Macbeth by Shakespeare – Act 4

Scene 1 – A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. [THUNDER] [ENTER 3 WITCHES]

Witch 1: The grey cat’s meowed 3 times.

Witch 2: 3 times, & the hedgehog’s whined once.

Witch 3: The harpy’s crying, “it’s time!”

Witch 1: Round the cauldron, we throw in poison entrails. A toad who’s slept under a stone for a month – the venom will go in.

All 3: Double, double, toil & trouble. Fire burn & cauldron bubble.

Witch 2: Fillet of snake, eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog, tongue of snake, blind worm’s sting, baby owl wing… All go in.

All 3: Double, double, toil & trouble. Fire burn & cauldron bubble.

Witch 3: Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, eye of newt, mummified witch flesh, stomach of a Tartar, finger of a baby strangled at birth & ditched by its whore of a mother. It all makes the stew nice & thick. Add some tiger guts to the cauldron.

All 3: Double, double, toil & trouble. Fire burn & cauldron bubble.

Witch 2: We’ll cool it down with baboon’s blood & it should be ready. [ENTER HECATE]

Hecate: Well done. Very nice work & you all will be rewarded. Come, let’s dance around the cauldron like fairies & elves to enchant everything. [MUSIC]

Witch 2: By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes… Doors, open up for whoever knocks. [ENTER MACBETH]

Macbeth: What are you secret, black, midnight hags up to?

All 3: No words to describe it.

Macbeth: I come to ask you & whoever it is you know something.

Witch 1: Out with it.

Witch 2: Go on.

Witch 3: We’ll answer.

Witch 1: Poor in the blood of a sow who’d eaten 9 of her young & the sweat from a murderer hanging from the gallows – into the fire!

All 3: Come, high or low, show yourselves.

Macbeth: Tell me, you unknown power.

Witch 1: He knows your thoughts. Listen but say nothing…

Apparition 1: Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff, Thane of Fife… Let me go… Enough… [DESCENDS]

Macbeth: Whatever you are, thank you. You’ve sparked my fears. I want to hear more.

Witch 1: He doesn’t talk orders. Here’s one vision stranger than the last. [THUNDER] [2ND APPARITION]

Apparition 2: Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

Macbeth: If I had 3 ears, I’d use them all.

Apparition 2: Be bloody, be bold & be resolute. Laugh with scorn at the power of men because no one born to a woman can harm Macbeth. [DESCENDS]

Macbeth: Then Macduff will be no problem. Why fear him? I’ll be double careful. You won’t live so I can sleep despite the thunder. [THUNDER] [3RD APPARITION – A CHILD CROWNED HOLDING A TREE IN HIS HAND] What’s this? A king’s child wearing a crown.

All 3: Listen but don’t speak.

Apparition 3: Be courageous, proud & don’t worry about who hates you, plots or where the conspirators are. Macbeth won’t be defeated until Great Birnam Wood fights him at Dunsinane Hill [DESCENDS]

Macbeth: Ha! That’ll never happen. Who can order a tree to uproot itself & fight? My evil deeds won’t come back to haunt me. But there’s one more thing – Will Banquo’s family ever rule?

All 3: Ask no more.

Macbeth: I want answers, damn you! Just tell me! Why is the cauldron dying down?

Witch 1: Show!

Witch 2: Show!

Witch 3: Show!

All 3: Show him & grieve his heart. Come like shadows & so leave. [DISPLAY OF 8 KINGS. THE LAST WITH A GLASS IN HIS HAND. BANQUO’S GHOST FOLLOWING]

Macbeth: It looks like Banquo’s ghost. Your crown is searing into my eyes… Your blonde hair looks like another. The 3rd looks like the one before. You hags! Why are you showing me this? A 4th. It’s going on & on. Another. A 7th! No more! The 8th has a glass showing many, many more. They’re all carrying balls & scepters. Horrible. I see that it’s true. Banquo, covered in blood, is smiling at me & pointing to them – all his. [ALL DISAPPEAR] Is it true?

Witch 1: Yes, but why are you surprised? Come sisters, let’s get out of here & pay our respects to the king on the way out. [WITCHES DANCE & THEN DISAPPEAR]

Macbeth: Where’d they go? For crying out loud? Get back here. [ENTER LENNOX]

Lennox: Need something?

Macbeth: Did you just see witches?

Lennox: No, sir.

Macbeth: They must have ridden away on brooms. Never trust witches. I heard a galloping horse. Who rode by?

Lennox: A couple of people have come to tell you that Macduff has run off to England.

Macbeth: To England?!

Lennox: Yes, sir.

Macbeth: [ASIDE] Time, you’ve anticipated my bad deeds. You can never be too late if you strike when the idea comes to you. As soon as it pops into my head, I’ll do it. I’ll surprise Macduff’s castle, kill his wife & children, as well as any relative of his. I need to act before I lose my nerve. I’ll take on anyone… [BOTH LEAVE]

Scene 2 – Fife, Macduff’s Castle [ENTER LADY MACDUFF, SON & ROSS]

Lady Macduff: What did he do to have to run away?

Ross: Ma’am, please be patient.

Lady Macduff: Well, he wasn’t. It was crazy to run off. When our actions don’t make us traitors, our fears do.

Ross: You don’t know if it was out of fear or wisdom.

Lady Macduff: Wisdom?! To leave your wive & kids? Your castle & titles in the place you’re running from? He doesn’t love us. He doesn’t have the natural inclination to protect his family. Even the smallest of birds, the wren, will stand up to the owl for its family. It’s only to do with fear & nothing to do with love.

Ross: Dear cousin, please calm down. Your husband is noble, wise, judicious & knows what the best course of action is. I shouldn’t say anymore. Times are tough when we’re considered traitors & we don’t know it, when we believe rumors & don’t know what we fear, & drift every way & no way all at once. I’ve got to run but I’ll be back soon enough. Things will stop being bad & get back to normal. See you soon.

Lady Macduff: My son has a father & yet is fatherless.

Ross: I’ve got to run. It just wouldn’t do for me to stay. [LEAVES]

Lady Macduff: Kid, your father is dead. What will you do now? How will you live?

Son: Like the birds do.

Lady Macduff: On worms & flies?

Son: On whatever I can get.

Lady Macduff: Poor bird. You wouldn’t ever know to avoid traps.

Son: Why should I? They’re not set for poor birds. Plus, dad’s not dead.

Lady Macduff: Yes, he is. What will you do for a father?

Son: Well, what will you do for a husband?

Lady Macduff: I could buy 20 anywhere.

Son: You’ll buy them to sell them again?

Lady Macduff: That’s some wit you’ve got there.

Son: Was father a traitor?

Lady Macduff: Yes.

Son: What’s a traitor?

Lady Macduff: When you take an oath & break it.

Son: Is everyone who does that a traitor?

Lady Macduff: Yes & they must be hanged.

Son: Does everyone who does that need to be hanged?

Lady Macduff: Every one of them.

Son: Who will hang them?

Lady Macduff: Honest men.

Son: Then the liars & swearers are fools to be killed because they heavily outnumber the honest men.

Lady Macduff: God help you, you little monkey. What will you do for a father?

Son: If he were dead, you’d be crying. If not, it would mean that I had a new father.

Lady Macduff: You say the strangest things. [ENTER MESSENGER]

Messenger: Dear lady, you don’t know me but I believe there’s imminent danger coming this way. If you’d take my advice, you’d get out of here as soon as possible. Take your children with you. I don’t want to scare you but please, for the love of God, get out of here. [LEAVES]

Lady Macduff: Why should I run off? I’ve done nothing wrong to anyone? … But I know I’m here on earth evil is applauded & being good is dangerous & stupid. Why should I be so innocent & naïve? [ENTER MURDERERS]

Murderer 1: Where is your husband?

Lady Macduff: I hope nowhere you can find him.

Murderer 1: He’s a traitor.

Son: You liar!

Murderer 1: [STABBING SON] What? You little twerp. Son of a traitor.



Scene 3 – England, in front of the King’s palace. [ENTER MALCOLM & MACDUFF]

Malcolm: Let’s get some sunshine to commiserate in.

Macduff: Let’s rather defend our homeland. Everyday new miseries are visited upon us until, it seems, that heaven itself couldn’t handle it.

Malcolm: I’ll bemoan what I see as wrong. I’ll believe what I’m sure is true. I’ll fix what I can when I can. What you say may be true. But the tyrant was once thought of as an honest man. You once thought highly of him yourself. He hasn’t gone after you yet. I’m a bit young & inexperienced but I feel like I’m being used to get rid of him.

Macduff: I’m not a treacherous man.

Malcolm: But Macbeth is. A good & virtuous soul would yield to a royal order. I can’t go against my nature & play in this game. Foul things try to look graceful but grace also looks graceful.

Macduff: I’ve lost all hope.

Malcolm: Perhaps I did too when I heard that you left your wife & children, the most important things in life, without thinking twice. Please don’t let my suspicions offend you. You may be right but I’m just looking out for my own safety.

Macduff: The country is bleeding. The tyrant is growing more & more powerful because the good are too afraid to check him. He wears all his ill-gotten titles. I could never be the villain that Macbeth has ended up being.

Malcolm: Please don’t be offended. I’m not completely against you. I think the country is sinking under oppression. Every day is worse than the last one. I do think that people would help me. England has offered me thousands of troops for my cause. But once the tyrant is defeated, our country would be worse off than before by being under the one to succeed him.

Macduff: Who would that be?

Malcolm: Me. I have enough vices that when they are known, Macbeth will look relatively tame.

Macduff: The legions of hell couldn’t produce as worse of an evil as Macbeth.

Malcolm: He’s bloody, luxurious, greedy, lying, impulsive, malicious & commits every sin thinkable. But I myself am a lecherous pervert. No number of women would ever be enough for me. I can’t control it.

Macduff: Intemperance is a form of tyranny within a man. It’s been the cause of the fall of many kings. Don’t worry too much, just keep it a secret while you keep up appearances to everyone. You can find enough willing women. It won’t ruin all goodwill for your cause.

Malcolm: Along with that, I’m quite greedy. I would cut off all the heads of the nobles for their lands, jewels & castles. The more I had, the more I’d want. I’d start quarrels between good & loyal people to destroy them for their wealth.

Macduff: Greed is worse than lust & also has caused the downfall of many kings. Scotland has enough to satisfy you. Your good sides can counterbalance the bad ones.

Malcolm: But I have no good side. All that’s good in a king – justice, truth, temperance, stability, generosity, mercy, humility, devotion, patience, courage & strength – I don’t have. If I were king, there’d be no chance for peace.

Macduff: Never mind you not being fit to govern, you’re not fit to live. Our poor country is ruled by a usurping, bloody tyrant. The rightful king is a disgrace to his family & humanity. Your father was an angel & your mother was a saint… I have to leave. Your evils have brought further curses on our land.

Malcolm: Macduff, your passion & integrity have shown me what an honorable & truthful man you are. I no longer have doubts about you. Many times, the wicked Macbeth has tried to trap me or lure me into his power. What little wisdom I have prevents me from trusting people easily. But now I believe you & take back what I’ve just said to you about myself. I’ve never even been with a woman. I’ve never wanted more than what I had. I wouldn’t even betray the devil because the truth is what’s most important to me. I’m ready to fight with you for our country. Before your arrival, Siward & 10000 men have been prepared to move on Scotland. We can go together… What’s the matter? Why so quiet?

Macduff: It’s just a lot to take in at once. [ENTER DOCTOR]

Malcolm: More on that later… Doctor, is the king coming?

Doctor: Yes, there’s a bunch of poor souls outside looking to be cured. Medicine doesn’t seem to work for them. & they’re hoping that just a touch from him, being God’s gift to the world, will heal them.

Malcolm: Thank you, doctor. [DOCTOR LEAVES]

Macduff: What disease?

Malcolm: Evil. I’ve seen Edward do miracles since I’ve been in England. How he does it, only he knows. But people come from all around with ulcers & swellings who have no hope of medicine working for them, looking to him for a cure. He holds a gold coin to their necks & whispers prayers. It’s said that only he & his family can perform such healings. He also has the power of prophecy, among other abilities. He’s a man full of the grace of God. [ENTER ROSS]

Macduff: Look who it is.

Malcolm: He looks Scottish but I can’t tell who it is.

Macduff: My kinsman, welcome.

Malcolm: Ah, yes. I can see. How horrible that kinsman seem like strangers to us.

Macduff: Is Scotland still as it was?

Ross: Scotland, the poor place, is afraid to know itself. We can hardly call it “home” – “our grave” is more fitting. The only ones smiling are those who know nothing. Sighs, groans & shrieks are so common that they aren’t noticed anymore. People no longer ask who the death knell is for. Good men die before the flowers in their caps do.

Macduff: Your words are poetry & true.

Malcolm: What’s the latest?

Ross: So much happens that one hour ago feels like ancient history.

Macduff: How’s my wife?

Ross: Well.

Macduff: & my kids?

Ross: Also well.

Macduff: The tyrant hasn’t disturbed them?

Ross: They were at peace when I left.

Macduff: Nothing more than that? What else is new?

Ross: When I came down here to bring news, there was a rumor that many nobles were plotting against the tyrant. When I saw his forces on the move, I knew it was true. Now’s the time. If you went back to Scotland, everyone would join in the fight, including all the women, to regain their freedom & their country.

Malcolm: Well, they’ll be glad to know we’re on our way. England has graciously lent us Siward & 10000 troops. There is no better or more experienced soldier in Christendom.

Ross: I wish I could return the favor with good news but I’ve got something bad to say.

Macduff: What about? Something general or specific?

Ross: No one will be happy to hear it but it’s about you specifically.

Macduff: Let me have it.

Ross: Please don’t hate me for what I am about to say.

Macduff: I have an inkling…

Ross: Your castle was attacked. Your wife & kids were brutally killed.

Malcolm: Oh God! Come on, man. Don’t keep it all bottled up. Say something. Let it out before it kills you.

Macduff: My children, too?

Ross: Wife, children, servants, everyone.

Macduff: & I had to leave in such a hurry… My wife, too?

Ross: Yes.

Malcolm: Use this in our revenge against the tyrant.

Macduff: He doesn’t have children… My babies? All? Every one of my family in one fell swoop?

Malcolm: Fight it like a man.

Macduff: I will but I need to feel it like a man. There was never anything so precious to me. I was punished by them being killed. As bad as I’ve been, they didn’t deserve this.

Malcolm: Use this to sharpen your sword. Covert your grief to anger. Don’t dull your heart. Enrage it.

Macduff: I could cry my eyes out or talk of what I’ll do. But my God, don’t delay this. I want to meet with the enemy of Scotland face to face & strike him down. Heaven help me if I can’t.

Malcolm: That’s more like it. Let’s go see the king. The army is ready. All we have to do is leave. The time is right & God has charged us with a holy cause. Let’s cheer up as much as we can before we go. The night is long that never finds day. [ALL LEAVE]

Author: knowit68

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