Loading...
Menu

The Tragedy of Macbeth, Part II: The Seed of Banquo

p={color:#000;}.

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, PART II:

 

The Seed of Banquo

 

 

Noah Lukeman

 

About the Author

 

A 20 year veteran of the book publishing industry, Noah Lukeman is author of several books on the craft of writing, including The First Five Pages, The Plot Thickens and A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, published by W.W. Norton in the U.S. and by Oxford University Press in the U.K. His critically-acclaimed books have been selections of multiple book clubs, Book Sense 76 picks, Publishers Weekly Daily picks, and translated into Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, Turkish, Chinese and Indonesian. His screenplay, Brothers in Arms, was selected for Hollywood’s Black List top 100 screenplays of the year. Noah lives in New York. Please feel free to learn more at www.noahlukeman.com or to email him at [email protected]. To learn more about the play and watch a video, please visit: www.macbethtwo.com

Copyright © 2008 by Noah Lukeman

 

First Pegasus Books cloth edition 2008

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review in a newspaper, magazine, or electronic publication; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other, without written permission from the publisher.

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

Some time ago, I set out to adapt Macbeth for the screen and spent months dissecting the text, grappling with every line and word. While contemplating both the opening (the witches’ prophecy) and the conclusion (Malcolm’s ascent as king), I was struck by a realization: Macbeth is unfinished. The prophecy which initiates the play’s action proclaims first that Macbeth will be king and then that Banquo’s children will be kings. Macbeth indeed becomes Scotland’s king—and yet Banquo’s prophecy remains unfulfilled. The play ends, oddly, with Banquo’s seed nowhere in sight and with a third party, Malcolm, ascending to the throne.

One might argue that not all of the witches’ prophecies were meant to come to pass. Yet throughout Macbeth, the witches’ other prophecies, no matter how twisted, are all fulfilled on stage (even Birnam Wood manages to “move” as they predict). One might argue that Banquo’s prophecy is insignificant, a mere historical footnote in the play. Yet if this were the case, why would Shakespeare go to such lengths to dramatize a scene in which Banquo is murdered and his child, Fleance, escapes (thus leaving the door open for his future ascent)? The prophecy regarding Banquo’s child is, in fact, ubiquitous in the play, as Macbeth dwells obsessively on the ascent of “the seed of Banquo.” Indeed, the very reason Macbeth cannot find peace as king is because his mind is fixated on the moment when Banquo’s prophecy will come to pass, when Banquo’s seed will take his throne.

One might, then, try to dismiss all of this as merely an oversight by Shakespeare, argue that he simply forgot to resolve this particular plot line in the play. But would the greatest of English dramatists, who was careful with every syllable, actually neglect to resolve an entire subplot, indeed, the very driving action of his play? If not, then did he have something else in mind? Could he have been preparing for a Macbeth, Part II?

Struck by this possibility, I went back and reanalyzed the text of Macbeth, looking for any other clues that might point to Shakespeare’s preparing a sequel. I was shocked to discover two more compelling pieces of evidence. The first appears in Lady Macbeth’s famous monologue: “I have given suck and know/How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me.” In this line, she tells us that she has a child. But then where is the child Macbeth? Why is he/she omitted from the play? Is the only child of a king and queen, the sole heir to the throne, so insignificant as to not merit any other mention?

The other hint came in the character of Prince Donalbain (Malcolm’s brother). After their father, Duncan, is murdered by Macbeth, the two princes, both legitimately in line for the throne, agree to flee for safety’s sake in two directions: Malcolm, to England; Donalbain, to Ireland. Yet when Malcolm returns to oust Macbeth, Donalbain, oddly, does not join him. And when Malcolm ascends to the throne at the play’s end, his prince brother is nowhere in sight. Why would Shakespeare keep Donalbain in Ireland? And why end Macbeth on this note?

Was Shakespeare thrice careless? Or could the playwright known for multipart plays (Henry IV, Part Iand II, Henry VI, Part I, IIand III), have also had in mind a Macbeth, Part II?

The concept haunted me. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that these plot elements were substantial enough to justify a play in their own right: an unfulfilled prophecy; a child Macbeth; a boy destined to be king; the princely Donalbain suspiciously in Ireland while his brother sits on the Scottish throne; the newly crowned Malcolm, the bereft Macduff, the devious Seyton. And, of course, the three witches. They are, in fact, among a very rare group of villains whom Shakespeare leaves to live another day.

I pondered what medium could best suit such a sequel. I could not envision a sequel to Macbeth written in contemporary English or in the form of a novel. Too much would be lost in the conversion process; it would become something else. Any attempt at a sequel, I felt, should be as true to its Shakespearean model as possible. I concluded that it should appear in the same form as Macbeth: as a play, in the traditional Shakespearean five-act structure, in Elizabethan English, and in blank verse.

It obviously took much more deliberation before I could summon the resolve to go forth. Despite my enthusiasm for the concept, I had an enormously hard time with the idea of approaching Shakespeare’s work. It felt like sacrilege. Then I thought long and hard of Shakespeare’s life, and realized that when he himself—a slightly-educated, minor actor—attempted to write a play, he was excoriated, brandished an “upstart crow,” criticized for even daring to attempt to write in blank verse (supposedly to be reserved only for those with a university education). As Ben Johnson said, he “had small Latin, and less Greek.”

But this was precisely his virtue. Shakespeare was not a scholar, and he did not write for the academic elite. He was of the people. Undeterred by the rigid societal pressure of “what should be” and “what shouldn’t be,” he followed what was, for him, a more important route: pursuing his artistic vision with fervor, whatever the consequence. Qualified or not, he jumped in and attempted something brash. I think that Shakespeare (as both actor and writer) would, with a wink, be the first to encourage someone to attempt a Macbeth, Part II.

The Tragedy of Macbeth, Part II is not a scholarly endeavor; it is an artistic one, meant both to pick up where Macbeth left off and to stand as a complete play in its own right. It is my hope that it will be enjoyed by actors, directors, and theater companies eager to grapple with a new text, to play new roles, and by theatergoers eager to watch them. So many people around the world love the cadences of blank verse. Yet there has been scarce new material for 400 years.

I think it’s time we gave them something.

 

 

For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind;

For them the gracious Duncan have I murder’d . . .

Only for them . . .

To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!

—Macbeth

 

 

Year

 

1060

 

Dramatis Personae

 

Malcolm

Macduff

Seyton

Siward

Lennox

Angus

Ross

Donalbain

Fleance

Cawdor

Lady Malcolm

Nurse

Fiona

Syna

Doctor

Porter

Three Witches

Three Murderers

Two Petitioners

Suitor

Suitor’s Father

Two Guards

Six Crowd Members

Attendants

Messengers

Ghost of Macbeth

Ghost of Banquo

 

ACT I

 

SCENE I

Heath at sunset.

Enter Three Witches.

 

FIRST WITCH Now that we three meet again,

No thunder, lightning, absent rain.

 

SECOND WITCH No wars that rage, no plague that spreads,

no envied crown, no sleepless beds.

 

THIRD WITCH The hurly-burly now is done,

the battle has been lost and won.

 

ALL Sink down, now, the setting sun.

 

FIRST WITCH Invite a fog, let it rise,

bring for Malcolm slow demise.

 

SECOND WITCH A lizard’s eye, a drop of sage,

lend this Malcolm baseless rage.

 

THIRD WITCH A tiger’s claw, berries tart,

seal this king a blackened heart.

 

FIRST WITCH An eagle’s spine, a cup of sand,

spark new wars throughout the land.

 

ALL Fair is foul, and foul is fair,

Hover in fog and filthy air.

Exeunt.

 

SCENE II

Dunsinane.

Malcolm, seated, with Attendants.

Enter Macduff, Seyton, Siward, Lennox, Angus and Attendants.

 

ALL God save the King!

MALCOLM Welcome, dear counsel. But why such haste?

 

LENNOX My liege,

a band of men has formed about Fleance.

 

ANGUS They head for the sea.

SEYTON ’Tis a dangerous mob,

and it will swell before it touches the shore.

MALCOLM Fleance then rebuffed our invitation?

LENNOX He said he would ne’er again grace the walls

of Dunsinane.

 

SEYTON ’Tis a sharp rebuke,

the prologue to some greater action. We must

strike now, before this worm becomes a snake.

 

MALCOLM Macduff, you are silent.

 

MACDUFF Forgive, my lord. It is

my language since the murder of the ones

I loved.

 

MALCOLM Shall we strike Fleance?

 

MACDUFF No, my lord.

 

SEYTON Traitor!

 

Macduff draws.

 

MACDUFF This sword will take your head as swift as took

it Macbeth’s.

 

MALCOLM Stay, Macduff. Seyton, allow his speech.

 

MACDUFF Fleance’s gathering is but a few dozen souls.

They pose no threat to your great throne. They head

away from Dunsinane, not towards.

 

SEYTON In order to regroup

on some other shore.

 

MACDUFF You are a mighty

king, my liege. You have no reason to fear

an absconding boy.

 

SEYTON This boy is now a man,

and thinks manly thoughts.

 

MACDUFF Shall Scotland see

a king grown so uncertain of his throne

that he’d unleash an army ’gainst a pack

of men?

 

SEYTON Shall Scotland watch a king afraid

to stop rebellion in his midst?

A cheer.

 

MALCOLM What noise is that outside my window?

 

ANGUS A throng

has camped to celebrate your reign. ’Tis ten

years today since your ascent.

 

MALCOLM Is it today? Then this day also marks

the anniversary of Macbeth’s fall.

O, two-headed day! God has graced

us with ten quiet years. Scotland thrives;

Norway dares not attack; and the reign

of the Macbeths doth fade from memory.

The land now lies content, except in its need

of an heir, which I will soon provide. Stalk

Fleance; but do not attack. He has

commited no crime. Graver the danger that I

become the likeness of Macbeth than that

a boy-man dream of breaching Dunsinane.

 

SEYTON My lord,

the danger lies not in Fleance’s present strength;

it lies in the prophecy that he, not you,

shall inherit Scotland’s throne.

MALCOLM Let us declare our days of prophecy

concluded. Scotland has prospered without such dark

omens, and the witches’ words have proved false.

 

SEYTON But, my liege—

 

MALCOLM I have spoken.

 

Enter Ross.

ROSS God save the King.

 

MALCOLM What news from Ireland?

How fares my dear brother?

 

ROSS News which shames

me to report, my lord. A massive army

forms ’round Donalbain.

 

MALCOLM For what purpose?

 

ROSS I know not, and thus urge temperance.

Yet a host of ships rests on their shore,

and they all point towards Scotland.

SIWARD What!

 

SEYTON Traitor!

 

LENNOX Villain!

 

MALCOLM Even so?

 

ROSS We do not know

their purpose, my lord.

 

MACDUFF Ships set on a shore

do not in themselves prove ill intent.

 

SIWARD What other intent could there be?

 

LENNOX If peaceful,

he would have forewarned.

 

MACDUFF Perhaps it was gathered in haste.

 

SEYTON In haste to conquer Dunsinane.

You would have Donalbain’s army pounding

on our gates and wonder at his intent.

 

MALCOLM Enough! Are not my brother and I two halves

of one same Duncan? I cannot imagine

he aims for my throne.

 

MACDUFF He is a noble soul,

kind, valiant, honest.

 

MALCOLM Yet ’tis strange

he never returned to Scotland.

 

SEYTON But ’tis not,

my lord: for if your brother was devoid

of princely ambition, surely he would have returned,

as one brother to another, to the land

of his birth. If he lacked the lust

for power, he would have warned of his intent—

indeed, would not have massed such arms. The truest

villain does not reveal himself until

the moment meet for his desire—

and for this the truest will wait a lifetime.

 

MALCOLM Proceed to Ireland, noble Ross. Tell

my brother to return to Scotland at once, alone,

so that I may interrogate his intent.

Exit Ross.

 

SEYTON It is a fool’s errand, my lord. He will

return, but with men in tow. We must prepare

a defense, not grant him time to launch.

 

MALCOLM I have spoken. Go to.

 

Exeunt.

 

MALCOLM Macduff?

 

Macduff remains.

 

MALCOLM You knew my brother well. What do you see

in this?

 

MACDUFF No foul purpose. Except in Seyton.

He sees in your brother what he hides in himself.

 

Exit Macduff.

MALCOLM O Donalbain! In these halls of flatterers,

a brother’s love is what I long for most—

yet what, as king, I am least safe to have.

If the witches had foretold that I’d

be king, then would there still sit such unrest?

Are not ten years enough to kill the flame

of speculation? . . . Not even in myself.

As king, I mock their prophecy; as man

and witness, I cannot forget. I do

fear Fleance, but that I do my men

can never know; I do suspect Donalbain;

Seyton and Siward have lately grown too bold;

and Norway is not as still as I pretend.

O, unstable anniversary!

I am enthroned by right, but not by fate—

and fate is yet the stronger of the two.

Why then, I shall challenge fate.

What’s done can be undone; what’s proclaimed,

proclaimed again. What better way to quell

a prophecy than with another?

I shall find the witches, and if by right

am I king, what prophecy can form

but one triumphant, filled with omens fair?

Fleance, I need not net you with my men—

old ladies’ words will do the work as well.

What they’ve spun for you, they’ll spin for me.

Head I there with alacrity.

 

Exit Malcolm.

SCENE III

Witches’ place.

Enter Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM This mist of hell confounds. Swore I the hags

lived in this place; yet days of searching bear

no fruit. Perchance times of prophecy

have long since concluded.

 

Enter Three Witches.

 

FIRST WITCH Hail to thee, King of Scotland!

 

SECOND WITCH Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!

 

THIRD WITCH Hail to thee, master of Macbeth!

 

MALCOLM Can it be? Hear me, sisters. I have come—

 

FIRST WITCH You speak when you should listen.

 

SECOND WITCH You listen but hear not.

 

THIRD WITCH You look but see not.

 

MALCOLM Do not declaim in riddles. I beseech, if nights

of prophecy have not been stopped,

then I, as king, command: lend me your clouded

vision and ope my fate. O agents of darkness!

Grant me a prophecy to slay Macbeth’s.

Speak for me a future, one greater yet

more permanent; one grander yet more secure.

ALL Triple, triple, toil and trouble,

fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

 

FIRST WITCH Look to Ireland; from there will hail

your sorrows. An army shall your brother march

through the shades of Birnam Wood.

 

SECOND WITCH Look to the black church: you will love

Macbeth,

and love in marriage will divide.

 

THIRD WITCH No man can kill you but Cawdor.

 

MALCOLM Stay, imperfect speakers! Stay!

Pronounce more clearly! I demand!

 

Witches Vanish.

 

MALCOLM They have sunk again into the bog;

yet their evil residue remains.

O Donalbain! Would you march a troop

’gainst your other half? I will prepare.

A black church? Love Macbeth? Nonsense—

I cannot love a ghost. None can kill

me but Cawdor. There is the heart of it.

Being Cawdor I shall not attack

myself. Thus am I secure

in what can never be. See, Banquo,

you were wrong: your seed shall not sow kings.

I alone am king!

 

Exit Malcolm

 

SCENE IV

Ireland.

Enter Ross, Donalbain and Soldiers.

 

ROSS Hail to thee, Prince Donalbain!

DONALBAIN It warms my heart to see a living thing

from Scotland. Ireland is now my home,

yet the Highlands sit deep in my heart.

 

ROSS Sire, is this why you have amassed

these men, which were absent when last we met?

Have you your brother’s throne set in your sights?

 

DONALBAIN Art thou mad? Ha! Nonsense! Indeed!

My brother sits as rightful king; my seat

lies in the shadow of the throne. Gladly so.

For I have studied the missteps of Macbeth

and thus have settled here in Ireland;

unreservedly, then, my brother can rule,

free from the threat of Duncan’s other half.

The second-born brother must prop the first. That

is why I have gathered these men.

We have received ill news of Norway’s approach.

She means to catch sweet Malcolm unaware,

as a violent storm upon a peaceful sea.

Grace be to God we have netted this scroll.

 

(hands him scroll)

 

Read

how it commands one ship to meet the other.

I shall not rest whilst my dear brother lies

in danger. I have thus lev’raged my purse to recruit

this loyal throng. We shall soon sail for home,

and lend our lives to him.

 

ROSS I am thus more shamed by the news I bear.

 

DONALBAIN A message?

 

ROSS From your brother.

 

DONALBAIN Out with it.

 

ROSS He is suspect of your intent, and demands

a private audience.

 

DONALBAIN Suspect? Of a brother?

 

ROSS I shame to speak.

 

DONALBAIN Suspect? Of his flesh?

 

ROSS Your prolonged absence,

and now this sudden army—they have grown

as thorns upon his reason.

 

DONALBAIN Others prick

too, I’m sure: Seyton, Siward?

 

ROSS I do not deny. For he is flocked by men

of little trust, and in you, the wayward prince,

they have found a subject.

 

DONALBAIN The too-worn walls of Dunsinane, soaked

with evil and disturbances past, are no

place for a king to sleep. My father’s ghost,

perplexed by a life stopped short, mingles with those

of foul Macbeth and his wicked queen.

No castle wall, no parapet or porter’s

gate could contain these spirits’ malcontent.

 

ROSS Nor that of his living counsel. Forgive

me, sire, but they, though not spectral, do shame

the underworld.

 

DONALBAIN Then Malcolm lies in danger

of himself.

 

ROSS I do not dispute.

 

DONALBAIN Then we shall save him from himself. We’ll

convince him to leave Dunsinane

and elsewhere build a holier seat;

we’ll urge him soon to marry; and we’ll purge

him of his treacherous flock. Our men,

meanwhile, shall deter Norway’s assault.

Come, we kill the time.

 

ROSS I fear how Malcolm

may start when he first sights your men. But I

stand at your side. I once left Lady Macduff

in haste; on my very heels she was slain.

Never again shall I a friend abandon.

I will help you execute whatever

noble device you choose.

 

Exeunt.

 

 

SCENE V

 

Dunsinane.

 

Malcolm, seated, with Macduff, Suitor, Suitor’s Father and Attendants.

 

SUITOR’S FATHER My liege, my daughter would make the

finest bride in all of Scotland. Her beauty is sung of—

 

MALCOLM It is apparent.

 

SUITOR’S FATHER Thank him.

 

SUITOR Thank you, my lord.

 

SUITOR’S FATHER My lord, she is a most obedient and de-

voted subject, and would—

 

MALCOLM Would you like to speak?

 

SUITOR I am yours, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Thank you for gracing us with your beauty and

charm. We shall call on you.

 

SUITOR’S FATHER My lord, ’twould be such an honor—

 

MACDUFF We shall call on you.

 

Exit Suitor and Suitor’s Father.

 

MALCOLM What think you, Macduff?

 

MACDUFF She’s fine of form,

and her eyes shine with intelligence.

She would make a fine bride for Scotland.

 

MALCOLM I am not certain. If it were—

 

Enter two Messengers, followed by Siward, Seyton, Lennox and Angus.

 

MESSENGER ONE My king,

your brother has breached our shores.

 

MESSENGER TWO He doth approach

with army fierce.

 

SIWARD Traitor!

 

SEYTON Villain!

 

MALCOLM From whence?

 

MESSENGER ONE Through the shades of Birnam Wood.

 

MALCOM (aside) Thus comes

the prophecy to pass. Yet I’ll be touched

by none but Cawdor.

 

MESSENGER TWO More, my lord. Ross rides at his side.

 

MALCOLM What, Ross?

 

ANGUS ’Tis not possible.

 

SEYTON ’Tis treachery!

 

LENNOX Rush not to judge. Ne’er was Ross’s honor

held in doubt.

 

MACDUFF Ross would not raise a hand

against your throne. Perhaps they come in peace.

 

SIWARD What? An army come in peace?

 

SEYTON My lord,

I have heard your errant brother means

to petition for a title.

 

MALCOLM Title? What title?

 

SEYTON As you already claim that of king and hold

no need for titles lesser, Donalbain aims

to acquire “Cawdor.”

 

MALCOLM (aside) Can it be? Is not

all Ireland enough? Sisters: your riddles

twist to life. Birnam Wood would mark

the way. So it does. Only Cawdor

can harm me. So he aspires. Is there no pause

between prophecy and consequence?

No gestation for augury?

Is the world below more expedient?

Or did my very summoning create

the act? Would I had never visited

that bog!

MACDUFF My lord, I pray you, patience—

 

SEYTON Patience? Whilst

an army advances?

 

MALCOLM Patience is a luxury

not suited to every time. I summoned my brother

for a private audience; I must

then view his outward show of arms in but

one light. I love my brother dearly—yet

it seems that not all love is requited.

The prince forgets, he is no seed of Banquo.

He is but the second-loved brother,

who must now be first to die. Forgive

me, Father: to save one son, I must

kill your other.

 

Exeunt.

SCENE VI

 

Birnam Wood.

 

Enter Donalbain, Ross, Soldiers.

 

DONALBAIN How deeply this Scottish air stirs me. ‘Tis

mighty strange.

Never have I felt as content.

 

SOLDIER ONE Nor I

as lost. I can’t recall such ghastly fog.

 

ROSS ’Tis like the very breath of hell.

 

DONALBAIN I think

we are in Birnam Wood, but know not for

this vapor.

 

SOLDIER ONE Sire, we are. See there? The fog

begins to lift.

 

SOLDIER TWO So it does.

 

SOLDIER ONE And look!

Now the sun.

 

DONALBAIN Such a sudden shift

of light I have not ever seen.

 

ROSS Sire!

Look there! Your brother.

 

DONALBAIN So it is! May God

be blessed. How it warms my heart to see

my flesh again!

 

Enter Malcolm, Siward, Macduff, Seyton, Lennox, Angus and Soldiers.

The two armies stop before each other.

 

Donalbain dismounts, as does Malcolm. The two brothers approach each

other on foot. Donalbain reaches for a scroll.

 

DONALBAIN Dear brother!

 

Malcolm stabs him. Donalbain falls.

 

DONALBAIN Alas! Am I slain by my self?

Now I know why I felt contentment here:

it is to be my resting place. What better

place to die than at a brother’s side.

If to be killed by a hand so close, ’tis safer

not to live at all.

Donalbain dies.

 

ROSS Shadow of Macbeth! What vile act

is this? Your noble brother approached in peace,

and you met his embrace with murder.

 

MALCOLM He reached

for his sword; I answered with mine.

 

ROSS He reached

for a scroll!

 

Ross dismounts, and takes a scroll from

Donalbain’s hand and hands it to Malcolm.

 

ROSS He brought you news of Norway’s attack. He brought

you men to help defend it!

 

Malcolm reads, and sinks to his knees beside Donalbain.

 

ROSS You have killed

the better half of Duncan.

 

Ross remounts.

 

ROSS You have won

the day, but not the time. You now outrank

this friendly group, but Donalbain shall be

avenged. On that day you will earn his blood.

 

Lennox, with Soldiers, rides to Ross’s side.

 

LENNOX I am with Ross!

 

Angus, with Soldiers, rides to Ross’s side.

 

ANGUS And I!

 

Exeunt Ross, Lennox, Angus and all their Soldiers.

 

SIWARD My liege, they flee! We must pursue!

 

SEYTON We must

strike now, before their army multiplies!

 

MALCOLM What a cruel and callous butcher am I.

Dear, dear brother. How I missed your face

e’en as I struck; I watched my hand perform

the deed e’en as I wished it wouldn’t. O, Donalbain!

 

SEYTON My lord, the fog returns. We must pursue!

 

MALCOLM The sisters thus speak true. Donalbain

has vanquished Malcolm, worse than a thousand Norways.

 

SIWARD My lord—

 

MALCOLM Peace! There will be no more death

on this day. More days will follow, if none

with any worth.

 

Exeunt.

SCENE VII

 

A graveyard.

 

Enter Malcolm, who sits beside the corpse of Donalbain.

 

Enter Woman.

 

MALCOLM Nothing now can harm you further. Not

the slings of fortune, not the touch of a brother’s

love. I will have you borne to Colmekill

upon a thousand gilded horses; no place

more befits, for more a king are you

than I. I, a coward who wears a crown,

a crown planted in haste, loosed by our father’s

death. On him it should have stayed; then,

on you. For what grants me the right? Being

firstborn? What virtue lies in that? What hand

had I in that? We ’magine that by this custom

a second brother is the lesser; yet this day

proves otherwise.

“I to England.” “And to Ireland I.”

If only we’d switched paths that fateful day.

You would now be Scotland, and these hands, so tainted,

could be free of fratricide. If only

we’d avenged our Duncan while in restless

death he lay; if only we’d looked more deeply

into the bloody deed. But we forsook

our father’s lonely corpse, and on ourselves

drew suspicion. “Our separated

fortune shall keep us both the safer.” Not safe

enough from a brother’s embrace. “Where we

are, there’s daggers in men’s smiles.” Would

I had greeted you with such a smile.

 

Throws his sword.

 

What’s there? A phantom? The ghost of my mother, come

to rebuke? No, it is too serene….

Sirrah!

 

Enter Attendant.

 

Inquire what lady stands thither.

 

ATTENDANT Yes, my lord.

 

Attendant rushes off, and returns.

 

ATTENDANT She would not give her name.

 

MALCOLM Would not?

 

ATTENDANT “’Tis a name not to be given,”

is what she said.

 

MALCOLM Not to be given? What sort

of mystery is this? Who dares not give

what at birth was given free? Inquire

whom she mourns.

 

ATTENDANT Yes, sire.

 

Exit Attendant.

 

MALCOLM Uncanny sight. Such beauty in such a place.

Such beauty anywhere!

 

Enter Attendant.

ATTENDANT My lord, she would not tell.

 

MALCOLM Not tell?

 

ATTENDANT She said,

“It is a private matter.”

 

MALCOLM Private? Whose death

can be so private? Are we not all catalogued

in that great book of heaven and hell? Is not

one’s absence on this globe so duly noted

that privacy ’scapes even the most unloved

of souls? Cryptic woman! So beautiful.

So solemn. Such a mix I have ne’er seen.

Perchance she is a seraph, dispatched to test

my welcome. Then, as Abraham, I shall

not delay.

 

Malcolm approaches.

 

MALCOLM My lady, I beg, why

do you speak so?

 

WOMAN Why do you inquire

of what is no concern to you?

 

MALCOLM Death

concerns us all.

 

WOMAN Some more than others.

 

MALCOLM How does

it you?

 

WOMAN It did not until some threescore weeks

ago. ’Twas then I was informed of both

my parents’ deaths, and have come here to mourn

for them.

 

MALCOLM What, the death of them both?

 

WOMAN On this very day.

 

MALCOLM Bloody anniversary!

But how did you not know sooner?

 

WOMAN My home

is a monastery, far from the news

of the world, and from these parents I never

met.

 

MALCOLM Never! Alas! But this should make

their death the slighter.

 

WOMAN Or heavier. Sometimes

’tis better to know a thing than to wonder

what’s been missed.

 

MALCOLM (aside) This lady’s words distract.

Forgive me, Donalbain; my heart, so filled

with grief, now wells with something else.

(to Lady) Whence

came you?

 

WOMAN From the black church. On the isle

of Iona.

 

MALCOLM Black? How so?

 

WOMAN So named for the

garments of our nuns. It is thought

to be God’s chosen color.

 

MALCOLM You rebuke me with

the mention.

 

WOMAN Of God? How so? ’Tis a blessing,

not a rebuke—unless you have rebuked

Him.

 

MALCOLM O! I have. There lies the corpse

that was my brother, rendered thus by

this very hand.

 

WOMAN O! Most horrible Cain!

 

MALCOLM I knew not he came in peace.

 

WOMAN How could

a brother come otherwise? How heavy a sin

you have committed. You must atone.

 

MALCOLM I desire

nothing more. But, lady, I do not espy

the graves of your parents. Perhaps we were

acquainted.

 

WOMAN I pray not.

 

MALCOLM Pray not? Wherefore?

 

WOMAN I’ve been told that it was safer to be

from them distant.

 

MALCOLM Safer? How so?

 

WOMAN My lord,

press no further. I have come to grieve

in silence.

 

MALCOLM Art thou an apparition come

to rebuke? I spy no graves here, save for that

crooked cross marking the pit of the Macbeths.

 

WOMAN I have spoken, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Tell me at least

your name.

 

WOMAN For what purpose?

 

MALCOLM Purpose? Need I

purpose? Know you not that I am king

of all this land?

 

WOMAN Titles do not sway

me. There sits a greater king than you.

 

MALCOLM Greater than me? Who? England? Ireland?

 

WOMAN The Lord who has made you.

 

MALCOLM (aside) Her piety pierces my soul, rubbing salt

on a heart freshly torn. O bitter

physic! I should leave her; and yet I cannot

tear away.

(to her) Lady, I must know your name.

 

WOMAN It is

a name I cannot speak. For so uttered,

it would split the air asunder.

 

MALCOLM Then write it.

 

WOMAN The letters spelt would burn the parchment.

 

MALCOLM What name

could do such harm when it doth name so beauteous

a thing?

 

WOMAN I pray you, good day, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Stay!

As king, I command.

 

WOMAN I am not your subject.

 

MALCOLM You tread on my soil.

 

WOMAN A cemetery

belongs to the dead. Are you king of the dead?

 

MALCOLM Answer! Answer I say!!

 

He shakes her.

 

WOMAN You have already

pronounced.

 

MALCOLM Pronounced? I? How? Do not

speak in riddles!

 

WOMAN Pronounce again, so please

you. The crooked cross stares back.

 

MALCOLM Macbeth?

How does this concern you?

 

WOMAN I am their issue.

 

ATTENDANT What! Ho!

 

Attendant rushes off.

 

MALCOLM A child? Of Macbeth?

 

WOMAN I wish that it were other.

 

Enter Seyton, Siward, Macduff, various Nobles, Guards,

Attendants, and a Crowd.

 

SEYTON Can it be?

 

SIWARD Another Macbeth?

 

CROWD 2 She’s much too beautiful.

 

CROWD 3 Far too humble.

 

CROWD 4 Yet her age is right.

 

CROWD 5 I spot Cawdor in her eyes.

 

CROWD 6 Is’t true?!

 

ALL CROWD We demand to be satisfied! Speak!

 

MALCOLM Speak, my lady. Is it true?

 

MACBETH It is.

I have been branded with a name in which

there is no hope for penance.

 

NOBLES Cursed seed!

 

CROWD 1 Stone her where she stands!

 

Malcolm draws.

 

MALCOLM Back! All of you! You’ll take no action

but by my command.

 

MACDUFF My lord, we must

at least imprison. She is an enemy

to the state. If we do not, this mob,

or some other, will tear her apart.

 

SEYTON He speaks wisely, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Take her to Dunsinane. Secure her in the tower.

 

The Guards carry her off, and the crowd cheers.

 

Exeunt all but Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM Imprison her, I shall, but only that she

not flee. My wife have I found, another

Macbeth or no.

 

Exit Malcolm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT II

 

 

SCENE I

 

Tower. Dunsinane.

 

Enter Macbeth, in her cell.

Enter Malcolm, in the shadows.

 

MALCOLM (aside) Can she sit so content in such a place,

as if this worldly setting held no threat?

See how her lips move; how she kneels

so softly upon unyielding stone, as if

repenting for every soul in Dunsinane.

Such prayers must go unanswered whilst I inhabit.

My descent to Hades is set, the only question

being the time of my arrival. Satan:

you shall have your prize. But not yet.

For whilst she lives I too have cause to live.

See how she floats to the window, as a bird to light.

Hark! She speaks.

 

MACBETH The hangman tightens his tool with alacrity,

and the crowd thickens to watch me swing. They think

they’ll take my life; but it was long since took

with news of my unholy origin.

If, as the Bible proclaims, our parents’ sins

spill over generations, then ’tis best

that they stop here, lest I, by my progeny,

should pass them down again. Ambition is foreign

to me; never have I pined for power

or pearls. Our monastery did not afford

the chance, its vaults stowed with naught but dreams

and prayers. Yet perchance the propensity

sits in my blood. If so, better I hang

now, and be punished for sins still uncommitted.

 

MALCOLM (aside) My lady, your virtues are so true they shame

this Cain to lurk in your shadow. You’ve siphoned

the best of the Macbeths, your nature proving

their sins came not by blood, but by earthly

lusts. I wonder if you’ve mistaken your birth.

 

MACBETH I dreamt that I would die in that very

place. Dreamt I, too, of this cell: such stone,

a door of equal height, a window as this.

Except my illusioned window held no bars,

and in that dream was I set free. A Joseph

delivered to Pharaoh. How imperfect a vision

this was.

 

Malcolm unlocks the door and enters the cell.

 

MALCOLM Yet perfect enough.

 

MACBETH Whence

came you? Stood you there all the while?

 

MALCOLM I own

the key.

 

MACBETH Eavesdropping does not become

a king.

MALCOLM Such speech does not become a Macbeth.

 

MACBETH It was a speech meant for mine ears alone.

 

MALCOLM Then grace be to God that I was present.

 

MACBETH Have you

not finished mourning your dear brother’s death?

 

MALCOLM Your virtues compound my grief.

 

MACBETH Tomorrow you’ll have

more cause, when I’m hanged for public display.

 

MALCOLM I can stay your execution.

 

MACBETH If God

desires it be stayed, it will, by you

or by some other agent. If He desires

otherwise, then I am content.

 

MALCOLM I knew

your mother and father. Too well. I cannot imagine

you are their issue.

 

MACBETH ’Tis not a name I would

claim otherwise.

 

MALCOLM You never met them?

 

MACBETH I was delivered to the nuns newborn.

 

MALCOLM But why?

 

MACBETH I’ve wondered at this myself, but have

not found the cause. Perhaps I was a hindrance

on their road to ambition. Perhaps

they had no love for children.

MALCOLM Then why mourn them?

 

MACBETH If not I, who?

 

MALCOLM But why now? Their death

was ten years past.

 

MACBETH It is fresh for me,

deaf to Scotland’s news until my nuns

deemed fit to share it.

 

MALCOLM But ’twas a perilous journey

for a woman alone.

 

MACBETH Nuns pilgrimage

to far Jersualem; ’twas but a trifle

beside that.

 

MALCOLM If released, will you

return to Iona?

 

MACBETH If God has me released

I cannot imagine a life elsewhere.

 

MALCOLM Then allow

me to imagine for you. My lady, I am

in love. . . . Have you no reply?

 

MACBETH Forgive, my lord. I know not what to say.

 

MALCOLM Say it is requited.

 

MACBETH Requited? How?

I’ve never loved a man, and what I know

of you points to less than that—taker

of your brother’s life, warder and would-be

executioner of my own self.

How should I love thee, exactly? What words

would you have me speak? Riddles and affairs

of love are not my currency. I’ve not

been taught the false nothings and idle flatteries

of love’s language, have not been reared in the ways

to cloud desire, to twist metaphor and meaning.

And if, my lord, you know already the words

you long to hear, why not recite them to

yourself, hold out a polished glass and mock

my voice? What need you of a living thing

to ape what you can with ease imagine?

It is not requited. And if it were,

I would have no extravagant way

to frame the words, have no device to gild

my syllables, but only say, I love you.

 

MALCOLM Those words I long to hear, not by my voice

but by yours, for love a single voice

cannot create. The witches said I would love

Macbeth. I knew not what it meant until

this day.

 

MACBETH Speak not to me of witches. They are

things of darkness.

 

MALCOLM They tricked me to take

my brother’s life; yet they also led

me unto you.

 

MACBETH And now you are a murderer.

MALCOLM Please, use not that word so freely.

 

MACBETH You’ll needn’t

hear it soon enough, as I shall be

silenced by the gallows.

 

MALCOLM I shall arrange

your release.

 

MACBETH Upon what condition?

 

MALCOLM None. As I am king.

 

MACBETH Then I shall humbly

thank you and take my leave. What, my lord?

Why do you block the gate?

 

MALCOLM Every woman

in Scotland has petitioned me to marry.

Do you scorn what others crave?

 

MACBETH I crave

naught but piety, which I’ll not find in a murderer’s

arms.

 

MALCOLM You know me only as this. Before

today I was a wise and valiant king,

who dearly loved the brother he so rashly

slayed. O Donalbain!

 

Malcolm weeps.

 

MACBETH ’Tis a heavy deed you have committed.

Yet penance is possible for all of God’s children.

 

MALCOLM Then there is hope?

 

MACBETH There is always hope.

 

MALCOLM E’en for my hand?

 

MACBETH I am not a queen,

my lord. I would not crave the title.

 

MALCOLM ’Tis why

it should be yours. I pray you, my lady, consider

what I propose: Scotland needs an heir.

If you desire penance for your parents’

past deeds, then you have found the place. You need

not love me yet. Just take my hand in marriage

and let time teach the rest.

 

MACBETH ’Tis folly, my lord.

Would you have your subjects convert their most

hated villain into their beloved queen?

MALCOLM My people are but an extension of my will—

they shall be pleased by that which pleases me.

My lady, I vow to repent deeply my actions

past; to renounce all violence; and to

ne’er again seek the witches. I will

become the king I was.

 

MACBETH My life was took with the news of my

unhappy origin. You would wed but an empty

shell.

 

MALCOLM They say that shells encase the secrets

of the deep. I’d rather such shell than the

oyster-laden pearl.

 

MACBETH Then, as you will.

 

They kiss.

 

Exeunt.

 

SCENE II

 

Dunsinane.

 

Enter Malcolm, Macduff, Siward, Seyton and Attendants.

 

MACDUFF My lord, she must be hanged! Stand you by

Whilst a Macbeth is here set free?

 

MALCOLM I

am king, and she is free.

 

SEYTON My liege, Macduff

speaks true. Our soil is still stained by the reign

of the Macbeths. If the past the future paints,

this rose you now release will one day show

its thorns, pricking not just you but our

entire court.

 

MALCOLM The key’s long lost; she roams

freely. Further, she is now my guest

in Dunsinane. I’ve given her parents’ quarters

to her, and you shall know that I mean

to make of her my queen.

 

SEYTON Queen!

 

SIWARD What!

 

MACDUFF Queen Macbeth!

 

MALCOLM “Lady Malcolm” shall she

be called—not Macbeth.

 

SEYTON How will the people

abide?

 

MALCOLM Have they not hoped for an heir?

Now they can be content.

 

MACDUFF An heir—

not a Macbeth!

 

MALCOLM A Malcolm.

 

SEYTON Have we then ousted

the parents only to grant dominion to

the seed?

 

MALCOLM By this royal act the growing

multitude distressed over my brother’s

death will also be distracted. Including

myself.

 

SIWARD Donalbain defied your

decree and breached our shores with brandished arms.

Sure as he stepped foot on Scottish soil,

death became him.

 

MALCOLM Say again, traitor,

and you will hang. My brother shall be enshrined

as the hero he was; a statue is being erected

as we speak. He died a hero; it shall

be spoke no other.

 

MACDUFF Do you think it wise,

my lord, to let a Macbeth gain control

of half the throne?

 

MALCOLM Kings control thrones,

not queens.

 

SEYTON Then to let the bloodline of Macbeth

be heir to Scotland’s throne?

 

MALCOLM Evil does not

always come by blood.

 

SEYTON Yet evil of such

proven depth cannot filter with ease.

MALCOLM The prophecy for succession lies in

the seed of Banquo, not Macbeth. I see

no harm thereby. Therefore, occupy

yourselves with the preparation. We marry

tomorrow: Saint Andrew’s Day.

 

MACDUFF Think you now

the most opportune time for

a wedding? Norway prepares.

 

SEYTON And we shall lose

the chase with Lennox, Angus and Ross.

 

SIWARD We must

stop them before they reach the Irish shore.

 

MALCOLM I have spoken. Go to.

 

Exeunt all but Macduff.

 

MACDUFF My lord, if you recall that fateful day,

’twas I who found your father’s bloody corpse,

carved cruelly at the hand of a Macbeth.

No seed of such a monster can be pure.

 

MALCOLM When you found him, did you know it was

the work of Macbeth?

 

MACDUFF I suspected thus.

 

MALCOLM Yet I knew it the moment the bell tolled.

We fled; yet you remained.

 

MACDUFF I was not certain

 

MALCOLM But I was. Just as I am now; and just

as you again are not. You have proved

a wise and loyal friend; but counsel me not

on the nature of my Lady Malcolm.

Go to.

 

MACDUFF (aside) I cannot abide while he

builds a ladder for a Macbeth’s ascent.

If too clouded by love to guard himself,

then I must for him. I will confront

the evil offspring, and dissuade her from

this place. If not, I’ll bring a dagger, and perform

the task myself. Better I should hang,

than Scotland slowly strangle.

 

Exeunt.

 

SCENE III

 

Seyton’s castle.

 

Enter Seyton and Syna.

 

SYNA Marriage! To a Macbeth!

 

SEYTON Calm, my child—

 

SYNA Calm! Calm! Malcolm is mine! By your word,

I am set to marry! Not to be

passed over for a harlot from Iona,

a fake monk stealing into Dunsinane

to snatch away my ring! I will be queen!

 

SEYTON Malcolm had never consented to your—

 

SYNA I had consented! What need I from him?

You pretend to have his ear. Fool!

You have only influence enough

to make a mockery of your own flesh:

to see me, your own issue, thus debased.

 

SEYTON I did not—

 

SYNA Or are you so powerless

you cannot sway a feeble king to glance

at your own seed, to behold the best beauty

in his land?

 

SEYTON I petitioned many

times. He promised an audience. But not

to wed. He was against marriage—

 

SYNA Against!

Against! He is clearly for. Just not

for you.

 

SEYTON There is little I can do.

He is set to marry tomorrow.

 

SYNA Never

shall sun that morrow see! What, do you

plan to sit idly by and have

a stranger make your daughter husbandless?

Make you bereft of royal lineage?

Have you lost all desire for the crown?

 

SEYTON I have desire—

 

SYNA Then act on that desire!

 

SEYTON I have tried. He is resolved.

 

SYNA You’ve not

tried hard enough. Malcolm cannot marry

a corpse.

 

SEYTON Do not speak thus. Suspicion of

the deed would fall on us. Malcolm, unhinged,

would then never marry. I have a better

way. I know a certain nurse who,

for a sum, will attend our newfound

queen, and report to me her private doings.

I can then inform our Malcolm of his lady’s

true intent, and thereby convert him ’gainst

his false beloved. Then you, my willful Syna,

will I present to him.

 

SYNA A fair plan.

I begin to calm. But what if this

nurse finds no evil in this ugly,

villainous thing?

 

SEYTON Better to find in her

an ounce of the real thing; but if there’s none,

why, we shall create. I know just

the woman: a servant who suffered greatly by

the hand of Macbeth. But, my daughter, if we

should fail—

 

SYNA We fail? How your weakness sickens

me! You are Syna’s father. Act

in kind! Fail me again, and I shall tell

Malcolm of all your machinations, and see

you hang, e’en if my head rolls with yours.

The queen’s throne lies in my grasp; I shall

not rest until it’s mine.

Exeunt.

SCENE IV

Dunsinane. Macbeth’s bedroom.

 

Macbeth, seated. Enter Macduff.

 

MACDUFF (aside) What illusion is this? She sits so soft,

prayer beads on knuckles white, as if to shame

me for holding this hidden means of death.

But I must not steer from the required course.

And surely she feigns. No Macbeth would e’er

embrace a rosary, unless to pray

for greater treachery.

(to her) Lady Macbeth.

Or shall I dub thee Lady Malcolm?

 

MACBETH For a few hours more I am Macbeth,

yet you may dub me as you wish.

Who, pray, are you? Why such silent entrance?

 

MACDUFF I am Macduff, husband of the slain

Lady Macduff, father of the boy

Macduff: all my pretty ones, all

butchered by your parents’ hand.

 

MACBETH Alas!

Reports of their tyranny do not

seem to cease. I will include your child

and lady in my long list of abridged souls.

I pray for your forgiveness.

 

MACDUFF (aside) Is such piety practiced? Is she more skilled

in the art of deception than even her parents?

I will out her yet.

(to her) You needn’t pray on your father’s behalf.

I’ve already sent him to Hades, dispatched

him with this very sword: I am the man

of no woman born.

 

MACBETH A Gabriel

sent to an unrepentant Sodom.

As my father’s taker, I cannot offer

you my thanks; but as courier of the One

above, I will accept your decree.

 

MACDUFF (aside) What? Does not e’en this taunt her to true

color? ’Tis unnatural to not show

the least sign of enmity. I falter

in my resolve. Out with it, then.

(to her) Lady, to the point: as I have known

your father and mother both too well, I know

you better than you know yourself. If you

truly be their issue, then we need only

wait ’til the day you hatch and subvert us all,

when your latent ambition will, and must,

reach beyond these castle walls. To prevent,

I demand you take your leave at once,

and tell our Malcolm you will not marry. For to

protect him is my sworn duty, and by

my honor, I shall not allow him to

be vanquished by one so close.

 

MACBETH You perform

your duty well. Would that I had such

a trusted friend. Yet I cannot concede.

I answer only to the Lord above,

and I do now believe He has put

me here to atone for my parents’ sins.

 

MACDUFF Have I slain your father only to kneel

to his seed?

 

MACBETH Kneel not to me, but to God.

 

MACDUFF I stopped kneeling the day He took from me

all that was dear: my whole life stole in one

fateful missive. All I have left is a hardened

heart, and guilt for my cowardice. O!

Would that I had stayed!

 

Macduff weeps. Macbeth rises from the throne and embraces him.

 

MACBETH O terrible fortune!

Most foul Macbeth. Detestable thy name!

A name I’ll change in a few hours more;

yet I do not think a simple service

will wipe clean the sins of my lineage.

If punishing myself would lessen your

great loss, I would it gladly undergo.

 

Macduff reaches up to embrace her, and his knife falls to the floor.

Macbeth backs away.

 

MACDUFF O my lady! Forgive! ’Twas a dagger

meant for you—a dagger I shall never use!

Now I see that thou art not the stamp

of thine own parents, but a true seraph.

Punish your would-be murderer: if thou

desirest now my hanging, I shall hasten

to the gallows.

 

MACBETH I desire nothing

but the lifting of thy guilt.

 

MACDUFF Can it be? I’m shamed to the neck.

Thou art my true, sworn queen; I vow to serve

thee ever after. If I could not protect

Lady Macduff, at least I can shield you.

What a fortunate king Malcolm shall be!

What a fortunate land of Scotland!

 

Exit Macduff.

MACBETH Not as fortunate as thou dost think.

I spoke to Malcolm that I’d ne’er known love,

and ’twas true. Yet not anymore:

Macduff, thou hast educated. It is

a wisdom I wish I lacked. O faithless queen!

O Dunsinane! Can your walls so quickly corrupt?

 

Exeunt.

 

SCENE V

 

Dunsinane. Courtyard.

 

A lavish wedding ceremony.

 

Enter Malcolm, Macbeth, Macduff, Siward, various Nobles and Attendants.

 

Enter Nurse.

 

NURSE Such ceremony stands me right on edge.

Good flowers torn to shreds; ’twill be a mess

to clean. And flower girls, dressed in such finery:

frivoling the time when they could be

at home, mending clothes and scrubbing floors,

as I did at their age. When I was wed,

no one came to gape. My husband paid

but half a pence, and they cheered us with a pint

of ale. Such was our marriage ceremony.

No flowers lived in that place; no silks or brocade,

as I was the only lady there.

 

Enter Seyton.

 

SEYTON ’Tis an odd turn in events. I cannot

recall in kind. But yesterday this rabble

cried for her head; now they cheer her crowning.

Art thou studied on the business to be done?

 

NURSE But look: how they lavish her with sparkling

jewels, promote her with a royal crown.

When I was married, I was handed a stick

to beat back fleas, crowned with a net to hold

back lice—

 

SEYTON I say, nurse, art thou clear?

For I will not part with this treasure ‘til you

parrot back my purpose. If not, I’ll find

another.

 

NURSE Clear? Why, yes, of course: clear

as a day in Scotland when the fog lifts, clear

as a—

 

SEYTON Nurse!

 

NURSE The business is simple enough.

I will attend our newly minted queen,

present myself as nurse to her, and use

this pretense to catch her words and malign

her to the king.

 

SEYTON To me. You will report

to me. You’ll not report to Malcolm ’cept—

 

NURSE Yes, yes, clear enough.

 

SEYTON And if you witness

no vices, what then?

 

NURSE Then I shall encourage.

 

SEYTON And if without success?

 

NURSE Then I’ll invent.

 

SEYTON Thou art artful in thy craft.

 

NURSE ’Tis hardly

a craft demanding art. For treachery

is our oldest profession. One need summon

naught but instinct, that warder of the brain,

and let it freely work. Besides, I hardly

lack for motive: Lady Macbeth daily

used me as her whipping thing. She carved

these scars upon my back; still not satisfied,

she turned then to my daughter, and had her lynched

for spying. I vowed revenge yet never it fulfilled.

In death I cannot touch the mother; but here

her daughter I can reach. Revenge so imperfect

imperfectly sates, yet satisfies more

than none at all.

 

SEYTON Here’s the purse. Perform

your business quickly. We cannot allow this vine

to take its root too deep, past the point

we cannot extract.

 

Exit Seyton.

 

NURSE You needn’t tutor me,

old man. I am so practiced in my craft,

that this new queen comes as a lamb to slaughter.

She shall meet her new nurse; and crave physic

thereafter.

Exit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT III

 

SCENE I

 

Dunsinane. Queen’s chamber.

 

Lady Malcolm, seated on throne, with Attendants, and Nurse.

 

Enter First Petitioner.

 

FIRST PETITIONER Your Majesty: I petition for my mother.

Our estate was seized at your parents’ hands, and we live

now on but a portion of what we once were. I have tried to

entreat the king but cannot gain audience. God bless you

for seeing me on this auspicious day.

 

LADY MALCOLM Where is the plot?

 

FIRST PETITIONER By Edinburgh, near the sea. My mother is

frail, and the reinstatement of this place where she was

born would grant years more to her virtuous life.

 

LADY MALCOLM Have you proof of your claim?

 

FIRST PETITIONER Here, my lady.

 

Hands her scroll.

 

LADY MALCOLM So it reads. I shall petition the king

on your behalf and urge him to set

wrongs right. Please pardon my parents’ faults.

 

FIRST PETITIONER God save the queen!

 

Exit First Petitioner.

 

NURSE (aside) What’s this? A fair Macbeth? The ears

deceive.

Surely it is for show; she’ll tear that scroll

when the moment suits. O graceful cunning!

True compatriot!

 

Enter Second Petitioner.

 

SECOND PETITIONER Your Highness, if your gracious spirit

would extend to yet another, I entreat you hear my case.

The jewels you wear about your wrist were hewed by my-

self, a gift for my daughter on her wedding day. Your

mother spied them on her way to court and claimed them

as her own.

 

LADY MALCOLM A daughter bereft of a wedding jewel!

Forgive. Have you proof of what you claim?

 

SECOND PETITIONER Here, my lady.

(hands her scroll)

 

Signatures of fivescore villagers who witnessed my

Furnishing of the bracelt. Here, too—

(hands her a jewel)

 

—a jewel not included. You can see from the fashion it

could have been made by no other.

 

LADY MALCOLM So it is.

 

Lady Malcolm takes off the bracelet and hands it to Second Petitioner.

 

SECOND PETITIONER Heaven forfend I should deprive you

of your wedding gift on your wedding day! I do not mean

to take that which is already yours, but to ask for recom-

pense in some lesser form.

 

LADY MALCOLM It is an ancient tradition to hear petitions

on a nuptial day, and thus you do

me more service. I would not wear this bracelet

for half the world. Accept it, please, with

a humble plea that you my mother pardon.

 

SECOND PETITIONER God save Her Highness! Most noble

Macbeth!

 

Exit Second Petitioner.

 

NURSE (aside) Even so? O royalty! How well

thou sits when not driven by base desire.

Much have my eyes seen, but such displays

of justice I could not predict. I waver

in my resolve. Then for the sake of my

dead daughter, I shall offer jewels which no

woman can reject, and therein begin

the lady’s corruption.

 

LADY MALCOLM As we have now concluded a long line of

requests, I ask that you all leave me. Retire,

please, to your own rooms, and there attend

to your own needs. I have no need for servants.

 

Exeunt all Attendants, but Nurse.

 

NURSE My lady, it seems there is one piece of business

that you have missed.

 

LADY MALCOLM Which piece?

 

NURSE Why, the crown.

Why did you thrust it off so soon? I’ve brought

it here to regain its rightful seat.

 

LADY MALCOLM Thanks,

dear nurse, but I am content unadorned.

I’ve no desire for such frightful ornaments.

Pray, return the crown to its storage

place, from my sight hid.

 

NURSE But,

my queen—

 

LADY MALCOLM Is there yet more?

 

NURSE Why, the very

scepter of your mother. Borne for centuries

by Scottish queens, it never left their side.

’Tis fit that you now brandish it, in display

of regal privilege.

 

LADY MALCOLM My privilege lies only in God’s

good grace. I pray you, store this with the other,

there to remain until beckoned by one

more regal-like. Now, good nurse, I pray you,

leave me so that I may execute

the evening’s prayers.

 

NURSE (aside) ’Tis not possible. But yesterday I had

been certain ’twas a just mission; now

in her I see the likeness of my own daughter.

O wretched task! To avenge the one I must

harm the other. Alas: I am yet but young

in deed.

(to Lady Malcolm) Pray let these ornaments stay for just

this night, so that the people do not see

the honors of your royal office disdained

on their initiation day.

 

Exit Nurse.

 

LADY MALCOLM Would I were uninitiated still.

Such sights did not move me a day before.

O hideous crown! Stare not at me so.

Pray God, let me look elsewhere; for whilst

in such proximity it sits, I cannot

ignore.

 

(Lady Malcolm approaches and touches the crown)

 

Thou dost feel like any other

metal; yet thine elements run deep. Too deep,

I fear, for a novice queen. O!

Macbeth! Can one simple jewel change thy nature?

O! Iona! Where hast thou gone?

 

Exit.

SCENE II

 

Dunsinane. Dining hall.

 

Enter Malcolm, Lady Malcolm, Macduff, Seyton, Siward,

Syna, Nurse, various Nobles and Attendants.

 

MALCOLM Friends, nobles. Tonight we raise a glass

unto the resurrection of Macbeth:

a new Macbeth, more virtuous by far

than would the name imply. A true queen

for our land, and a lady I beam

to call wife. To Lady Malcolm!

 

ALL To Lady Malcolm!

 

MALCOLM Fortune smiles upon the heels of such

unhappy prologue. Reports spread fast of our

queen’s virtues, and the land begins to brim with cheer.

We shall vanquish imprudent Norway, and I

will yield to Scotland heirs!

 

ALL Hear, hear!

 

MALCOLM My queen? Add you to the general speech?

 

LADY MALCOLM Your speech does me too great a service.

Naught

is fit to add, but only to subtract.

 

SYNA Surely, our newfound queen, you can bolster

your husband’s words?

 

LADY MALCOLM A husband’s words do not

need bolstering, nor should a lady presume

to amend.

 

MALCOLM Well spoken. A day to mark all days.

I only wish it were not marred by the death

of my dear brother. Sirrah!

 

ATTENDANT Yes, my lord?

 

MALCOLM How stands my brother’s statue?

 

ATTENDANT The sculptors work on it throughout the night,

as you have instructed.

 

MALCOLM Add a score

more to their company.

ATTENDANT Yes, my lord.

 

Attendant exits.

 

MALCOLM To my beloved brother, who died a hero’s

death.

They raise their glasses and drink.

 

MALCOLM A drop has fallen on my cuff.

It settles, see. It will not wash for all

the world.

 

Enter Ghost of Donalbain. Malcolm stares, frozen.

 

MACDUFF Your highness?

 

LADY MALCOLM What is it, my lord? Why stare you so?

 

MALCOLM ’Tis not possible.

 

MACDUFF Why do you gape at but a vacant seat?

 

MALCOLM Vacant? Vacant!? If so, then half the world

is uninhabited. Speak, brother!

Rebuke me, as befits.

Siward draws.

 

SIWARD What, Donalbain?

Where?

 

MACDUFF My lord, you invent.

 

MALCOLM Speak,

dear brother: chastise me in your rage.

What? Not even this? Not a word for

your former self?

LADY MALCOLM My lord, you are unwell.

I pray you—

 

MALCOLM What, Duncan, too? His crown

still crooked, blood pouring from his wounds. Forgive

me, Father: I have erased your better half.

What, Macbeth, too? And his lady?

What a bloody feast is this! Ghouls

aligned to hate one more ghoulish than they.

Vacant! Ha! This table is too full.

’Tis yours. I’d rather sup in the midnight air.

 

Exit Malcolm.

 

LADY MALCOLM I pray your patience. My lord is exceedingly

tired.

 

Exit Lady Malcolm.

 

Exeunt others.

 

 

SCENE III

 

Balcony.

 

Malcolm, pacing.

 

Enter Lady Malcolm.

 

LADY MALCOLM My lord? You are unwell.

 

MALCOLM I shall never

be well, so long as I wear this blood

of Donalbain’s. See, it won’t come out.

 

LADY MALCOLM ‘Tis not your brother’s blood, my lord.

’Tis but

a drop of wine.

 

MALCOLM Then what a potent drop

it is! I will not set foot in that room

again.

 

LADY MALCOLM Nor need you, ever.

 

MALCOLM I begin

to calm, with you here by my side. This night

air does me rightful good. Already the scene

begins to lift.

 

LADY MALCOLM You are well in health

but not in spirit. I charge you: light a candle

for your dear brother, and join me in my nightly

prayers. Tomorrow we’ll to the chapel, where you

can make rightful amends.

 

MALCOLM Cawdor alone

can touch. But I am he.

 

LADY MALCOLM My lord?

 

MALCOLM I must

know how it ends.

 

LADY MALCOLM What ends, my lord?

 

MALCOLM Why,

my life. Or, rather, Cawdor’s. They spoke of Birnam,

and so it was. They spoke of Ireland; from there

he came. They must amend my prophecy!

 

LADY MALCOLM Heaven forfend! Did you not vow to ne’er

see them again?

 

MALCOLM An oath I made in haste.

I needs must know that I cannot be touched.

Forgive, my love: their drug sits deep. I crave

yet one last dose.

 

LADY MALCOLM Vile creatures! Satan’s

puppets! I pray you, do not break your vow

on our wedding night.

 

MALCOLM I will promise

other things, and those I will keep.

Hark! The bell invites. We will have other nights.

 

Exit Malcolm.

 

LADY MALCOLM I fear not as many as we may wish.

 

Exit.

SCENE IV

 

Witches’ place.

 

Enter Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM This place is too cold for hell. Cursed

sisters! Where hide you?

 

VOICE Here, Malcolm!

 

MALCOLM A voice! As the breath of a demon

Crossed with a dog’s. From whence came this? The fog

my vision blinds.

 

VOICE Descend, Malcolm!

 

MALCOLM The trail

leads down.

 

Cavern.

 

MALCOLM What place is this? ‘Tis darker than the depths

of night.

 

Enter Three Witches, with torch.

 

FIRST WITCH Hail, King of Scotland!

 

SECOND WITH Thane of Cawdor, hail!

 

THIRD WITCH Hail, Malcolm, who shall be touched by no

man

but Cawdor!

 

MALCOLM (aside) Again do they speak thus. I feel settled

already.

(to them) No man, say you?

 

FIRST WITCH Bid us summon our devils

and you shall know further.

 

MALCOLM I bid you.

 

Enter First Apparition.

 

 

MALCOLM What awful illusion is this?

It squirms as a snake, yet wears the head

of a man-child.

 

FIRST APPARITION Fleance will attack.

But you shall find him first.

 

Exit First Apparition.

 

MALCOLM Find him first? Then I’ll stop him!

What else have you, ladies? I bid, summon!

 

Enter Second Apparition.

 

MALCOLM What’s this? A horned helmet with no face?

 

SECOND APPARITION Norway shall invade,

but will not win. You shall

be greater than she, yet lesser.

 

Exit Second Apparition.

 

MALCOLM Greater yet lesser? Strange indeed. Yet Norway

shall not win—’tis all that counts.

 

FIRST WITCH Are ye satisfied?

 

MALCOLM Tell me of my lady. . . . Will there be an heir?

 

SECOND WITCH We bid you not press further.

 

MALCOLM Summon! I charge you!

 

THIRD WITCH Thane, some mirrors are best turned round.

 

MALCOLM I demand!

 

Enter Third Apparition.

 

MALCOLM Send it back!

This two-headed beast scorns with a visage borrowed

from my father and brother both! Send

it back I tell you!

 

THIRD APPARITION Your union shall not last.

Torn asunder it

shall be, by man of no

woman born.

Exit Third Apparition.

 

MALCOLM How dreadful such things exist! Whence

summoned

you this creature?

 

FIRST WITCH ’Tis not for your knowledge.

 

MALCOLM Shall not last? Why, ’tis false.

Man of no woman born? Macduff

only. But he would not—

she would not—’tis foolery.

Tell me more!

 

SECOND WITCH You have overstayed your welcome,

Scotland.

ALL By the pricking of our thumbs,

something wicked this way comes.

 

Witches vanish.

MALCOLM Stay! I charge you, stay!

 

Exit.

 

SCENE V

 

Dunsinane. Dining hall.

 

Seyton, Siward and Macduff, seated.

 

SIWARD ’Tis as if Macbeth were resurrected.

I fear he is unwell.

 

SEYTON Do you fear it? I fear something greater.

 

MACDUFF Of what do you speak?

 

SEYTON Do you think such a sudden shift in nature

hails unprovoked? That it hath no tutor?

 

SIWARD Pray, who?

 

SEYTON Why, our new queen.

 

MACDUFF ’Tis false.

 

SEYTON Her nurse informed me of a plot—

 

MACDUFF Villain!

You lie! Lady Malcolm is the very portrait

of virtue—she will not be touched. The cause

of Malcolm’s malady lies in his sudden

grief.

 

SEYTON ’Tis as I heard.

 

MACDUFF I will not hear

more of this. And speak not of it further.

 

Exit Macduff.

 

SIWARD A defensive soul.

 

SEYTON Perhaps he and the queen each other know

too well?

 

SIWARD Think you?

 

SEYTON Why else so heated o’er

a stranger?

 

SIWARD I hadn’t thought.

 

SEYTON Be sure, the queen

doth stand behind Malcolm’s descent. Morn

‘til night she whispers in his ear, stirring

him to greater ambition.

 

SIWARD What greater

ambition for a king?

 

SEYTON Why, the safety

of that kingship.

 

SIWARD By what means?

 

SEYTON The removal

of all too close.

 

SIWARD What!

 

SEYTON Why else would Lady

Macbeth orphan her child?

 

SIWARD I hadn’t thought.

 

SEYTON To ensure the safety of the Macbeths. She knew

her fatal games could bring her early death

and thus stowed her seed in reserve,

that it might sprout whene’er the time was right.

 

SIWARD O most treacherous lineage!

 

SEYTON And when

this new Macbeth has fulfilled her plan,

Malcolm will have us buried far beneath

the ground, Then she will poison Malcolm—

as did her mother gracious Duncan—and claim

the throne alone.

 

SIWARD Ignoble scheme! O true

heir to Macbeth!

 

SEYTON Shall we wait for that dreadful

day?

 

SIWARD Never! Still crave I vengeance

for the murder of my young Siward. Since

her father lives no more, she can do

the trick.

 

SEYTON Then listen close, and we will oust her yet.

 

Exeunt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT IV

 

 

SCENE I

 

Dunsinane. Malcolm’s chamber.

 

Enter Malcolm, by window.

 

 

MALCOLM O Donalbain! Your statue rises tall.

Stare not so marble-eyed upon your brother.

 

Enter Ghost of Macbeth.

 

How, say you? Why, ’tis not your throne.

 

Exit Ghost of Macbeth.

 

What, gone so soon? Macbeth, thy spirit taunts.

Each morn thou perches owl-like on this sill,

only to depart as sudden. The dead should not

be granted such choice of place.

 

Enter Ghost of Banquo.

 

What, Banquo, too?

You join in this parade of ghosts, yet I

was not your taker. It is the walls of Dunsinane

that have trapped you.

 

Exit Ghost of Banquo.

 

Then I am alone.

Duncan and Donalbain dare not alight;

I am too low for such high souls to see.

 

Enter Macduff, Seyton, Siward, various Nobles and Attendants.

 

SIWARD My lord, Fleance’s men have swelled and now

do brandish arms.

 

SEYTON They’ve massed on our Scottish

shore and prepare the jump to Ireland. They’ll join

with Ross and mount a joint attack.

 

MALCOLM (aside) Fleance attack?

Can the witches speak so expedient?

I have become the puppet king, pulled

on strings of prophecy. A fruitless crown

have they placed on my head, teetering

in the winds of prediction.

 

SIWARD We must net this threat unto your throne,

before it gains by doubled strength.

 

MALCOLM Macduff?

Have you of late attended my wife?

 

MACDUFF No,

my lord. I’ve only met with her once, before

your wedding, that I might satisfy myself

of her nature.

 

MALCOLM Indeed? And were you satisfied?

 

MACDUFF Quite. She is a model of virtue.

 

SIWARD My lord,

we waste the time. We must stop Fleance!

 

MALCOLM (to Macduff ) What think you of Fleance?

 

MACDUFF As before:

the boy is barely yet a man, and poses

no real threat unto your throne.

 

MALCOLM I’d rather

around me such men than those

too ripe with manhood.

 

MACDUFF My lord?

 

MALCOLM You seem keen

to let young Fleance go.

 

MACDUFF Keen only that you,

supreme king, be sparing in your display

of armed strength.

 

MALCOLM We have let Fleance roam

long enough. But I’ll not send an army

to net a boy. He can be taken by

a few brave hands. I know just the men:

the very three villains who took his father’s

life.

 

SEYTON Pray, my lord, send not such lowly

creatures to perform a soldier’s work. They missed

Fleance already once, and the fate

of the throne must not rest in their hands.

 

MALCOLM The fate of the throne? What concern of yours

is this?

SEYTON Why, ’tis your fate too, my lord.

 

MALCOLM The seed of Banquo is only a threat if you

believe the witches speak true. Do you, Macduff?

 

MACDUFF So it seems, my lord.

 

MALCOLM True in all

matters?

 

MACDUFF So it seems.

 

MALCOLM Well then, you

have spoke it. Ho, thee!

 

Enter Attendant.

 

Summon those three men

waiting outside my door.

 

Exit Attendant.

 

Now leave me.

 

Exeunt Macduff, Seyton and Siward.

 

MALCOLM He admits the witches speak true, and thus

concedes

his own betrayal. O! Treachery

so close!

 

Enter Three Murderers.

 

ALL My liege.

 

MALCOLM You are the three that stopped the life of our

dear Banquo.

 

FIRST MURDERER By King Macbeth’s command.

 

MALCOLM He spoke of you.

 

SECOND MURDERER Who, my lord?

 

MALCOLM Why, Banquo. What, speak you not?

 

THIRD MURDERER He is in heaven, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Then heaven is not far from here. There is

another who needs sending. It is his son.

 

FIRST MURDERER Worm of trickery!

 

SECOND MURDERER He ’scaped by a mere hairskin, my lord.

 

THIRD MURDERER The father fought well, to distract us

from the son. A quick little boy was he, with a quicker

horse.

 

MALCOLM Because of you, this bane of prophecy

has remained a thorn in Scotland’s side.

Now you can right your misstep and conclude

the task you failed before.

 

FIRST MURDERER ’Twill be a privilege, my lord.

 

MALCOLM He prepares his jump to Ireland.

Move quick. Let Scotland down again, and you

will hang, I swear. Go to.

 

Exit Three Murderers.

 

MALCOLM Thus tomorrow the prophecy shall end.

If there lies no other seed of Banquo—

and ’tis certain Fleance is the only one—

then none other can claim my throne.

Yet what of Macduff? Did not the sisters say

he would divide? Macduff has been a loyal

friend. But too many types of loyalty

are able to comingle in a single person,

allowing the friend who saves my life to also

seduce my love and find no contradiction

in the work, no breach of the word “loyalty.”

Yes, Macduff. I see your plan. Why else

let Fleance abscond? Why, to see me toppled

and clear the way for yourself. Already

he’s chopped off one king’s head, and is well-practiced

in the art. He is, after all,

a man of no woman born, and such

a man can ne’er be trusted. Very well, then:

on this day I’ll settle all accounts,

and give Fleance company in his descent.

Tonight I shall greet Macduff in his sleep,

and reunite him with his loved ones.

 

Exit.

 

 

SCENE II

 

Scotland. Forest.

 

Fleance and Fiona, seated.

 

FLEANCE Would this day were as my love, for then

’twould never end; ’twould keep its face turned to

the sun, so that it never set.

 

FIONA My love

would stop the sun entire, hold it in

its place so that a day would ne’er again

be marked by a division.

 

FLEANCE Alas! Night

falls slow but thick, and we must make for

he ship. I pray you, my lady, come with me.

 

FIONA Ireland is a strange and foreign

shore.

 

FLEANCE But we shall be together. All else

is geography.

 

FIONA But my family

here resides, and my departure bars

return.

 

FLEANCE We shall build a family of

our own.

 

FIONA As we could in Scotland, if

you’d stay.

 

FLEANCE While the tyrant Malcolm reigns,

my days are marked by danger. He’s slain a loving

brother—how shall he treat a ’magined threat?

FIONA Then why not seize the throne, and live in peace?

 

FLEANCE The throne is the least peaceful place

in Scotland.

 

FIONA But ’tis rightfully yours.

 

FLEANCE By prophecy.

Not by right.

 

FIONA Prophecy has run

the course of Scotland since Macbeth did claim

it as his crowning tool. It is as much

a right as any.

 

FLEANCE I have no desire

for the throne, and have no ambition

for the walls of Dunsinane. Perhaps

I would claim, if I felt the pull

for kingly power or earthly gain. But I

do not. I possess already all the jewels

our earth can hold; for you have filled my

desire for aught else. So: I pray you,

come with me. ’Tis unsafe here. We must

make to the ship, and I cannot abscond

until you will consent.

 

FIONA Would you force

me to decide between abandoning

my love and relinquishing my kin?

 

FLEANCE Which love’s the stronger?

 

FIONA They cannot be compared.

 

FLEANCE The last light of sun doth darken my heart.

’Tis clear now that you mean to stay.

 

FIONA I’ll come.

 

They kiss.

 

FIONA But I must first take leave of my kin.

 

FLEANCE They’ll not assent.

 

FIONA My mind’s made up.

 

FLEANCE We haven’t

time. My men wait for us.

 

FIONA Go

to them. Inform of my near arrival.

I’ll to my family and bear the brunt

of their tearful departure.

 

FLEANCE I like it not.

The night grows thick. I pray you, join me now,

and let us be done with Scotland.

 

FIONA I will

not flee like a thief in the night. I must

look one last time upon their faces.

 

FLEANCE Then my hours will be heavy with waiting.

 

FIONA This will keep them lighter.

 

They kiss.

 

Exeunt.

 

SCENE III

 

Scotland. Forest.

 

Enter Three Murderers.

 

FIRST MURDERER Again the fate of Scotland twists in our

hands.

 

SECOND MURDERER Then ’tis good they are murderers’

hands—broad and thick, and deep in the palm.

 

THIRD MURDERER If you think rightly, ’tis not just Scotland

but the entire world, Scotland being the seat of civilization.

 

FIRST MURDERER Then we are the bearers of civilization.

 

SECOND MURDERER No Scottish king, it seems, can thrive

without our services. Then why not be kings ourselves?

 

THIRD MURDERER We’ll carve Scotland three ways.

 

FIRST MURDERER I’ll take Fife.

 

SECOND MURDERER I, Edinburgh.

 

THIRD MURDERER I, Glasgow.

 

FIRST MURDERER A triumvirate.

 

SECOND MURDERER Like Caesar and Antony and—who

was it?

 

THIRD MURDERER Cleopatra.

 

FIRST MURDERER ’Twas not Cleopatra.

 

SECOND MURDERER Hark! Here comes one.

 

Enter Fiona.

 

THIRD MURDERER It must be the lover of Fleance.

 

SECOND MURDERER Why then, ’tis like netting the boy

himself.

The Three Murderers confront her.

 

FIRST MURDERER No further!

 

FIONA Who’s there?

 

SECOND MURDERER A friend.

 

THIRD MURDERER Three friends.

 

FIRST MURDERER Where is your lover, the would-be boy

king?

 

FIONA Fiend! He’s in a place that you’re too low

to find.

 

SECOND MURDERER You’ll speak. Fleance is not the only

lover in Scotland, as we’ll soon educate.

 

The Second Murderer grabs her. She strikes him.

 

SECOND MURDERER My eye! ’Tis lost! O cunning

harlot!

 

He strikes her. She falls.

 

FIRST MURDERER Now where hides Fleance?

 

FIONA He’s on his way to Dunsinane, to oust

your bloody master and seize the throne himself.

That concluded, he’ll next hang each of you

and rid the world of the stench of your humanity.

 

Second Murderer strikes and kills her.

 

THIRD MURDERER What have you done? She was the bait to

lure the bird.

 

SECOND MURDERER My eye is lost!

 

FIRST MURDERER Now we all are lost. If we report the loss of

Fleance, we’ll share her fate.

 

THIRD MURDERER Then we’ll lie. Fleance is dead. We killed

him.

 

FIRST MURDERER We stabbed him twenty times.

 

SECOND MURDERER Severed his head.

 

FIRST MURDERER But where is it?

 

SECOND MURDERER Eaten by a boar.

 

THIRD MURDERER Snatched from our very hands. Let’s

smear this blood and pretend ’tis his.

 

FIRST MURDERER Come, let’s leave this bloody scene, and

collect our fee in Dunsinane.

 

Exeunt.

 

SCENE IV

 

Dunsinane.

 

Enter Malcolm and Lady Malcolm.

 

LADY MALCOLM My lord, why rise at such unheavenly

hour? ’Tis not yet light; the owl still cries.

Pray, come back to bed.

 

MALCOLM ’Tis light enough

for a dreadful deed.

 

LADY MALCOLM Deed? Of which

deed do you speak?

 

MALCOLM Of one no man was born

to do, yet will befit one of no woman born.

 

LADY MALCOLM What’s that you grasp? A dagger? For what

purpose?

 

MALCOLM To defend the crown.

 

LADY MALCOLM Defend? From what?

 

MALCOLM ’Tis not for your wholesome ears to know.

I go alone to make our palace safe.

 

LADY MALCOLM But ’tis safe. The Lord above protects.

 

MALCOLM But the lord below provokes.

 

Lady Malcolm kneels before him.

 

LADY MALCOLM Mean you

to commit murder?

 

MALCOLM ’Tis a word

too absolute.

 

LADY MALCOLM Drop this evil guide,

I pray you, and return to our wedding bed.

 

MALCOLM ’Tis our union I aim to protect.

 

LADY MALCOLM My lord, do not commit this heinous sin!

’Tis a stain upon our souls!

 

MALCOLM What?

’Tis not true. I never touched you, Banquo.

 

LADY MALCOLM To whom do you speak? My lord, you are

not well. I pray you!

 

MALCOLM Why, here’s your mother,

come to accompany.

 

LADY MALCOLM My lord!

 

Exit Malcolm. Lady Malcolm weeps.

 

 

SCENE V

 

Scotland. Forest.

 

Enter Fleance, with Soldiers.

 

FLEANCE ’Tis strange. Her parents claim she did not come,

yet she’s not met us at the ship. This is

the trail where we last met. No trace at all.

I start to fear some dreadful deed. Spread

further, and raise the lanterns high.

 

FIRST SOLDIER Here my lord!

 

Fleance and others discover Fiona’s body.

 

FLEANCE O, cruel and unjust heaven! Here’s a sight

to rend the soul. The very visage of

an angel tumbled down to earth, but with

no cloud to stop the fall. O humanity!

How cruel and how callous thou art.

 

Fleance kneels and holds her.

 

FLEANCE ’Twere not for me, thou wouldst be safe, embraced

still by the family thou loved most. The reach

of my destiny runs too deep, harming

all who come too close. Had I heart

left to live, I’d lend it thee, to pump

the blood that flowed so nobly in thy veins.

 

SECOND SOLDIER My lord, we must make to the ship. These

woods

become unsafe.

 

FLEANCE My love, this time you shall

accompany, and like the albatross,

lead our voyage. Great Neptune shall weep

whilst he hosts, and Ireland will greet

you with profound celebrity.

 

THIRD SOLDIER My lord, we must depart.

 

FLEANCE Woe to thee, Malcolm.

I who gave my life to love shall learn

the ways of war; I who worshipped Venus

will turn my face to Mars.

“Avenge, thou mayst, Fleance!” Would I had

abided my father’s cry—then thou wouldst live,

O sweet Fiona. Now I shall obey.

Vengeance now will be my new companion,

and vengeance shall breed vengeance unto such extreme

that violence will but a prologue seem.

 

Exeunt.

SCENE VI

 

Dunsinane. Macduff ‘s chamber.

 

Macduff, sleeping.

 

Enter Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM Duncan slept in that very bed

when Macbeth did his deed. Am I,

then, too, a parricide?

’Tis strange. But yesterday I had never

dreamed of murder; now this arm that thrust

Donalbain so deep does by its own crave more,

as if all of Hades’ minions I’ve unleashed.

If I could but close the gates, I would;

but I fear the lock’s been picked, and the weight

of the world above cannot turn back

the hinge.

Macduff, if I think truly on the matter,

never did me harm; advised me well;

indeed, I never saw him with my wife.

I have become infected with this curse

called power, this insatiable trap

that leads to nothing but wanting more, that turns

our friends to foes, suitors to traitors, brothers

to villains. Even if imagined, our fancies

are real enough, and fancies beget plans,

and plans beget action.

Yet—I had a motive—what was it?

Man of no woman—tear my union—

I cannot recall. The early hour plagues

my memory.

The dagger shakes.

The deed must now descend or else forever

must I forego.

For the sake of our union, then.

Awake, O adulterer!

 

Malcolm stabs Macduff.

 

MACDUFF Am I stabbed by the one I loved the most?

Rest now, Lady Macduff: thou art avenged.

Rest now, boy: your coward father doth return.

 

Macduff dies.

 

MALCOLM Forgive me, Father: it seemed I saw your face

when I the dagger thrust. Did I then murder

Duncan? I can’t recall.

What a hideous death was this!

So noble was he in the act of dying,

as if to further scold his taker.

The blood has stained my arm entire—

It shall never wash out!

 

Exeunt.

SCENE VII

 

Dunsinane. Lady Malcolm’s bedroom.

 

Lady Malcolm, sleeping.

 

Enter Nurse and Doctor.

 

NURSE I tell you, she is not well. I heard

her cry out “murder.” She plots some treachery,

just like her mother.

 

DOCTOR Speech in sleep does not point to the doing.

 

NURSE I tell you— Hark!

 

LADY MALCOLM O king, do not murder!

 

NURSE There! ’Tis proof!

 

DOCTOR She spoke not to murder.

 

NURSE ’Tis but the same—her mind is occupied

with the deed.

 

DOCTOR ’Tis not the same. She is

a noble and virtuous queen—do not paint

her otherwise. Yet her mind is troubled.

 

Doctor wakes Lady Malcolm.

 

DOCTOR My queen, forgive the start.

 

LADY MALCOLM Is he safe?

 

DOCTOR Who, my queen?

 

LADY MALCOLM Macduff.

 

NURSE Why would he be otherwise?

 

LADY MALCOLM O! What a hideous dream.

 

DOCTOR My lady,

your mind is troubled. I pray you, take as physic

this root—’twill put you fast asleep.

 

LADY MALCOLM Most gracious,

but ’tis my spirit that suffers, for which no root

is strong enough.

 

NURSE Why so, my lady?

Answer you not?

 

DOCTOR Pray, nurse, leave us.

 

NURSE (aside) Leave you, I shall, but not ’til I finish

my task. I thought it would be simpler; yet she

resembles too much my daughter. No matter. I must

see it through. Farwell, Macbeth.

If I have my say, tomorrow I’ll

undo thy wedding day.

 

Exit Nurse.

 

DOCTOR Pray, take this root, my lady. Thou shalt

sleep well, and sleep shall make thee well.

 

LADY MALCOLM ’Tis the place,

I fear, that makes me unwell.

 

DOCTOR Your mother I also did attend.

 

LADY MALCOLM What was she like?

 

DOCTOR Far from your likeness. I am no man of spirit,

but if I were, I would also point

to this place where your mother lived,

and dreamt as she slept, and walked as she dreamt.

These stones are held by no mere mortar.

As unphysic-like as it may be,

to advise you to hasten from this place

would be the only remedy in my bag.

LADY MALCOLM You have performed your service graciously.

I pray you, leave me now.

 

Doctor exits.

 

LADY MALCOLM He advises too well, and echoes my own

thoughts of late. Malcolm vowed a life

free of blood and witchery—within

these short hours his vows are broken twice.

What worth, then, is a wedding vow?

His murder of his brother, in the heat

of battle, might be a sin forgiven. But

to murder sweet Macduff! In this, he’s torn

our union asunder. I shall not

sleep beside a murderer.

On the morrow I will depart this place

and return to my Iona.

O mother! Would you had never conceived!

 

Exit.

SCENE VIII

 

Dunsinane. Ramparts.

 

MALCOLM Some water and this arm comes clean; some more,

and so does this. Can murder wash away

so quick? Can murderers keep walking thus,

breathing free, unpunished by their act?

Where has judgment gone? It must lurk in

the afterlife. I think ’tis better, then,

that I live longer here.

 

Enter Three Murderers.

 

Yet there seems

no end to the blood that I must spill

to keep my kingdom safe—and keep it safely mine.

What say you, Banquo?

Fleance lives? Yet more blood to spill.

 

FIRST MURDERER My lord? To whom do you in counsel

speak?

 

MALCOLM Why, my guide to the world below.

 

FIRST MURDERER Yet I see none.

 

MALCOLM Why dost thou return?

 

SECOND MURDERER We have done the deed.

 

THIRD MURDERER Fleance is dead.

 

MALCOLM Which one performed the deed?

 

ALL ’Twas I—

 

FIRST MURDERER ’Twas all of us, my lord.

 

MALCOLM By whose order?

 

FIRST MURDERER Why, yours, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Where then is the blood?

Murderers hold out their sleeves.

 

ALL ’Tis here.

 

MALCOLM But ’tis not on my sleeve.

 

FIRST MURDERER My lord?

 

MALCOLM Your deed is done. Mine, I fear, is yet to come.

 

FIRST MURDERER (aside, to other murderers) He suffers from

some malady . . . ’twill be short time before he learns

Fleance still lives. Let us quickly flee this place.

 

Exit Three Murderers, running.

 

MALCOLM So. Fleance is dead. Donalbain is dead.

Macduff is dead. And Cawdor does not live,

except in me. Then, there are none left to fear.

Yet still I feel unsafe. Danger, where

dost thou lurk?

 

Bell rings.

 

VOICE Murder! Murder! Macduff lives no more!

 

Enter Seyton, Siward, various Nobles and Attendants.

 

ATTENDANT My lord! Macduff has been slain!

 

MALCOLM Where?

 

ATTENDANT Where he slept. Three men, garments stained

in blood, were spotted fleeing our castle. Suspicion

falls on them.

 

MALCOLM Where is Macduff?

 

ATTENDANT My lord?

He’s slain.

 

MALCOLM But where is he now?

 

ATTENDANT Gone

to heaven, I suppose.

 

SIWARD My king, we must

pursue the murderers.

 

MALCOLM Pursue.

 

Exit Attendants.

 

SIWARD This castle is unsafe.

 

MALCOLM To be safe,

we must be safe from ourselves.

Pursue!

 

Exeunt all but Seyton and Siward.

 

SEYTON (aside, to Siward) Note you not who’s absent here?

 

SIWARD Who?

 

SEYTON Why, the queen. How doth she sleep so sound

despite alarums of murder?

 

SIWARD I cannot fathom.

 

SEYTON Why, because she is the root.

 

SIWARD She?

 

SEYTON She has begun erasing all too close

to her throne. If only she’d spared sweet

Macduff! We shall be next.

 

SIWARD Star of villainy!

We must inform Malcolm!

 

SEYTON In his present

state, he will not hear. Fear not—tomorrow

I’ll convince the king.

 

SIWARD ’Til then. For now, I’ll join the chase.

O bloody night!

Exit Siward.

SEYTON O opportunity!

I shall seize thee in confusion yet.

Sweet Syna, prepare thee Scotland soon to wed.

O Seyton! Prepare thee, too, to grandfather kings!

Exit.

 

 

 

 

ACT V

SCENE I

 

Ireland.

 

Ross, Lennox, Angus, various Nobles and Soldiers.

Enter Fleance.

 

ROSS Our good Fleance. News has already spread

of the tyrant’s latest treachery.

Accept our most profound remorse, which comes

with the might of our good men to help

exact revenge.

 

FLEANCE Revenge? Too light a word.

It would have been a fitting term after

the murder of my dear father. But with the death

of my love, revenge shall learn new meaning.

 

LENNOX Surely, though, you will spare the people

of Scotland?

 

FLEANCE I will spare none close to Malcolm.

All else shall live.

 

ANGUS Well spoken. First among

those are Seyton, Siward—

 

FLEANCE First are those

three murderers.

 

ROSS Be heedful that our army,

e’en swelled with your brave ranks, remains a fraction

still of Scotland’s force.

 

FLEANCE ’Tis of small consequence.

Fear has fled me since the death of my Fiona.

Caution and temperance have vanished with the loss

of all I loved. I’ll happily gallop straight

into the fiercest hordes of the warring world.

 

ROSS News of Malcolm’s malady has spread.

Perhaps his soldiers, deeming his cause unjust,

will part and join our ranks.

 

FLEANCE If not, our ranks will do.

Better to die defying a tyrant than

to live in fear of one.

LENNOX Look! The heavens

light a celestial streak.

 

ANGUS A sign. It marks

the fall of a king.

FLEANCE And the rise

of another. To the ships!

 

Exeunt.

 

SCENE II

 

Dunsinane. Ramparts.

 

Enter two guards.

 

 

FIRST GUARD ’Tis awful strange. The heavens churn, as if

battling with each other.

 

SECOND GUARD Such a night I have not seen.

 

FIRST GUARD ’Tis almost daybreak, yet ’neath such stars, the

day seems near broke.

 

SECOND GUARD Does not sit well for Scotland.

 

FIRST GUARD Think you?

 

SECOND GUARD When the stars cross just so, bodes the

death of a saint.

 

Enter Ghost of Macbeth.

 

SECOND GUARD You there! Stand to!

 

FIRST GUARD Do not come closer!

 

SECOND GUARD Look! He floats!

 

FIRST GUARD Why, ’tis King Macbeth!

 

SECOND GUARD He tries to speak but cannot!

 

Exit Ghost of Macbeth.

 

FIRST GUARD O hideous night!

 

SECOND GUARD Never have these ramparts needed more

guarding— and never have we been less equipped!

 

Exeunt.

SCENE III

 

Dunsinane. Malcolm’s chamber.

 

Malcolm, seated.

 

Enter Seyton.

 

SEYTON The hunt advances for our lord Macduff’s

three murderers. They should be caught by midday.

 

MALCOLM Is this a day which breaks outside

my window? Why streaks the light a bloody red?

 

SEYTON ’Tis but a sunrise, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Does not bode well.

Fleance is dead, yet still I am not safe.

 

SEYTON You seem safe enough.

 

MALCOLM Another seed

of Banquo must hide far in the land.

 

SEYTON Closer,

I fear.

 

MALCOLM What say you?

 

SEYTON Nothing, my lord. I have

o’erspoke myself.

 

MALCOLM Speak again. Now, sirrah!

 

SEYTON My lord, I should not want to be the cause

of some misfortune.

 

MALCOLM A greater shall descend

if presently you do not speak.

 

SEYTON So be it—

but pray you, do not then direct your wrath

upon the one conveying. A certain nurse

has of late approached me and has confided

misgivings about her lady. She has discovered . . .

intentions on your throne.

 

MALCOLM A lady? My throne?

Who, pray? Who? Speak!

 

SEYTON Your queen.

 

MALCOLM What!?

Lies! Treason! You shall hang! Guards! Guards!

 

SEYTON My lord, I vow, ’tis true. She was heard plotting—

 

MALCOLM Guards!

 

SEYTON And aims to avenge her parents—

 

MALCOLM Guards! Ho!

 

SEYTON And claims that she is rightful Cawdor!

Enter Guards

 

MALCOLM What? Cawdor?

 

FIRST GUARD My king? We crave your bidding.

 

MALCOLM Cawdor, say you? My queen?

 

SECOND GUARD My liege?

 

MALCOLM Go to.

 

Exit Guards.

SEYTON She was heard claiming her father’s title. She

’magines

she is Cawdor, and by this right can seize

your throne and rule Scotland alone.

 

MALCOLM Can it be? One so close?

 

SEYTON I speak true,

my king. I have the nurse who will avouch.

She waits outside the door.

 

MALCOLM Fetch her.

 

Seyton opens the door.

 

Enter Nurse.

 

NURSE My liege.

 

MALCOLM Speak truly, woman, or these words shall be

your last.

 

NURSE My king, your lady I’ve attended

these several days.

SEYTON Go on.

 

NURSE She owns a face

of virtue, yet such secret ambition I ne’er

have witnessed—

 

MALCOLM Guards!

 

NURSE Upon her entrance she demanded

I fetch the scepter.

 

MALCOLM Scepter? For what purpose?

 

NURSE So, said she, to test the weight of it.

Before I’d barely pressed it to her palm,

she demanded that I bring her crown.

 

MALCOLM Crown?

 

NURSE She aimed to wear it e’en to bed,

but hid it so that you would not suspect.

And when your royal chamber sat vacant,

she had me lead her thither.

 

MALCOLM My chamber? Wherefore?

 

NURSE To sit in your very throne. Startled

at the sight, I inquired of her motive.

In order, she answered, that she might feel her future.

 

MALCOLM On this very throne?

 

Enter Guards.

 

 

GUARDS My liege?

 

MALCOLM Go to.

Exit Guards.

 

NURSE She states further that she by birth is rightful Cawdor,

and that you, usurper, are but the lowly

son of a slain Duncan, are but a vain

pretender to the crown.

 

MALCOLM Pretender? I?

 

NURSE She has it in her sights to avenge both

her parents’ deaths. Her plan is to finish

you this very night, whilst you lie

in sleep. She’s procured a poisoned root,

which sits e’en now beside your bed.

 

MALCOLM Enough!

Be gone! Both of you!

 

Exit Seyton and Nurse.

 

MALCOLM O excellent treachery! O practiced piety!

Most true Macbeth! The grandest deceit

saved for the grandest villain of them all.

She urged me to avoid the witches. Why?

So she could not be prophesied against.

She was the cause of my killing Macduff:

for her sake did I slay my loyal friend.

Her father was indeed Cawdor. Yes:

through this lens, perhaps she is Cawdor, too.

’Tis now all clear. A poisoned root?

Alas, dear love, could you not at least

have used a dagger? Could you not

have met your eyes to mine in that fatal moment,

as I did for Macduff, as your father

did for Duncan? If just one ounce of honor

had descended this Macbeth line; but no—

the next of kin have multiplied deceit,

have learned to mask treachery with most

expert subtlety.

O practiced nun! O false monk!

I’ll to our bed and see if such root

exists. If so, she’ll meet her own deathly

embrace. O most vile treachery!

O most true Macbeth!

 

Exit.

SCENE IV

 

Dunsinane. Bedroom.

 

Lady Malcolm, sleeping.

 

Enter Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM There is not light enough for the deed,

though I do not think light enough exists

to point the way. Here crawls the sun, and still

the morning bird is silent, as if forgetting

night has left.

Perchance the nurse speaks false. My lady’s face

doth shine with such divinity, I can scarce

conceive it hides ambition.

Still, I’ve heard it said aspirers

sleep soundest of all. Perhaps ’tis but

yet another tool in her arsenal

of deceit. And yet I see no root. Perchance—

 

Malcolm steps on the root.

 

MALCOLM O violent herb!

What evil shape your branches take, their reach

aimed right for me. Patience: your poison will flow

soon enough. But not in my veins.

I’ll feed my lady this midnight sacrament

she meant for me, and at least one of us

will wake absent of earthly worries.

 

Malcolm goes to put the root in her mouth.

 

MALCOLM Yet, I cannot. Her mouth so sweetly sleeps,

I dare not feed.

Then I shall use this dagger, raise it high

and plunge it quickly, thus not to think upon

the deed until ’tis done.

 

Malcolm raises the dagger.

 

MALCOLM Yet, I cannot. The metal shakes, and for all

the world would not reach her heart.

Then these hands must do. These hands, so stained,

must one last time perform.

 

Malcolm places his hands around her throat.

MALCOLM Yet, I cannot. The skin is too soft;

these hands could only stroke her face. What then?

Allow my would-be murderer to inhabit

my bed? If I let her live, I murder

myself. Yet I’ve not the will to be her taker.

Guards!

 

Enter Two Guards.

 

MALCOLM Take her away.

 

FIRST GUARD Whence, my lord?

 

MALCOLM To the gallows.

 

SECOND GUARD My lord?

 

MALCOLM Do not delay!

 

The Guards grab one arm and pull Lady Malcolm out of bed.

She wakes as they drag her from the room.

 

LADY MALCOLM My king! Help me!

 

Exeunt all but Malcolm. He weeps.

SCENE V

 

Dunsinane. Courtyard.

 

Enter Seyton, Syna, Nurse, Siward, Nobles, Soldiers,

Attendants, Hangman and a Crowd.

 

Enter Lady Malcolm, blindfolded and dragged to the gallows.

 

SEYTON Our most treacherous queen, the very mirror

of her mother, here stands charged with conspiracy

against our throne. Therefore, by the king’s

decree, we sentence her to death by hanging.

 

The crowd cheers. Lady Malcolm is put on the gallows,

a rope put about her neck.

 

NURSE (aside to Seyton) My lord, I can’t stand by. Already

I regret my role.

 

SEYTON (aside) Be silent!

 

NURSE (aside) I had

supposed my actions would lead to her banishment

only. My lord, I beg! She resembles too much

my daughter!

 

SYNA (aside) Speak again, old woman, and my

dagger will speak for you.

 

HANGMAN Final words?

 

LADY MALCOLM I pray that God may heal your souls, and

mine;

and that my parents be remembered as what

they were, not what they had become.

 

ALL Hang her!

 

NURSE My lady!

 

Lady Malcolm is hanged. Crowd cheers. Nurse weeps.

 

SYNA (aside) O throne! Thou art but a ladder step away.

 

FIRST CROWD MEMBER See, she invoked her parents. ’Tis

certain she was evil.

 

SECOND CROWD MEMBER ’Twas never any doubt, from the

moment she aspired.

 

 

THIRD CROWD MEMBER Now can Scotland rest.

 

 

FOURTH CROWD MEMBER What’s this? The sun is covered.

 

SECOND CROWD MEMBER A blot upon the heavens! ’Tis

unnatural!

 

FIFTH CROWD MEMBER ’Tis said to be thus when a saint

doth die.

 

Bedroom.

 

Malcolm watches from the window, weeping.

 

Exeunt all.

 

SCENE VI

 

Scottish shore.

 

Enter Fleance, Ross, Lennox, Angus and Soldiers.

 

FLEANCE The fog rolls out to greet us, whilst our ship

has barely touched the shore. A good sign.

For the fog is to advantage when

so greatly outmanned.

 

ROSS Then Scotland comes to its own

defense, in helping to oust its tyrant.

 

LENNOX Look!

In the fog!

 

ANGUS What apparition’s this?

 

ROSS It takes the form of your dead father.

 

FLEANCE Banquo

it is, come to greet his wayward son,

to help conclude what he could not.

 

ROSS What’s there?

Behind him!

 

LENNOX ’Tis an illusion. I spot eight kings.

 

ANGUS The last holds a glass.

 

ROSS The sisters thus

did prophesy. The seed of Banquo stirs.

 

Enter Cawdor’s Son and Soldiers.

 

ROSS You there! No further.

 

LENNOX What sort of welcoming

party is this?

 

FLEANCE By your brandished arms

it appears you hail in Malcolm’s cause.

 

CAWDOR’S SON No,

our good Fleance. Forgive this dangerous show,

as these arms are but the outward sign

of our love on your behalf. We have

come to aid you in your mission.

 

FLEANCE Whence

hail you?

 

CAWDOR’S SON From a place no son should hope.

You, sir, have the good fortune to hail from

an illustrious father, whose cause you champion

with equal valor. I’ve a father of

another kind: alas, his very name

doth shame the air.

 

FLEANCE Speak it, then. Our time

is short.

 

CAWDOR’S SON Pray you, by the father do not

hate the son: Cawdor is my lineage.

ROSS What? Another Macbeth?

 

CAWDOR’S SON No. My father

was Cawdor first, he who betrayed Scotland

for Norway in our time of need.

 

LENNOX A traitor

was he! Hanged by righteous Duncan.

 

CAWDOR’S SON And

rightfully so. I do not contest.

Rather, I beseech, good Fleance, give me one chance

to clear my family’s name. ’Tis the only

name I own, and a father does not

always a son make.

 

ANGUS Do not trust him.

His father was a treacherous villain.

 

ROSS Such depth of treachery cannot erase

in but a single generation. You’d risk

all our fates to trust one so poor bred.

 

FLEANCE What do you propose?

 

CAWDOR’S SON I have here a hundredscore men,

each one loyal, and each knowing I bear

no likeness to my father. We offer to

abet your cause.

 

FLEANCE What have you in return?

 

CAWDOR’S SON Should your grace see fit: to restore

the Cawdor title to my family.

 

ROSS Do not be swayed, my lord. For in the heat

of battle, he will turn, as did his father,

and ravage us the worst.

 

LENNOX A trick or trap

it could be, contrived together with Malcolm.

 

FLEANCE I, too, champion my father’s name,

though I wish I’d done it sooner. I shall

trust you, for it takes equal courage

to trust as to live, and in these times

we must learn to live again. A son

must not be branded for his father’s deceit.

Know you that we stand outmanned?

 

CAWDOR’S SON Too well.

But if this day should be my last, then it

will be well spent. The number of our days

matters not if we have no just cause

to fill them.

 

FLEANCE Then kneel.

 

Cawdor’s Son kneels. Fleance knights him.

 

FLEANCE And rise, Cawdor.

For from this moment you shall wear that title,

in anticipation of your valiant

action on the field this day.

 

CAWDOR God bless

your grace. I shall not betray.

 

FLEANCE Men.

On this day we fight to set wrongs right,

to oust a tyrant, and restore the throne of Scotland.

Do you wish to live your years in Ireland,

hiding as cowards? Do you wish to live

as exiles, banished from your homes, in order

to appease a tyrant’s ambition?

 

ALL No! Never!

 

FLEANCE Then ride with me this day. Hold high your swords,

and ever after it shall be recalled

that on this day few fought against many,

and with valor challenged tyranny!

 

ALL Hail, Fleance! Scotland’s rightful king!

 

Exeunt.

SCENE VII

 

Dunsinane. Courtyard.

 

Enter Porter. A knocking.

 

PORTER Knock, knock! Shall this pounding ever cease? If not

the wind, then ’tis some lonely soul, thinking he’ll find

grace behind these walls. Knock, knock! Patience is a virtue

lost by all but me. It takes proper time to open a door; ’tis

an art missed by those ignorant of the craft. Knock! By my

slow tread I make you knock some more, and anticipate the

opening. ’Tis what a good porter does: for it is the anticipa-

tion that brings the visitor most joy.

 

Porter opens the door.

 

MESSENGER An army comes through the shades of

Birnam Wood!

I must to the king!

 

Exit Messenger.

 

PORTER Without me, this door would not have opened, and

thus this messenger would not have passed. News would

not spread. Armies would not prepare. Ah, the life of a

porter! I am the keeper of all there is. An army approaches?

I’ve seen many an army pass by this gate. One will be the

victor, the other, vanquished. One day the victor, too, will

be vanquished. But I shall always remain. For the victor

will always need a door. And that door will always need a

porter!

Exit.

 

 

SCENE VIII

 

Dunsinane. Malcolm’s chamber.

 

Malcolm, seated. Enter Doctor and Siward.

 

SIWARD He’s not moved from this window since the death

of his brief wife. ’Tis as if he’s frozen.

 

DOCTOR He is not frozen; only the thoughts have

within him froze. He is beyond physic.

 

SIWARD But you must intervene. You are a doctor.

And he is king.

 

DOCTOR Even doctors cannot

heal a mind diseased. Our good king

has supped from the root of sorrow; once

ingested, ’tis not quick to leave the blood.

 

Enter Messenger.

 

MESSENGER My king! An army doth approach, with Fleance

at its head!

 

SIWARD What, to Dunsinane?

 

MESSENGER My king? Dost hear?

 

SIWARD Go to, sirrah!

 

Exit Messenger.

 

SIWARD My king!

We must defend! Grant me authority

to summon our men. Merely nod your head—

 

Enter Nurse.

 

DOCTOR What now, nurse?

 

NURSE I swear, it was not me.

’Twas the brutal lady.

 

SIWARD Shall maladies

never cease? She walks as she sleeps,

and speaks as she walks.

 

DOCTOR ’Tis the sign

of a mind disturbed.

 

NURSE Forgive me, Lady Malcolm.

A saint more righteous I’d not seen.

 

SIWARD E’en so?

 

NURSE ’Twas Seyton, and his daughter. You were but

the stepping stone. I spoke false! O! Forgive!

 

MALCOLM False?

 

SIWARD The king rouses!

 

DOCTOR O unlikely

physic! One malady heals another.

 

MALCOLM Speak again, nurse.

 

NURSE Forgive! Malcolm

has been sore deceived. O forgive!

 

Malcolm rises and stabs her. She dies.

 

MALCOLM Prepare my army.

 

Exit Siward.

 

DOCTOR My liege, I joy to see

you roused.

 

MALCOLM I do not. Better I had sunk

unto the depths. O black nurse! Evil Seyton!

They dragged my queen onto the gallows—whilst I,

their donkey, was by them led.

Nothing is but what is not.

 

DOCTOR And now?

 

MALCOLM If half a man, I’d take my own life.

I am Cawdor, after all: so who

more fit? Yet e’en for this, I lack resolve.

Thus, to Fleance.

Let his men do what I cannot.

Exit Malcolm.

 

DOCTOR And I, anywhere but here. Farewell,

Dunsinane. Your walls I pray to never

see again.

 

Exit.

 

 

SCENE IX

 

Dunsinane. Corridor.

 

Enter Malcolm.

 

Seyton and Syna approach.

 

SEYTON My king, may I present my daughter—

 

Malcolm stabs and kills them both.

 

MALCOLM Present her to my Lady Malcolm.

Exit.

 

SCENE X

 

Witches’ place.

 

Enter Malcolm, Siward and Soldiers.

 

Malcolm dismounts, carrying the corpse of Lady Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM Rouse you, hags! Rise up from your foul depths,

and lend me a potion to revive my lady.

Answer, I say!

 

Witches’ laughter.

SOLDIER What wretched noise is this! As if the earth

were torn in two.

 

SIWARD They mock, my lord.

 

MALCOLM Then I, too,

will mock: Cawdor shall not Cawdor take.

I’ll see myself slain by some other—

any other—but by myself, and thereby

prove their prophecy false.

Donalbain, be patient; your brother comes to visit!

 

Exeunt.

 

SCENE XI

 

Scotland. Battlefield.

 

Enter Malcolm, Siward, and Soldiers.

 

Enter Fleance’s soldiers. They fight.

 

MALCOLM Donalbain! Where art thou?

 

SIWARD This fog rolls in

so thick, I cannot see who we fight.

 

MALCOLM ’Tis the witches’ breath, come to confuse.

You there! Fight your king!

 

Malcolm kills a Soldier.

 

MALCOLM And you!

 

Malcolm kills another.

 

MALCOLM And you!

 

ROSS ’Tis Ross you taunt.

 

MALCOLM Traitor!

The better for my sword.

 

They fight. Malcolm kills him.

 

ROSS Alas! Slain

by the monster. Donalbain, forgive.

Thee I did not avenge.

 

Ross dies.

 

MALCOLM Donalbain!

Dare you invoke my brother’s name?

 

Malcolm stabs Ross’s corpse repeatedly.

 

MALCOLM Who else?

Who else shall die by Cawdor’s hand? For none

but Cawdor can touch, and on this bloody day.

I shall not kill myself!

Malcolm kills several soldiers.

 

Battlefield. Elsewhere.

 

FLEANCE You there! Turn and fight!

 

SIWARD I shall not fight

a boy!

 

FLEANCE A man who is your king!

 

SIWARD Worm

of prophecy! Coward who fled his father’s

death!

 

FLEANCE Coward who fled his young son’s death!

 

SIWARD Villain! Young Siward died a soldier’s death.

You shall die a traitor’s.

 

They fight. Fleance wounds him.

 

SIWARD Slain by one

so young. Age, thou art deception.

 

Siward dies.

 

Battlefield. Elsewhere.

 

Cawdor kills several of Malcolm’s soldiers.

 

Enter Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM You there! Art thou ready now to meet

thy maker?

 

CAWDOR Not by your hand. And not today.

 

They fight.

 

MALCOLM What? My sword does not pierce. What man

art thou?

 

They fight.

 

CAWDOR Cawdor.

 

MALCOLM Liar! I am Cawdor!

 

CAWDOR But my father was before you—

and I after!

 

Cawdor stabs and wounds Malcolm.

 

MALCOLM At least in this, the sisters

speak true. My lady, forgive your husband.

 

Malcolm dies.

 

Enter Fleance, Lennox, Angus and all Soldiers.

 

FLEANCE Thus the tyrant falls. But our day’s work

is yet undone.

 

Enter Soldiers, escorting the Three Murderers.

 

FLEANCE Here stand before us three

of the most heinous creatures e’er to stain

our Scottish soil: these three who murdered first

my father, then Macduff’s beloved wife

and son; who took from me my fair Fiona.

Murderers, what say you? Nothing.

’Tis fitting. Then let it come down!

 

Fleance stabs and kills all three. The crowd cheers.

 

ALL Hail, Fleance! All hail the boy king!

 

Exeunt.

 

 

Finis.

About the Author

 

A 20 year veteran of the book publishing industry, Noah Lukeman is author of several books on the craft of writing, including The First Five Pages, The Plot Thickens and A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, published by W.W. Norton in the U.S. and by Oxford University Press in the U.K. His critically-acclaimed books have been selections of multiple book clubs, Book Sense 76 picks, Publishers Weekly Daily picks, and translated into Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, Turkish, Chinese and Indonesian. His screenplay, Brothers in Arms, was selected for Hollywood’s Black List top 100 screenplays of the year. Noah lives in New York. Please feel free to learn more at www.noahlukeman.com or to email him at [email protected]. To learn more about the play and watch a video, please visit: www.macbethtwo.com

 


The Tragedy of Macbeth, Part II: The Seed of Banquo

“An audacious achievement.” --Jennifer Lee Carrell, Ph.D. (Harvard) New York Times Bestselling author of Interred With Their Bones/The Shakespeare Secret “Lukeman’s sequel to the Scottish play succeeds as both a fascinating literary exercise and an entertaining play in its own right….[A] poetic, well-paced drama.” —Booklist Recommended Reading, New York Magazine Fall Preview In 1610, The Tragedy of Macbeth was first performed. 400 years later: the sequel, written as a five-act play in blank verse. Ten years king, Malcolm sits on an uneasy throne. If Malcolm’s mind is haunted by the ghosts of his royal father (“gracious Duncan”) as well as the thane and lady who so bloodily betrayed him, Malcolm’s soul is sickened, as was Macbeth’s, by the witches’ prophecy that from Banquo’s seed would spring a line of Scottish kings: a prophecy that remained unfulfilled at the end of Shakespeare’s play. The witches also taunt Malcolm with riddles all his own: that sorrows will visit him from Ireland (where his younger brother fled upon their father’s death); that his love for Macbeth will breed fresh treachery. True to the Shakespearean model, its devious plot unfolding in five acts and its speech set to the measure of blank verse, Macbeth, Part II, draws bold the tragedy of a powerful man undone by the terrors he imagines and the truths he fails to see. "Noah Lukeman's bold sequel to Macbeth, written in blank verse, is a fierce, memory-ridden love letter to Shakespeare, and an enthralling reminder that, in our imagination, Shakespeare's greatest plays have no end." --Nigel Cliff, author of The Shakespeare Riots “Lukeman did a top-notch job creating a fresh play in the style of Shakespeare. The story moves quite briskly, and takes quite a few intriguing twists....The rhythm of the words and the drama of the story would make for quite a suspenseful and entertaining show.” —Fashionista Piranha “Lukeman truly has mastered the Shakespearian art and created a play that can stand as a sequel to the great Shakespearian play.” —A.M. Perez, Amanda's Weekly Zen

  • Author: Noah Lukeman
  • Published: 2015-12-15 02:05:23
  • Words: 17873
The Tragedy of Macbeth, Part II: The Seed of Banquo The Tragedy of Macbeth, Part II: The Seed of Banquo