William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 5 and 6

— 3.5 —

On a heath below a lightning storm, the three Weird Sisters met Hecate, the goddess of witches. Hecate was not happy. Thunder sounded during their meeting.

“Greetings, Hecate,” the First Witch said. “You look angry.”

“Haven’t I just reason to be angry?” Hecate replied. “You hags don’t know your place. You are overly bold. How dare you tempt Macbeth with riddles to commit murder without my participation? I am your master, I am the secret plotter of all harms, and I will have a part in corrupting Macbeth’s soul. Macbeth is nothing but a wayward son. He is spiteful and angry, and he loves himself, not you. But now you can make amends to me for your wayward actions. In the morning, meet me at the pit that leads down to Acheron, one of the rivers of Hell. Macbeth will go there in the morning to seek you to learn about his future. Bring with you your cauldron and the ingredients for your spells and your charms. I will fly in the sky tonight, working on dismal and deadly business. An airy drop of heavy significance hangs from the Moon; I will catch it before it falls to Earth. Through the use of magic, I will use that drop to raise unnatural visions to mislead Macbeth further along the path of his ruin. After he sees my visions, Macbeth will spurn fate, scorn death, and value false hopes more than he values wisdom, gifts from Almighty God, and reasonable fears. As all of you know, overconfidence is the chief enemy of mortals. Death is coming soon for Macbeth, but he will not know it.”

Nearby, music played and the words “Come away … come away” filled the air.

Hecate said, “My familiar spirit — a demon — is calling for me. It sits on a foggy cloud and waits for me to come.”

Hecate flew away, and the First Witch said, “Come, let’s make haste — Hecate will soon be back again.”

The three Weird Sisters left.

— 3.6 —

At Forres, the site of the late King Duncan’s castle, Lennox and another lord spoke together.

“Your opinions and mine are in agreement,” Lennox said. “Strange things have been occurring. The good King Duncan died, and Macbeth pitied him, so he says. The valiant Banquo walked at night, and Banquo died, and Macbeth pitied him, so he says. You can say, if you like, that Fleance killed his father, Banquo. How do we know that he did that? Because Fleance fled following the murder he had committed, so Macbeth says. It is monstrous for a son to kill a father, so Macbeth says. Fleance did kill his father, so Macbeth says. And Malcolm and Donalbain did kill their father, so Macbeth says. Damned deeds! Macbeth grieved, so he says. He grieved so much, he says, that he killed the King’s bodyguards, who were drunk and asleep. Wasn’t that a noble deed for Macbeth to do? He says so, and he also says that it was a good deed, too. To hear the bodyguards deny that they had murdered the King would have angered any man, so Macbeth says. Macbeth has handled all these matters well — so he says. You may believe Macbeth’s words if you like — but I know that you do not, and neither do I! I think that if Macbeth had power over Malcolm and Donalbain and power over Fleance, they would soon be murdered and so learn the consequences of murdering their fathers, as Macbeth would say. May Heaven never allow Macbeth to have power over King Duncan’s sons and over Banquo’s son!

“By the way, I hear that Macduff is in Macbeth’s disfavor because Macduff speaks too frankly and too openly. Can you tell me where Macduff is these days?”

The lord replied, “Macduff has gone to visit Malcolm, who — being the late King Duncan’s oldest son — ought to be King. The tyrant Macbeth withholds from Malcolm what is his by birthright. Malcolm now lives in the court of the King of England: Edward the Confessor. This King graciously welcomed Malcolm and treats him with great respect despite Malcolm’s misfortunes and the deprivation of the crown that is rightfully his. Macduff wants Edward the Confessor to call to arms the people in Northumberland, which borders Scotland, so that its governor the Earl Siward can lead them into battle against Macbeth. If an army is raised to fight against Macbeth, and if the great and good God is willing, as He must be, we will again have food on our tables, we will again be able to sleep easily at night, we will again be able to attend a King’s feast without fear of being murdered, we will again be able to support a King with our own free will instead of supporting the King out of fear of what would happen if we did not support that King, and we will again be able to receive the honors due to patriotic men. Under the tyranny of Macbeth, we can no longer do or enjoy any of these things.

“Also, Macbeth has heard about Macduff. Macbeth knows that a rebellion is forming, and he is preparing for war.”

“Did Macbeth order Macduff to come to his banquet?” Lennox asked.

“Yes,” the lord answered, “and Macduff told Macbeth’s messenger, ‘Sir, I will not go to Macbeth’s banquet.’ The unhappy messenger turned his back on Macduff as if to say, ‘You will regret the time that you gave me this answer to take to Macbeth.’”

“The messenger’s action may well convince Macduff to be cautious in opposing Macbeth and to keep away from Scotland — the wrath of Macbeth is terrible and something to be feared. It is possible that Macduff could stay in exile and not advocate that an army oppose Macbeth. I wish that an angel would fly to Macduff and tell him that the quicker an army opposes Macbeth the better it will be for Scotland. The removal of the tyrant will be a blessing for our country.”

The lord replied, “I would like to send my own prayers with that angel.”

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