Macbeth

I wrote a scene for English, and I rather like it, so I thought I’d post it here. The assignment was: if Banquo’s ghost could speak, what would he and Macbeth say to each other? I didn’t bother trying to mimic Shakespeare’s style or vocabulary, and it’s not a script. If you know the story of Macbeth, skip down to the break 😛 As with anything I write, feedback of any kind is greatly appreciated.

The story of Macbeth

Macbeth is a thane (lord) of Scotland who has just won a great battle for his king, Duncan. He and his friend Banquo are out walking when they encounter three witches, who prophecy that Macbeth shall be Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, and that Banquo’s children shall be kings as well. Message delivered, they vanish. Macbeth, much perturbed, and Banquo, who doesn’t seem to really buy it, almost immediately meet a messenger of the king who says that Macbeth is now Thane of Cawdor.

Macbeth gets all excited and sends a letter to his wife, who turns out to be a really bloodthirsty lady. The king is so pleased with Macbeth that he decides to go visit him; Macbeth rides ahead and meets his wife, who pushes him into doing what he was already sort of planning: kill the king.

In one very dark and terrible scene, they do. It happens offstage; all we see is their reactions to it. Lady Macbeth shows her first signs of actual humanity as she tries to keep a hold of herself; Macbeth just loses it. He’s all tormented and such, and no amount of cajoling or scorn from his wife can shake him out of it.

The next morning, one of the king’s lords comes to Macbeth’s place to see the king and discovers him dead. Everyone is very surprised, none more than Macbeth and his lady. Macbeth goes into the king’s chambers and, in a fit of rage, conveniently murders the two drunken servants he and his lady framed. No one really objects, considering they killed the king. The king’s two sons run off to England and Ireland, respectively, and everyone assumes they must have put the killers up to it.

This whole time, Macbeth has been dropping little hints to Banquo that he’d really like to talk to him. Whenever you have a moment, any time, seriously, whenever you can, at your first convenience… But Banquo keeps putting it off. Perhaps this is why Macbeth decides that Banquo must go. Perhaps it is because he is enraged at the prospect of Banquo’s descendents profiting from his sacrifice (and he has sacrificed for this: killing the king tipped him over the edge, and he’s slowly going crazy). Perhaps he is afraid that Banquo will somehow expose his murder of the king. Regardless, he hires some thugs to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance, while they’re out riding.

Banquo dies; Fleance escapes. The thugs inform Macbeth of this, and not two minutes later, in walks Banquo’s ghost. Only Macbeth can see him, and he has a screaming fit right in front of all the highest lords of Scotland.

That’s where this scene would take place: it would replace his screaming fit, having the ghost show up when Macbeth is alone; or perhaps it would simply come later, after the lords have dispersed.

The scene

“How did you get here?!”

The ghost raised his eyebrows. “Oh, I think you know that.”

Macbeth backed away. “You’re dead.”

“What an astute observation, old friend.”

“What do you want?” Macbeth whispered.

Banquo’s ghost laughed silently, baring his teeth. “What did you expect? No man gets to live without regrets, Macbeth. They always come back to haunt you.”

“Get out,” Macbeth ordered, his voice ragged. “You’re not real. Leave me!”

The ghost sat down, crossing his legs lazily. “You know,” he said pensively, “I can’t believe you really did it. It amazes me, it really does. I wondered, I have to admit, when Duncan died, especially when you so conveniently flew into a fit of rage and killed his murderers. But then Malcolm and Donalbain fled the country, and it seemed obvious who the real killers must have been. I told myself I was being silly.”

Banquo reached a hand up to his bloodstained hair. He leveled his gaze at Macbeth, and his eyes were murderous. “I guess I should have paid more attention to my instincts.”

Macbeth shook his head. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the faintly glowing specter. “You would have betrayed me. You would have—”

“Who are you to speak of betrayal?” Banquo roared. Macbeth jumped back as if struck. “You, who killed your king, who murdered your closest friend?”

“You would have betrayed me! You, you want nothing more than to see me dead and your children on the throne – my throne!”

“Your throne?” The ghost spat. It landed with a feeble splat on the stone flagstones and vanished. “That for your throne.”

“No,” Macbeth stammered. “No, I’ve won. I’ve defeated you,” he cried. “I am king! King!” He leaned forward, as if he wanted to come closer but did not dare. “I am king,” he hissed. “And there is nothing you can do about it.”

Banquo snorted. “Oh yes, congratulations, Your Majesty. The crown is yours. Everything the weird sisters promised you has come to pass. You must be so happy.”

“Shut up,” Macbeth whispered.

The ghost inspected a gash in his doublet, poking at the bloodied hole beneath. “You do realize, don’t you, that you didn’t have to do any of this?” He pulled a strand of flesh up through the tear in the cloth. Macbeth watched in fascinated revulsion. “A prophecy is a prophecy. Fate is fate. What’s meant to be will be.” Banquo tugged at the piece of flesh and seemed a bit surprised when it came out completely. “You didn’t have to kill anyone. Now you have to be suspicious, always watching for the knife over your shoulder, lest anyone find out – or do to you what you did to old Duncan.”

“Shut up,” Macbeth begged.

“You know, I think that’s a piece of my intestine.” Even he looked rather repulsed. He flicked it away. Macbeth followed it with his eyes until it hit the floor and vanished. When he turned back to Banquo, he found the ghost regarding him curiously. “Look what it’s done to you,” Banquo said, sounding almost sad. “Look what you’ve done to yourself.”

“Shut up,” Macbeth moaned.

“You can stop now, you know,” Banquo said quietly. “You don’t have to go any further. No one else knows. No one but me had any reason to suspect you. You have nothing left to worry about.”

“Shut up! You’re lying!” Macbeth shrieked. “I can’t rest – I can’t rest until Malcolm and Donalbain are dead, until all of Scotland has pledged fealty to me.”

“Macbeth…”

“Enough! You’re lying! You just want to see me fail, don’t you?” Banquo sighed. Macbeth jabbed his finger at him accusingly. “You just want your son on the throne. Ha! You thought I’d forgotten? You want me to stop worrying so your son can stab me in the back!”

Banquo’s lip curled involuntarily into a sneer. Anger washed over his expression once more, drowning the pity that had crept in. “Fate is fate, Macbeth.”

He stood and stepped forward. Macbeth tried to stand his ground, but terror filled him. “Stay away!” he screamed as he staggered back. “Stay away!” He hit the tapestried wall with a soft thump.

“He will be king.” The ghost leaned in, so close their noses almost touched. “And there is nothing you can do about it.”

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