Macbeth Macbeth; Birmingham Shakespeare scholar creates new fiction inside the King’s murder chamber  

University of Birmingham Shakespeare Institute scholar, Professor Ewan Fernie, of the Shakespeare Institute has co-authored a new work of fiction, Macbeth Macbeth, based on the Scottish play. The novel, by Fernie and Professor Simon Palfrey of the University of Oxford, is a response to Shakespeare’s play that turns into its own entirely new work of fiction.

Professor Fernie said: ‘We began working on this project with a very simple desire. We wanted to get inside Macbeth's murder chamber, something Shakespeare never allows. This meant imagining what it would be like to be Macbeth, captured in the act. It was about possessing the terrible passions of the play, even being possessed by them, rather than pretending to master or explain them.

‘We also wanted to enter the consequences beyond Shakespeare's tortured protagonists, to enter the pain of the victims; to recover their experience, their voices. It was a political as much as a sympathetic ambition.’

The book features new art-work by Birmingham Fellow and artist Tom de Freston. Professor Fernie launched the book, which is published by Bloomsbury, alongside an exhibition of De Freston’s artwork at The Other Place Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon.


Professor Fernie, who also gave a talk about the novel at this year’s Hay Literary Festival, will be taking part in the World Shakespeare Congress, which takes place between the 31st July and 6th August in Stratford and London.

Fernie will be leading a seminar with Claudia Olk of the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. They will be exploring Shakespeare’s influence on other writers, thinkers, politicians and philosophers. Fernie and Olk will raise a number of questions including who are Shakespeare’s great inheritors, where and when the playwright has had the most influence and whether his influence works differently in different traditions or if it cut across those traditions.

The seminar takes place on 2nd August at the Shakespeare Centre, Stratford Upon Avon.


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Notes to editors

  • Ewan Fernie co-convenes the MA in Shakespeare and Creativity at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, where he is Chair of Shakespeare Studies. 
  • Professor Fernie is also working on a new book Shakespeare for Freedom, to be published by Cambridge University Press. The book uncovers a powerful association between Shakespeare and freedom in history, showing how he was involved in the Chartist movement, the campaign for women's suffrage, and the struggle against Apartheid. The book also argues for a powerful intrinsic link between Shakespeare and freedom and suggests that this is a reason for valuing the long dead Warwickshire poet.  
  • This project has featured in a short film made for the British Council for 2016.  
  • For the full schedule of plenary sessions, seminars and lectures at the 2016 World Shakespeare Congress, go to:
  • The International Shakespeare Association (ISA) stages a world congress every five years.
  • Stratford-upon-Avon will be the location for the first half of the Congress, until Thursday 4 August; London for the latter half, until Saturday 6 August.

 Reviews of Macbeth Macbeth:

“A miracle, an instant classic.” – Slavoj Žižek

“This is a thrilling re-imagination of Shakespeare's darkest play. The two authors have immersed themselves deep in the multifarious meanings of text and subtext and then given birth to their own terrifying creation. Visceral, florid, grotesque – the writing literally gets under the skin. Macbeth, Macbeth is unlike anything I have ever read.” –  Lucy Bailey, Theatre director, Royal Shakespeare Company

“With great wit and psychological insight, Macbeth, Macbeth pursues the fates and questions the minds of those still standing after the king falls, and in doing so shines a new, sidelong light on the original play. Shakespeare, I suspect, would have been delighted to see his work provoke such a deliriously imaginative response” –  Don Paterson, Poet and author of Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets