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In reading this passage on page 196 on Belladonna from The farmer's Encyclopædia, and Dictionary of Rural Affairs By Cuthbert William Johnson on Google books:

http://books.google.com/books?id=pFe9R-w7yH4C&pg=PA196&lpg=PA196&dq=macbeth+and+belladonna&source=bl&ots=e5CGzSSuKs&sig=o6UxYETjhWjtXRpoM_8x9fcPx_g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Ss-GU9uoGce-oQT6nYGQBw&ved=0CE8Q6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=macbeth%20and%20belladonna&f=false

Johnson says that according to Buchanan, Macbeth poisoned the Danes with Belladona. I have been trying to find where Buchanan actually says the poison was Belladona, but the closest I've found is this reference in the General Index of Buchanan's "History of Scotland" on Google books, page 667-668.

Which can be found here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=kxFIAAAAMAAJ&q=belladonna#v=onepage&q=macbeth&f=false

It seems to indicate that the reference is to page 330 or 332 but those pages do not seem to be speaking of Macbeth at all.

What I'm looking for is a direct reference from George Buchanan's "The History of Scotland" where he says that Macbeth specifically used Belladonna to poison the Danes.

Edit: I have also found reference to Macbeth using Belladonna here:

...I see I can't post more that two links... It was a link to a Google book of the following:

From page 193 of The Naturalist: Illustrative of the Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral Kingdoms..., Volumes 4-5 by Neville Wood, Esq. with the source attribution given again to Buchanan.

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1 Answer 1

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The passage is in Book 7, p. 264, of the 1733 edition of Buchanan.

It was actually Duncan who arranged for the poisoning of the Danes. Macbeth and Banquo were his generals. An extract is as follows:

Whereupon a great deal of Bread and Wine was sent them, both Wine pressed out of the Grape, and also strong Drink made of Barley-Malt, mixed with the Juice of a poysonous Herb, abundance of which grows in Scotland, called Sleepy Night-shade. The Stalk of it is above two Foot long, and in its upper part spreads into Branches; the Leaves are broadish, acuminated at the Extremities, and faintly green. The Berries are great, and of a black Colour when they are ripe, which proceed out of the Stalk under the bottom of the Leaves; their Taste is sweetish, and almost insipid; it hath a very small Seed, as little as the Grains of a Fig. The Vertue of the Fruit, Root, and especially of the Seed, is Soporiferous, and will make Men mad if they be taken in too great Quantities. With this Herb all the Provision was infected, and they that carryed it, to prevent all Suspicion of Fraud, tasted of it before, and invited the Danes to drink huge Draughts of it. Swain himself, in token of good Will, did the same, according to the Custom of his Nation. But Duncan knowing that the Force of the Potion would reach to their very Vitals, whilst they were asleep, had in great Silence admitted Macbeth with his Forces into the City, by a Gate which was farthest off from the Enemy's Camp; and understanding by his Spies that the Enemy was fast asleep and full of Wine, he sent Bancho before, who well knew all the Avenues both of that Place and of the Enemy's Camp, with the greatest part of the Army, placing the rest in Ambush. He entring their Camp, and making a great Shout, found all things more neglected than he imagined. Some few roused at the Shout, running up and down like Madmen, were slain as they were met, the others were killed sleeping.

It is interesting that Buchanan (1582) describes night shade as being common in Scotland, because now it is quite rarely found, apparently the result either of changes in climate or because of tree clearing.

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