William Charles Macready was intending to go up to Oxford University in 1809 when the financial troubles of his father, the lessee of several provincial theatres, called him to share the responsibilities of theatrical management. He worked with and acted for his father for some years and then at Bath, making his London debut at Covent Garden in 1816.
For the next couple of seasons he found himself constantly cast as villains and, although his reputation for truthful and powerful impersonations grew, he found many of the melodramatically diabolical roles distasteful.
In 1818 Covent Garden acquired Isaac Pocock's musical adaptation of Walter Scott's Rob Roy Macgregor. Rob Roy provided Macready with a positive role, exhibiting pathos, humour and heroism. The sentiments of the romantic outlaw defying oppression had a powerful effect on the audience when delivered in Macready's characteristically earnest, truthful style.