an obscene prose romance entitled The Secret History of Mack-beth, first printed in 1708 shortly after the Acts of Union. Although the article entertains the tantalizing possibilities that Banquo’s daughter may have featured in the legendary uncut Macbeth, in deleted or censored additions to the play by Thomas Middleton (who created several female characters with the same name as Banquo’s daughter), or an unrealized adaptation planned by John Milton, the evidence proves too circumstantial. A safer assumption would be that the underground Macbeth was spawned by the radical press following Charles ii’s coronation as King of Scotland at Scone in 1651. Nevertheless, this apocryphal legend illuminates some gaps in Shakespeare’s tragedy and affords an early example of how Shakespearean drama might be appropriated by an early modern forerunner of alt-media to feed a twisted sexual politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-147
Number of pages27
JournalExplorations in Renaissance culture
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2023


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