Royal Shakespeare Company backs new edition of plays with claims as the 'original Shakespeare'

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Shakespeare may not have intended Lady Macbeth to be quite so vindictive after all. A new edition of his works, to be published with official backing, is to make significant changes to the characters and elements of the plots of the plays.

The RSC Shakespeare Complete Works, to be published this month, will break with the literary consensus of more than three centuries to produce a version that it claims will be closer to the playwright’s intentions.

It will use as its text Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623 —- the version authorised by John Hemings and Henry Condell, his fellow actors.

Even minor changes in punctuation can change the meaning of key scenes. In the usual version of the play, Lady Macbeth appears to reassure her husband that there is nothing to fear and that he will get away with the murder of Duncan, the king of Scotland.

In the new edition, a question mark removes the Machiavellian undercurrent, so that she is simply asking him: what do we fear? She also loses her title in the new version and is known as the wife or lady of Macbeth...

The new edition is the work of an international team of academic experts and directors, led by Jonathan Bate, professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance literature at the University of Warwick, and Eric Rasmussen, professor of English at the University of Nevada.

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