Below we present the complete text of “The Heel of the Boot”, episode 4 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 This is a brand new (unpublished) series (featuring the familiar Shakespearian characters in a against a backdrop of starships, rayguns and intergalactic politics).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 #4 – THE HEEL OF THE BOOT
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.
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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 4 – THE HEEL OF THE BOOT
NARRATOR: The Narrator
SPY: Chief spy to the Emperor
MACBETH: General in the service of the Emperor and then Emperor thereafter
LADY MACBETH: Wife of Macbeth
ROSS: General in the service of the Emperor
MACDUFF: General in the service of the Emperor
LADY MACDUFF: Wife of General MacDuff
NURSE: Nurse-maid to the MacDuff children
SERVANT: Servant to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
PRIOR: The Alien that speaks of the past
EXTANT: The Alien that speaks of the present
ULTERIOR: The Alien that speaks of the future
SFX ARTIST: Minimum 1 required
SCENE 1: (INT) DUNSINANE PALACE (MACBETH, SPY)
- MUSIC: OPENING THEME AND TITLE – LET IT FINISH
- NARRATOR: Shortly after announcing Fleance, the daughter of his best friend, as his heir, newly crowned Emperor Macbeth, murderer and usurper of Emperor Duncan I (THE FIRST), has discovered that his wife is pregnant. In light of this, instead of a an event designed to provide stability and certainty with regard to Macbeth’s regime, the naming of Fleance now appears to be an impediment to the establishment of Macbeth’s own dynasty. What dark deeds is the Emperor now willing to contemplate in order to achieve his latest ambition?
- SPY: My Lord, how can your Chief of Spies serve you today?
- MACBETH: Do you have a family, my friend?
- SPY: No, your highness. I am vat-bred, a clone, prepared for your service since I was grown in the jars of the breeding factory on Planet Haverness. We are, of course, incapable of having families of our own.
- MACBETH: Indeed. Forgive me, I forgot, having been caught up in my own news. You have heard, of course, that my Lady Gruoch carries an heir?
- SPY: Of course, my lord. The entire empire is rejoicing at the happy event.
- MACBETH: And you are aware that I have announced that Fleance, the daughter of General Banquo, my very good friend, will succeed to the throne upon my death?
- SPY: (NEUTRAL) Yes, my Lord.
- MACBETH: It occurs to me that Banquo has not given enough attention to his security.
- SPY: Sire?
- MACBETH: He underestimates how dangerous a hotbed of dissidence, Cawdor is. Recently, I received news that the governor of one of the districts, Macmahon, I believe, was murdered.
- SPY: (DRILY) Fancy that.
- MACBETH: I would like to charge you with the task of ensuring Banquo and his daughter…
- SPY: Both of them, sire?
- MACBETH: Yes, both of them. I would like you to ensure that the TWO of them do not fall prey to any seditious plots or terrorist actions when they travel to Dunsinane.
- SPY: And you believe such action is likely?
- MACBETH: Oh, I believe it to be a certainty.
- SPY: Yes, my lord. I will make all the necessary arrangements.
- MACBETH: Thank you. I was certain that I could rely on you.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 2: (INT) THE PALACE AT CAWDOR (BANQUO, FLEANCE)
- SOUND: QUICK WALKING – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- SOLDIER: General Banquo, Princess Fleance, your ships are waiting.
- BANQUO: Thankyou Soldier, that will be all.
- FLEANCE: I know you trust him father, but I have reason to believe he is…
- BANQUO: Nonsense, Fleance. The Emperor is my oldest friend. He is a brave and honourable man.
- FLEANCE: And a ruthless one. I am not so sure about his honour, though.
- BANQUO: What makes you say such things?
- FLEANCE: Have you heard about the quarantine?
- BANQUO: Yes, of course. It was put before the council for approval.
- FLEANCE: But do you know what has happened since?
- BANQUO: Stop teasing. What do you know?
- FLEANCE: Nothing concrete…
- BANQUO: I thought not.
- FLEANCE: But there are reports of refugees attempting to break the blockade and being blown out of space by imperial troops.
- BANQUO: Nonsense. The Emperor…
- FLEANCE: The Emperor was probably behind the extermination of entire cities on Cawdor… he could easily be behind this.
- BANQUO: You were the one who investigated the massacres on Cawdor.
- FLEANCE: And I was told to end those investigations after Macmahon was killed. Only…
- BANQUO: Only you didn’t.
- FLEANCE: Only I didn’t. I have developed contacts while working as the chief of your intelligence division and I have uncovered some disturbing things.
- BANQUO: Are these the same contacts that provided your information on the quarantine?
- FLEANCE: They are, and before you ask, I do trust them.
- BANQUO: Alright. But even if our Emperor is behind some… disturbing… actions, he is hardly a threat to us. He has declared his intention to name you to the throne.
- FLEANCE: And Gruoch is now pregnant. How long will I survive as an impediment to the creation of his own flesh and blood dynasty? I have a bad feeling, father, like an itch that I can’t quite scratch. I do not think you can trust to your friendship any longer. Please, be on your guard.
- BANQUO: Alright. I won’t pretend I haven’t had a few concerns of my own since that long ago journey through the asteroid field with Macbeth.
- FLEANCE: What’s that?
- BANQUO: Another time. (BEAT) So, is it your intention to take a separate ship?
- FLEANCE: Yes, it is. We will make less tempting targets if we are not together.
- BANQUO: It will also signal our distrust of the Emperor.
- FLEANCE: I’ve already taken care of that. In a moment I will receive an urgent message from my department regarding a grave threat to planetary security. It will require that I follow after you in a second ship.
- BANQUO: It seems you’ve thought this through.
- FLEANCE: I have.
- BANQUO: And if the worst should happen?
- FLEANCE: Then nowhere in the empire will be safe for us. If one of us should die, then the other should head for alien space.
- BANQUO: Are you mad?
- FLEANCE: Perhaps, but I have reason to believe that our welcome would not be as uncertain as we might once have thought.
- BANQUO: Alright. Good luck to you, daughter.
- SOUND: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 3: (INT) DUNSINANE PALACE (MACBETH, SPY, MACDUFF, ROSS)
- SOUND: BACKGROUND MURMUR – LET IT FINISH.
- ROSS: Macduff, I’ve never seen the Emperor like this. Nor his lady.
- MACDUFF: Neither have I, Ross. If he gets much drunker…
- ROSS: He looks angry. It can’t just be that Banquo and his daughter are late.
- MACDUFF: No, something is bothering him. He’s like a snake that’s had a meal snatched from its jaws. And Gruoch looks like she can barely contain herself. She keeps trying to calm him down but…
- MACBETH: (EXPLOSIVELY) Where is he? I’ve a room full of guests and no guest of honour!
- SERVANT: Sire, we know no more than you do.
- MACBETH: (SOUNDING DRUNK) Then go and find someone who can tell us more. The finest communications array in the galaxy, and we can’t find someone who is actually on his way here?
- SERVANT: Yes, sire. Right away, sire.
- MACBETH: And send me more wine! (BEAT) No wait. What’s that?
- SERVANT: Sire?
- MACBETH: That! What is that?
- SERVANT: I can’t see…
- MACBETH: It’s a ship. I see a ship.
- SOUND: EXPLOSION – LET IT FINISH.
- MACBETH: It’s exploded. Exploded! In pieces.
- SERVANT: My lord, are you alright?
- MACBETH: And now it’s changing. I see… I see… a man. No! No. Don’t look at me that way! You’re late. You’re late and your daughter will not be Empress. How can we have an Empress whose father is late? How can we…
- LADY MACBETH: Ladies and gentleman, I apologize for my husband. He appears to have had a little too much wine. I’m sure that if we wait a little longer…
- MACBETH: Blood. Look at the blood. You can’t come to the royal hall looking like that. It’s just not done, man! Clean off the blood at the least. No one will give your daughter a throne if you appear dripping with gore.
- LADY MACBETH: (PANICKING) Uh… he’s drunk, friends. Please, perhaps it is best to cancel the festivities, this evening. He has been very stressed lately, dealing with the quarantine and food shortages and such. I’m sure you understand.
- MACBETH: The ship. It’s back
- SOUND: EXPLOSION – LET IT FINISH.
- MACBETH: And it’s being destroyed again.
- SOUND: EXPLOSION – LET IT FINISH.
- MACBETH: And again.
- LADY MACBETH:(ALMOST CRYING) Please, friends, let’s not witness my husbands distress. It is the strain. I’ll summon the doctor.
- SOUND: MURMURS AND MOVEMENT – UNDER
- LADY MACBETH: (GENTLY) Come, husband, we shall retire.
- ROSS: Did you see that?
- MACDUFF: I did. But I’d counsel you not to speak of it openly.
- ROSS: But…
- MACDUFF: I understand… and it looks to me, also, like a troubled conscience is emerging from the Emperor’s cups.
- ROSS: What will you do?
- MACDUFF: I’ll not stay. That much is certain. I have a journey I need to make. Perhaps quite a long one. And I will need to prepare my ship right away. (BEAT) Look to your own safety, Ross. I believe the Emperor has gone mad and I do not expect he will treat those who witnessed this fiasco with any gentleness.
- ROSS: Good luck, Macduff. I believe we are all going to need it.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 4: (INT) DUNSINANE PALACE (LATER) (MACBETH, SPY)
- SOUND: FEET WALKING – LET IT FINISH
- SPY: My liege, I bring grave news. As you feared, there has been an attack upon General Banquo by terrorists from Cawdor. Sadly, the General was killed in an explosion upon his ship.
- MACBETH: And his daughter? How fares Fleance?
- SPY: Fortunately, the daughter escaped the trap. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
- MACBETH: (ROARING) What??? Escaped. How?
- SPY: (UNFAZED) My lord? Your joy at this news does you credit.
- MACBETH: (COUGHS) Of course, but you fail to see the reason for my concern. Once before the offspring of one of my most trusted friends committed patricide. Now it appears that Fleance has done the same. It would not surprise me if she has fled to join Malcolm.
- SPY: Undoubtedly, my Lord. Do you wish to have this news announced? A search of the empire could begin almost immediately.
- MACBETH: Yes, see to it. I want the empire to be abuzz with news of the treachery of Fleance. Leave no stone unturned.
- SPY: Of course, my Lord. (BEAT) There is other news, also.
- MACBETH: Better news, I hope.
- SPY: I wouldn’t presume to say. But it also appears that General Macduff has disappeared. (BEAT) You did ask me to keep an eye on the General after Duncan’s death… due to his close association with the perpetrator, Malcolm.
- MACBETH: Ah, of course. It appears that the General has become a turncoat also?
- SPY: As you say.
- MACBETH: He has clearly joined with Fleance in hopes of linking up with Malcolm. What of his family, do they remain at the palace on Lochaber (LOCK-ARBOR)?
- SPY: They do.
- MACBETH: It is a pity that he should expose them to such peril. Any true patriot on Lochaber (LOCK-ARBOR) might take it upon himself to be revenged for the betrayal involved in these events. It would not surprise me if the entire family met with a horrible and untimely end.
- SPY: The universe is indeed a dark and dangerous place, my Lord.
- MACBETH: Indeed it is, but traitors and those who harbour them can expect no less.
- SPY: Indeed.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 5: (EXT) TRAVELLING THROUGH SPACE (SPY, PRIOR, EXTANT, ULTERIOR)
- SOUND: HUM OF SPACESHIP ENGINE, OCCASIONAL BEEPS – ESTABLISH AND UNDER.
- SPY: It’s a funny old life. One day you’re employed by one Emperor to keep the secret of our invading and annexing the territory of a newly encountered alien species, the next there is a new Emperor on the throne, and you’re being paid to oversee a series of convenient accidents that just happen to remove his enemies. Still, that’s the nature of the job. I keep their secrets… and they in turn come to depend on me and fear what would happen if I were ever to break my silence. Ha ha ha ha. It is a comic form of detente. Mutual distrust for mutual benefit. While I live, their secrets are safe. While their secrets are kept safe, I live. It all comes tumbling down the moment that any of it comes out into the light, of course. But where would the fun be, if there wasn’t any risk?
- SOUND: RATTLING NOISE – FADE UP UNDER.
- SPY: What the? What is happening to my instruments? Nothing is responding and the readings have all turned to junk.
- SOUND: RATTLING NOISE – INCREASES.
- SPY: (UNDER) It feels like the ship is about to be torn apart.
- SOUND: SHOOP OF BEING SWALLOWED – LET IT FINISH.
- SPY: (LONG BEAT) Where in the nine hells am I?
- PRIOR: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) You have killed, human, many times and for many masters.
- EXTANT: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) You are an assassin, yes?
- SPY: No, I’m a…
- EXTANT: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) (ANGRY AND BEYOND CONTRADICTION) YES!
- ULTERIOR: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) You will kill for us soon.
- SPY: But… I have a commission.
- EXTANT: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) True, you have a job at present.
- ULTERIOR: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) We will not attempt to stop you.
- EXTANT: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) We have what you want.
- ULTERIOR: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) We will pay you.
- SPY: What do you have?
- EXTANT: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) We have your life.
- ULTERIOR: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) We will give it back to you if you assist us.
- SPY: Do I have a choice?
- EXTANT: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) No.
- SPY: Then what is it you want?
- ULTERIOR: (OVER COMMUNICATOR ALIEN VOICE) I will tell you…
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 6: (INT) LOCHABER PALACE (MACDUFF, LADY MACDUFF, CHILD, SPY)
- LADY MACDUFF: You’re doing what?
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I’m heading into alien space. I’m going to try and meet face to face with Malcolm and Fleance.
- LADY MACDUFF: You’re insane. The Emperor is on the rampage. There’s even talk that he believes you are part of the conspiracy to kill Duncan and Banquo.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Damn his stupidity! I thought I’d have more time to sort this out. (BEAT) I can’t quite figure out whether Macbeth is a monster, or mad, or the victim of some greater scheme, but, whatever the case, I don’t think even he will try to move against me until I return.
- LADY MACDUFF: And when do you intend to return? Lochaber (LOCK-ARBOR) is on the very edge of human space. We need you here to help maintain the empire’s defences.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) If I can’t get to the bottom of this mystery, and shortly, there may not be an empire left to defend. Ross and a number of the other generals are now openly discussing civil war. It is essential that I find a way to bring Malcolm home, either as the rightful king, or in chains. You’ve said it yourself, Marissa, I’m not a clever man. But I do know right from wrong and I will find a clear path through this maze before I’m through.
- LADY MACDUFF: I know you will, my love. If anyone can do this, it is you. But try to do it as quickly as you can. We cannot afford to take too much time.
- SOUND: ZAP AND SCREAM – LET IT FINISH.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Marissa, what was that?
- SOUND: TWO MORE ZAPS AND ACCOMPANYING SCREAMS – LET IT FINISH.
- LADY MACDUFF: It sounded like laser fire.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Where are your guards?
- LADY MACDUFF: In the hall. I’ll call them in to…
- SOUND: ZAP – SCREAM – BODY DROP – LET IT FINISH.
- SOUND: DOOR SLIDES OPEN – LET IT FINISH.
- SPY: Ah, Lady Macduff. I was looking for you.
- LADY MACDUFF: Who? Who are you?
- SPY: Oh, my lady, who I am is of little consequence. More importantly you should be asking who I represent.
- LADY MACDUFF: (SCARED) Alright, who do you represent? And what do you want?
- SPY: Two questions? Really? Then I will answer them. Perhaps we should take it in turns. Firstly, as to who I represent… Can’t you guess?
- LADY MACDUFF: The Emperor. Only he would be so bold!
- SPY: And there you are. Your first question answered. But now here is the first of my own. Where is your husband?
- LADY MACDUFF: He has made an expedition into alien space. He believes Malcolm and Fleance have fled there and he hopes to capture and bring them in before more harm can be done.
- SPY: Oh dear. You have no idea how much that saddens me. You see, my Lady, that means that your husband is actually a patriot rather than a traitor. He is looking to do his Emperor a great service. Unfortunately, should he succeed, he will discover the truth, and that would be most unfortunate. I dare say that you know what truth that is, don’t you my Lady? (BEAT) No guesses? Here let me try to help you. An intelligent woman like you should be able to work this out for herself.
- SOUND: CUTTING – START THEN UNDER.
- LADY MACDUFF: (SCREAMS) Aaargh!
- SPY: Oh So, can you make a guess? Just one little educated guess?
- LADY MACDUFF: (PANTING AND IN PAIN) That Malcolm and Fleance didn’t murder their fathers.
- SPY: Ah, you see? I said you were intelligent. And now I will answer the second of your questions. I have been sent to complete the mission my master has charged me with. Though, now, if truth be told, I rather feel I have two masters. (BEAT) Oh you’ve noticed this, have you?
- SOUND: JANGLING CHAIN – LET IT FINISH.
- SPY: Yes, It is rather a nasty looking bucket of a thing isn’t it? Apparently it can remove a head with ease. I’m not sure what all these sharp little needles are for though. I’ve been instructed to keep it with me until the contract is complete. But don’t worry. It has nothing to do with this contract. In short, my Lady, it is not going to be used on you.
- LADY MACDUFF: Then, what…?
- SPY: Uh-uh-uh! Only one question at a time, please. Besides, it’s my turn to ask something. Tell me, my lady, where are your children?
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) (UNABLE TO HOLD BACK) You craven dog!
- SPY: Oh, my lady. Now that was careless of me. I didn’t realise you had an open communication channel. And to your husband no less. I’ve been through something of a shock recently, so I think I can be forgiven for overlooking that little detail just this once. But still it is a little embarrassing.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Who are you, you filthy coward?
- SPY: Oh, of course, forgive me General Macduff. I’m sorry to find you unavailable to callers just now. I’m afraid I won’t be able to exchange formal introductions. Nevertheless, I should let you know that you are a wanted man, marked by the Emperor as Malcolm’s accomplice and aid to Fleance. You have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, once to often, Macduff, and the coincidences are rather damning, don’t you think? (BEAT) No answer? What about if I do this?
- SOUND: CUTTING – UNDER.
- LADY MACDUFF: (SHRIEKS) Aargh!
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Leave her alone.
- SPY: Oh, yes, I’ll leave her alone alright. After I arrange the evidence to make it appear one of your own citizens has taken it upon themselves to patriotically put an end to your traitorous bloodline.
- MACDUFF (OVER COMMUNICATOR) AND LADY MACDUFF: No!
- SPY: Did you really believe that the Emperor would draw the line at killing women and children? He who has killed his kinsman and best friend without a qualm?
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) I’m going to find you and reach down your throat to rip your spine from your body!
- SPY: Oh, you are welcome to try, General. In fact I would be grateful if you did. Come back as quickly as you can. It will be too late for your family of course (GRUNTS) …
- SOUND: CRUNCH OF BONE – UNDER.
- LADY MACDUFF: (SCREAMS) Aaargh!
- SPY: But it will make it easier to find you, and bring you to your end. (BEAT) Nothing to say? (BEAT) I thought not.
- SOUND: ZAP AND BODY DROP – LET IT FINISH.
- SPY: Oh, there she goes. I guess I could have kept her alive for a little while longer. As bait perhaps? Or even to help me find the children.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) Marissa!
- SPY: Oh, she can’t answer now. I just drilled a hole through her head with my laser pistol. If you thought you had hopes of yet playing the hero, General… swooping in at the last moment and preventing the deaths of your loved ones… I’m sorry to disappoint you. As it turns out, I’m not going to have to search terribly hard for your children, either. It seems, according to your wife’s electronic diary, that their nurse is due to bring them to this very room in order to kiss their mother good night very shortly. It’s not going to happen of course. I intend to intercept them on their way.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) (BROKEN SOBBING) I’ll kill you, you cur. I’ll kill you. I’ll wring your identity from your cowardly master’s neck as I choke the life out of him, and then I will find and kill you.
- SPY: Ah, that’s more like it. Sedition, a direct threat against the Emperor himself. It doesn’t matter much now, I know, but I’ll feel better about all this knowing that you are actually a traitor. Please, come and find me. I’ll be waiting. And so will the Emperor.
- MACDUFF: (OVER COMMUNICATOR) So you think? Then I will come, and with an army led by the true heir to the empire. I will make it my task to raise that army and place Malcolm at its head.
- SPY: And as I said, I really will be waiting for you. When you bring Malcolm here you will actually be helping me fulfil my second commission. You know general, I didn’t expect to find you so obliging. I should probably be thanking you for your assistance in all of this.
- NURSE: (DISTANT – SCREAMS) Aaaah! The Lady’s guards are dead! Raise the alarm!
- SPY: Oops, I’ve ended up taking a little too long. Feel free to stay on the line and listen, if you’d like. I’ve got to get back to work.
- SOUND: DOOR SLIDES OPEN AND CLOSED – LET IT FINISH.
- SPY: (DISTANT) Ah, there you are nurse.
- NURSE: Who? Oh, no!
- SOUND: ZAP – ZAP, ZAP – THREE BODIES DROP – LET IT FINISH.
- MACDUFF: (WAILING) Nooooooooooo!
- 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?
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.
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.
ROSS (GENERAL IN THE SERVICE OF THE EMPEROR), HUMOROUS, EFFICIENT): Welcome to the emperor’s court. I see you’ve managed to leave the wife and bairns behind again, General. We have your cot and monk’s cell prepared for you as requested, along with a regular morning bowl of gruel. What’s that? Oh, yes. Your wife contacted us to make all the arrangements. Apparently she wished you to know how much she appreciated being left behind with the children while you came to visit the Emperor.
PRIOR (THE ALIEN REPRESENTING THE FATE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PAST – AN AGED SAND-PAPERY HISSING VOICE): I have been responsible for the past. I spoke of ages gone by. I told of yesterday’s events. My voice was only heard when the past tense was used. I was oldest of my siblings.
EXTANT (THE ALIEN REPRESENTING THE FATE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PRESENT – A CHITTERING VOICE, HARSH, LIKE a BIRD OF PREY): I am responsible for the present. I speak of what is now, in this moment. I speak only in the present tense. I am the middle child among my siblings. I flit from sentence to sentence, moment to moment, like a bird of prey in search of its next kill.
ULTERIOR (THE ALIEN REPRESENTING THE FATE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FUTURE – A SINISTER CHILDLIKE GOBLIN – THINK GOLLUM – VOICE): I will be responsible for the future. I will tell you of what is to come. I will reveal what tomorrow has in store. I will speak only in the future tense. I will be the youngest of my siblings.
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.
SERVANT AND NURSE (TERRIFIED, JUMPS AT EVERY COMMAND): I need a new job. The Emperor is alright, but his wife? Ugh. She’ll be the death of me. I can’t seem to do anything right. I try and try and I… (SOBS).
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.
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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.