The Tragedy of Macbeth Part II

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The Tragedy of MacBeth Part II: The Seed of Banquo is a novel-cum-play published by Pegasus Books in 2008 and written by American author Noah Lukeman. Studying through William Shakespeare's original play, Lukeman concluded that Shakespeare meant to write a sequel to it (as Shakespeare had written some multi-part plays), and wrote one attempting to answer the following questions:

  • the child nursed by Lady Macbeth, as mentioned in one of her speeches early in the play
  • how Banquo's descendants come to rule Scotland
  • how, and what type of, tension develops between King Malcolm and his brother Donalbain as suggested specifically in film adaptations

The play is written in a blank verse style close to Shakespeare's original, with British spellings used in place of American English due to Lukeman's desire for continuity, which he felt could not be achieved using American English.

Major characters[edit]

  • King Malcolm — king of Scotland
  • Donalbain — Malcolm's younger brother
  • Ross, Angus, Lennox, Macduff — Thanes
  • Seyton — formerly Macbeth's servant, made Thane of Glamis (Macbeth's old title) by Malcolm
  • Siward, Earl of Northumbria
  • Syna — daughter of Seyton
  • Lady Malcolm — daughter of the Macbeths, (briefly) bride and queen to Malcolm
  • Nurse — appointed by Seyton to find (or invent) evil about the queen
  • Three Witches — as in Macbeth
  • Fleance — son of Banquo
  • Fiona — Fleance's love
  • Three murderers — as in Macbeth

Plot synopsis[edit]

The play opens ten years after the death of Macbeth (at Macduff's hand) and the coronation of Malcolm. The three witches now focus on Malcolm as a victim to destroy through madness (just as they did with Macbeth, but more strongly as evidenced by their utterance of "triple, triple, toil and trouble").

The decade of rule by Malcolm has been uneventful and prosperous, and even Norway (which had been threatening to invade in 1040, at the time of King Duncan's death) appears quiet, though it is planning to invade Scotland. Banquo's son Fleance, however, does not like Malcolm and has roused an insurrection against him, which has not picked up a large following initially. Siward and Seyton urge Malcolm repeatedly to finish off both his younger brother Donalbain (who had fled to Ireland in 1040, and not returned in 1057 when MacDuff restored Malcolm to the throne of their father Duncan), especially using the news that Donalbain has assembled a flotilla of ships and has pointed their prows towards Scotland. As yet, Malcolm has not married, and entertains the petition of a prospective father-in-law.

Malcolm consults the three witches, who plant in him the seed of doubt against Donalbain, and also tell him to "beware Cawdor" (which Malcolm cannot understand as he also holds that Thaneship).

Not wishing to destroy Donalbain, Malcolm sends Ross to negotiate with him and ask that he come alone. When he reaches Ireland, Ross learns from Donalbain that the ships and army he has assembled are for giving assistance to his brother against the invasion planned by Norway (of which Donalbain is already aware). Disregarding Ross's plea, Donalbain embarks to Scotland with his army and asks Malcolm to meet him in Birnam Wood. However, the presence of the army lends credence to the words of Seyton and Siward. When Malcolm meets Donalbain, he sees his brother reaching into his cloak and stabs him. Ross then informs the king that it was unwise, and shows him Donalbain's being unarmed save for the scroll for which he was reaching—and then deserts Malcolm along with Lennox and Angus. Siward and Seyton urge Malcolm to pursue the "turncoats", but Malcolm refuses.

Later that night, a beautiful woman visits Birnam Wood. When Malcolm asks her name, she says "it is one that is cursed and should not be pronounced", that she is visiting her parents' grave and that she had only recently heard of their death. Incredulous, Malcolm tells her the only grave in the area is that of the Macbeths and that they have been dead for a decade—whereupon the woman tells her she was raised in a convent after she was weaned (she does not know why, supposing that Lady Macbeth found children inconvenient). MacDuff, Seyton and Siward—who have overheard her speech—urge the king to arrest and execute the woman; Malcolm has her arrested, but not for execution—as he has fallen in love with her, and wishes her to be his bride and produce heirs.

The news angers Seyton, who has been viewing his own daughter Syna as Malcolm's queen. He tells of it to Syna, who reacts even more angrily—whereupon Seyton calms her by telling her that he has planted a turncoat to be her nurse and either find or invent iniquity in the new queen. MacDuff (also angered, and still embittered after ten years) attempts to kill the woman, but hears her praying and regrets his way—and drops the dagger he had concealed for his planned ill deed.

Malcolm and Macbeth's daughter are married the next day, which is St. Andrew's Day, and the nurse sets to work with her plan. Malcolm once again consults the witches who tell him that he and his bride will be parted "by a man of no woman born" and repeat the warning to "beware Cawdor". That night, Malcolm kills Macduff—who in his death tells his wife and son (whom Macbeth killed in the first play), "the coward who failed to defend you now joins you and begs forgiveness". Malcolm also hires the same three murderers who were hired originally by Macbeth (to kill Banquo, and later MacDuff and his family) to kill Fleance.

Fleance, in a forest with his love Fiona, is unaware of Malcolm's hire of murderers, and is planning to flee to Ireland and avoid further issue with Malcolm. Fiona asks to join him, to which Fleance acquiesces, and Fiona asks him to wait till she returns from bidding farewell to her family. She runs into the three murderers who kill her—and as before, fail to kill Fleance; however, they disguise their failure by applying Fiona's blood to their hands and claiming it to be that of Fleance. The discovery of Fiona's body in the morning enrages Fleance who promises to raise an army in Ireland and return.

Malcolm once again consults the witches, who continue to repeat "beware Cawdor"—which Malcolm interprets (an interpretation corroborated by the nurse) as his wife being a source of danger to him (as Macbeth had been appointed Thane of Cawdor prior to killing Duncan), whereupon he orders her arrest and execution (by hanging). As the queen is hanged, the sun is eclipsed (an event associated with the death of a saint), causing both the nurse (from pricks of conscience, she babbles much) and Malcolm (catatonia) to go mad. When the nurse is brought by the physician to Malcolm, her babbling confession brings the king out of his stupor—and the nurse is immediately killed by Seyton. In revenge, Malcolm kills both Seyton and Syna and prepares for battle.

Fleance, meantime has met up with the "turncoat" Thanes in Ireland, and they quickly decide to mount an invasion—fully aware that Malcolm's army is much larger and better-equipped. On the night they invade, the Scottish coast is foggy; they are met by a group of 2,000 men under the leadership of a man who identifies himself as "Cawdor"—which causes Fleance some consternation so he questions if MacBeth had other children than the queen. Cawdor corrects this misinformation by telling them that he is the son of the original Thane of Cawdor hanged by Duncan for his betrayal of Scotland to Norway—and accepts that his father's fate was deserved. Even with the additions, the Thanes and Fleance understand that Malcolm's army is still superior in numbers, and pray earnestly for victory.

The armies of Malcolm and the invading rebels meet in Birnam Wood. In the battle that follows:

  • several rebel soldiers and Ross are killed by Malcolm; Ross, however, wounds the king
  • Siward is killed by Fleance
  • Malcolm is killed by Cawdor

The newly crowned Fleance quickly orders the three murderers to be arrested, beheads them personally, and restores Cawdor to his father's Thaneship.

Historical inaccuracies[edit]

As Lukeman's play was based on Shakespeare's original, it suffers from the same baseline historical inaccuracies, and the following additions by Lukeman:

  • King Malcolm was killed in the Battle of Alnwick in 1093 after a reign of 36 years, not in 1068 as implied by the play; also three of Malcolm's sons (Duncan II, Alexander I and David I) ruled as kings of Scotland (in the case of Duncan II, briefly)
  • Donalbain succeeded Malcolm upon the latter's passing and ruled until 1097 (with an interregnum for Duncan II in 1094); in Lukeman's play, Donalbain is killed by Malcolm in 1068 at Birnam Wood
  • The Norwegians would have been unlikely to be planning an invasion of Scotland in 1068 after their decisive defeat at Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 in Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson's "swan-song" victory (Harold was defeated and killed at Hastings shortly afterwards)
  • Even if he had not died in 1055, Siward would be highly unlikely to have survived the aftereffects (Norman replacement of Saxon nobility) of Hastings; in Lukeman's play, Siward is still alive—and is one of two (the other being Seyton) who repeatedly advise Malcolm to move against Donalbain and Fleance

External links[edit]