Tag Archives: Shakespeare

The First Half of My Re-Written Version of “Macbeth”

Act One
Scene One

The world was shrouded in darkness. Not a single light shone, either in the heavens above or on the earth below by which a weary sojourner could find his way. The darkness was almost tangible – alluring and taunting – yet elusive – always hiding just out of reach, like a spider web with fine gossamer fibers that one can never quite brush away. The darkness was absolute; it seemed to hold some sort of a spell. Nothing stood long within its path – the darkness laid desolate every living thing that stood in its influence. Every tree, every shrub, and every blade of grass, it seemed, had long since surrendered its life to the iron will of the darkness. Not a single soul had ventured into the Dead Plain for over a hundred years. Not a creature dared to take refuge beneath the gnarled, rotten limbs of withered oak trees. Not a word. Not a sound. Only darkness.

And then something moved in the darkness. It was a feeble, quaking limb, shattered into many pieces, then a trembling fist; and, finally, a rasping breath forced its way out of a twisted, parched mouth into the plain, ringing across the darkness like a war cry on the field of battle. The air was still thick with the stench of blood and the screams of the dead and dying. A solitary form, decrepit with age and misuse, crawled like a worm across the desolate plain through the carnage of the previous day.

An icy wind whipped over the plain, rattling the rusty branches of the trees and the very bones of the living and the dead into a lifeless submission, and a torrential rain drummed ceaselessly against the lifeless forms, running tiny eddies through tangled and blood-matted hair. No life, it seemed, could endure such devastation. But the form did not give in. Bracing herself — for it was a woman, if one could call such a deformed creature thus — against the frozen blast, she pulled up, seeming to draw strength from her macabre surroundings. With a hideous shriek that was a death rattle and a victory shout and a vulture’s croak in one, she thrust her hands into the sky. Suddenly, the field was ablaze in an unearthly light. Each of the bodies that lay upon the ground was within that moment consumed by an eerie blood-red flame that was not extinguished by the torrential downpour.

And the witch was not alone. Two other figures very like the first crawled through the muck and gore and joined her in pagan incantations. The hellish light grew stronger and more powerful until the light was almost blinding. Yet the three sisters carried on, as indistinguishable from the light as one filth from another.

“I feel my strength returning, sister,” croaked the first.

“I, too, sister,” snarled the second.

“And I, too, sister,” hissed the third.

The sisters turned to one another in pagan glee.

“Our work here is almost complete, sister,” said the first, rattling her skeletal wings slowly behind her.

“When shall we three meet again, sister?” queried the second, tail methodically swaying from side to side, as in a trance.

“And where the place, sister?” demanded the third as her forked tongue flicked in and out of her mouth to catch the scent of decaying bodies,

“When the battle’s lost and won – ere at the set of the sun,” cawed the first, “upon the heath.”

“There we shall meet Lord Rían,” responded the second.

The women, having completed their plans, joined hands. The fire that had once consumed the bodies at first tricked then erupted in a giant cascade out of the bodies of the witches and formed a giant pillar of fire and smoke that reached as a thousand grasping tendrils trying to bring down the foundations of Heaven itself.

“I summon you, Tanwen,” cried the first over the silent roar of the flames.

“I come, Greymalkin,” shrieked the second.

“Dema calls,” murmured the third.

Then, as suddenly as the light began, it subsided into a smoldering, pulsating glow that crawled over and through the bodies of the slain warriors on the field. The field was empty – abandoned it seemed; desolate once more. But it was not forsaken entirely. For three creatures were making their way through the field: a skeletal vulture, a bedraggled cat, and a rotting snake. Their eyes shone feverishly with the flame of the fire that had only moments before enveloped the entire plain as the gathered around one of the fallen heroes and gorged themselves on flesh – biding their time until Lord Rían arrived. And then there was silence. Not a word. Not a sound. Only darkness.

Act One
Scene Two

A final shot rang out. The sound bounced off the rocky cliffs that enclosed the army as a box until it was able to escape like a captured bird out of its cage. Kennet, commander of King Ashton’s armed forces, strolled over to his target and kicked the man with his boot to ensure that he was truly dead.

“That’s the last of them, I would think, my Lord King,” Kennet said, as he bowed to show respect to the man who had just appeared behind him.

King Ashton of the Arnava looked around and surveyed the battlefield. He was a good man, Kennet noted for the hundredth time, with kindly features. The Arnava was an ancient species renowned for their delicate, detailed metallurgy and verbal prowess. Although he was only a few thousand years old, Ashton’s face was creased with crevices that demonstrated the great care and effort he took in ruling his country. From the white hair that flowed off his crowned head onto his shoulders like light dancing on the water to the beautiful iridescent white wings of the Arnava royalty that stretched out to the sky from his back, Ashton looked every inch a king; his presence instantly demanded respect. But his heart was the heart of a peacemaker, not that of a warrior.

Ashton nodded. “I should hope so,” he stated sadly. “I have seen many deaths in my lifetime and I should not like to see any more today.”

“Understood, Sir,” Kennet responded. He holstered his gun and walked slowly with the King back to the military outpost. “We won a great victory today, Sir. Today will certainly teach any other man who wishes to be a traitor to think twice before he acts.”

“I suppose it shall.” Then he paused. “Was today even necessary, Commander?”

Kennet faltered in his steps, a shocked expression on his face. “Sir, Lord Oscar was trying to take your throne! He was willing to kill you for your crown. Any such man deserves to die!” he declared passionately.

Kennet could see that the actions of the day were weighing heavily on the king. He shoulders were stooped; his face was puffy; and he dragged his feet as he walked, not bothering to even look up. “I suppose you are right,” he acknowledged, but then he quickly added, “but surely there was another way: another avenue we overlooked…”

Kennet sighed. He was very young in Arnava terms – only in his late eighties – and was known for his compulsive, aggressive behaviour that was uncharacteristic even of youth. Hence he couldn’t understand Ashton’s peaceable mindset. But Kennet was also fiercely loyal to his king and was willing to go beyond his duties for the sake of the State: qualities that led rapidly to his early promotion to the Commander of the King’s Army.

“There was no other avenue, my Lord. You know that as well as I. All negotiations failed years ago. It was time to act.”

It pained Kennet to speak so his king. It was Ashton, after all, who had saved his life as a child living in poverty and brought him to the palace to be raised and educated. Kennet had been all but adopted into Ashton’s family and almost thought of him as his father.

Ashton opened his mouth as if to say something and then abruptly closed it again. He saw a figure in a bloodied gown frantically making her way towards the two men. Kennet’s hawk-eyes strained to discover the identity of the woman. Then his eyes widened in shock. It was Dr. Dŵynwen, head of the army’s medical personnel, though her current state of disheveled anxiety hardly resembled the cool and collected surgeon that was so familiar to them both. Something must be terribly wrong, thought Kennet apprehensively, to make this woman behave in such a way.

Dŵynwen stumbled up to the men, barely bothering to make a sloppy half-curtsy to the king before blurting out her news. Her eyes were wide with fright, her hair in a tangle, and her face and hands and gown were freckled with dripping sweat and blood. Kennet’s russet wings twitched nervously in anticipation of her news. “My- my Lord Ashton,” she began, gulping the air the way a dying man in the desert consumes water.

“What is it, Dr. Dŵynwen?” the king gently asked. The regal demeanour he had lost during the recent conversation with Kennet he bore once again with a kindly smile that masked growing concern.

“It- it’s your son, my Lord,” she managed to gasp between heaving breaths, “he’s been- grievously wounded.”

Kennet saw the king’s face blanche and knew his face was undergoing a similar process.

“My-“ Ashton began, voice cracking. Then he started over, clearing his throat, “My son… Finn?”

“Yes, my Lord King,” Dŵynwen stated, drawing herself up again. “He was wounded in combat with Lord Oscar not two hours ago.”

“Where is he?” cried Ashton. “I must see him!” Without waiting for a response, King Ashton dove towards the medical district, great wings beating the air into submission like a trainer would a disobedient animal. Kennet also stretched his wings out, their earthen tips extending wide, and raced with the king towards the dying prince. The king is going slow, he thought, faster than I have ever seen from him, but too slow. Kennet was young and powerfully built: his wings were strong and his body was lithe and designed for speed. The King, however, was old and unused to flight; time and again, Kennet had to force himself from beating the king to their destination.

Time marched on like a line of ants with no end in sight; the winds tossed them about like a discarded old toy. Desperation creased the countenance of the elderly king; tears mingled with the sweat and rain that were streaming down his face. Just as Kennet was beginning to have newfound appreciation for the unknown athletic stamina of Dr. Dŵynwen, he saw the medical district faintly in the distance.

It was a small structure of no remarkable features, for it had been set-up rather hastily as part of the last minute preparations for the oncoming onslaught… (To be continued)

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The Manhood of Lady Macbeth

We live in an age where the definition of masculinity is highly twisted. The cultural icons thrown at us today from the screens demonstrate and seemingly encourage the blurring of the gender roles. Women like Lara Croft leave much to be desired in the feminine category and we’re left wondering whether men like Adam Lambert and Michael Jackson are completely male. What are the qualities of a real man? This is truly a relevant question, but it could hardly be regarded as new or exclusive to today, for this same question is posed in the famous Shakespearean play Macbeth, written in Elizabethan England and set at an even earlier date. Viewing our modern situation once again through this knowledge, an “antiquated” play like Macbeth suddenly seems a lot more pertinent to modern-day life. How does Scripture answer this question? True men, according to Scripture, desire to be responsible and to make responsible choices, serve and sacrifice for others — especially women, show humility while exercising godly and God-ordained strength, confront ungodly teaching and behaviour, and represent Christ to the world and all those under His care.

It is impossible to discuss qualities of a true man without making reference to the only perfect Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. All the qualities that would make a perfect man are, of course, the same that made Jesus Christ the perfect Man. Responsibility is a crucial part of Biblical masculinity. Men are responsible for the way that they lead and protect others. Even though Eve sinned before Adam, God still held Adam responsible for his poor leadership of Eve as seen by the fact that God addressed Adam before Eve in Genesis 3:9 (“Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” NKJV). Men are called to serve and sacrifice for others. Perhaps the most beautiful example of this is the Lord on the cross giving Himself up for His bride – the elect. Men are called to emulate this sacrificial love on a daily basis for those within their sphere of influence. Godly leadership is another God-ordained job that men are given. Men are to lead their family in a way that honours God and shows humility. Christ had the greatest reason to be proud and domineering, but instead He was born into this world not as a king but as a lowly peasant. Even when His critics attacked and denounced Him, He did not respond with pride. How much more so should men who make mistakes be willing to confess and right their wrongs with humility and grace! The other traits are perhaps rudimentary but still central to being a godly man. Men are to confront teaching and behaviour they see as ungodly – not in a self-righteous or violent manner, but with grace and humility, and they are to represent Christ to the world and to all those under their care. These traits, though not exhaustive, are all part of being a Biblical man trying in sanctification to emulate the Perfect Man.

Macbeth, protagonist of the classic Shakespeare play under the same name, is faced with choices that reveal his perception of masculinity. The reader or audience member first gets glimpses of Macbeth’s mind through what he is. It is seen that Macbeth is fearless is battle (1.1, lines 15 – 23) and well trusted by his friends and king. He is shown to be a patriotic man – the sort one would do well to imitate. However, a darker side of Macbeth’s character is lying dormant beneath this beautiful exterior. When he learns through the three weïrd sisters that he is to receive the kingship, a disturbing inner conflict takes place. His thoughts immediately turn to murder as a possible and acceptable solution to attain the prize of the crown (1.3, lines 130 – 142). He goes on to say, “If chance will have me King, why chance may crown me/Without my stir.” (1.3, lines 143 – 144), further revealing the evil that has been awakened within his soul by suggesting to himself that, while chance may give him the throne without his effort, he is also contemplating more violent alternatives. Right from the opening minutes of the play, Macbeth falsely depicts masculine qualities by entertaining irresponsible and ungodly notions.

Like anyone, Macbeth is not only defined by who he is and the things he says, but primarily by what he does. As the old adage goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” This is found to be especially true in Macbeth’s personal life. When Macbeth’s wife and primary consultant, Lady Macbeth, learns of the prophecy, she immediately gives her own two cents: both on the issue of what Macbeth should do and on the issue of masculinity. Among the particularly horrifying and perverse list of character traits she claims makes one a man, Lady Macbeth believes that one cannot be a man unless he is willing to act on his every desire – whatever the cost. Lady Macbeth presents her husband with some very ungodly ideas, namely murder, to get the crown which he desires. One may expect to see Macbeth, as the heroic protagonist, up in arms and ready to challenge these obviously pagan thoughts, but the reader will never find a word of complaint against the plans of his wife; only questions, and, finally, submission. Instead of leading his wife in a God-honouring manner, he submits to her plans and kills the king. When the deed is done, and Macbeth gets the crown, he is plunged into a world of suspicion and murder to hide his tracks. Despite some initial panic, Macbeth refuses or is unable to look back and little remorse can be seen in him for his deeds, leaving the audience to marvel at his remarkable hardness of heart. In every way, Macbeth exchanges the Biblical view of masculinity for his own twisted view that promotes violence, treachery, and backstabbing of the innocent.

A true man, defined by the Bible, is rare indeed. He must be responsible, willing to serve and show sacrificial love to others, humble, gracious and caring but not effeminate, able to exercise godly leadership but not domineering; able and willing to confront ungodly teaching and behaviour but not confrontational as a rule, and ably represent Christ to the world and all those under his care. Very few cultural heroes – whether real or fictional – fulfill these requirements to any notable degree. Through the life of Macbeth, one can easily see how “manhood gone wrong” can take one who seems so good and turn him awry.