But it was from none of these that Shakespeare took the story, but from the chronicle of a man named Holinshed
who lived and wrote in the time of Queen Elizabeth, he in his turn having taken it from some one of the earlier sources.
The historical facts on which Richard II is based may be found in any short English history, years 1382-1399, though it must be remembered that Shakspere knew them only in the 'Chronicle' of Holinshed. In brief outline they are as follows: King Richard and Bolingbroke (pronounced by the Elizabethans
According to Holinshed, whom Shakspere follows, Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of the murder.
The novelist - who has pored over the findings of leading historians, such as Dr Fiona Watson of the BBC's In Search of Scotland programme, to deliver her book - reckons Shakespeare's tale of the Macbeths' bloody bid to kill Duncan and take the throne drew on the writings of chroniclers such as 16th-Century Ralph Holinshed
whose facts, she argues, were heavily laced with legend and the creation of fictitious characters.
In 1577 The chronicler Raphael Holinshed
wrote that Richard III "pitched his field on a hill called Anne Beame, refreshed his soldiers and took his rest".
What Shakespeare is talking about is not 1606 London but the chronicles of Holinshed
. Shakespeare referred to him constantly and Holinshed
is writing about 11th-century Scotland.
The two killings have clearly different meanings, relating to the foregrounded opposition between the good king and the tyrant that Shakespeare emphasized in contrast to Holinshed
's description of the former's lenience and the latter's protracted good rule in his Chronicles (1587).
In reviewing the book before it was published, David Bevington, professor emeritus in the humanities at the University of Chicago and editor of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (7th Edition)," called it "a revelation" for the sheer number of correlations with the plays, eclipsed only by the chronicles of Holinshed
and Hall and Plutarch's "Lives."
The playwright took his inspiration and the bones of the Bonduca story from Holinshed
as well as two new texts that reflected a flurry of interest in ancient Britain in the three years leading up to Bonduca's composition.
This most obviously includes, as I will argue, the 1587 edition of Holinshed
's Scottish chronicle, as continued principally by Francis Thynne, and the political elements both included and occluded within it, with Mary, Queen of Scots, on the margins, if not at the centre.
To explain the failure of the murder plot, Holinshed
's Chronicles uses the spelling "mist" for our "missed":
reports that 'Makbeth had in euerie noble mans house one slie fellow or other in fee with him, to reueale all that was said or doone within the same, by which slight he oppressed the most part of the nobles of his realme'.