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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 devoted 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.
MALCOLM From whence?
MESSENGER ONE Through the shades of Birnam Wood.
MALCOLM (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.
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.
ROSS 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.
Excerpted from The Tragedy of Macbeth, Part II by Noah Lukeman. Copyright © 2008 Noah Lukeman. Excerpted by permission of PEGASUS BOOKS.
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