Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 4

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 4 Scene 1

WITCHES:   Hee hee, we're being witches.  Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.
MACBETH:  Midnight hags, how did you know I would be king?  Tell me more!
WITCHES:  Beware of Macduff.
            Enter ghost.
GHOST:  Be bold.  Scorn the power of man, for no one of woman born shall harm Macbeth.
MACBETH:  Ha!  Then what have I to fear from Macduff?
            Enter another ghost
SECOND GHOST:  Be lion-hearted.  Take no care.  You'll never be vanquished until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsiname Hill shall come against you.      
MACBETH:  That will never be.  Who can command the forest, or bid the trees to move?  But I demand to know one more thing.  Will Banquo's issue ever rein?
            Enter eight kings
MACBETH:  What devilry is this?  Those crown-topped faces look just like Banquo.  Horrible sight!  Banquo's ghost sneers at me.
            Enter Lennox
MACBETH:  Did you see those foul weird sisters?
LENNOX:  No, my lord.  I'm here to bring you news.  Macduff has fled.
MACBETH:  Time anticipates my every move, so from this moment I shall begin acting on my first impulses.  At the castle of Macduff I will put his wife and children to the sword, and thus end his line.

Act 4 scene 2

LADY MACDUFF:  My husband has fled like a coward.  A traitor, leaving vulnerable his wife, his babes, his lands, and titles.  He loves us not, for even the tiniest bird will fight to protect its nest.  [To son]:  Boy, your father's a traitor.
SON:  What's a traitor?
LADY MACDUFF:  One who swears and lies.  All traitors must be hanged.
SON:  And must all who swear and lie be hanged?
LADY MACDUFF:  Every one.
SON:  Who must hang them?
LADY MACDUFF:  Why, honest men of course.
SON:  Then the liars and swearers are fools, for there are enough of them to turn on the honest ones and hang them up. 
LADY MACDUFF:  Poor stupid monkey.  What will you do without a father? 
SON:  I'll get by.
            Enter messenger
MESSENGER:  Danger approacheth.  Run.
LADY MACDUFF:  Where should I run?  There's no escape.  In this world, to do harm is often laudable, to do good is counted as folly.
            Enter murderers
MURDERERS:  Die, son of a traitor.
            Attack son
SON:  He has killed me!  Run, Mother.
            Son dies.  Murderers chase Lady Macduff

Act 4 scene 3

MACDUFF:  Woe is Scotland under Macbeth.  Widows and orphans cry.  The land bleeds and new sorrows strike daily.
MALCOLM:  The tyrant, whose name blisters my tongue, was once thought honest.  I would take England's support and tread on Macbeth, but the kingdom would suffer more with his successor.
MACDUFF:  Who do you mean?
MALCOLM:  Me, of course.  As king, I would make Macbeth seem pure as snow.
MACDUFF: No devil could be as bad as Macbeth.
MALCOLM:  Yes, he's bloody, greedy, false, and malicious, committing every sin, but there is no end when it comes to my own lust for women.  No wife or daughter would be safe.  Better Macbeth be king.
MACDUFF:  Don't worry. We'll find you willing dames enough.
MALCOLM:  I'm so greedy.  I would steal my nobles' lands and jewels.
MACDUFF:  Don't worry.  This greed will lessen and be counterbalanced by your other qualities. 
MALCOLM:  I have no good qualities.  Justice, truth, moderation, dependability, perseverance, patience…I have no taste for them.
MACDUFF:  O Scotland, Scotland!  The crown prince counts himself unfit for the throne.  The bloody-sceptered tyrant rules.  When shall we ever be whole again, Scotland?  My hope dies here.
MALCOLM:  Dear, passionate Macduff, you show your integrity.  I was just kidding before.  I've never even been with a woman or broken a promise.  I am ready to take up arms with my English allies and save my poor Scotland.
            Enter Ross
MACDUFF:  What news?
ROSS:  Things in Scotland are worse than ever.  Macbeth has slain your wife and children.
MACDUFF:  What?  All my pretty chicks dead?  And their dam?
ROSS:  And your servants.
MACDUFF:  Oh Woe.  All?
MALCOLM:  Let's make medicine of our great revenge to cure this deadly grief.  Be this the whetstone of your sword.
MACDUFF:  Get me within sword's length of Macbeth and he shall pay.
MALCOLM:  How manly of you.  My army's ready.  All we have to do is leave.  Macbeth is ripe for the picking.  

Click here for Mangled Macbeth Act V
To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 3

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 3 Scene 1

BANQUO:  [to self]:  Macbeth, you cheated your way onto the throne.  I know it.  But the witches were right.  Now perhaps their grand prophecy for my posterity will come true too.
            Enter Macbeth
MACBETH:  Good Banquo, you're riding out this afternoon?
BANQUO:  Aye, my lord, but I'll be back for the feast tonight.
MACBETH:  Travel well.
            Exit all but Macbeth and servant
MACBETH:  Have those men arrived?
SERVANT:  Yes.  They await outside the palace gate.
MACBETH:  Bring them in.  [To self] I fear that Banquo.  None but he threatens the security of my throne, for he alone heard the witches' promise.  Have I murdered the gracious king only to leave my crown to Banquo's sons?  No!
            Enter servant and murderers
MACBETH:  Remember how you thought I had done you wrong?  Well, it was Banquo.  Can you really let that go?  Can you forgive a man who has brought you so low?
MURDERERS:  No.  We're so angry with the world that we've become reckless.
MACBETH:  Banquo is your enemy, as he is mine, but for complicated political reasons I can't kill him myself.  You understand, old boys?  I ask your help, and that you not reveal my involvement.
MURDERERS:  No problem.
MACBETH:  Your spirits shine!  Do it tonight.  While you're at it, kill his son too.
MURDERERS:  Okey-dokey, my lord.   

Act 3 Scene 2

MACBETH:  Perhaps 'twould be better to be with the dead, whom we sent to their graves, than to be tortured by this uncertain joy and insecure power.
LADY MACBETH:  Get it together and at least pretend to be happy in front of your guests.

Act 3 Scene 3

Murders:  Hark!  I hear horses.  'Tis Banquo and his son.
            They attack
Banquo:  Treachery!  Run, my son, that you may later take revenge.

Act 3 Scene 4 
Enter Murderers

MACBETH:  There's blood on your face.
MURDERER:  'Tis Banquo's
MACBETH:  Better his blood on your face than in his veins.  Is he dead?
MURDERER:  Yes, but his son escaped.
MACBETH:  Now I will be forever trapped within my fears.
            Macbeth returns to feast, but Banquo's ghost has entered and sat in his place. . 
MACBETH:  The table's full.
LENNOX:  Here's a place reserved for you.
MACBETH:  Where?
LENNOX:  Right here.  What's wrong, my lord?
MACBETH:  Which one of you has done this?
LORDS:  What?
ROSS:  Rise, gentlemen.  The king is not well.
LADY MACBETH:  Sit.  He's often like this.  Has been since his youth.  It's a momentary fit.  If you pay him attention it will offend him and make the fit worse.  Eat and ignore him.  [To Macbeth].  Are you a man?
MACBETH [aside]:  Of course I am!  I dare look at things which might frighten the devil.  It used to be that once you killed a man, he stayed dead.  Now they rise again and push us out of our chairs.  [To lords] Sorry.  I have a strange infirmity.  Don't mind me.  Let's drink to my dear friend Banquo, who we miss tonight.  Would that he were here.

Act 3 Scene 5

HECATE:  Witches, you shouldn't have toyed with Macbeth's future, but let's sing and dance anyway.  Hee hee.

Act 3 Scene 6

LENNOX:  Boy it's getting dangerous around here—people dropping like flies.  Where's Macduff?
LORDS:  I heard he's gone to England to work with Duncan's son Malcolm.  May they return and free our land from the grip of the tyrant!  

Click here to read Mangled Macbeth Act IV

To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 2

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 2 Scene 1

MACBETH:  Is this really a dagger in my hand?  Is there blood on it yet?  The world has truly gone crazy.  Well, I suppose I should go kill the king.

Act 2 Scene 2

LADY MACBETH:  What's taking so long?  Why isn't the king dead yet?  If he didn't look so much like my father, I would have done it myself.
            Enter Macbeth, with bloody daggers
MACBETH:  It's done.  But I heard a voice crying, "Macbeth shall sleep no more."
LADY MACBETH:  For crying out loud, pull yourself together and wash your hands of his blood.  And why did you bring the daggers here?  Go smear the sleeping grooms with them. 
MACBETH:  I'm afraid to look at what I've done. 
LADY MACBETH:  Weakling!  I would be ashamed to have a heart so white and frail as yours.  Give me those daggers.  I'll do it.  Go put on your nightgown and go to bed.

Act 2 Scene 3

MACDUFF:  We sure had a wild night last night.  Is the king awake yet?
MACDUFF:  I'll go wake him.
            Exit Macduff
LENNOX:  We sure had a wild night last night.
MACBETH:  Yes, 'twas wild.
            Enter Macduff
MACDUFF:  Horror!  Horror!  Horror!  Most sacrilegious murder!
MACDUFF:  Approach the chamber and you will blind yourself with the hideous sight.  I cannot speak of it.  Murder and treason.  Oh, Lady Macbeth, 'tis not for a woman's ear to hear of this murder.
LADY MACBETH:  Woe!  Alas!  In our house?
BANQUO:  Say it isn't so!
MACBETH:  I wish I had died before I had to see this.
            Enter Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's sons
DONALBAIN:  What's wrong?
MACBETH:  You are, but you yet know not.  The spring and fountain of your blood is stopped.
DONALBAIN:  Dude, speak English.
MACDUFF:  Your father's murdered.
MALCOLM:  By whom?
LENNOX:  His grooms, it looks like.
MACBETH:  And woe, in my grief and loyalty I killed them.  I couldn’t stop myself.  I loved the king so much.
LADY MACBETH:  Help!  I faint!
MALCOLM [aside]:  Brother, let us flee, I to England, you to Ireland, before our father's murderer strikes again.
DONALBAIN:  Aye.  There are daggers in men's smiles.

Act 2 Scene 4

OLD MAN:  Dreadful things are afoot.  Strange omens foretold this.
ROSS:  Does anyone know who killed the king?
MACDUFF:  The grooms, we think, hired by someone.  Since the king's sons have fled, we suspect them.
ROSS:  A sin against nature!  I suppose, then, the crown will fall to Macbeth.
MACDUFF:  He's already gone to Scone to be crowned.

Click here for Mangled Macbeth Act III
To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 1

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.
Act 1 Scene 1  Thunder and Lightning

WITCHES:  Hee hee, we're being witches.

Act 1 Scene 2 

DUNCAN, THE KING:  What report do you have of the war?
CAPTAIN:  Macbeth led our forces with great valor and slew the enemy himself.  Then a new assault began and brave Macbeth beat them back stroke for stroke.  But please, sir, can I go rest now?  My wounds haven't yet been treated.
            Enter Ross
DUNCAN:  Welcome, worthy Ross.  Where have you come from?
ROSS:  From Fife, where the traitorous Thane of Cawdor helped the King of Norway lead an army against us.  We, however, were victorious.
DUNCAN:  I shall condemn Cawdor to death and give his title to Macbeth.

Act 1 Scene 3  Thunder

WITCHES:  Hee hee, we're being witches.
            Enter Macbeth and Banquo
BANQUO:  Who are those withered, wild creatures who hardly look like women?
MACBETH:  Speak.  What are you?
1st WITCH:  All hail, Macbeth, Thane of Glamis!   
2nd WITCH:  All hail, Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor!
3rd WITCH:  All hail, Macbeth, who will be king!
MACBETH:  What are you talking about?  I know I'm Lord of Glamis, but the Thane of Cawdor is alive.  And to be king, well, that's unlikely.
BANQUO:  Hey, if you're telling fortunes, why don't you tell mine too?
WITCHES:  Your sons shall be king, but not you.
MACBETH:  Where do you get your prophetic words?
            Witches disappear
BANQUO:  Where did they go?  Are we drunk?
            Enter Ross
ROSS:  Macbeth, the king has heard of your successes in battle, and has happily made you Thane of Cawdor.
MACBETH [aside]:  This is a happy beginning.  The greatest is yet to come.  I do, however, tremble to think I might have to murder the king to make it true.

Act 1 Scene 4
DUNCAN:  Is the Thane of Cawdor dead?
MALCOLM:  Yes.  He confessed and repented.  Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.
            Enter Macbeth, Banquo, etc.
DUNCAN:  Worthiest Macbeth!  My ingratitude weighs heavily on me.  I wish you deserved less reward so that my thanks and payment might mean more.
MACBETH:  My loyalty pays itself.  I would be pleased to have you as a guest in my house, Lord King.  I'll go let my wife know, so we can prepare.
            Exit Macbeth
DUNCAN:  Banquo, isn't that Macbeth a valiant man?  A kinsman beyond reproach?  His worthiness feeds my heart.

Act 1 Scene 5
LADY MACBETH [reading a letter]:  …and the witches say I'll one day be king.  Rejoice with me.  [Aside]:  Macbeth, I'm afraid you haven't the ambition to see this through.
            Enter messenger
MESSENGER:  The king and Macbeth are coming tonight.
            Exit messenger
LADY MACBETH:  The king himself will be here, under my roof?  Give me the strength of a man.  Take away my womanly weakness and give me the courage and ruthlessness to do as I must.
            Enter Macbeth
LADY MACBETH:  Great Glamis!  Worthy Candor!  Your letter has transported me into a glorious future.
MACBETH:  My love, the king's coming tonight.
LADY MACBETH:  And when does he leave?
MACBETH:  Tomorrow.
LADY MACBETH:  Wrong!  Never shall he see the sun rise.  You look shocked.  You must instead look innocent, but be a serpent underneath.  Tonight you shall do the deed that will elevate us to the throne.
Act 1 Scene 6

DUNCAN:  This is a pleasant castle.  I'm sorry to be such a terrible bother, Lady Macbeth.
LADY MACBETH:  My pleasure.
DUNCAN:  Take me to my host, Macbeth.  I do so love him.

Act 1 Scene 7

MACBETH:  If it's to be done, best be done quickly.  But if we preach violence, violence is returned to us.  He's my kinsman and my king, so I really shouldn't kill him.  Plus, he's my guest.  And a good king.  Hmm…
            Enter Lady Macbeth
MACBETH:  Let's proceed no further in this business. The king has given me honors.  I'm content. 
LADY MACBETH:  Coward!  You're no man!  I, as a mother, know how tender it is to love a nursing child, but I would dash out my baby's brains if I had promised you I would, just as you promised me you'd be king.
MACBETH:  But what if we fail?
LADY MACBETH:  Take courage!  I'll get his grooms drunk.  Then we can kill Duncan and blame them.  We'll pretend great grief.  No one will suspect us.
MACBETH:  Fine.  I'll do this thing.  A false face hides what a false heart does.  

Click here for Mangled Macbeth;  Act II

Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shakespeare--Therein Lies the Confusion

I've been thinking a lot about why Shakespeare is so hard to understand.

It's not just the words themselves that confuse the reader, though they're often treacherous.  Example:  I was reading Macbeth and came to a sentence that seemed to make no sense.  "The greatest is behind," it said.  However, Macbeth was speaking of his belief that he would soon be king, and was happy about the prospect.  So why did he say the greatest was behind?  Then I looked at the footnotes.  There it said:  "117 behind to come."  Okay, so "behind" means "in front of."  Why didn't I think of that?  And what on earth is our crazy language doing, changing meanings in such diametrically confusing ways? 

The unfamiliar words aren't so bad, because our brain warns us to beware.  Then we can look at the footnotes and figure it out.  The words we think we know but don't are the worst, such as these examples, all from Macbeth (Bantam Classic 1980).  Owed = owned, limited = appointed, make love = ask for aid, scorched = cut or slashed, encounter = respond to, close = secret, minions = darlings.  The list goes on and on.

There are also many words whose meanings have slid, and thus are likely to kill nuances:    sensible =  perceivable with the senses (sensed), amazed = bewildered,  wasteful = destructive, offend = make worse, speculation = power of sight,  overcome = come over.

If it were only the words, it wouldn't be such a problem, but even when I understand the words, the long sentences often disguise their own verbs, and the odd constructions present themselves as riddles.  Poetry and obscure analogies further confuse the issue.    The quotes we hear—the beautiful, well-expressed, profound observations—are couched in seas of words, words, words. 

I know Shakespeare had to write these fast.  I know he didn't have a computer to copy and paste and edit 27 times.  He didn't even have a good pen and cheap paper.  But couldn't he have edited a couple of times to cut down on all the unnecessary stuff?  After all, brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet).     

Much of this confusion is the small matter of 400 years of language change that separates us from the Bard.  His fans will say those who don't understand are just lazy or stupid.  But I cannot count the times I've heard that good writing is clear writing.  I can't count the articles and authors' presentations and critique group discussions that center around how to make your writing concise.  And I can't deny that I simply enjoy stories more when I know what's happening. 

More on Shakespeare Month:  It's Okay Not To Like Shakespeare

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's Okay Not to Like Shakespeare

This may come as a shock, but I've never really liked Shakespeare.  The other day, however, I got to thinking about how I didn't like many of the other greats the first time around because—let's face it—the school system introduces classic literature to us before we're ready to appreciate it.  I hated Hemmingway in 7th grade.  Ten years later I loved him.  At 18, I disliked Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.  At 23, a different story.  In high school I yawned all through Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  In college, I thought I was the most brilliant book ever written.  So, since I hadn't read any Shakespeare or seen whole plays or movies since halfway through university, I thought I should give him another try.  I thought maybe this time I'd think he was brilliant.

Alas and alack, I fear not. 

Shakespeare's work has some nice bits of intrigue, a few fascinating characters, and a lot of excellent lines—profound and poetic at the same time.  He has, through some combination of luck and genius, managed to outlast his competition for over 400 years and has influenced art and literature forever.  Many of his clever turns of phrase have become so loved and oft-used that we think them clichés now.  Shakespeare is nothing to sneer at.  But I also don't believe he can be called, categorically and unquestionably, the greatest writer who ever lived.  I also don't think that everyone who wants to be seen as halfway intelligent or educated should be forced by cultural mores to pretend they actually enjoy his work.

Though I can appreciate many things about Shakespeare's plays, I don't particularly like them.  Perhaps if I spoke 400-year-old English, I would like it more, but I don't. Though I consider myself a good reader and fairly intelligent, I struggle to understand his writing.  I'm not talking about the deep philosophical and psychological themes.  I'm talking about what's actually happening in the story.  I read Spanish pretty well, but when I read difficult work in that language, I feel like I'm missing all sorts of little details and shades of meaning.  However, I generally know what's happening.  In Shakespeare, that's not always the case.  And if I can't tell for sure what's going on, there's no way I'm catching all the nuances that supposedly make Shakespeare so classic, and showcase his deep understanding of human nature.  Call me arrogant, but if I don't get it—I who love to read, who have quite a decent vocabulary, who have experience with other languages, and often read a variety of genres and authors—If I don't get it, I have to assume that some of the people who claim to love Shakespeare haven't actually read it.

Many Shakespeare fans believe that people who don't understand him well are just too lazy to do the research and read the footnotes and reread the text several times.  They're partly right.  But I believe that one of the main rules of writing—espoused by most writing conferences, articles, books, and critique groups I've had contact with—is that you have to keep your reader IN the story.  The more your confusing prose makes them stop and reread, the less absorbed they are in your world.  If you're checking your dictionary five times a page, you're not living with the characters.

I'm not sure how much of this is Shakespeare's fault.  People 400 years ago obviously understood and loved him.  I think it's more the fault of our culture that puts a stigma on translating the untouchable Bard.

I love re-reading passages that are particularly thought-provoking, beautiful, or well stated.  I don't love rereading passages because I didn't understand them the first time.  And I don't think that makes me stupid or uneducated.

So, to everyone out there, I stand by my claim:  It's okay not to like Shakespeare.  Not everyone likes broccoli or Bach or basketball, though these are admittedly things full of great merit.  You can still admire aspects of Shakespeare's work.  You can still respect him.  But if you don't enjoy his writing, go right ahead and admit it.

Next time on Shakespeare month:  "Therein Lies the Confusion" and
"Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled" by Melinda Brasher.