Below we present the complete text of “Traitors”, episode 3 of our new Science Fiction adaptation of Macbeth Amongst the Stars. This is a brand new (unpublished) series (featuring the familiar Shakespearian characters in a against a backdrop of starships, rayguns and intergalactic politics). If you would like to see these new stories advance from being drafts into polished publications then please consider supporting us by purchasing one or more of our previously published titles. Every sale directly funds the production of new stories.
Macbeth Amongst the Stars
EPISODE #3 – TRAITORS
by Philip Craig Robotham
Cover Illustration by Miyukiko
Copyright 2016 Philip Craig Robotham
Creative Commons Attritubution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Edition .
This play is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) International license. This play may not be commercially reproduced, performed, or sold. Non-commercial production, performance, and reproduction is allowed under this license so long as attribution is maintained. No derivative content or use is allowed. It can be freely shared in its current form (without change) under this license. If you would like to purchase one or more copies of this work (for your own personal non-commercial use, or to help financially support the author) then please return to http://www.weirdworlstudios.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Other works by this author can be found at the author’s website: http://www.weirdworldstudios.com or through select, online book retailers.
Serial #2: Macbeth Amongst the Stars
General Macbeth and Banquo face down and defeat the traitor Macdonwald in a space battle that saves the empire from alien invasion. However, when they are intercepted by aliens who deliver a cryptic prophecy on their return home, the fire of ambition is lit within Macbeth and he sets out on a bloody quest to seize the empire for himself. In order to succeed Macbeth must navigate terrorist plots, a nano-plague, and even pit himself against his former friends and allies. Will his plans and manoeuvrings help him gain the prize he seeks? Tune in to “Macbeth amongst the stars” and experience this classic tale (now set in a sci-fi future) for yourself.
Episodes in the Host Your Own “Old Time Radio Drama” series are designed to provide a fun dinner party experience for 6–8 participants. Read along, taking on the role of one or more of the characters in the story, and listen as the exciting drama unfolds. This is the theater of the mind, where the special effects are only limited by your imagination, and your participation will build a memory that you’ll treasure for years to come.
MACBETH AMONGST THE STARS – EPISODE 3 – TRAITORS
NARRATOR: The Narrator
SPY: Chief spy to the Emperor
MACBETH: General in the service of the Emperor and then Emperor thereafter
SOLDIER #1 & #2: Soldiers in the service of the Emperor
LADY MACBETH: Wife of Macbeth
MALCOLM: Son of Duncan
MACDUFF: General in the service of the Emperor
LADY MACDUFF: Wife of General MacDuff
BANQUO: General in the service of the Emperor and friend to Macbeth
DOCTOR: Doctor to Lady Macbeth
CROWD: Crowd at coronation of the new Emperor
SFX ARTIST: Minimum 1 required
SCENE 1: (INT) MACBETH’S PALACE ON CAWDOR – ROYAL SUITE (MACBETH, BANQUO, MALCOLM, MACDUFF)
- MUSIC: OPENING THEME AND TITLE – LET IT FINISH
- NARRATOR: Convinced that he is destined to succeed to the throne of empire by an alien prophecy, Macbeth believes his moment has come when the Emperor Duncan visits planet Cawdor. He seizes the opportunity to engage in an assassination attempt, setting off a bomb while the Emperor sleeps and blaming the attack on local terrorists.
- SOUND: ALARMS BLARING, RUNNING FEET – ESTABLISH AND UNDER – CONTINUE TO 410.
- SOLDIER: General Macduff. There has been an explosion in the Royal apartments. It looks like terrorists are attacking.
- MACDUFF: What? Where is the boy?
- SOLDIER: I’m sorry sir? I don’t know…
- MACDUFF: Malcolm, the son of the Emperor? We need to get him off world.
- SOLDIER: I thought he was in your care, sir?
- MACDUFF: You’re no help at all. (BEAT) Malcolm? Malcolm, where are you, dratted boy?
- MALCOLM: I’m here, General. You didn’t think I’d sleep through all this, did you? Do you know what is happening?
- MACDUFF: (RELIEVED SIGH) Phew. I was beginning to panic. It looks like there’s been a terrorist bombing somewhere in the palace.
- MALCOLM: (PANICKED) My father??!
- MACDUFF: I don’t know and there’s no time to find out. I’m sure your father is fine, but we need to get you out of the palace and safely into space as fast as possible.
- MALCOLM: But…
- MACDUFF: Don’t argue, boy. It’s the way it has to be. There’s no knowing who the intended target was and until we know more I’m getting you out of harm’s way.
- MALCOLM: Are you coming with me?
- MACDUFF: Not immediately, no. I’ll follow shortly, or as shortly as I can. Go with my lieutenant. You will have command of the ship. If anything happens you will need to remember your training and take action to protect yourself. (BEAT) Do you understand?
- MALCOLM: Yes, I understand.
- SOLDIER: This way my lord.
- SOUND: RUNNING AWAY – LET IT FINISH.
- SOUND: FADE OUT BACKGROUD, THEN BEAT – UNDER AND OUT.
- SOUND: FADE UP BACKGROUND – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- SOLDIER #2: General Macduff, where is Malcolm?
- MACDUFF: Who’s asking?
- SOLDIER #2: Sorry general, it is Major Macdougal; I run security for General Macbeth.
- MACDUFF: Yes, of course. I didn’t recognize you at first. How can I help?
- SOLDIER #2: Tell me where Malcolm is. I have orders for his arrest.
- MACDUFF: What?
- SOLDIER #2: Duncan has been murdered. We have witnesses who say Malcolm sent drugged wine to Duncan’s personal guard in order to allow the terrorist, a suicide bomber named Stuart, access to his father’s rooms.
- MACDUFF: (HORRIFIED) Duncan dead? I don’t believe it.
- SOLDIER #2: General Macduff, where is Malcolm?
- MACDUFF: I just evacuated him from the planet. My orders required it.
- SOLDIER #2: Damn it. We have to stop him. General, I need your help. You may have just aided a regicide.
- MACDUFF: Of course. We need to get to the…
- SOUND: LIFT OFF – LET IT FINISH.
- MACDUFF: There he goes. That’s the Prince’s ship taking off now.
- SOLDIER #2: Too late. We need to return to General Macbeth right away. You’ll have to come with me and give a report
- MACDUFF: Yes, of course. We should also call in the fleet to intercept the ship.
- SOLDIER #2: Leave that to us. Though I doubt the General will authorise an intercept. It is more likely the ship will be blown out of space.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 2: (INT) DUNSINANE PALACE AT THE CORONATION (BANQUO, MACBETH)
- SOUND: MURMUR OF CROWD – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- BANQUO: Generals, all. Welcome to Dunsinane on this most tragic yet important occasion. Our Emperor, Duncan, is dead. His son, believed responsible for this honourless act, is on the run, adding daily to his presumed guilt. In light of Malcolm’s defection, we are forced to the sad task of appointing a new Emperor in his stead.
- It was my honour to recommend my lifelong friend, General Macbeth to the position. It is an even greater honour to report that the decision has been almost unanimously (with only one vote in abstention) in support of this motion. And to add honour upon honour, I have been granted the immense pleasure of introducing to you our new Emperor.
- The Emperor is dead. Long live the Emperor.
- CROWD: Long live the Emperor!
- BANQUO: I hereby present to you, the man known formerly as General Macbeth, protector of planet Cawdor, now named Emperor Macbeth I of Dunsinane.
- SOUND: CHEERS, APPLAUSE, ETC.- FADE OUT.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 3: (INT) DUNSINANE AFTER THE EVENT (MACBETH, LADY MACBETH)
- LADY MACBETH: They suspect. I am sure of it.
- MACBETH: (ANGRY) I am barely crowned and you are already trying to fill my head with suspicion. (BEAT) Can we not have even one day to enjoy our good fortune?
- LADY MACBETH: (ANGRY IN RETURN) Good fortune has nothing to do with it! You have attained to this height out of main strength. But you must not weaken now.
- MACBETH: And what weakness do you see in me, woman? Have a care how you answer, and take note that you speak, now, to the Emperor of the entire human realm.
- LADY MACBETH: Emperor, you may be, husband. But I have known you long and your greatest weakness is the trust you afford to your supposed friends. (BEAT) Who was it that abstained from the vote that made you Emperor? How has Malcolm escaped us? Why is Malcolm only “believed” responsible? Why is Malcolm’s guilt “presumed”? Banquo recommended you before the council of Generals but if even he voices such doubts in public, what might any of them plot in private? (BEAT)
- Enjoy your victory, my husband. You have earned it. But do not drop your guard. There are many challenges ahead and none of these fair weather friends are completely trustworthy.
- MACBETH: (SIGHS) Alright! I will sleep with one eye open. But, please, enjoy this day. There will never be another occasion in which we will figure so prominently, except perhaps when we put an heir on the Imperial throne. Please? For me?
- LADY MACBETH: All right, dear heart. I will try! But I suspect it is time to put away hopes of an heir. It would be a safer bet, in this regard, to side with the palace gossips.
- MACBETH: I share your grief Gruoch. But we have survived without children this far. We will continue to do so and, if that is what fate decrees, we will thrive nonetheless.
- LADY MACBETH: Enough of these maudlin thoughts. What will be your first order of business as Emperor?
- MACBETH: Ugh. There is no distracting you from business at all, is there?
- LADY MACBETH: No, there’s not. (BEAT) So?
- MACBETH: I wish to curtail our territorial expansion. Duncan was over-extending us. It nearly brought us undone. We need to consolidate our successes and…
- LADY MACBETH: And the change of policy will allow you to concentrate on the consolidation of your own power at home. I approve.
- MACBETH: I rather thought you would.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 4: (INT) THRONE ROOM – LET IT FINISH
- SPY: I bring word from Cawdor, your highness.
- MACBETH: Approach. Word from my Chief of Spies is always welcome. How fares Banquo? Does his new position suit him?
- SPY: He has been much concerned of late, my Lord. He has opened a commission into possible wrongdoing during your administration.
- MACBETH: He thinks I was corrupt?
- SPY: No, my Lord. He is trying to placate a hostile population and believes a number of your subordinates are responsible for the “excesses” committed during your rule.
- MACBETH: Hmmm. Who, is he investigating in particular?
- SPY: The provincial governor. But Macmahon has not given anything away to this point.
- MACBETH: That won’t last if Banquo wishes to make a sacrificial lamb of him.
- SPY: No, your highness.
- MACBETH: I think we need to arrange an accident.
- SPY: An accident?
- MACBETH: Yes. I think a revenge killing would be suitable. Find a disgruntled relative of someone we executed and give them arms, access and opportunity. See that it is done quickly. I don’t want Macmahon to have the opportunity to testify. My support in the council has weakened of late and the hint of scandal, however ill founded, would be problematic.
- SPY: Yes, my Emperor.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 5: (INT) COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE (MACBETH, BANQUO, CONTROLLER)
- SOUND: MURMUR OF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE – LET IT FINISH.
- CONTROLLER: I have General Banquo waiting on the line, your Highness.
- MACBETH: Thankyou. I’ll take it in my private chamber.
- CONTROLLER: Yes, sir. Putting it through.
- SOUND: FOOTSTEPS. DOOR SLIDES OPEN AND CLOSED – LET IT FINISH.
- SOUND: BEEPING OF AWAITING MESSAGE – FADE IN AND LET FINISH.
- MACBETH: General Banquo, your Emperor is here.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) You sound well, my Lord.
- MACBETH: Banquo, when it is just the two of us, please drop the formal speech. All the pomp and ceremony of the court, the never-ending formality… it weighs heavy on a man of action.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) As you wish.
- MACBETH: How has life been treating you these many months since the coronation? Cawdor is pretty this time of year.
- SOUND: DOOR SLIDES OPEN AND CLOSED – UNDER – LET IT FINISH
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) (LAUGHS) And when did you ever stop to admire the beauty of Cawdor? You’re going soft.
- MACBETH: That’s more like it. If a pair of old soldiers can’t rib one another then there’s little joy left to be had in the world.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) In truth though, I’m sure you had little enough opportunity to appreciate the world in the months following Macdonwald’s defection.
- MACBETH: I won’t lie. The constant rebellions and insurrections, the terrorism, and sedition that plagued the planet kept me too busy to truly appreciate the place. How does the world fare since you’ve taken control?
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) We’re making progress. Since you broke the back of the rebellion, the people have been mostly peaceable. We’ve only had one major terrorist act, and that was against the butcher Macmahon.
- MACBETH: Macmahon? A butcher? He was one of my most trusted governors. He was among the first to give his loyalty to the Emperor after Macdonwald was exposed for the traitor that he was.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) He was also overzealous in his pursuit of the Emperor’s enemies. Fleance, my daughter, did some investigating. Macmahon authorised the extermination of Inverness city in retaliation for an attempt to hide some terrorists.
- MACBETH: No! I don’t believe it. (ACCUSING) I had no knowledge of this.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) And glad I am to hear it. I’d hate to think you capable of such a thing, my friend… even in the extremity of widespread rebellion. Macmahon was murdered by the brother of one of those who died. I guess it’s true what they say… that men reap what they sow.
- MACBETH: Indeed. And what of Fleance?
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I’ve recalled her to my side. She is proving an able administrator, as well as a cunning warrior.
- MACBETH: That is all to the good. I have heard many good reports of her and, well, since you bring her up, there is something I wish to discuss with you regarding her.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Indeed?
- MACBETH: (EMBARRASSED) It is no secret that I have not produced an heir. In all likelihood, my line ends with me. This leaves the succession in doubt. And such doubts are a temptation to ambitious men.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) What are you saying?
- MACBETH: I have not forgotten the prophecy that we heard in the asteroid field of Birnham. How could I? Everything that was spoken to us has happened.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) True, and a wonder and a puzzle it has been.
- MACBETH: Indeed? How so?
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) If I didn’t know you, I might find the fortuitous death of Duncan here at Cawdor Palace very suspicious. There are some in the council of Generals who have concluded you had something to do with it.
- MACBETH: It’s just such rumour mongering I wish to quell. I am many things, Banquo, but a traitor is not one of them. (BEAT) Who is responsible for these rumours? Is it Macduff? (BEAT) Wait, never mind. You don’t need to answer that. What I have in mind should remind them of my character. I intend to name Fleance as my heir.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) What?
- MACBETH: I wanted to talk to you about it first, but I can think of no other more suitable. Didn’t the prophecy say that I would be Emperor, but that your descendants would succeed me? By naming a successor I will short circuit the inter-council rivalries, fulfil prophecy, and demonstrate that I became Emperor in order to serve, rather than out of any cheap desire for power.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I am amazed and honoured sire. But…
- MACBETH: But?
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I have tried not to think about the prophecy since it was given. I watched your rise to the throne with great joy, but it concerns me that there still may be a price to pay.
- MACBETH: You’re not superstitious are you?
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Of course not. No more than you. But I still don’t know why those creatures spoke to us. What was their purpose? What was their intent? What price may they yet require for their portents? And is it wise to take a hand in events like this? Would it not be better to leave the prophecy alone?
- MACBETH: You worry too much. The announcement will be as much an act of politics as friendship. By doing this I will gain much, and so will you. Should I turn away from a prudent path simply over unease about the words given to us amidst the asteroids?
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I guess not. And I am honoured. Deeply. But I can’t help feeling uneasy all the same.
- MACBETH: Shake it off, man. I’m decided. Unless you have something more than vapours to provide as a reason why I should not proceed, then I will make the announcement later this month.
- BANQUO: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Of course, my lord. And thankyou!
- MACBETH: Emperor, out!
- SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
- MACBETH: Damn him! Can’t he be happy! I’m trying to bestow an empire upon him and all he can do is quake like a damned woman!
- LADY MACBETH: Is that really what you think of my sex?
- MACBETH: Gruoch! Where did you come from?
- LADY MACBETH: You didn’t hear me come in? I hope you pay more attention to the security of your other communications.
- MACBETH: What do you want?
- LADY MACBETH: There is a deputation in the throne room. They wish to entreat you for aid against the nano-blight?
- MACBETH: Agriculture? A thousand courtiers, secretaries, and minor functionaries at my disposal and still this much minor administrivia makes its way up to my desk.
- LADY MACBETH: You have a large empire, my husband. And this does seem serious. This blight has destroyed the crops on three planets. People are talking of famine. A quarantine may be required.
- MACBETH: And this too, they shall somehow suggest is my fault. Alright, take me to see these grovelling sycophants.
- SOUND: FOOTSTEPS, DOOR SLIDES OPEN AND CLOSED – LET IT FINISH.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 6: (INT) MACDUFF’S PALACE ON LOCHABER (MACDUFF, MALCOLM)
- SOUND: BEEPING – LET IT PLAY BRIEFLY THEN UNDER UNTIL 533.
- MACDUFF: By blind Io’s (EYE-OH’S) prehensile tail! Who’s calling me on a private channel at this time of night?
- LADY MACDUFF: (SLEEPY) Isn’t it enough that you’ve been woken up? Do you have to wake me also with your racket?
- MACDUFF: Sorry Marissa.
- SOUND: BEEPING ENDS.
- MACDUFF: This had better be important!
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) General Macduff, it’s me, Malcolm!
- MACDUFF: Io’s teeth, boy! I’ll not be found to be talking with a regicide!
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I didn’t do it, Macduff. You have to know that!
- MACDUFF: I know exactly nothing. There are plenty of witnesses.
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Witnesses of what? I was in the guest wing the whole time.
- MACDUFF: At your request, Lady Macbeth delivered wine to Duncan’s personal guard… wine that was drugged. She and her staff also report that you had arranged for Stuart, the bomber, to visit Duncan in the night.
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Lady Macbeth reported this. And now her husband is Emperor in my father’s stead.
- MACDUFF: I know it looks bad, but not as bad as your flight from Cawdor. Without you here to defend yourself, who do you expect will be believed?
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I doubt I would have survived the night had I remained. You saved my life when you put me on the ship and gave me its command.
- MACDUFF: Until this moment, I believed the worst of you, lad. But frankly, I can’t fathom any reason why you would be contacting me if you were, in fact, your father’s murderer.
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) (RELIEVED) Well, that’s all to the good. I have no other allies in human space.
- MACDUFF: In human space? Where in the nine hells are you?
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I’ve made a deal for sanctuary in alien space. They’ve taken me in, along with my ship.
- MACDUFF: Are you mad, boy? At what price?
- MALCOLM: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) That remains to be seen. I am beginning to believe my father may have been in error as regards his expansion of empire… but that is another story.
- MACDUFF: No. I’ll not have it! First you run. Now you’re in alien space. And you think your father was in error. Do not contact me again, Malcolm. You have no allies here.
- SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
- LADY MACDUFF: (SLEEPY) Who was that my love?
- MACDUFF: No one of consequence.
- LADY MACDUFF: You’re such a liar. What did the boy want?
- MACDUFF: To tell me he was innocent.
- LADY MACDUFF: And do you believe him?
- MACDUFF: I don’t know. I would have sworn he was an honest lad when he was under my protection. He would have made an able Emperor, once he’d gotten a little less wet behind the ears. But I can’t see Macbeth committing regicide either.
- LADY MACDUFF: I think you underestimate Gruoch, husband. Macbeth has always been wrapped around her little finger. And she has little conscience and less scruples. Even when we were children the ambition of my cousin was obvious. She has simply become more accomplished at hiding it as she has aged.
- MACDUFF: Perhaps, but if that is the case, Malcolm’s call may be the harbinger of doom. I will have to think on this.
- LADY MACDUFF: You may not be the wisest of the generals in service to the Emperor, but you are the most honest and persistent. If anyone can untangle this knot, it is you.
- MACDUFF: I guess time will tell.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 7: (INT) DUNSINANE PALACE (LADY MACBETH, DOCTOR, MACBETH)
- SOUND: FAST MOVING FEET – UNDER
- LADY MACBETH: Husband! (BEAT) Husband!
- DOCTOR: Lady Macbeth, as your doctor, I must insist…
- LADY MACBETH: Shut up, quack! If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.
- DOCTOR: (SULLENLY) A few moments ago, you were very happy to have my opinion.
- LADY MACBETH: Shut up!
- DOCTOR: Yes, my lady!
- LADY MACBETH: Husband! Husband! Where are…
- MACBETH: What’s all the commotion? What do you need?
- DOCTOR: My Lord. Good news!
- LADY MACBETH: Doctor, I swear, if you keep this up. Actually, I don’t know why I have put up with you this long. Get out!
- DOCTOR: But, my lady!
- LADY MACBETH: Out, or I’ll have you flayed.
- MACBETH: She can’t have you flayed, Doctor!
- LADY: I can so. The man’s an idiot! I can have an idiot, flayed. I can have a dozen idiots flayed.
- MACBETH: Perhaps, Doctor, it might be better if you…
- DOCTOR: Uh, yes. Perhaps you’re right.
- SOUND: FOOTSTEPS DEPARTING – LET IT FINISH.
- LADY MACBETH: At last! How long must we put up with that obsequious fop?
- MACBETH: He’s the best doctor in the empire.
- LADY MACBETH: He’s an insufferable ass!
- MACBETH: He is that as well. Now, what were you calling me about?
- LADY MACBETH: Oh my. I almost forgot. Husband, you are going to have an heir!
- MACBETH: What?
- LADY MACBETH: It’s true. You’re not dreaming. You are going to have an heir… a son!
- MACBETH: But… but this is wonderful news. A son, we’re going to have a son! (SOBERING) But wait…
- LADY MACBETH: Yes, you must cancel the announcement.
- MACBETH: But it’s too late, I’ve already signed the proclamation.
- LADY MACBETH: What? No!
- MACBETH: How have we come to this? If the news had come even a week sooner…
- LADY MACBETH: No! I’ll not have it. Banquo’s daughter is not going to sit upon the empire’s throne in place of our own flesh and blood.
- MACBETH: And what of the prophecy?
- LADY MACBETH: What of it? While it served as a goad to your ambition, it was a useful tool. Its usefulness is over. The very fact that I am now with-child should convince you that the prophecy is nonsense. Your achievements are your own, accomplished with the strength of your arm and the cunning of your mind. What need do you have of prophecy? Husband, don’t grow weak now. A dynasty is within your grasp!
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
- MUSIC: CLOSING THEME AND CREDITS – LET IT FINISH.
CASTING SHEETS – MAJOR CHARACTERS
MACBETH (A BEAR OF A MAN WITH LITTLE SELF-AWARENESS AND A STRONG AND BOMBASTIC MANNER OF SPEECH WHO ENJOYS A GOOD FIGHT – A CROSS BETWEEN BRIAN BLESSED AND BILLY CONNOLLY): I am Macbeth; loyal, capable, cunning. I don’t tolerate nonsense or second-guessing from anyone. I am a man of action, first and foremost, and I don’t have time for prissy little milk-sops who want to waste time on empty words. So, speak up! What is it that you want?
BANQUO (THOUGHTFUL, A WARRIOR BY NECESSITY, BUT A PHILOSOPHER BY TEMPERAMENT): Greetings, I am Banquo. I have risen high in the court. I like to think I have the Emperor’s trust because I am reliable. I complete every duty I am assigned. I am fair and honest, and I enjoy a good fight if I am forced into one. In the end though, I’d rather spend my time reading in my palace.
LADY MACBETH (SMART, AMBITIOUS, RUTHLESS AND A LITTLE PRONE TO PARANOIA): Do I know you? Who sent you? The palace is full of gossips and weaklings; small-minded women who plot and scheme. I’ll not be taken for one of those simpletons. Return to your master or mistress and give them this message – you’ll pick up no juicy tid-bits of gossip from me… But have a care. If I ever find you snooping around my apartments again, I will have the skin off your back as an example of what happens to those who cross me. The only one of you to whom I’d give the time of day is my cousin, Marissa. Why she married that bumbling fool, Macduff, is quite beyond me.
MALCOLM (SON OF DUNCAN – YOUNG, IDEALISTIC, BRAVE): Ah, thankyou. It’s easy to take for granted the things that people do for me. Growing up in a palace, despite all the training in arms and battle, can make me forget how sheltered I’ve really been. It’s easy to take for granted the army of servants who have been on hand to watch over and look after me. So, thankyou. Your work is appreciated.
SPY (CRUEL, CALCULATING, MERCENARY, AND IRONIC IN NATURE, OFTEN COMES ACROSS AS LACONIC AND FASHIONABLY BORED WITH EVERYTHING): Oh, there you are. I rather forgot about you for a moment there. It’s the work you see. The Emperor depends on me for so much. Like right now, he’s depending on me to loosen your lying tongue. Now, now. Don’t struggle with your bonds. You’ll need your energy to speak after I begin pushing these needles beneath your finger nails. Oh, don’t worry, we’ve got all the time in the world. And I do like to be very thorough in my interrogations.
MACDUFF (SLOW OF THOUGHT, BUT STEADY AND PERSISTENT. NOT A NATURALLY SMART MAN, BUT DOGGED IN FINDING THE TRUTH, AND A GOOD MAN BESIDES): They say, that given enough time, I can see through a solid wall. I guess that’s a compliment. I do tend to mull things over until I’ve got the measure of them, no matter how long it takes me. Little things, inconsistencies and the like, these worry at me and nag me until I get to the bottom of them. I’m not really cut out for politics – I can’t stand the double talk – but I’m a loyal man and I can get things done. These traits still count for something in these troubled times.
LADY MACDUFF (SMART, IDEALISTIC, VERY MUCH IN LOVE WITH HER HUSBAND, AND SELFLESS – LIVING FOR OTHERS MORE THAN HERSELF): I married well, despite what my cousin, Gruoch (Lady Macbeth), says. He’s never had the opportunities and leisure that I have had to study, read and think, but he is thorough, and good, and trustworthy. I have given him two fine children. They take after him, more than me, and they will be an asset to the empire. I am content if I can raise them to be strong and good, with compassionate hearts and enterprising drive.
CASTING SHEETS — MINOR CHARACTERS
Though often written as men, there is, however, no necessity for any of the following roles to be cast as any particular gender.
SOLDIERS (GENERIC): I’m a soldier. I do what I’m told, when I’m told. And I don’t complain. Go here, do this. Go there, do that. I follow my orders.
DOCTOR (SYCOPHANTIC, OILY, AND PUFFED UP): The Emperor is lucky to have me on his staff, and he trusts me implicitly. After all, I take care of his most intimate needs. Eh? Well, no, he doesn’t actually speak to me, but I did get to compliment him on the fine polish of his boots the other day.
NARRATOR (A TRUSTWORTHY, RELIABLE, POSSIBLY ENGLISH VOICE – THE KIND YOU WOULD TRUST TO SELL CHILDREN’S PHARMACEUTICALS: I bring the audience up to speed on what has happened in previous episodes. I relish the telling, a little like the hosts of the horror anthologies of the past. I try to convey a ghoulish enthusiasm for the story to the audience.
Writer’s Notes – for students and teachers
The events of Macbeth existed fully formed in Shakespeare’s original work. As a result there was not much need for dramatic invention in the construction of this play. The scenes had their own conflict etc. built in. However, a challenge still remained, and some considerable thought was given, with regard to how best adapt the work to a science fiction setting.
The question of how to effectively parallel and remain true to the themes and meaning built into Shakespeare’s work within a scifi setting, and how to communicate the work to a contemporary audience who would not share the social and historical context that made much of the work sensible to its original hearers and informs the understanding of modern audiences, especially where that context has been deliberately replaced with a futuristic setting, remained central in my approach.
In its original setting Macbeth is a politically conservative work, written to curry favour with a newly established monarch, James I, who has just survived the gunpowder plot. There is some reason to believe that Shakespeare was genuinely fearful of failing to be seen to be a supporter of the new King since there was, in fact, some connection between the conspirators who had tried to blow up parliament and his father’s family.
James I was a descendant of Banquo, and Macbeth serves as a polemic both in defense of the status quo and as an attack upon the notion of regicide and rebellion. In it, nature itself is turned upon its head by the death of Duncan. The murder of a king is portrayed as so “unnatural” an act that the natural world is rendered unnatural in response.
The three witches in the original work, are a curious amalgam of the Greek fates, and the popular notion of witchcraft (a topic with which King James was fascinated).
In this version of Macbeth I have tried to maintain both of these elements of the story. I introduce a “nano-blight” – a mutating plague that spreads in the background of the story – to stand in for Shakespeare’s perverted natural order. The witches, and their commitment to an upside down morality and world order have been replaced with a more overtly fate-like trio of aliens – one representing the past, one representing the present, and one representing the future. This choice was made because, in the view of this author, the witches ultimately undermine their own commitment to the perverted natural order by facilitating Macbeth’s downfall, actions more consonant with the fates than the proposed philosophical commitment of witchcraft in Shakespeare’s work.
Planets were substituted for castles and, after some thought, Birnham Wood was altered to Birnham asteroid field, allowing an asteroid bombardment to be used to represent the coming of the forest to Dunsinane.
The science fiction setting allowed the use of cloning to take the place of caesarean section as the means by which Macbeth’s nemesis managed to be “not born of woman”.
Lastly, I took one final liberty with the original text and made Fleance a woman. While the original audience were aware that James I was the descendant of Banquo (via marriage at some future time into Duncan’s line) and fulfilled the witches’ prophecies, the relationship of Banquo’s descendents to a future throne needed more immediate establishment in a scence fiction setting. By making Fleance female it became possible to explicitly place those descendants on the throne via a marriage between Duncan’s heir, Malcolm, and Fleance (now transformed into a female character).
Having established the broad, iconic, parameters of the play, along with their parallels, it was now easier to introduce original scenes (and modify traditional scenes), create new characters, and create new events that served the telling of the story, and revealed the deeper nature of the protagonists. Despite some new twists, characters, etc. Macbeth remains a tale of “o’er-leaping ambition” and the perils of the Machiavellian “will to power”.
Since I have been arrogant enough to attempt to adapt a master-work of English literature in this way (and worse to subject it to substantial alteration) I deserve anything I get in terms of “hate” from those who love the original. An attempt like this can’t help but offend many, but , I hope, there will be a few that forgive me and end up enjoying my attempt at imagining my favourite of Shakespeare’s stories, itself an adaptation of material found in Hollinshead’s Chronicles (in turn based on even older material), transplanted into the far future.
Except where noted above, there’s no reason that any of the major (non-lead) or minor characters should be necessarily male or female roles. The aliens, Stuart, Ross, Angus, and the Spy, though written as men, could easily be changed to female roles with a modification of pronouns.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philip Craig Robotham grew up in a house full of books and has held numerous jobs as a teacher, computer programmer, graphic and web designer, e-learning consultant and, most recently, writer. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and two sons. When he was younger and fitter he enjoyed martial arts, but in recent years his hobbies have tended towards more sedate fare (board games, movies, books, and role-playing games).
He is extremely grateful for the encouragement he receives from his biggest fans — his wife and two boys — all of whom read and enjoy his scripts and in general make his life worth living.
You can contact the author regarding performance rights (or simply to say hello) through his website: http://www.weirdworldstudios.com.
Don’t forget to check out the free sample portions of our titles at http://weirdworldstudios.com/product-category/our-products/ .
This post and all its content is copyright © 2013 Philip Craig Robotham and has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license. This play cannot be reproduced, shared, or performed commercially without the written permission of the author. The production of derivative content, merchandise, or creative works and materials is expressly forbidden under this agreement. However you may share, reproduce, and perform this play freely so long as authorship is acknowledged, no money changes hands, and the play is not modified in any way.