William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 8 (Conclusion)

— 5.8 —

Macbeth, knowing that he had lost the battle, thought, Why should I play the Roman fool, and commit suicide by throwing myself on my own sword? Let Brutus or Cassius commit suicide when they see that their cause is lost. While I see enemy soldiers, gashes made by my sword look better on their bodies.

Macduff saw Macbeth and ordered, “Turn around, Hell-hound, turn around!”

Recognizing Macduff, Macbeth said, “Of all men, I have been avoiding you. Don’t fight me. My soul is already too much burdened with the blood of your wife and children. I do not want to add your blood to my burden of guilt.”

“I will not talk,” Macduff said. “My sword will do the talking. You are a bloodier villain than words can express.”

Macduff attacked Macbeth, who fiercely fought back.

At a pause in the fight, Macbeth said to Macduff, “You are wasting your time trying to kill me. You can kill air with your sword as easily as you can kill me. Go and fight soldiers who can be killed. I lead a charmed life. No man born of woman can kill me.”

“Your charm is worthless,” Macduff replied. “The evil spirit whom you have served and still serve can tell you that I was from my mother’s womb prematurely ripped. I was not born through the birth canal but had to be cut out of her womb to save my life.”

“May you be damned to Hell for telling me this!” Macbeth shouted. “You have taken away my confidence. Let no one believe the Weird Sisters — those deceiving fiends who trick mortals with equivocating words that appear as if they are good but that are in reality evil. I will not fight you.”

“Then surrender, coward,” Macduff said. “We will exhibit you before the gaze of your former subjects. We will treat you the way we treat deformed animals and make you a freakshow. We will paint your portrait on a sign on a pole along with the words ‘Here may you see the tyrant’!”

“I will not surrender and kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet, and I will not be subjected to cruel treatment and abuse by my subjects,” Macbeth said. “Although Birnam Forest has marched to Dunsinane and although you are not of woman born, yet I will try to kill you. In front of my body, I hold my shield. Fight, Macduff, and damned be the first man who cries, ‘Stop! I have had enough!’”

They fought.

Elsewhere, Malcolm, Siward, Ross, and the other Thanes were meeting.

“Not all of our friends are accounted for,” Malcolm said. “I hope that they survived the battle.”

“Some soldiers die in every battle,” Old Siward said. “Judging by the number of corpses we see, we have won a great battle while losing very few lives.”

“Macduff is missing, and so is your noble son,” Malcolm said.

Ross said to Old Siward, “Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt on the battlefield. He lived only until he reached adulthood. As soon as he became an adult, he proved his manhood by valiantly fighting. He died courageously, as befits a man.”

“My son is dead?” Old Siward asked.

“Yes,” Ross replied. “His corpse has been carried off the battlefield. If you were to mourn him as much as he is worth, you would never stop mourning him.”

“Were his wounds in the front?” Old Siward asked, knowing that cowards who run away are wounded in the back.

“Yes, they were in the front,” Ross replied.

“Then he deserves to be — and is — a soldier of God,” Old Siward said. “Had I as many sons as I have hairs, none could have a more honorable death than that of Young Siward. And so the death bell tolls for my son.”

“He deserves to be mourned more greatly than this,” Malcolm said, “and I shall mourn him.”

“No greater mourning is needed,” said the stoical Old Siward. “He died well and honorably. He settled all of his accounts. Look! Here comes better news!”

Macduff, carrying the decapitated head of Macbeth, said to Malcolm, “You are now King. Hail, King! Look at the cursed head of the tyrant. Scotland is now free from tyranny. I see around you the nobles of Scotland, and I ask them to join me in this cry: Hail, King of Scotland!”

Macduff and the nobles shouted, “Hail, King of Scotland!”

Malcolm said, “Not much time will pass before I reward you for your loyalty. I owe you now, and I will repay you. My Thanes and kinsmen, henceforth be Earls — the first Earls ever in Scotland. Much remains to be done with the dawn of this new era. We must call from abroad our friends in exile who fled from Macbeth’s tyranny. We must find the cruel supporters of this dead butcher and his fiend-like Queen, who is thought to have committed suicide. These and other things, God willing, we will do justly and at the right time and place. Thank you, all, and I invite you to see me crowned at Scone as the rightful King of Scotland.”

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