Scene 1 – Forres. The palace [ENTER BANQUO]
Banquo: Now you have it – King, Cawdor, Glamis – just like the 3 witches said. But I suspect you of foul play. But it was said it not to go on to your line but to mine to be rulers. If they were telling the truth, why shouldn’t their words be true for me? But shh!! Let’s be quiet for now. [ENTER MACBETH AS KING, LADY MACBETH AS QUEEN, LENNOX, ROSS, LORDS, LADIES & ATTENDANTS]
Macbeth: Here’s our guest of honor.
Lady Macbeth: It wouldn’t be a great feast without him.
Macbeth: Tonight we’re holding a dinner & request your presence.
Banquo: It’s always my duty to do as you wish.
Macbeth: Are you riding this afternoon?
Banquo: Yes, sir.
Macbeth: I would’ve liked your advice in today’s council. But it can wait till tomorrow. Are you riding far?
Banquo: Far enough that I’ll be gone until dinner. Unless my horse is especially fast, a couple hours into the night.
Macbeth: I understand the murdering princes have gone off to England & Ireland but haven’t confessed to anything They’ve been telling lots of tales. But we’ll talk about that & more tomorrow. Go ride. Is Fleance going with you?
Banquo: Yes. It’s time we left.
Macbeth: I hope your horses are steady & fast. See you soon. [BANQUO LEAVES] Well, I guess everyone can do as they like until 7 tonight. I’d like to be alone. See you all later. [ALL BUT MACBETH & SERVANT LEAVE] Sir, a word with you… Are those men waiting to speak with me?
Servant: Yes, outside the palace gates.
Macbeth: Bring them in. [SERVANT LEAVES] To be king is meaningless unless it’s safe. I’m afraid of Banquo & his royal nature. He’s daring & his mind is sharp. His wisdom guides his valor to act in safety. No one but him scares me. My spirit is threatened by his just like Mark Antony’s was by Caesar. He criticized the witches when they called me king & asked them to speak to him. Then, like prophets, they called him the father of a long line of kings. They gave me a fruitless crown & barren scepter. They’ll be taken away from me by someone else’s family. If that’s true, then I’ve been going through anguish & killed Duncan for Banquo’s children’s benefit. I’ve ruined my peace of mind for them. I’ve sold my soul to the devil to make them kings. Instead of just letting this happen, I will fight it… Who’s there? [SERVANT & 2 MURDERERS ENTER] Now go to the door & wait until I call you. [SERVANT LEAVES] Wasn’t it yesterday we spoke?
Murderer 1: It was, sir.
Macbeth: What did you think of what I said? Just know it was he who was keeping you down while you thought it was me. I showed you this the last time we met – how you were tricked & foiled at every step of the way. Anyone with half a brain would say Banquo did it.
Murderer 1: Yes, sir.
Macbeth: Yes. Now to why we are meeting here today. Are you so patient that you can let that go? Are you so holy to pray for him & his family – those who’ve been keeping you down & continue to do so?
Murderer 1: We are men, sir.
Macbeth: Yes, you are “men” just as hounds, mutts, spaniels, waterdogs & half-wolves are all “dogs”. But you can distinguish dogs by speed, hunting skills, intelligence, etc. according to what nature has given them & separate them from the others. You can do that for me. Your station is at the bottom of the list & I have a plan to elevate you by getting rid of your enemy. Our condition will only improve with his death.
Murderer 2: I’m a man who’s been stepped on by the world & now I don’t care what I do to get even.
Murderer 1: I’m in the same boat. I’m so sick of all the bad luck that would do anything to fix it or be rid of it.
Macbeth: You both know Banquo is your enemy.
Murderer 1 & Murderer 2: Yes, sir.
Macbeth: He’s also mine. Every minute he exists my hatred grows stronger. I could openly get rid of him but I really shouldn’t. I can’t alienate allies that he & I have in common. So that’s why I’ve come to you for help – to keep this messy business out of the public eye.
Murderer 2: We’ll do what you ask of us.
Murderer 1: Though our lives-
Macbeth: I can see your resolve. Within an hour, I’ll tell you where to hide & when to attack. It must be done tonight away from the palace. I can’t be seen to have anything to do with this. For this to work, you must kill Banquo & his son, Fleance. Fleance is just as important as Banquo. You must decide if you’re up to it. I’ll come to you soon.
Murderer 1 & Murderer 2: We’re ready.
Macbeth: I’ll call for you soon. Stay inside the palace. [MURDERERS LEAVE] It’s settled. Banquo, if your soul will go to heaven, tonight will be the night. [LEAVES]
Scene 2 – The palace. [ENTER LADY MACBETH & SERVANT]
Lady Macbeth: Has Banquo left the court?
Servant: Yes, ma’am. But he will return tonight.
Lady Macbeth: Please tell the king I would like to speak with him.
Servant: Yes, ma’am. [SERVANT LEAVES]
Lady Macbeth: When you get what you want but can’t enjoy it, you really get nothing at all & have spent everything to get it. [ENTER MACBETH] Hello… Why do you keep yourself alone in your sorrows? Those thoughts should’ve died with the men you killed & are still thinking about. Things that can’t be remedied should be ignored. What’s done is done.
Macbeth: We’ve scorched the snake but not killed it. It will heal its wounds & we’ll be under threat of its fangs soon. The world could fall apart before I eat my meals in fear & sleep in the afflictions of my nightmares. It’s better to be with the dead & their peace than to endure this mental torture. Duncan, after life’s troubles, is in his grave sleeping well. Treason was the worst he had to suffer & now nothing more can hurt him.
Lady Macbeth: Come on. Let’s calm down & put on a brave face. We have guests tonight.
Macbeth: I’ll have to do that & so will you. Focus on Banquo tonight. Make him feel honored & welcome. We’ll have to hide our true intentions.
Lady Macbeth: Stop talking this way.
Macbeth: My mind is full of scorpions. Banquo & Fleance are still alive.
Lady Macbeth: They won’t live forever.
Macbeth: Yes, that’s a comfort. They can be attacked & then we can be happy. Before the bat flies into the castle, before the beetle is summoned to Hecate, there will be a dreadful deed done.
Lady Macbeth: What’s that?
Macbeth: It’s best you don’t know but trust me, you’ll be happy about it. Come on in, night, & blind the day with your bloody invisible hand. Take away what’s been bothering me. The light is fading & the crows are returning to the woods. The creatures of the day are getting sleepy & the creatures of the night are looking for their prey… You seem puzzled by my words but hold on… Things that come from evil can be cured by evil… Come with me. [BOTH LEAVE]
Scene 3 – A park near the palace. [ENTER 3 MURDERERS]
Murderer 1: Who told you to join us?
Murderer 3: Macbeth.
Murderer 2: No need to mistrust him. He has the same orders as us.
Murderer 1: Then stay here with us. There’s still some daylight left. The late travelers are hurrying to get into the inns. Here comes our target.
Murderer 3: I hear horses.
Banquo: [FROM WITHIN] Shine a light over here.
Murderer 2: That’s him. The other guests are inside.
Murderer 1: You can hear his horse go about.
Murderer 3: Almost a mile away. Most men walk from there to the palace gate.
Murderer 2: Here comes a light. [ENTER BANQUO & FLEANCE WITH A TORCH]
Murderer 3: That’s him.
Murderer 1: Let’s do it.
Banquo: Looks like rain tonight.
Murderer 1: Then let it rain. [MURDERERS ATTACK BANQUO]
Banquo: An attack!! Fleance, get out of here. Avenge me. [BANQUO DIES. FLEANCE ESCAPES]
Murderer 3: Who turned out the light?
Murderer 1: Was that not good?
Murderer 3: There’s only one here. The son got away.
Murderer 2: We’ve failed half our mission.
Murderer 1: Let’s get out of here & tell him what we were able to do. [THEY LEAVE]
Scene 4 – The same. A hall in the palace. [A BANQUET PREPARED. ENTER MACBETH, LADY MACBETH, ROSS, LENNOX, LORDS & ATTENDANTS]
Macbeth: You know your ranks, so sit in your places. From the top to the bottom, I welcome you.
Lords: Thank you, your majesty.
Macbeth: I’ll mingle & play host. Our hostess will stay in her chair but in time, I’ll have her welcome you. [MURDERER 1 ENTERS] See, they enjoy our welcoming. The table is full & I’ll sit in the middle. Let’s have some fun & we’ll make toasts soon. [APPROACHES THE MURDERER] You’ve got blood on your face.
Murderer 1: It must be Banquo’s.
Macbeth: Better on your face than in his body… Is he dead?
Murderer 1: His throat is slashed. That was my work.
Macbeth: Then you are a cutthroat. Whoever did the same to Fleance is also good. If you did both, you are peerless.
Murderer 1: Sir, Fleance escaped.
Macbeth: Here it comes again… I had everything perfect – solid as a rock. Now I’ll be crushed by my fears… But Banquo’s definitely dead?
Murderer 1: Definitely. He’s dead in a ditch with about 20 gashes to his head. Enough to kill anyone.
Macbeth: Thank you for that. The grown snake lies dead but the little worm will grow venomous. No teeth right now. Get out of here & we’ll talk later. [MURDER 1 LEAVES]
Lady Macbeth: My lord, you’re neglecting our guests. If you don’t make them feel welcome, they may as well be at home. They come for the company, not the food.
Macbeth: Yes, of course. Good digestion needs good appetite, & good health needs both.
Lennox: Please sir, sit down. [ENTER BANQUO’S GHOST & SITS IN MACBETH’S PLACE]
Macbeth: Here should be Banquo, if we were to have all the nobles of the country. I hope he’s only late out of rudeness & not from anything bad.
Ross: If he’s not here, it’s because he broken his promise. Sir, won’t you sit down & join us?
Macbeth: The table’s full.
Lennox: Here’s a seat, sir. What’s wrong?
Macbeth: Who did this?
Lords: Did what sir?
Macbeth: You can’t say I did it. Don’t shake your gory head at me!
Ross: Gentlemen, get up! You can see the king isn’t well.
Lady Macbeth: Please sit, gentlemen. Macbeth is always like this & always has been. It’ll pass. In fact, give it a minute & you’ll see he’s well again. Just ignore him & he’ll come around again… Are you a man?
Macbeth: Yes, a bold one who dares to look at what would make the devil shudder.
Lady Macbeth: Nonsense. That’s the fantasy that makes you afraid. It’s the floating dagger you said would lead you to Duncan. All this acting out doesn’t look like real fear but an old wives’ tale. The shame of it. Why do you make such faces? When you’re calm, you’ll see you were looking at a chair.
Macbeth: Please, look over there. Look… What do you have to say? What do I care? If you can nod, then speak! If the graves must send back those we bury, there’s no point in doing it in the first place. [GHOST VANISHES]
Lady Macbeth: What the hell are you talking about?
Macbeth: As sure as I’m standing here, I saw him.
Lady Macbeth: Oh, the shame!
Macbeth: In the old days, blood was just shed. Then laws stopped random violence. & yes, since then, terrible murders have been committed. But time was when you bashed a man’s brains in, that was that. But now they come back with their wounds & knock us off of chairs. Haunting is far worse than murder.
Lady Macbeth: I think we should get back to our guests.
Macbeth: Yes… Don’t worry about me, guys. I’ve got a weird little tick that people who know me well know about. Come, let’s drink to our health. I’ll sit a bit. More wine… Let’s drink to our friend Banquo who ought to be here now.
Lords: Yes! [GHOST RE-ENTERS]
Macbeth: You, get out of my sight. Stay in your cold grave. Your staring eyes don’t scare me.
Lady Macbeth: Friends, think of it as a strange habit & nothing more. It’s just that it’s killing the mood.
Macbeth: I’m no coward. Come at me like a bear, rhinoceros or a tiger. Anything other than what you are now & I won’t be scared. Come back to life & fight me. If I tremble then you can call me a little girl. Get out you vision! [GHOST DISAPPEARS] Off with you! OK, I’m back now… Let’s sit down.
Lady Macbeth: Dear, you killed the ambience with all your outbursts.
Macbeth: Come on. It was nothing much. No need to gawk like that. You sit there with those plain faces & I’m as white as a sheet after that vision that just came in here.
Ross: What vision?
Lady Macbeth: Please, let’s stop. It’ll only make things worse. Let’s call it a night. Dispense with the formalities & go.
Lennox: Good night, sir. Feel better.
Lady Macbeth: Good night to you all. [LORDS & ATTENDANTS LEAVE]
Macbeth: As they say, if it wants blood, it’ll get it. Tombs have been known to move. Birds have been known to give warnings… How late is it?
Lady Macbeth: Nearly morning. I can’t tell if it’s dark or light.
Macbeth: What do you think of Macduff refusing to meet with me?
Lady Macbeth: Did you send for him?
Macbeth: No. I only heard about it in a roundabout way but I’ll send for him. I have a spy in each lord’s house. I’ll go talk to the witches tomorrow. I want to hear more about what bad things will happen. I’ve got to protect myself. I’m so covered with blood at this point that even if I chose to stop, strange things would compel me to shed more blood. I’ve got some plans I need to act on before I get the chance to think too much about them.
Lady Macbeth: You need sleep.
Macbeth: Let’s go to sleep. These visions are only from being a novice. We’re still new at this. [BOTH LEAVE]
Scene 5 – A heath. [THUNDER] [ENTER 3 WITCHES MEETING WITH HECATE]
Witch 1: Hecate, you seem angry.
Hecate: Don’t I have good reason to be? How dare you give Macbeth riddles about death! I’m your boss & I’m in charge of evil. You never consulted with me on how to maximize the glory of our art. What’s worse is showing it to Macbeth without turning him completely in our direction. He’s only using you for his own purposes. I’ll meet with you in hell tomorrow morning about this. Macbeth will learn of his fate. Bring your witch gear. I’ve got some planning to do to put him completely under our sway… Gotta run. [LEAVES]
Witch 1: Let’s go before she comes back. [THEY LEAVE]
Scene 6 – Forres. A room in the palace [ENTER LENNOX & ANOTHER LORD]
Lennox: You see what I’m talking about. Weird stuff’s been going on. Duncan was pitied by Macbeth. Banquo went out too late. It must have been Fleance. Why else would he have run away? Lesson is, don’t go out late. Who doubts Malcolm & Donalbain killed their father? Poor Macbeth benefited from that. He loyally killed the servants straight away, while they were asleep & drunk. Isn’t that noble? It would’ve offended our ears to hear them deny it. Macbeth has handled things well. I think if he had Duncan’s sons under lock & key, they’d find out what the punishment is for killing one’s father. Fleance would too. I hear Macduff is not in the king’s good graces for missing the feast. Do you know where he is?
Lord: Duncan’s son, whose birthright Macbeth holds, is in England with King Edward & doing well down there. Macduff went off to ask Edward for support. & with God’s help, we’ll have food on the table & no more blood spilled. This report has pissed Macbeth off so much that he is preparing for war.
Lennox: Did he recall Macduff?
Lord: Yes but Macduff wasn’t having it. The messenger was angry at him for having to report such a stern denial.
Lennox: That might be enough to keep Macduff at a distance, if he’s wise. Some brave soul should go down to England & tell Macduff he needs to come back to help our cursed country under this tyrant…
Lord: I’ll send him a prayer. [BOTH LEAVE]