Lize Bard: Pace — Haiku out of africa

I want to slow down ~ I want to have some more time ~ to count my words © Lize Bard @

via Pace — Haiku out of africa

COMMENT: I see what you did there — CLEVER!

Posted in Haiku, Impressive, Poetry | Leave a comment

William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 4, 5, 6, and 7

— 5.4 —

Malcolm, Old Siward and Young Siward, Macduff, Menteith, Caithness, Angus, Lennox, and Ross rode horses near Birnam Forest. Many soldiers marched near them.

“Kinsmen,” Malcolm said, “I hope the time is near at hand when Scots can again be safe in their own homes.”

Menteith said, “All of us believe that will happen soon.”

Old Siward asked, “What forest is this ahead of us?”

“Birnam Forest,” Menteith said.

Malcolm ordered the soldiers, “Let every soldier cut down a branch and carry it in front of him. That way, we can hide the number of soldiers in our army and Macbeth’s scouts will make false reports of our army’s strength.”

The soldiers replied, “We shall do it.”

Old Siward said, “According to our own scouts, the impudent Macbeth is fortifying Dunsinane and will not attack us in open battle. He is willing to endure our setting siege to the castle.”

“Dunsinane is his main fortress,” Malcolm said. “He is forced to stay there. Whoever is able to desert him does so, whether they are nobility or common people. The soldiers who stay with him are forced to stay. They do not respect Macbeth and do not want to die for him. If Macbeth were to take the field, his soldiers would desert him.”

Macduff said, “Let us do our judging of soldiers after the battle is over. For now, let us fight.”

Old Siward said, “Soon we will find out whether we win or lose the war. We can talk and we can hope, but it will be fighting that wins the war.”

— 5.5 —

In a room in the castle at Dunsinane stood Macbeth, Seyton, and some soldiers.

Macbeth ordered, “Hang our banners on the walls of the castle that face the enemy. The news is still, ‘They come!’ But the strength of our castle will laugh a siege to scorn. Let the enemy soldiers lay siege until famine and fever eat them up. If they were not reinforced with deserters from my army, we might have boldly met them in open battle, beard to beard, and beat them back to England.”

Some women in the castle screamed.

“What is that noise?” Macbeth asked.

“It is the cry of women, my good lord,” Seyton said. He left to investigate the cause of the screams.

I have almost forgot what fear tastes like, Macbeth thought. At one time, my senses would have cooled if I had heard a scream at night and my hair would have risen and stood on end when I heard a scary story. But I have experienced so many murderous horrors that they are so familiar to me that a new horror cannot startle me.

Seyton entered the room.

“What is the cause of that screaming?” Macbeth asked.

“The Queen, my lord, is dead,” Seyton replied.

“She should have died at a later time,” Macbeth said. “Then I would have had time to mourn her. But she would inevitably die sometime, so now is as good a time as any.”

He thought, Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creep along from day to day until the end of time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle of life! Life is only a walking shadow that passes quickly away. Life is only a poor actor who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. Life is meaningless: It is a tale told by an idiot, it is full of sound and fury, and it means nothing.

A messenger entered the room.

“You came here to tell me something,” Macbeth said. “Tell me quickly what you have to say.”

“My gracious lord,” the messenger said, “I need to report to you what I saw, but I do not know how to do it.”

“Just tell me,” Macbeth ordered.

“As I was doing guard duty on the hill, I looked toward Birnam Forest, and it seemed to me that the forest began to move.”

“Liar and slave!” Macbeth raged.

“If I am lying, punish me,” the messenger said. “Look for yourself and you will see the forest is now only three miles away and moving toward us.”

Macbeth said, “If you are lying, I will hang you alive from the nearest tree and let you die of hunger. If you are telling the truth, I will not mind if you do that to me.”

Macbeth thought, My confidence is disappearing, and I suspect that the apparition the three Weird Sisters showed me was equivocating and deliberately misleading me, making me think that one thing is true when actually something different is true. The apparition told me, “Fear not, until Birnam Forest comes to Dunsinane.”

Macbeth said, “Let us not wait to be besieged! Instead, let us arm for battle and go forth from the castle! If this messenger is telling the truth, it is no use for me either to try to run away or to stay here and endure a siege.”

Macbeth thought, I begin to grow weary of the Sun and of life itself. I wish that the universe were plunged into chaos.

Macbeth said, “Ring the alarm bell! Blow, storm! Come, vengeance!”

Macbeth thought, At least I’ll die with armor on my back.

He had decided that if he should die, so be it. Still, he had some confidence in the third apparition’s prophecy: “No man born of woman shall harm Macbeth.”

— 5.6 —

Malcolm, Old Siward, and Macduff, along with many soldiers holding tree branches in front of them, stood outside Macbeth’s castle at Dunsinane.

Malcolm ordered, “We are close enough to the castle. Throw down the leafy tree branches and show yourselves to the enemy. Old Siward, you and your noble son, Young Siward, shall lead our first battalion. Macduff and I will do whatever else is needed to be done.”

Old Siward replied, “Fare you well. We go to find the tyrant’s army. If we cannot conquer the tyrant, we deserve to be beaten.”

“Make all our trumpets speak,” Malcolm said. “Blow all of them. Give them all breath, those noisy announcers of blood and death.”

— 5.7 —

Macbeth had led his few forces out of the castle and onto the battlefield, where they were badly losing.

Macbeth thought, I am like a bear that is tied to a stake for the night’s bloody entertainment of a bear fighting dogs. I cannot run away, but I must fight the dogs that attack me. Who is the man, if anyone, who was not born of woman? I must fear that man, or no man.

Young Siward saw Macbeth and asked him, “What is your name?”

“If I tell you my name, I will frighten you,” Macbeth said.

“No, you won’t,” Young Siward said. “Not even if you have a name that is hotter than any name in Hell.”

“My name is Macbeth.”

“Satan himself could not pronounce a name that is more hateful to my ear.”

“Or one that makes you more afraid.”

“You lie, hated tyrant! With my sword I will show you that your name causes no fear in me!”

Macbeth and Young Siward fought, and Macbeth killed Young Siward.

Macbeth said over the corpse, “You were born of woman, but I smile at the swords and laugh at the other weapons of all men who were born of woman.”

Macduff, who was seeking Macbeth elsewhere on the battlefield, shouted, “I seek the place where the most fighting is because that is where Macbeth will be. Tyrant, show your face! If you are already slain by no stroke of mine, my wife’s and my children’s ghosts will continue to haunt me. I will not strike at wretched foot soldiers, mercenaries who bear arms for money. Either I kill you, Macbeth, or I sheathe my sword with an unbloodied and unbattered edge. The great clamor I hear must be announcing your presence. Let me find Macbeth, god of Fortune! I ask for nothing more.”

Elsewhere, Old Siward and Malcolm met and talked about the battle.

“This way, my lord,” Old Siward said to Malcolm. “The castle surrendered to us without a fight. Most of the tyrant’s soldiers have turned against him and are now on our side. The battle is almost won. Little is left to do.”

Malcolm said, “We have met with ‘enemy’ soldiers who join our cause and fight by our sides against a common enemy: Macbeth.”

“Sir, enter the castle,” Old Siward said.

Posted in Books, Retellings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 2 and 3

— 5.2 —

The Scottish nobles Menteith, Caithness, Angus, and Lennox, as well as many Scottish soldiers, were in a field. These nobles — rebels against Macbeth — were planning to meet and join the soldiers led by Malcolm.

Menteith said, “The English army is near, led on by Malcolm, his uncle Old Siward and the good Macduff. They burn to get revenge against Macbeth. The causes they have for revenge would rouse even a dead man to the bloody and fierce call to arms against Macbeth.”

Angus said, “We will meet the English army near Birnam Forest. That is the way their soldiers are marching.”

Caithness asked, “Is Donalbain with his brother, Malcolm?”

“No, sir, he is not,” Lennox replied. “I have a list of the gentry who are with Malcolm. Old Siward’s son is with Malcolm, as are many beardless youths who are now declaring themselves to be men by marching against Macbeth.”

“What is the tyrant Macbeth doing?” Menteith asked.

“He is fortifying his castle at Dunsinane,” Caithness replied. “Some people say that he is insane. Other people, who hate him less, call it valiant fury. Either way, he lacks self-control, and he cannot control the soldiers who should be fighting for him. Because he lacks soldiers who are willing to fight for him in open battle, he is preparing for a siege.”

“Now he can no longer blame his murders on other people, the way he blamed King Duncan’s murder on the King’s bodyguards and the King’s sons,” Angus said. “The blood of the people he has murdered now sticks to his hands. His subjects now continually rebel against him because of his many treacheries. He forces his soldiers to obey his orders — none of his soldiers obeys him out of respect. His crown is too large for him — he is not man enough to be King. His wearing the crown is like a dwarfish thief trying to wear a giant’s robe.”

“Everything that is inside Macbeth condemns his murders and other evils,” Menteith said. “No one can blame Macbeth’s tormented senses and awareness of guilt for causing him to act in fits of irrational anger.”

“Let us march forward,” Caithness said. “We will obey the orders of Malcolm, the true King to whom we truly owe allegiance. He will be the doctor of our sickly country, and with our blood we will help him purge the evil that is Macbeth.”

“We will use our blood to water the flower that is our rightful King and make it grow, and we will use our blood to drown the weed that is Macbeth,” Lennox said. “Now let us march to Birnam Forest.”

— 5.3 —

In a room in the castle at Dunsinane, Macbeth raged — the doctor and some servants witnessed his rage.

“Bring me no more reports,” Macbeth ordered. “I know that the Thanes are deserting me and going to support Malcolm, and I don’t care. Until Birnam Forest marches to Dunsinane, I shall fear nothing. What is the boy Malcolm to me? A danger? No! He was born of woman. Supernatural spirits that know the future of mortals have told me, ‘Fear not, Macbeth; no man who is born of woman shall ever have power over you.’ So desert me, disloyal Thanes, and support the effeminate and decadent English. My mind and my heart shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear.”

A servant, pale with fear, entered the room.

Macbeth yelled at the servant, “May Satan turn you black, you cream-faced fool! Where did you get that foolish look of fear? You look like a frightened goose.”

His voice shaking with fear, the servant said, “There is ten thousand —”

Macbeth finished the sentence for him, “Geese, fool?”

“Soldiers, sir,” the servant said.

“Go prick your face and use the red blood to cover the whiteness of your frightened face, you lily-livered boy! What soldiers, fool? May your soul die! Your linen cheeks are witnesses of your fear. What soldiers, milk-face?”

“The English force, so please you.”

“Take your face away from here,” Macbeth ordered.

The servant left the room.

Macbeth began to call for an officer, whose name was Seyton.

“Seyton!” Macbeth called. “I am sick at heart, when I see such cowards. Seyton, come here!”

Macbeth thought, This battle will either establish me permanently on the throne or take the throne away from me.

He paused, then he thought, I have lived long enough. My life is now like a withered, dry, yellow leaf of autumn, ready to fall and die as winter arrives. All those things that an old man who has lived well should have — honor, love, loyalty, and troops of friends — I will not have. Instead, I will have curses that are not loud but are deep, the signs of honor that I force my subjects to show to me, and flattery — flattery that my subjects will not like to engage in but will be too afraid not to.

He yelled, “Seyton!”

Seyton entered the room and said, “What is your gracious pleasure?”

“Is there any more news?”

“All that was reported to you has been confirmed to be true.”

“I’ll fight until my flesh is hacked from my bones,” Macbeth said, “Give me my armor.”

“It is not needed yet,” Seyton said.

“I’ll put it on anyway,” Macbeth said. “Send out more people on horseback; let them scout the country around the castle and hang anyone who talks of fear. Give me my armor.”

Then Macbeth said, “How is your patient, doctor?”

“She is not so sick, lord,” the doctor said, “as she is troubled with numerous illusions and hallucinations that keep her from sleeping.”

“Cure her of that,” Macbeth ordered, “if you can. Can you treat a diseased mind? Can you remove her sorrows from her memory? Can you give her a drug that will clean away everything that weighs upon her heart?”

“Only the patient can heal that kind of illness,” the doctor said.

“In that case, let medical science go to the dogs,” Macbeth thundered. “I don’t want it.”

He said to Seyton, “Come, put my armor on. Give me my lance.”

He said to the doctor, “The Thanes fly from me.”

He said to Seyton, “Faster.”

He said to the doctor, “If you are able to, analyze the urine of my country, discover what disease it suffers from, and cure it so that Scotland has a sound and pristine health. If you can do that, I will applaud you until the echo of my applause returns to you.”

Having finished putting on his armor, Macbeth said to Seyton, “Pull my armor off, I say.”

Macbeth said to the doctor, “What rhubarb, senna, or purgative drug would purge Scotland of these English soldiers? Have you heard about the soldiers?”

“Yes, my good lord,” the doctor said. “I know that you are preparing for war.”

Macbeth said to Seyton, who was holding the armor he had taken off Macbeth, “Carry the armor behind me. I will not be afraid of death and destruction and bane until Birnam Forest comes to Dunsinane.”

Macbeth and Seyton left, and the doctor thought, Were I from Dunsinane away and clear, a large sum of money would not again draw me here.

Posted in Books, Retellings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

California Dreamin’ in Santa Barbara — roads bel travelled

“I’m caught up in a dream. I’m gonna wish for it all. No one’s gonna tell me how, no way this is my dream now.” – Tesla (band) Santa Barbara is nestled between Santa Ynez mountains and Pacific Ocean providing breathtaking views along the coast. The drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara is quite […]

via California Dreamin’ in Santa Barbara — roads bel travelled

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 1

CHAPTER 5: The Fall of Macbeth

— 5.1 —

In an anteroom in Macbeth’s castle at Dunsinane, a doctor and a gentlewoman — a woman of high social standing — talked together.

The doctor said, “I have for two nights stayed up and watched with you, but I have seen nothing of what you have reported to me. When was it Lady Macbeth last sleepwalked?”

The gentlewoman replied, “Ever since Macbeth took his soldiers out to try to stop the rebellion of the nobles, I have often seen her rise from her bed, throw her nightgown upon her body, unlock her chest, take out paper, fold it, write upon it, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed. She has done all these things despite being in a deep sleep.”

“This is a great perturbation in nature, to receive the benefit of sleep and yet at the same time to do many things that are normally done while awake. Have you ever heard her say anything while she is sleepwalking?”

“Yes, sir, I have heard her say things that I will not repeat to you.”

“You may tell me,” the doctor said. “It is the right thing for you to do.”

“I will not tell you or anyone else — not until I have a witness to confirm what I would say,” the gentlewoman said.

Holding a candle, Lady Macbeth, sleepwalking, entered the room.

The gentlewoman said, “Look! Here she comes! This is what she often does. She is asleep — watch her, but stay hidden.”

“Where did she get the candle?”

“It was by her bed. She always has candles lit by her at night. She has ordered that this be done.”

“Her eyes are open,” the doctor said.

“Yes, but she does not see anything. She is still asleep.”

“What is she doing now?” the doctor asked. “Look how she rubs her hands.”

“Seeming to wash her hands is a habit of hers. I have seen her do this for a quarter of an hour.”

Lady Macbeth, thinking she saw King Duncan’s blood on her hands, said, “Yet here’s a spot.”

The doctor said, “I will write down what she says. It will help me to remember her words.”

Reliving the night that her husband and she murdered King Duncan, the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth said, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

Reliving hearing the bell strike two the night of King Duncan’s murder, Lady Macbeth said, “One. Two. Why, then, it is time to do it. Hell is murky! My husband, are you a soldier and afraid? What need we fear who knows what we will have done, when none will have the power to bring us to justice?”

Reliving when she smeared King Duncan’s blood on the faces of his bodyguards, Lady Macbeth said, “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.”

“Did you hear that?” the doctor said.

Reliving the murder of Lady Macduff, Lady Macbeth said, “The Thane of Fife had a wife — where is she now?”

Reliving trying to wash her hands after she had smeared King Duncan’s blood on the faces of his bodyguards, Lady Macbeth said, “What, will these hands never be clean?”

Reliving the banquet at which her husband had been startled when he thought he saw Banquo’s ghost, Lady Macbeth said, “No more of that, my lord, no more of that — you will mar all unless you can appear to be innocent.”

“For shame,” the doctor said. “You have known what you should not.”

“She has spoken something that she should not, I am sure of that,” the gentlewoman said. “Heaven knows what she has known.”

Lady Macbeth said, “Here’s the smell of the blood still! All the perfumes of Arabia will not take away the smell of this blood!”

She sighed heavily.

“What a sigh she made!” the doctor said, “Her heart is gravely burdened.”

The gentlewoman said, “I would not have such a heart in my bosom even if I were Queen.”

The doctor said, “Well, well, well.”

“Pray God all be well, sir,” the gentlewoman said.

“This disease is beyond my medical knowledge, yet I have known some people who have walked in their sleep who have died holily and without guilt in their beds.”

Lady Macbeth said, “Wash your hands, put on your nightgown, don’t look so pale. … I tell you yet again, Banquo is buried — he cannot come out of his grave.”

“This is something new,” the doctor said.

Lady Macbeth said, “To bed, to bed! There is knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed!”

Still asleep, Lady Macbeth walked out of the room.

“Will she go now to bed?” the doctor asked.

“Yes. Immediately,” the gentlewoman said.

“Foul whisperings and evil rumors are abroad,” the doctor said. “Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles such as sleepwalking and sleeptalking — guilty minds will tell their secrets to their deaf pillows. Lady Macbeth needs a priest more than she needs a physician. May God forgive us all!”

He ordered the gentlewoman, “Look after her. Take away from her anything she can use to hurt herself. Watch her carefully.”

He added, “Now, good night. She has baffled my mind and amazed my sight. I dare not tell anyone what I think.”

“Good night, good doctor,” the gentlewoman said.

Posted in Books, Retellings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 3

— 4.3 —

Malcolm and Macduff were meeting outside the palace of the King of England. Malcolm’s bodyguards were near.

Malcolm said, “Let us find some shade and mourn for Scotland there.”

Macduff replied, “Let us instead wield deadly swords and like good men defend Scotland and wrest it from the tyrant, who with each new day makes new widows howl with grief and new orphans cry. Each day, the tyrant creates new sorrows that slap Heaven in the face — the slaps make Heaven cry out in pain and in sympathy for Scotland.”

“I will mourn whatever evils I believe to have occurred,” Malcolm said. “I will believe what I learn to be the truth, and whatever evils I can avenge, I will avenge — at the right time. The things you have been telling me may very well be true. This tyrant, whose name blisters our tongues when we speak it, was once thought to be good. You used to think highly of him. He has done nothing to harm you that I am aware of. I am young, but I am old enough to realize that you may be seeking to earn favor with Macbeth by doing harm to me. Some think that it is wise to offer up a weak, poor, innocent lamb to appease an angry god. You may think it wise to offer up me to appease an angry tyrant.”

“I am not treacherous,” Macduff replied.

“But Macbeth is. Even a good and virtuous man may think it wise to obey the orders of a cruel tyrant. But I may be wrong in my suspicions of you. I may suspect you, but yet you may be a good man. Angels are still bright, although the brightest angel — Lucifer — became evil and fell from Paradise. Evil men seek to have the appearance of good men. Good men have that appearance naturally. Therefore, an evil man and a good man may have the same appearance but not the same nature.”

“I wanted you to gather an army to fight Macbeth, but I have lost all hope of that ever happening,” Macduff said.

“You have your doubts about me,” Malcolm said, “and I have my doubts about you. Why did you leave your wife and children behind without defenses in the dangerous land of Scotland — you love them, don’t you? If you are an agent of Macbeth, you could leave them behind without worry. I ask this because I want to protect myself, and by being cautious and fearing plots I can best defend myself. Despite my cautiousness, you may be a good and just man.”

“Bleed, poor Scotland, bleed!” Macduff mourned. “Tyrant, do your worst and do it openly because good people dare not oppose you. Enjoy the fruits of your evil, and boast about them. Farewell, lord Malcolm. I would not be the villain whom you think I am even if I were offered everything that the tyrant controls and all of the rich East as well.”

“Don’t be offended,” Malcolm said. “I am not entirely convinced that you are an agent of Macbeth. I believe that Scotland sinks exhausted beneath the yoke the tyrant has put on it. Scotland weeps, it bleeds, and each day a new gash is added to her wounds. I think that many hands would be uplifted to fight for me and give me my rightful throne of Scotland. The gracious Edward the Confessor has offered thousands of soldiers to me to lead against Macbeth. However, once I have the tyrant’s head under my boot or displayed at the end of my sword, Scotland will suffer worse and in more varied ways than it ever did under the tyrant.”

“Who would bring such woes to Scotland?” Macduff asked.

“I would,” Malcolm replied. “I know that in myself are all the many vices. Once I am in a position of power and able to enjoy my vices openly, black Macbeth will seem as pure as snow, and the citizens of Scotland will regard him as a lamb in comparison with me.”

“No one can ever be as evil as Macbeth — not even a devil damned in Hell.”

“I know that Macbeth is bloody, licentious, avaricious, false, deceitful, violent, malicious, and an enthusiastic participant of every sin that has a name. However, I have no limit to my lust. Scotland’s wives, daughters, matrons, and maidens could not fill up the cistern of my lust. Anyone who tried to restrain the satisfaction of my lust I would strike down. It is better that Macbeth rule Scotland than that I do.”

“Boundless lust in a man’s nature is a kind of tyranny,” Macduff replied. “It has caused many Kings to be removed from their thrones. Nevertheless, return to Scotland, oust Macbeth, and become King. You can satisfy your great lust in secret and appear to be virtuous in public. You can fool the Scots. Scotland has many women who would be willing enough to satisfy your lust. You cannot be so lustful as to run out of women who will willingly sleep with a King if they find out you want them.”

“I also have in my character a greed without end for land and possessions. I would seize the land of the nobles. I would seize jewels and castles. The more land and possessions I seize, the more I would want. I would create false justifications to seize the land and possessions of good and loyal Scots — I would destroy them just so I can have their wealth.”

“The evil of avarice is worse than the evil of lust. Lust will be less prevalent as you grow old, but greed can stay with you all your life. Like lust, greed has caused subjects to rebel against and kill many Kings. However, this does not mean you should not return to Scotland and become King. The royal lands and wealth are so great that they ought to satisfy your greed. Scotland can endure your vices if you have virtues to go with them.”

“I have no virtues,” Malcolm said. “I care nothing about justice, truth, temperance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, humility, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude. The people of Scotland will find no trace of these virtues in me, but they will find an abundance of each kind of vice in me. If I had the power to act on all my wishes, I would pour virtues into Hell so that they would be extinguished, I would turn universal peace into universal war, and I would take all unity on Earth and tear it to pieces.”

“I mourn for Scotland!” Macduff said.

“If such a one be fit to govern, speak up. I am as I have spoken.”

“Fit to govern!” Macduff said. “You are not fit to live! Our nation is miserable. A tyrant who lacks the true title to the throne and yet rules with a bloody scepter now governs Scotland. You are the rightful King of Scotland, and yet if your words are true you are unfit to rule and ought to be kept from the throne. Your evil character would scandalize your ancestors. Your royal father was a most sainted King. The Queen who gave birth to you was oftener upon her knees praying than she was on her feet. Each day she lived, she prepared herself for residence in Paradise. Farewell to you! The evils that you say you are guilty of now make me an exile from my own country. I have no hope for Scotland. My hope ends here.”

“Macduff, this love you have for Scotland shows that you are noble and have integrity,” Malcolm said. “I have banished my suspicions about you. I know now that you are truthful and honorable. Many times has devil-like Macbeth tried to trick me and get me within his grasp. Because of this, I am not hasty to believe people. But now, let God witness that we shall work together. I will do as you wish and free Scotland. Know also I take back my ‘confession’ of my ‘vices.’ I did not tell you the truth about the kind of person I am. The vices that I said are part of my character are in reality strangers to me. I am a virgin and have not sexually known a woman. I have never committed perjury. I scarcely value my own possessions, much less those of other people. I would not betray one devil to another devil. I love the truth as much as I love my life. My only lies are the ones I told you just now to test you and ensure that you were not an evil man who obeys the orders of Macbeth. I am yours to guide and Scotland’s to command. In fact, before you arrived here, Old Siward with ten thousand soldiers gathered into an army was already coming here to be led in war against Macbeth. Now you and I will march together. I pray that our chance of success will equal the justice of our cause.”

Macduff said nothing.

Malcolm asked him, “Why are you silent?”

“To hear such welcome things immediately after hearing such unwelcome things makes it difficult to know what to say.”

A doctor walked up to Malcolm and Macduff.

“We will speak together at more length soon,” Malcolm said to Macduff. Then he said to the doctor, “Is Edward the Confessor coming out?”

“Yes, sir,” the doctor said. “Many wretchedly ill people await his cure by touch. Their illness cannot be cured by medical science, but when the King touches them, his touch heals their illness — such is his gift from Heaven.”

“I thank you, doctor,” Malcolm said.

The doctor departed.

“What is the disease he means?” Macduff asked.

“It is called the King’s evil by most people because the King can cure it by the laying on of hands,” Malcolm said. Others call it scrofula. I have often seen the good King Edward the Confessor cure it with a most miraculous work. What prayers he makes to Heaven, he alone knows, but strangely afflicted people, swollen and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye, with no hope of being cured by doctors, he cures. He prays as he hangs a golden coin around their necks, and it is said that when a King of England dies he passes on this gift to the next King. Along with this Heavenly gift, he has others, including the gift of prophecy. These gifts and other blessings show that he is full of grace and loved by God.”

Ross walked up to Malcolm and Macduff.

Macduff asked Malcolm, “Who is this man coming toward us?”

“Judging by his clothing, a Scotsman, but I don’t know him.”

Now recognizing Ross, Macduff said to him, “My noble cousin, welcome.”

Malcolm said, “I recognize him now. I pray to God that soon the circumstances that make us strangers will no longer exist. If I had not been exiled from Scotland for so long, I would have recognized Ross immediately.”

Overhearing Malcolm’s prayer, Ross said, “Sir, amen.”

“Is the situation in Scotland still the same?” Malcolm asked.

“Pity our poor country!” Ross said, “It is almost afraid to look at itself. It should not be called our mother at this time, but rather our grave. No one smiles except those who are too ignorant or too stupid to know what is happening. Sighs and groans and shrieks rend the air, but they are now so common that they are no longer noticed. Violent sorrow is now a common experience. Death is so common that no one asks any more for whom the death bell tolls — someone is always dying and it is impossible to keep up to date on who is dead. The life of a good man is so short that the man dies before the flower in his cap dies. Good men die before they grow ill; they do not die of sickness of body.”

“Your story is eloquently told, and it is true,” Macduff said.

Malcolm asked, “What’s the newest grief?”

“News of grief that is even an hour old is old news. Every minute a new cause for grieving pushes aside the old cause,” Ross said.

“How is my wife?” Macduff asked.

Ross knew that Lady Macduff had been murdered, but he was reluctant to convey such bad news to her husband, so he replied, “Why, well.”

“And all my children?”

“Well, too.”

“The tyrant Macbeth has not battered at their peace and attacked them?”

Ross replied, “No; they were at peace when I did leave them.” He thought, That is partially true. It is false that Macbeth has not attacked them, but it is true that they were at peace when I left them — they were peacefully lying in their graves.

Suspicious at Ross’ obvious reluctance at answering his questions, Macduff said, “Be not a niggard of your speech. How are they?”

Still not willing to tell Macduff the truth and wanting to be sure that Malcolm would attack Macbeth, Ross replied, “When I came here to give you the bad news about Scotland, news that saddens me, I heard a rumor that many men were arming themselves in order to fight against Macbeth. I personally saw Macbeth’s army on the march, and so I believe the rumor I heard. Now is the time for you, Malcolm, to help. Your presence in Scotland would create soldiers and would inspire even our women to fight to get rid of Macbeth and the distresses he inflicts upon them.”

“They shall be comforted,” Malcolm said. “We are going to Scotland. Edward the Confessor has given us the use of an army led by Old Siward. The Christian nations do not have a more experienced or more successful soldier.”

“I wish that I could answer this comforting good news with news like it,” Ross said, “but I have words that should be howled out in the desert air, where no one can hear them.”

“Which person do such words concern?” Macduff asked. “Do they affect all Scots or just one Scot?”

“The news grieves all good Scots,” Ross said, “but it will especially grieve you.”

“If the grief be mine, keep it not from me. Quickly let me have it,” Macduff said.

“Let not your ears despise my tongue forever,” Ross said. “My tongue will speak words that will scar your ears.”

“I can guess what you are going to say,” Macduff said.

Ross told him what Macbeth had done: “Macbeth attacked your castle and savagely slaughtered your wife and children. If I were to give you specific details, your grief would cause your corpse to be added to the pile of dead bodies.”

Macduff was silent.

Shocked, Malcolm said, “Merciful Heaven! Don’t be silent. Give way to your grief and rail against its cause. Unless you express your grief, it will eat at you from inside and break your overburdened heart.”

Despite having already been told the answer, Macduff asked, “My children, too?”

“Wife, children, servants, all who could be found in the castle and on your land,” Ross said.

“And I was not there because I was seeking Malcolm,” Macduff said. “Macbeth killed my wife, too?”

“Yes,” Ross said. “I have told you that.”

“Be comforted,” Malcolm said. “Let revenge against Macbeth be your medicine to cure this deadly grief.”

Such words were not comforting to Macduff, who said to Ross about Malcolm, “He has no children.”

Macduff added, “All my pretty ones are dead? Did you say all? Hell! All? What, all my pretty chickens and their dam killed at one fell swoop?”

Malcolm said, “Fight it like a man.”

“I shall do so,” Macduff said, “but I must also feel it like a man. I cannot help remembering that of all people these were the most precious to me. Did Heaven witness their murders and would not help them? Sinful Macduff, Macbeth killed them because of you! They had done nothing wrong. Macbeth killed them because I came to England. Heaven rest them now!”

“Let this be the whetstone of your sword,” Malcolm said, “Let grief convert to anger. Do not blunt your heart; instead, enrage it.”

“I could act like a woman and cry,” Macduff said. “I could also brag about how I will avenge their deaths. But I pray that Heaven will not make me wait but instead quickly bring me face to face with this fiend of Scotland. If I get within sword’s length of him and he does not die — but he will die! — then let Heaven forgive him.”

“Now you are speaking like a man,” Malcolm said. “Let us go to Edward the Confessor. Our army is ready, and everything is ready for us to march against Macbeth, who is soon to fall from power. God will show us our way. Macbeth has made a long night for Scotland, but we will make it day.”


Posted in Books, Retellings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 2

— 4.2 —

At Macduff’s castle in Fife, Lady Macduff, her young son by her side, talked with Ross.

“What did my husband do to make him flee from Scotland?” asked Lady Macduff.

“You must have patience, madam,” Ross replied.

“My husband had no patience. His flight was madness. His actions did not make him a traitor, but his fearful flight makes him appear to be a traitor.”

“You don’t know whether it was his wisdom or his fear that made him flee,” Ross said.

“How could it be wisdom,” Lady Macduff said, “to leave his wife, his children, and his possessions in a place from which he himself flees in fear? He does not love us. He lacks the natural instincts that even animals have. The poor mother wren, the smallest of birds, will fight an owl to protect her young ones in her nest. Fear, not love, rules my husband’s actions. His flight is against all reason, and so it is not wise, either.”

“My dearest cousin, I advise you to control yourself. Your husband is noble, wise, and judicious, and he best knows the disorders present now in Scotland. I dare not speak much further, but cruel are the times when men are called traitors and do not know why they are called traitors. We are so fearful that we believe rumors, and yet we do not know what it is we fear. We seem to be floating upon a wild and violent sea that tosses us one way and then the other. I take my leave of you. Soon I shall return. When the times are at their worst, they cease becoming worse and may even improve to where they were before. My pretty cousin, God’s blessing be upon you!”

“My son has a father, and yet he is fatherless because his father has forsaken him.”

Ross replied, “I am so much a fool that should I stay longer, I would cry, and that would be my disgrace and your discomfort; therefore, I take my leave at once.”

Ross departed.

Lady Macduff said to her young son, “Your father is dead. What will you do now? How will you live?” She expected bad news and hoped to prepare her son for it by talking to him now.

“As birds do, mother.”

“What, with worms and flies?”

“With what I get, mother. That is how birds live.”

“My son, you would make a poor bird,” Lady Macduff said. “You would not know enough to be afraid of the nets and snares used to catch birds.”

“Why should I, mother? If I am a poor bird, hunters will not want to catch me. And you are wrong about my father — he is not dead.”

“Yes, he is dead,” Lady Macbeth lied, hoping to prepare her son for whatever bad news would arrive. “What will you do to get a new father?”

“What will you do to get a new husband?”

“Why, I can buy twenty husbands at any market.”

“Then you will buy them to sell again at a profit.”

“You are speaking with all your wit. Truly, you have wit enough to suit you.”

“Was my father a traitor, mother?”

“Yes, he was.”

“What is a traitor?

“Why, one who swears and lies — one who swears an oath of allegiance but does not keep his oath.”

“And be all traitors that do so?”

“Every one who does so is a traitor, and must be hanged.”

“And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?”

“Every one.”

“Who must hang them?”

“The honest men must hang them.”

“Then the liars and swearers are fools,” her son said, “for there are liars and swearers enough to beat the honest men and hang them.”

“That is all too true,” Lady Macduff said, “and all too cynical for a boy as young as you to believe. God help you, you poor monkey! How will you get a new father?”

“If my father were dead, you would weep for him unless you were going to marry someone new. Since you are not weeping, that is a good sign that either he is not dead or I will soon have a new father.”

“Poor prattler, how you talk!”

A messenger entered the room and said to Lady Macduff, “God bless you, fair lady! You do not know me, but I know your rank. I fear that some danger does quickly approach you. If you will take a simple, plain man’s advice, you will flee immediately. Do not stay here with your children. Flee! I am sorry to have to frighten you like this, but I do not want something much more cruel to happen to you and your children. If you stay here, you will suffer much cruelty — it quickly approaches you! Heaven help you! I dare not stay here any longer!”

The messenger left in a hurry.

“Where should I flee to?” Lady Macduff said. “I have done no harm. But I am in this Earthly world where to do harm is often considered worthy of praise and where to do good is often considered the action of a fool. In such a world, what good does it do for a woman to say, ‘I have done no harm’?”

Murderers entered the room.

“Who are you?” Lady Macduff asked.

“Where is your husband?” a murderer asked.

“I hope that he is in no place so unsanctified that people like you can find him.”

“He’s a traitor,” a murderer said.

Lady Macduff’s young son shouted, “You’re lying, you shaggy-haired villain!”

“Runt!” the murderer shouted and stabbed the boy, who shouted, “He has killed me, mother. Run!”

Lady Macduff ran away from the murderers and screamed, “Murder!” She did not run fast enough.

Posted in Retellings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment