Ever watch a production of Shakespeare and go "...what?"
A lot of performers just recite it like it's pretty words instead of looking for the underlying meaning of what the hell the characters are saying. An actor friend not actively performing at renaissance faires and I decided to do a scene for the 10:30 Shakespeare Slam at Bristol this weekend, so using a techniques from Shakespeare On Toast (how to read the theatrical notes and subtext in Shakespeare like it's a manual for actors, which it actually is, not "literature,") and practised in a live workshop with the author, actor and linguist Ben Crystal, we took apart Act 2, Scene 2, of Macbeth last night. Then, rather than getting all hung up on the grandiloquent lines, we ran the whole scene (full speed, moving around in real space with daggers and stage blood) ad-libbed from main general plot point to main general plot point, so the focus would remain on underlying character and emotion.
This is what we came up with.
Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2
As rehearsed for underlying meaning and flow, in modern colloquial vernacular:
Lady M: Whoo! Allright. I got my liquid courage on. HOLYSHITWHTWAS - Okay. That was an owl, doofus. Macbeth is doin' his thing, everyone is blackout drunk, I even roofied them.... Okay, if I'm honest, I'm kind of terrified they're going to wake up before he does it. Murder ITSELF is not the problem -unsuccessful murder where you get caught is a problem. Oh, wtf ever, it's all set up, hell, I could have done it.
Macbeth: *sneaks up behind, all adrenaline, whisperers in her ear.* I've killed them.
Lady M: *jumps out of her fucking skin*
Macbeth: Did you hear anything?
Lady M: Just... normal night noises. YOU'RE talking.
Macb: As I came in?
Macb: *startles* Wait, who's in the other room?
Macb: Shit. *suddenly realises he is covered in blood and he's gotten it all over her* Oh, this does NOT look good.
Lady: Don't freak yourself out.
Macb: *totally freaked out anyway* No, seriously, you don't understand. One of them laughed and the other said "Murder!" and they woke each other up while I was standing RIGHT OUTSIDE. ... Though they did go back to sleep.
Lady: Well, they're in the same room.
Macb: That's not it - one of them was like "God protect us," and the guy was like "Amen" - as if they had SEEN ME lurking out there like a crazy murderous fuck. And the freakiest part - *i* couldn't say "Amen" with him.
Lady: .... you are thinking abotu this way too hard.
Macb: But WHY couldn't I say "Amen"? If anyone needed a fucking blessing right then it was my sorry ass, but the "Amen" wouldn't come out.
Lady: We need to not go down this road right now or we are BOTH going to freak the fuck out.
Macb: I swear to fucking god I heard a voice curse me, like: You are never gonna sleep again. Sleep is for innocent people. Haha. Sleep. Ell oh fucking ell. You remember sleep? Yeah. Sleep was awesome. When you're tired you get un tired, when you're drunk you get sober, when you're sick you get well... hahahaha I liked eating sleep more than eating food -
Lady: ... what... the fuck... are you talking about.
Macb: THEY CURSED ME. They were like: you know what you're really killing? Your ability to sleep. Your family's ability to sleep. Your COUNTRY'S ability to sleep. I... am never going to sleep again.
Lady: Shhh, shh shh shh, baby, shhh. WHO said this? You are just freaking YOURSELF out with all of this bs. Listen. *singsong* We're gonna get some water, we're gonna was this shit off, these daggers - why are you even holding those daggers, baby? They need to go back in the room, okay? We need to frame the guards. Now listen baby, you need to GO BACK IN THE ROOM, put the daggers down...
Macb: HOLY FUCK NO I am not going back in there. I don't even wanna THINK about what I did, you are NOT making me go back in there.
Lady: *backing up slowly* .... okaaaaay crazy man. Give me the daggers now... yes, thank you, that's it.... it's only children that fear this storybook shit. So now I am going to go back in there and I am going to frame them and you are gonna STAY RIGHT HERE, kay?
Macb: *jumps* WTF was that? Jesus what the hell is wrong with me that everything freaks my shit out? *Looks at bloody hands again* Holy shit, is this me? I am gonna go blind if I keep looking at this. Jesus fuck, is there enough water in the world to wash this blood off me? I'll probably just turn all of it red.
Lady: *enters, dripping* Now I'm as bloody as you are. Hilarious, given that I'm innocent - (knock) What the - Hokay. I hear a knock at the side door. Let's go back to our room, a little water will solve all of this, it will be fine. You're a little worked up right now. (knock) *drags at his arm* Okay srsly we need to at least get into pjs and ACT like we've been sleeping - if someone sees us fully dressed like this it is superfucking obvious. Come on, baby, get it together, it will be fine.
Macb: ...you don't understand what an awful thing I've done. You wouldn't want to love me if you really understood what I've done. (knock) *at no one* Wake him up from the dead with your fucking knocking.... god, I wish you could.
I'll go into some of the exact techniques we used to reach this point later, but for now, here's the original for comparison if you are curious.
(10) That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold;
(11) What hath quench’d them hath given me fire. Hark! Peace!
(11) It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman,
(11) Which gives the stern’st good-night. He is about it:
(11) The doors are open; and the surfeited grooms
(12) Do mock their charge with snores. I have drugg’d their possets,
(11) That death and nature do contend about them,
(6) Whether they live or die.
(10) Alack, I am afraid they have awak’d,
(10) And ’tis not done; th’ attempt, and not the deed,
(11) Confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready,
(11) He could not miss ’em. Had he not resembled
(9) My father as he slept, I had done’t.
(11) I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?
(10) I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.
(4) Did not you speak?
(1) As I descended?
(8) Hark! Who lies i’ th’ second chamber?
(5) This is a sorry sight.
Looking on his hands.
(10) A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.
(11) There’s one did laugh in ’s sleep, and one cried, “Murder!”
(12) That they did wake each other. I stood and heard them;
(10) But they did say their prayers, and address’d them
(4) Again to sleep.
(7) There are two lodg’d together.
(11) One cried, “God bless us!” and “Amen!” the other,
(10) As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands.
(10) List’ning their fear, I could not say “Amen,”
(7) When they did say “God bless us!” (pause 3)
(awkward pause 2)(8) Consider it not so deeply.
(10) But wherefore could not I pronounce “Amen”?
(10) I had most need of blessing, and “Amen”
(4) Stuck in my throat.
(6) These deeds must not be thought
(10) After these ways; so, it will make us mad.
(10) Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
(11) Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
(10) Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
(10) The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
(10) Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
(7) Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
(4) What do you mean?
(10)Still it cried, “Sleep no more!” to all the house;
(11) “Glamis hath murder’d sleep, and therefore Cawdor
(10) Shall sleep no more—Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
(10)Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
(10)You do unbend your noble strength, to think
(11)So brain-sickly of things. Go get some water,
(10)And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
(10)Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
(10)They must lie there. Go carry them, and smear
(6)The sleepy grooms with blood.
(4)I’ll go no more.
(10)I am afraid to think what I have done;
(7)Look on’t again I dare not.
(5)Infirm of purpose!
(11) Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
(11)Are but as pictures; ’tis the eye of childhood
(11)That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
(10)I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
(6) For it must seem their guilt.
(5) Whence is that knocking?
(11) How is’t with me, when every noise appalls me?
(10)What hands are here? Hah! They pluck out mine eyes.
(10)Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
(11)Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
(11) The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
(6) Making the green one red.
Enter Lady Macbeth.
(10)My hands are of your colour; but I shame
(6)To wear a heart so white. Knock.(5)I hear a knocking
(12)At the south entry. Retire we to our chamber.
(10)A little water clears us of this deed;
(10)How easy is it then! Your constancy
(7)Hath left you unattended.Knock.(4)Hark, more knocking.
(11)Get on your night-gown, lest occasion call us
(10)And show us to be watchers. Be not lost
(6)So poorly in your thoughts.
(10)To know my deed, ’twere best not know myself.
(11) Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!