Monday, 8 December 2014

Heir to a Prophecy by Mercedes Rochelle 
Release Date: 12th December 2014
Publisher: Top Hat Books
Genres: Historical Fiction

Brook Cottage Books is thrilled to have Mercedes Rochelle on the blog today with this fantastic guest post!

What were Macbeth's Witches up to?

As usual when reading Shakespeare, Macbeth's play can be absorbed on many levels. Historically, the great Bard takes us on a flight of fancy, because these events didn't happen...or at least modern historians tell us so. Macbeth used Holinshed at his source, and in the 16th century Banquo and Macbeth were very real indeed. So was the belief in witches.

I didn't know any background when I first read Macbeth, and didn't know that he was (allegedly) writing for his patron, James I who was also James VI of Scotland. King James was a Stewart, and his was the line of Kings shown to Macbeth by the three witches. So when the witches told Banquo "Thou shalt 'get kings, though thou be none", I can only assume that Shakespeare's audience knew Banquo was James I's ancestor. Why else would he drop the subplot when Fleance ran away from his father's assassins?

This is where I came in. What happened to Fleance? What Kings? I went digging around and discovered a fascinating and convoluted story about Fleance's son Walter, who eventually became first Steward of Scotland and ancestor of the Stewarts.

But back to the witches. King James I was a great witch hunter, and considered himself an expert on the subject. So why would Shakespeare write a play about witches setting up his ancestor, so to speak? At face value, it doesn't seem to make sense.  However, a closer look at Holinshed gives us an alternative: "the common opinion was, that these women were either the weird sisters, that is (as ye would say) the goddesses of destiny, or else some nymphs or fairies imbued with knowledge of prophesy."

Well, that is something altogether different! The word "weird" has its origins in the Saxon word wyrd meaning fate, or personal destiny.  Some even attribute the first modern use of the word "weird" to Shakespeare. If you look at the Weird Sisters from the Scandinavian point of view, the word wyrd translates to Urd, one of the Norns of mythology who controlled the destiny of mankind. Presumably that would be more palatable than agents of the devil.

If we were to accept that the Witches were actually the Norns, their presence makes more sense to me. Like the Greek Fates, their will was thought to be unalterable. The Norns are said to appear at the beside of a newborn and shape the child’s future. Hence they appear several times in my novel; their heavy guiding hand is never entirely far away. Although modern scholars tend to believe that Banquo and his heirs never really existed, if their genealogy is good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me!
Author Bio

Born in St. Louis MO with a BA in Literature from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation.  She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

Book Blurb

Shakespeare’s Witches tell Banquo, “Thou Shalt ‘Get Kings Though Thou Be None”. Though Banquo is murdered, his son Fleance gets away. What happened to Fleance? As Shakespeare’s audience apparently knew, Banquo was the ancestor of the royal Stewart line. But the road to kingship had a most inauspicious beginning, and we follow Fleance into exile and death, bestowing the Witches’ prophecy on his illegitimate son Walter. Born in Wales and raised in disgrace, Walter’s efforts to understand Banquo’s murder and honor his lineage take him on a long and treacherous journey through England and France before facing his destiny in Scotland.  

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