Costume Design in Macbeth

Topics: Scottish Gaelic, Scotland, Scottish Highlands Pages: 4 (1603 words) Published: October 11, 2011
Macbeth is strongly associated in most imaginations with the peculiar and picturesque costume of the Highlanders, as that common to all ancient Scotland. Walter Scott relates with great satisfaction, how with his own hand he plucked the huge bunches of black plumes from the bonnet in which Kemble was just about to appear as Macbeth, and substituted the single broad eagle-quilled feather of the Highland chief, sloping across his brow. Scott is an authority not to be appealed from on any such point; and Macbeth, from his name, was of Celtic race. Yet there may be some exaggeration in the idea of the universal prevalence of the Highland costume in the courts and camps of the ancient Scottish kings.

The Lowland Scots were a mixed race, more Teutonic than Gaelic, as is testified by their language in its several dialects, so far back as it can be traced, evidently drawn chiefly from the same sources with the dialects of the north of England; and they must have resembled their Saxon, or Saxo-Danish, neighbours in other habits as well as in language. The very name as well as the rank of thane, seems to come from the Saxons, and not from the Celts; and the border Scotch thane differed probably but little in appearance from the English chiefs of Northumberland and Cumberland. Still, in the reigns of Duncan and Macbeth, (A.D. 1034 to 1060) there may have been a predominance of the ancient Gaelic costume. Besides, whatever antiquarian industry may determine as to the barren fact, the Highland costume is unquestionably the poetic and romantic attire of old Scotia's children. This is thus described by Charles Knight, following and abridging the work of Mr. Skene on the Highlanders:

"It would be too much, perhaps, to affirm that the [Scottish] dress as at present worn, in all its minute details, is ancient; but it is very certain that it is compounded of three varieties in the form of dress which were separately worn by the Highlanders of the seventeenth century, and that...
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