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Macbeth, Updated For The Twentieth Century, Part I

Submitted by Quartermain at 2004-05-04 11:57:37 EDT
Rating: 1.66 on 26 ratings (26 reviews) (Review this item) (V)

I had to write a big-ass English paper this semester for a Shakespeare class. The professor stressed being creative so I took a whack at re-writing 'Macbeth' and trying to update it. Since I spent so much time on it, I figured I'd post it (in chunks) so y'all could marvel at my brillance. Or at least have something to read on the john.

Oh, and the first person to say WTF IM NOT READING ALL THAT gets mailed a dead woodchuck.

Fourth class.


It’s dark. Dark dark. Dark as a lidded well at midnight on a moonless overcast night. And then, all of a sudden, a flare of light. A weak fire is being kindled. The little bit of light reveals a person of indeterminate age and gender. They are very dirty, with long straggly grey hair, red and weepy eyes, and alcoholic roseacea. They are dressed in rags and tags and cast-offs. This is ANONYMOUS, the chorus and instigator of the story. This person begins to rock back and forth, muttering to themselves. As they speak, it becomes apparent that they are speaking in three distinctly different voices, a young woman (18-25), a middle aged woman (35-50), and an older woman (65-85). With each vocal switch, their eyes change colour and their facial features shift and twitch with each new speaker.

ANON.: 1st Voice: (flighty and flirty, very light and breathy) When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain?
2nd Voice: (deep and sultry, very confident in itself, almost a purr) When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.
3rd Voice: (cracked and weathered. High-pitched and reedy) That will be ere the set of sun.
1st Voice: Where the place?
2nd Voice: Upon the heath.
3rd Voice: There to meet with Macbeth…

(The camera focuses in on a tattered, leather-bound book lying next to ANONYMOUS. A gust of wind blows the cover back and we can see printed on the flyleaf the words ‘The Collected Works of William Shakespeare.’ A another gust flips pages until we get to the frontispiece of ‘Macbeth.’ There is a picture there, a reproduction of an old woodcut, but strangely enough, it doesn’t appear to be germane to the play. It’s undeniably a woodcut done in the mediaeval style (i.e. Durer) but appears to be a lawyer arguing in a court. A modern courtroom scene can be plainly seen. The camera zooms in on the woodcut and holds for a beat, then snaps to black.

Sweeping Ariel View: An unnamed city. Even though it’s never named, it’s very much an urban metropolis. There are skyscrapers, and buses, and taxis, and people crowding the sidewalks. There is a port and shipping. It’s the urban archetype, the Uber-city. Much like New York, it’s the city of 500,000 souls, and twice that many actual people.

The camera tightens until it zooms in on one particular skyscraper. A large mirrored glass building with an impressive façade. A discreet brass plaque on the outside wall tells us that is the law firm of Duncan, Ross, and Seward. Cut to a boardroom, furnished in Early Conspicuous Consumption. Plush, wine-dark carpet, the kind that you sink into when you walk on it. Huge, expensive looking hardwood table, ultra-comfortable leather chairs, liquor cabinet in one corner stocked with several bottles and fixings. Several men in expensive suits are sitting around the conference table. There is a general low hum of conversation. Two of the three Senior Partners are there, as are some middle-management ‘climbers’ and various secretaries and assistants.

The older, silver-haired, leonine man at the head of the table (think Sean Connery in ‘Hunt for Red October’) does not participate in any of the conversations taking place. This is ANGUS DUNCAN, senior partner and head of the firm. He just sits there, fingers steepled, waiting, thinking and planning. Next to him sits an older, frailer-looking man who has dozed off. This is JAMES SEWARD, the second senior partner. He is due to retire soon, if he doesn’t die in his office tomorrow. The door opens and LENOX, DUNCAN’S assistant, comes in and says something to him sotto voce. DUNCAN nods, and LENOX leaves, reappearing shortly leading another man into the room.

This man is a general intern-looking kind of law clerk. Young, kind of shabbily-dressed, but in means of quality, not for lack of trying. Where everyone else’s suit is Armani or the equivalent, his is Sears. He’s someone way down on the totem pole and (slowly) working his way up. He is tired-looking and kind of rumpled, his sleeves rolled up, his tie pulled down, dark circles under his eyes, five o’clock shadow, that kind of thing. At his appearance in the room, the conversation dies, DUNCAN looks up from the middle distance he’s been looking into, and Seward comes back (barely) into the land of the conscious. Freeze-frame and title scroll at the bottom of the screen: ‘DUNCAN, ROSS, AND SEWARD. STRATEGY MEETING. SEPTEMBER 15 17:55.

DUNCAN: (gesturing to an empty seat near himself) Sit down son; you look like you’ve been to the wars. What can you tell us about the case?

CLERK: (normally, he’d be nervous at being here in front of all these movers and shakers, but at the moment he’s too tired and worn) Thank you, sir. (Sits) It went way better than we expected. The judge decided for us on all points. Macdonwald thought he had us, jumping to their firm like he did, but Macbeth ploughed right through his arguments like they weren’t even there. You should have seen the look on Macdonwald’s face; it was like he’d been gutted and was trying his damnedest to keep his chitlins where they belong. The head counsel, Norvay, tried an eleventh-hour save, but Macbeth had planned for that too, just in case. Neither judge nor jury bought it, and the decision was ours.

LENOX: (who has quietly and discreetly been on the phone.) I’ve just received word that Norvay’s firm has approached us about a settlement, sir. What shall I tell them?

DUNCAN: Settle it, but make sure they know who won. I want this done on our terms. (Taps the table with two fingers while he says this to emphasize his point) Also, I want to see Macdonwald disbarred and generally unable to get a job that has anything whatsoever to do with the law. I don’t care how it’s done, but I don’t him to be able to play a lawyer on TV, even. And since we seem to have a vacant executive spot (beat, considering) Have Macbeth’s effects moved in to Macdonwald’s former office, I think he’s earned that, at least.

LENOX: (making notes in on his handheld) I’ll see to it right away, sir. (Exits)

DUNCAN stands up to leave and all the others stand as well, except for the CLERK, who has inadvertently fallen asleep in his chair. There is a muted buzz at this breach of etiquette, but they are all waiting to see what DUNCAN does before they say anything outright. DUNCAN motions them all to leave, quietly. They do. He then goes to a cabinet and pulls out a utilitarian looking blanket, which he brings back to where the CLERK is. He begins to drape the blanket over the CLERK. And then stops. He looks at the guy’s suit and does a bit of the mock frown. He pulls a few bills from the inside of his suit coat and tucks them into the CLERK’s shirt pocket. He smiles then, drapes the blanket over the CLERK, and leaves, turning out the lights on his way.


Review This Item




Submitted by wazzawazzayo at 2004-06-04 14:50:23 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

Gotcha. You might want to make it a bit more obvious. Everything else works really well so far, I'll make sure I read the rest.

Submitted by Razor at 2004-06-04 14:37:49 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by Quartermain at 2004-06-03 02:22:43 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

See, in the original play, Macdonwald is one of Duncan's thanes who betrays him and allies with the King of Norway. There is this big battle between him and Macbeth and Macbeth wins, which is where he and Banquo are coming back from when they meet the witches.

In my version, Macdonwald jumps ship to the law firm that is opposing Duncan's law firm and goes head to head with Macbeth in court, not on the field of battle.

Submitted by wazzawazzayo at 2004-06-02 13:24:27 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

My favourite part is when Hamlet starts pimpin' out his bitches.

Seriously though, wouldn’t it be a big conflict of interest having Macbeth and Macdonwald working at the same law firm on opposing sides of the same case? Or am I missing something?

“Have Macbeth's effects moved in to Macdonwald's former office, I think he's earned that, at least.”

Submitted by Can_Always_Trust_A_Liar at 2004-06-02 12:55:30 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Oo! Oo! I read Macbetyh in school! I know what's going on!

Submitted by Quartermain at 2004-05-04 19:54:43 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

Kristen- Buddy Jewel is coming here to play this weekend. Brad Paisley, kenney Chesney and Keith Urban are scheduled this summer too.

Submitted by Yes at 2004-05-04 18:02:56 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by JinkyWilliams at 2004-05-04 16:44:13 EDT (#)
Rating: 2


Submitted by Man O' War at 2004-05-04 16:26:44 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

The Scottish Play is Shakespeare's greatest achievement. Although my re-imagining involved re-locating the action to 1980s Hong Kong with John Woo directing.

Submitted by Kristen at 2004-05-04 16:20:20 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by Quartermain (user info) at 2004-05-04 15:29:31 (#)
Ranking: 0

Now see, I try and bring a little class and culture to Ubersite and you have to go and quote 'Friday' at me.

'What we have here, boy, is failure to communicate.'
Submitted by slowlyrotting (user info) at 2004-05-04 15:06:37 (#)
Ranking: 2

to quote Friday...

"You ain't got to lie Craig"
That was funny. Hey, Jason, I have a sudden infatuation with Brad Paisley and Buddy Jewel. I tried to talk to some yanks about 'em and they were severely lost. It was saaaaaad.

Submitted by slowlyrotting at 2004-05-04 16:11:40 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Class and culture have no place on ubersite.

Sling Blade-
"I reckon I'll have the biguns"

Submitted by Titinita at 2004-05-04 16:11:23 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Aw, this crowd won't appreciate your work, Jason. :)

Submitted by onebeat at 2004-05-04 15:45:01 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

cool, i have to do an extract from macbeth for my acting school auditions.

to be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.
our fears in banquo stick deep..etc

i hope you got an A+ or whatever the highest grade is for this!
great picture aswell

Submitted by Quartermain at 2004-05-04 15:29:31 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

Now see, I try and bring a little class and culture to Ubersite and you have to go and quote 'Friday' at me.

'What we have here, boy, is failure to communicate.'

Submitted by slowlyrotting at 2004-05-04 15:06:37 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

to quote Friday...

"You ain't got to lie Craig"

Submitted by Quartermain at 2004-05-04 14:38:33 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

It was more of a metaphorical don't-say-stupid-things-you-can't-back-up kind of spanking than an actual physical one.

Submitted by slowlyrotting at 2004-05-04 14:28:35 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

you spanked him? nasty...

Submitted by Quartermain at 2004-05-04 13:21:17 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

**part of the charm of Macbeth, and all Shakespeare for that matter, is the language he uses.**

Agreed. This isn't so much a translation though, since both Shakespeare and my efforts are in English. Like I said, its more along the lines of a 'update.' Kind of like 'Ten Things I Hate About You' except that this wasn't written at the mental level of your average MTV mongoloid and it doesn't suck.

Jinky- Thanks for the comments. I'm not sure what vergedor's problem is either. I spanked him in an argument a while back and ever since then he's been whiny.

Submitted by JinkyWilliams at 2004-05-04 12:52:33 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Don't pay any mind to vergedor. I don't know what his problem is, exactly, but since he didn't give any constructive criticism or any real reason for disliking it, I don't think he has a legitimate complaint. He likely lost interest because no one had a violent and/or untimely death and no one had had sex in the first 2 minutes.

Stay orange.

Submitted by Random Joe at 2004-05-04 12:43:30 EDT (#)
Rating: -1

These things never work.
part of the charm of Macbeth, and all Shakespeare for that matter, is the language he uses. if you're going to translate it, you make it lose it's soul.

Submitted by JinkyWilliams at 2004-05-04 12:41:49 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Awesome, Quartermain (Quartermain, as in Allen Quatermain?)

Already a +2 for Sean Connery in Red October. And another for the accent under the "c" in "façade".

And another for the beginning.

I'm digging the detail level you've included and the narrative voice. I'm looking forward to the rest of the installments.

Stay orange.

Submitted by Ainkara at 2004-05-04 12:39:05 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

I will read this, but right now I'm quite tired. So here's a pre-emptive +2. I'm sure it's worth it.

Submitted by vergedor at 2004-05-04 12:34:20 EDT (#)
Rating: -2

It's simply not interesting. You had bored me to sleep by the 5th paragraph.

Submitted by Quartermain at 2004-05-04 12:24:20 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

Always have to push it, don't you Rick?

Hope you know some good recipes for rotten woodchuck.

Submitted by slowlyrotting at 2004-05-04 12:03:05 EDT (#)
Rating: 2



44051 Gala Cir.
Ashburn, VA 20147

Submitted by I_Have_a_Kristen_Fetish at 2004-05-04 12:01:19 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

-2 for Shakespeare. The only thing useful he ever did was make a decent fishing reel. http://www.shakespeare-fishing.com/products/reels/skp3000.shtml
+2 Because I don't have a monitor in my john to read this on.

Gee, if some snot-nosed little kid sent me to prison, the first thing
out, I'd find out where he lives, and tear him a new belly button.

-- Homer Simpson
Cape Feare