Macbeth - ACT 1
ACT ONE, SCENE ONE
Thunder and lightning. Out of the foggy air come three ugly old women, dressed in black. They are witches.
1st Witch: When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
2nd Witch: When the fighting is all done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
3rd Witch: Before night covers everyone.
1st Witch: Where’s the place?
2nd Witch: Upon the heath.
3rd Witch: There to meet with Macbeth!
All Witches: Fair is foul and foul is fair,
Flying through the dark and foggy air!
ACT ONE, SCENE TWO
King Duncan and some thanes at a camp, some distance from the battle. Enter Malcolm, the King’s eldest son, with a wounded soldier.
Duncan: Who is that poor man? His wounds are bleeding. Surely he can tell us how the battle’s going.
Malcolm: This is the captain, who by his bravery, saved me from certain death.
Duncan: Welcome, brave friend! Tell me all you know. How was the battle going when you had to leave?
Captain: For a long time, it was still in doubt. The rebel force was strong – their men fought well. Then brave Macbeth – for brave he surely is, fought till he reached the rebels’ wicked leader. Then, bloody sword in hand, he faced the traitor. And with one blow, cut him almost in two. And put the traitor’s head upon our castle wall, where all can see it and be glad.
Duncan: Oh, brave Macbeth, what a great man he is!
Captain: The battle was not over, King of Scotland. Some rebels turned and ran, but others came. Fresh soldiers then began to fight against us.
Duncan: And were not Macbeth – and Banquo too, Alarmed by this?
Captain: Are lions alarmed by hares? Our two great thanes began to fight fiercely. With their strong swords they cut and cut again.
…But help me sir, my wounds are deep, I bleed…
Duncan: Rest now, brave man, you have said enough. Look after him. He must not lose more blood.
(The captain is taken away. Enter the Thane of Ross)
Here is more news. What do you know, good thane?
Ross: I come from Fife, my gracious King, where the great King of Norway fought against us, assisted by the rebel Thane of Cawdor. But do not fear, my lord, our leader, great Macbeth took on the fight and won. The victory was ours. And the defeated King of Norway begged for peace.
Duncan: Great happiness! But how the Thane of Cawdor has deceived us! That rebel thane shall have a traitor’s death. The Thane of Cawdor is now brave Macbeth.
ACT ONE, SCENE THREE
On a foggy heath. The sound of thunder. Enter the three witches.
1st Witch: Where have you been, sister?
2nd Witch: Killing pigs.
3rd Witch: And what about you, sister?
1st Witch: A greedy sailor’s wife was eating nuts. She chewed and chewed and chewed. ‘Give some to me,’ I said. ‘Leave me alone, you dirty witch!’ she cried. Her husband is at sea – his ship is called the Tiger. I’ll call for a strong wind and follow him.
2nd Witch: I’ll give you a wind.
1st Witch: You are kind.
3rd Witch: And I another.
1st Witch: And I myself have all the other.
I’ll blow him east and blow him west,
But never will that man be blest.
He will not sleep by night or day.
Never will he find his way,
To friendly port or place of rest.
Look what I have!
2nd Witch: Show me, show me.
1st Witch: Look, another sailor’s thumb.
He drowned as homeward he did come.
The sound of a drum.
3rd Witch: A drum I hear. Macbeth is near!
The three witches hold hands and dance in a circle.
All Witches: We three sisters, hand in hand.
Travel over sea and land.
Left we go and right we turn,
Three times your way, three times mine,
Three times more to make it nine.
Quiet now. Our spell is made.
(The witches disappear into the fog. Enter Macbeth and Banquo)
Macbeth: The weather goes from foul to fair. This dirty fog darkens the clear air.
Banquo: How far are we from Forres?
(The fog clears and he sees the three witches)
Who are these old creatures, dressed in dirty clothes? They must be women, though I can’t believe it. You seem to understand me, but you’re silent.
Macbeth: Speak, if you can. Who are you?
1st Witch: All hail, Macbeth. Hail to you, Thane of Glamis!
2nd Witch: All hail, Macbeth. Hail to you, Thane of Cawdor!
3rd Witch: All hail, Macbeth. You will be King of Scotland!
Banquo: (To Macbeth) Why do you seem to fear a future full of promise?
(Turning to the witches)
Tell me the truth, you creatures. Are you old women, as you seem to be, or are you not real at all? You’ve told Macbeth his present and his future fate, and that has left him silent. If you have knowledge of the seeds of time – which seeds will grow and which will not, then tell me now.
1st Witch: Hail!
2nd Witch: Hail!
3rd Witch: Hail!
1st Witch: You are lesser than Macbeth, but greater.
2nd Witch: Not so happy, but much happier.
3rd Witch: (to Banquo) You’ll not be King, but you will father kings. So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
1st Witch: Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!
(The fog gets thicker)
Macbeth: Wait! You have not said enough. I must know more. My father’s death has made me Thane of Glamis. But Thane of Cawdor? No, that’s wrong. The Thane of Cawdor is alive and well. And as for being King, that is impossible.
Tell me where you got your knowledge from and how you know my future. Stay, tell me more – I order you!
(The witches laugh and disappear into the fog)
Banquo: The fog has hidden them. Where have they gone?
Macbeth: Into the air. I wish they had stayed.
Banquo: Were they really here or are we mad?
Macbeth: They said your children will be kings.
Banquo: You shall be King. They said that too.
Macbeth: And Thane of Cawdor. Isn’t that right?
Banquo: That’s exactly what they said.
(Enter two thanes, Ross and Angus)
Ross: The King knows of your courage, brave Macbeth. He has had news of it from every side.
Angus: We have both come to bring our royal master’s thanks and take you to him, for he wants to see you. And, from the King, we bring a further honour. You have been named ‘Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor’.
Banquo: That’s what the witches said. How did they know? Can they foretell the future?
Macbeth: The Thane of Cawdor is alive. Why give me his title? Ross: The Thane’s alive, that’s true, but he’s a traitor. And very soon, he’ll die a traitor’s death.
Macbeth: (Speaking to himself) Glamis and Cawdor… That’s what the witches said. The best is still to come. Thank you, kind sir. Now you must hope your children will be kings. They’ve told the truth to me. Why not to you?
Banquo: If you believe that, you must believe that one day, you’ll be King. I am not happy. These things of darkness may have come to trick us, tell us some truths, but lead us into evil.
(To Ross and Angus)
Good friends, I must speak to you a minute.
Macbeth: (To himself)
The witches said two things about me – both were true. That surely means that one day I’ll be King. They all foretold my future – is that good or bad? If bad, why did the witches give me hope? They called me Thane of Cawdor – now I am. So other truths may follow. If good, why am I thinking of a plan – a terrible idea, that frightens me so much, that my hair stands on end? And my heart, too, is beating far too fast. But yet the dreadful fears that I have now, are nothing to the deadly horrors in my mind. My body and my mind are so confused, that action itself, gives way to wildest thoughts. Imagination has replaced reality.
Banquo: Our friend is deep in thought. Something is troubling him.
Macbeth: (Continuing to himself) If fate will make me King, then fate will crown me. I do not need to act.
Banquo: Macbeth’s new honours are too much for him.
Macbeth: (Still to himself) Whatever happens, come what may, time will go on, to end the strangest day.
Banquo: Worthy Macbeth, are you ready now?
Macbeth: (To Banquo) I’m coming, sir. I’m sorry, friends, my thoughts have been confused. Gentlemen, I thank you. Let’s go to the King.
I want to speak to you about the witches, and what they told us. We must be honest with each other.
Banquo: Indeed we must.
Macbeth: Then we’ll talk later.
(To Ross and Angus)
Come, friends, take us to the King.
ACT ONE, SCENE FOUR
(Inside King Duncan’s palace)
Duncan: Is the wicked traitor Cawdor dead?
Malcolm: My lord, he is. Before he died, he asked for your forgiveness. And he confessed his treason. He died more nobly than he lived. He smiled. Life had no more meaning left for him.
Duncan: There is no way to learn another’s thoughts. His face was honest and I trusted him.
(Enter Macbeth, Banquo, Ross and Angus)
My dear Macbeth, I owe you much, much more than I can ever pay you. You deserve all that I have and more.
Macbeth: I am your subject and I owe you service. You are the King and you deserve our duty. That duty is our pleasure and all our deeds show love and honour to you.
Duncan: You are welcome here and as time passes our friendship will grow stronger.
And noble Banquo, you too deserve our thanks – all men must know it. I hold you in my arms, near to my heart.
Banquo: My love will grow with yours.
Duncan: I am so happy – tears are not far away. Sons, cousins, thanes, I want you all to know that Malcolm, my dear eldest son, will be my heir. He will be made the Prince of Cumberland At Inverness, where others will receive new honours. Let us go there together.
Macbeth: I’ll go ahead and tell my wife you’re coming. She must prepare our castle for your visit.
Duncan: Thank you, worthy Cawdor.
Macbeth: (To himself)
The Prince of Cumberland! So Malcolm will be King. The boy stands in my way. I must act quickly. Or not act at all.
You stars above, no longer shine!
Black skies must hide these black thoughts of mine.
I must do that foul deed that I dare not see.
Yes, I will do it. What will be, will be.
ACT ONE, SCENE FIVE
(Macbeth’s castle, at Inverness in Scotland. Enter Lady Macbeth, reading a letter from her husband)
Lady Macbeth: ‘These all-seeing sisters met me on the day of victory. Since then, I have found out more about them. They have strange powers. Then came messengers from the King. They called me Thane of Cawdor, just as the witches had. But the three sisters had told me something else. They said I would be the future King! My dearest partner, their promise will make you Queen. Think of our great joy to come. Farewell.’
(She speaks to herself)
You are Glamis and Cawdor too. And you shall be what the three sisters promised. But yet I fear you do not have the will to get what you desire. You are ambitious, but not bold enough to do what must be done. To get the crown, you must commit a murder, and you know it. You must do wrong, but fear to do that wrong. Husband, come quickly, so that my bolder spirit will help you put aside all that still keeps you from the golden crown that fate says shall be yours.
What is your news?
Servant: The King comes here tonight.
Lady Macbeth: The King? You are mad to call your master that. (Quickly correcting herself)
I mean… the King is with your master. King Duncan is our guest tonight.
Servant: Yes, my lady.
Lady Macbeth: This is good news, but there is much to do. Go, we must be ready for the King.
(Exit servant. Lady Macbeth to herself)
That black bird, the raven, with his cry, both warns and welcomes Duncan to my castle, come to me, you spirits, who are always waiting, ready to put black thoughts in human minds! Take womanly weakness from me – make me like a man! Fill me from top to toe with hellish cruelty. Strengthen my powers, weaken all thoughts of pity. Silence my conscience, so that no guilty feelings Prevent my foul plan having the end I wish for! Come, darkest night and grow darker yet, so my sharp knife sees not the wound it makes. Cover the eyes of Heaven as I do the dreadful deed!
Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor! Greater than both as the three sisters promised! Your letter’s taken me from present time to future glory in a moment!
Macbeth: My dearest love, Duncan comes here tonight.
Lady Macbeth: When does he leave?
Macbeth: Tomorrow – that is his plan.
Lady Macbeth: Tomorrow? No. Duncan will never see tomorrow. Your face is like a book, my dearest lord, where men can read strange things. Your looks, your actions, all must welcome him. Our wicked purpose must be kept well hidden. You can trust me to carry out this business. Then all our days and nights to come will be strong with the power that goes with royalty.
Macbeth: We need to talk more…
Lady Macbeth: The way ahead is clear. I tell you we have nothing else to fear. Leave all the rest to me.
ACT ONE, SCENE SIX
(Outside Macbeth’s castle. Enter King Duncan with his sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, and also Banquo, Lennox and Ross)
Duncan: What a pleasant place! The air is sweet and fresh.
Banquo: Birds nesting here sing their sweetest songs, and give us a cheerful welcome.
(Enter Lady Macbeth)
Duncan: Here’s our honoured hostess, with her welcome too! Madam, I ask you to forgive me for the trouble that my royal visit gives you.
Lady Macbeth: Nothing we can do to serve you is enough. Our thanks and welcome should be doubled and doubled yet again. And in return for honours given to us we offer up our prayers for your safety.
Duncan: Where is the Thane of Cawdor? We followed him, but could not overtake him. His love for you brought him here before us. Fair and noble hostess, we are your guests tonight.
Lady Macbeth: Dear sir, all we have belongs to you. We still owe you more than we can pay.
Duncan: Give me your hand and take me to Macbeth. We love him well and know we always will. Let us go in together, my dear hostess.
ACT ONE, SCENE SEVEN
(Outside the great hall of Macbeth’s castle later the same day. The feast in honour of the King has begun and the guests are enjoying their meal. Macbeth has left the hall to think about the murder he and his wife have planned)
Macbeth: If I do it, then I must do it quickly. But will this murder be enough? Will it bring success? Or will more problems follow? No man avoids the judgment that’s to come and I’ll be judged in this world too. For murderous deeds may lead to other murders. If one king dies, then others may die too. The crown won’t make me safe from quick revenge. And there’s another thing that troubles me… King Duncan trusts me and for two good reasons.
First, I am his cousin and his subject too. And so I owe him loyalty. That is his right.
There’s a second point. I am his host. I should protect him, keep him from all harm, and not harm him myself. Duncan has been a gracious king, he has ruled wisely. His noble deeds will plead with angelic voices against the horror of his dreadful death. And pity, helpless as a new-born child, will take on Heaven’s power. The whole world will know of it. The storm of all men’s anger will be turned to tears. Ambition is my only spur and that may be my downfall.
(Enter Lady Macbeth)
What’s happening now? Has Duncan asked for me?
Lady Macbeth: Of course he has. The feast is almost over. Why did you leave the hall?
Macbeth: I had to think. We’ll go no further with our plan. Duncan has honoured me and all men praise me. I do not wish to lose their good opinions.
Lady Macbeth: (Impatiently) Were you drunk when you spoke to me before? Are you a coward after all, afraid to act? I cannot and I will not love a coward. The crown is what you want – are you afraid to take it? The golden crown of Scotland can be yours. But cowardly fear has killed your deep desire.
Macbeth: Be quiet! I dare do anything a brave man will do. Who dares do more, is not a man at all.
Lady Macbeth: What beast was it then that first told me the plan? When you dared do it, then you were a man. All that you needed were the right time and place. Now Duncan’s here. Will there be a better time than this? Is that what frightens you?… Listen to me. I have had a child and watched it drink my milk. I would have killed it, as it smiled at me, Rather than break my word, as you have done.
Macbeth: But what if we fail?
Lady Macbeth: Use all your courage and we cannot fail. Duncan will be tired, after the long day’s journey. As soon as he’s asleep, I’ll give his servants wine. They will sleep too and remember nothing. How easy it will be then for us to do the deed, for which they will be blamed!
Macbeth: All your future children should be boys! There is nothing of the woman in your nature. I’ll use the servants’ daggers. I’ll cover both the sleeping men with blood. There’ll be no doubt about who killed the King.
Lady Macbeth: When everyone has heard our cries of grief, who will dare blame us?
Macbeth: My mind’s made up. Every part of me is ready to do the awful deed. False, smiling faces must be what we show. To hide the wicked plan our hearts both know.