make the most of Lovereading
Search our site
Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner Read the opening extract of the brand new Susie Steiner book before its publication on 05/04/2018

Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off by Liz Lochhead

Lovereading view...

Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 16 June 2011.

The tale of the enmity between Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots, retold by Scotland's unofficial Poet Laureate.


Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off by Liz Lochhead

This is the familiar tale of the enmity between Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots, but retold by Scotland's unofficial Poet Laureate with a ferocious iconoclasm. Needless to say, the play ends when Mary Queen of Scots gets her head chopped off! A modern Scottish classic, first staged at the Edinburgh Lyceum in 1987, Liz Lochhead's Mary Queen of Scots is republished here in a revised version with a new introduction by the author. The play is enormously popular with Scottish schools and drama groups. It was originally published by Penguin.


'It draws the most uncomfortable parallels between the sacrifice of Mary, and the myriad sexual, political and religious deformities that still plague the Scottish psyche.' The Guardian

'A triumph - the characterisations never slide over into caricature but are full-bodied, subtle, humorous and virile'. Time Out

About the Author

Liz Lochhead

Liz Lochhead was born in Motherwell in Lanarkshire on 26 December 1947. She studied at the Glasgow School of Art between 1965 and 1970 before teaching fine art in Glasgow and Bristol for over eight years. In the early 1970s she joined Philip Hobsbaum’s writer’s group, other members of which included Alasdair Gray, James Kelman and Tom Leonard. Her first collection of poems, Memo for Spring, was published in 1972 and won a Scottish Arts Council Award. In 1978 she was selected for a Scottish/Canadian Writer’s Exchange fellowship. She abandoned her teaching career and travelled to Canada to become a full-time performance poet, writer and broadcaster, later returning to Scotland. From 1986 to 1987 she was the writer in residence at the University of Edinburgh and in 1988 became writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Regarded as one of Scotland’s most popular dramatists, Liz Lochhead’s plays include Blood and Ice (1982), Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (1987), an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1989), Cuba (1997), Perfect Days (2000) and Good Things (2004). Her adaptation of Moliere’s Tartuffe into Scots was greeted with considerable critical acclaim upon its publication in 1985 and the script of her adaptation of Euripides’ Medea for Theatre Babel won the 2000 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award. In 2001 she moved into the world of film, writing the screenplay of Latin for a Dark Room which was screened by the BBC as part of the Tartan Shorts series.

Although she has been variously described throughout the years as a poet, feminist playwright, translator and broadcaster, she has said, 'The most precious thing to me is to be a poet. If I were a playwright, I’d like to be a poet in the theatre.’ Her poetry is as equally thought-provoking and entertaining as her drama, and she often gives live readings to audiences around the country, collaborating with other artists, most notably with the Dundee singer-songwriter Michael Marra. Her verse is characterised by a self-conscious effort to mimic the idioms of speech, adopting a range of spoken styles that include the lyrical use of rap, colloquialisms and even advertising language in an effort to raise the profile of the marginalised voices of both Scots and women. Her most famous poetry collections include Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems 1967–1984 (1984), True Confessions and New Clichés (1985), and Bagpipe Muzak (1991). The Colour of Black and White: Poems 1984-2003 was published by Polygon in 2003.

In 2000 she was presented with an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh and in 2002 she was awarded an honorary DLitt from the University of St Andrews. She succeeded Edwin Morgan as Glasgow's Poet Laureate in 2005 and then as Scottish Makar in January 2011.

Author photo © Graham Clark

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading similar books...
Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

16th April 2009


Liz Lochhead

More books by Liz Lochhead
Author 'Like for Like'


Nick Hern Books


96 pages


Literary Fiction

Plays, playscripts



I 'Lovereading' because it lets me see what new books are around with a detailed synopsis and readers' reviews.

Judith Sharp

I love reading books I wouldn't normally choose before everyone else gets to read them!

Dawn Lynch

Its jam packed with fantastic titles, informative descriptions & fantastic reviews and has a vast array of great features & competitions.

Linda Rollins

It has enriched my leisure time by introducing me to a world of books which I would not have previously considered.

Val Rowe

It's the first site that I visit when deciding on the next set of books to buy. A particular treat is being able to download an extract.

Tessa Olson

It has opened my eyes to different authors and genres. Just log on and try, you will be surprised and not want for reading material again.

Jocelyn Garvey

I love Lovereading for the wonderful like for like author recommendations and for highlighting new books, it's a great resource for readers!


Lovereading are lovely people who send me lovely books. What's not to love?

Gavin Dimmock