"Our language is the forest"

Landscapes of the Mother Tongue in David Greig's Dunsinane


  • Kathryn Vomero Santos Trinity University


Shakespeare, Macbeth, David Greig, Dunsinane, language, translation, colonialism, tourism, excavation, Scotland, Gaelic, feminism, appropriation


Tracing early visits to and excavations of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, this essay argues that Shakespeare and the overpowering legacy of his "Scottish play" have left an imprint that is both ecological and ideological. Situated within broader conversations about cultural heritage, literary tourism, colonialism, and nationalism, my analysis of Shakespeare's indelible mark on Dunsinane Hill -- as a place and an idea -- provides a theoretical and literal groundwork for understanding how Scottish playwright David Greig activates the territorial lexicon of appropriation in his 2010 play Dunsinane. For Greig, the act of appropriation is not just about speaking back to Shakespeare but about doing so on land that was never his and in a language that he never understood in the first place. I show how Greig concentrates the power of his speculative sequel in and around the figure of Gruach (the historical Lady Macbeth), who not only embodies the deeply gendered relationship between language and landscape but also reclaims that relationship in order to critique the longstanding and devastating colonial conflation of women's bodies, mother tongues, and the land itself.

Author Biography

Kathryn Vomero Santos, Trinity University

Kathryn Vomero Santos is Assistant Professor of English and co-director of the Humanities Collective at Trinity University. Her cross-historical research explores the intersections of theatrical performance with the politics of language, migration, and racial formation in the early modern period and in our contemporary moment. Her essays have appeared in Philological QuarterlyShakespeare Studies, and various edited collections. Her recent work on race, coloniality, and bilingual borderlands appropriations of Shakespeare is forthcoming in Shakespeare Quarterly and Literature Compass. She currently serves as Performance Reviews Editor for Shakespeare Bulletin and is working on a book about interpreters and the embodied economies of live translation in early modernity.