Macbeth As You Like It

I wrote this opening for the writing group back in 2016 and it went down well – however, it really needs outlining first using the original play. I’m not clear where it would have ended up.

Scene 1 – a blasted heath. Three witches are gathered around a cauldron.

LARNA: When shall we three meet again?

CORINTHIA: In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

GLADYS: Do we have to?

LARNA: What?

GLADYS: The thunder, lightning and rain. It’s ruined three perfectly good cloaks, and it makes the cat miserable.

LARNA: But it’s traditional!

CORINTHIA: She’s got a point. I wouldn’t mind a bit of sunshine. The doctor said it’s just the thing for my warts.

LARNA: But we’re witches! We’re supposed to have warts!

GLADYS: Easy for you to say. Yours are fake.

LARNA: They are not!

CORINTHIA: They are. I’ve seen you sticking them on. You got them from that joke shop in Fife.

LARNA: It’s hardly my fault if some of us are blessed with good skin.

GLADYS: Maybe some of us spend a little more time practising our spells than visiting the salon.

CORINTHIA: Can we get back to the agenda, please? Next meeting. How does Tuesday sound?

LARNA: Will there be thunder, lightning and/or rain?

CORINTHIA: The weather forecast predicts scattered showers. I thought it would be a good compromise.

(The other two witches grumble inaudibly.)

CORINTHIA: Come on, ladies. We’ve got a job to do. That Scottish bloke isn’t going to doom himself, you know.

LARNA: Do you know how hard it’s been to get anywhere with his wife? She’s a total stuck up cow, that one. It took three goat sacrifices and four hexes just to get into her knitting circle. I think he’s already doomed.

GLADYS: Sure, like one woman is more work than stirring up an entire rebellion. You’ve got the easy job.

CORINTHIA: Ladies, please! We don’t have time for squabbling! Macbeth will be riding through here very soon, and we need to be ready. You know what the big boss downstairs will say if we screw this one up.

LARNA: I know, I know. An eternity in Hell if we don’t convince Macbeth to murder the king. I’m not sure that wouldn’t be the better deal. If I have to listen to any more of that ghastly woman’s rants about immigration…

GLADYS: Hark! Paddock calls. I’d better go feed him.

LARNA: You and that bloody toad. What’s wrong with the black cat?

GLADYS: He won’t come out in all this thunder and lightning, and I wish I could stay home with him. Toads don’t mind getting a bit wet.

CORINTHIA: Fair is foul and foul is fair. Let’s go home. I need to hoover my black and filthy lair. (She cackles.)


Scene 2 – a battlefield. Enter MACBETH and BANQUO on horseback.

MACBETH: (sadly) What a mess.

BANQUO: I know what you mean. What was the Thane of Cawdor thinking?

MACBETH: Open rebellion against the king? Why? I swear, Banquo, something weird is going on here. We were playing golf together just last month and he was totally normal. He was talking about putting an extension on the castle.

BANQUO: Maybe it’s witchcraft. There have been strange omens lately.

MACBETH: You mean, strange lights in the sky? Birds flying backwards? That sort of thing?

BANQUO: All that, and more. They say at the abbey that the end times are near.

MACBETH: They say that every other week.

BANQUO: I spoke to an old soothsayer in the market yesterday. He told me that three ravens would caw in my ear.


MESSENGER: My Lord Macbeth, I bring a message from the king.

MACBETH: Then deliver it.

MESSENGER: He bids you to join him at Cawdor Castle.

BANQUO: Anything else?

MESSENGER: That’s all, my Lord.

MACBETH: Tell the king we’ll be along shortly.

The MESSENGER exits.

MACBETH: What does the king want, I wonder?

BANQUO: Maybe he wishes to reward you for your deeds.

MACBETH: Maybe. Hold – what’s that up ahead?

BANQUO: Three ladies, dressed in black.

Across the stage, we see the three WITCHES gathered around the cauldron.

LARNA: Bloody hell, how many more times? It’s eye of newt for headaches, and wing of bat for gastrointestinal distress!

GLADYS: What’s wrong with willow bark? That seems to work for anything.

They stop talking and look up as MACBETH and BANQUO approach.

CORINTHIA: Typical! He’s here early!

GLADYS: What was it we do again?

LARNA: I’m glad at least one of us has read the bloody script. (To MACBETH) Hail to thee, Macbeth, thane of Glamis.

GLADYS: Hail to thee, Macbeth, thane of Cornwall.

LARNA: (whispering) Cawdor!

GLADYS: Corn door?

LARNA: Give me strength. Caw!



BANQUO: Aieee! The soothsayer was right! The three ravens have cawed in my ear!

CORINTHIA: (to MACBETH) Is he a bit soft in the head?

MACBETH: Greetings, ladies. What do you mean by these words? Thane of Glamis I am, but there is no thane of Cornwall.

LARNA: She means Cawdor. Not too good with place names, this one.

CORINTHIA: I didn’t get to do my bit.

LARNA: It’s probably a bit late now.

BANQUO: Aieee! Too late, indeed! My soul is already damned!

MACBETH: Oh, shut up! (to the witches) Of what do you speak?

LARNA: It won’t work now. It needs a bit of building up.

CORINTHIA: We could start again with your bit.

LARNA: Oh, all right. Gladys, remember – Caw!


BANQUO: Aieee!

LARNA: Hail to thee, Macbeth, thane of Glamis!

GLADYS: Hail to thee, Macbeth, thane of Caw!

LARNA: -Dor!

CORINTHIA: Hail to thee, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter.

MACBETH: What riddle is this? Ladies, the thane of Cawdor lives still. I ride to his castle to speak with the king.

LARNA: In time, you will see the wisdom of our words.

GLADYS: They’d be a lot more impressive if I’d had time to rehearse them.

LARNA: Well, we’re not the ones who won’t go out in the rain any more.

GLADYS: I can’t help that. Mr Whiskers is off his food, and I’ve not seen Paddock for days now.

BANQUO: Macbeth, let us leave for Cawdor Castle. The king waits. And I do not trust these harridans. They are evil!

MACBETH: Very well, let us depart. But evil? You have not known evil until you have stepped into the den of devilry that is Lady Macbeth’s knitting circle.


LARNA: Ladies, that was a total shambles.

GLADYS: Why did you give me the difficult one? Where the bloody hell is Cawdor anyway?

CORINTHIA: Somewhere over that way, I think. Or am I thinking of Glamorgan?

GLADYS: Which is the one with the monster?

LARNA: Loch Ness?

CORINTHIA: Focus, ladies. I don’t know if our prophecies have taken root. We’d better get over there and make sure.

LARNA: Oh, great. This looks like it might be an all-nighter.


Scene 3 – outside Cawdor Castle. The KING is here with his retinue. MACBETH and BANQUO arrive and bow before him.

MACBETH: Your majesty, I have ridden here at your command.

KING: Aye, and what took ya so long?

BANQUO: We were waylaid by three women in black.

KING: Aye, I bet you were!

(His retinue laugh briefly.)

MACBETH: My liege, what news of Cawdor?

KING: He’s copped it.

BANQUO: Executed for his villainy?

KING: Yeah. Well, I’ve got a new executioner, and I’ve been itching to try him out…

MACBETH: (bowing) Your majesty, you are a wise and just ruler.

KING: Come ‘ere, Macbeth. I’ve got some new bling for ya.

(MACBETH approaches the king, who places a golden medallion around his neck).

KING: I’m sorry to lumber you with more work, but now Cawdor’s patch doesn’t have anyone in charge. And I know you’ve been pushing for a promotion.

MACBETH: Thank you, your highness!

KING: Rise, Macbeth, thane of Glamis and now thane of Cawdor.

MACBETH: (aside) This is just how the three strange women told it! First Glamis, and now Cawdor! What else did they say?

KING: Why, next you’ll be after my job!

(The retinue laughs briefly, again.)

KING: Right, since you’re doing so well for yourself, lad, let’s all go back to your place and get hammered. I’ll send word on ahead. Your wife won’t mind, will she?

MACBETH: Mind? She won’t say a word.

BANQUO: (quietly) She’ll just murder us in silence.


Scene 4 – Castle Macbeth. On the battlements, watching the KING and his companions arrive, is LADY MACBETH.

LADY MACBETH: Bloody men. First my husband buggers off to fight in some battle or other, and now he’s bringing back guests for a victory feast without a moment’s notice. No consideration!

(Unseen, the WITCHES descend on their broomsticks and hover invisibly above LADY MACBETH.)

LARNA: Maybe we don’t need to worry. She looks like she’s about to kill someone already.

CORINTHIA: Her husband, probably.

GLADYS: Can we go home now? I’m getting a hell of a breeze up my cloak.

LARNA: No. We need to make sure this goes to plan.

(The witches raise their arms around LADY MACBETH, ready to cast some sort of spell.)

LADY MACBETH: Come, you spirits of the air. Stiffen my sinews and give me the courage to ask for that divorce I’ve been wanting for the last ten years. My mother was right. I should have married Shakespeare. He’s making a fortune on those plays of his, and he wouldn’t expect his wife to spend all day stuck in a draughty castle in bloody Scotland.

(The DOORMAN calls from below.)

DOORMAN: My lady, King Duncan approaches the gates!

LADY MACBETH: (shouting down) Well, let him in then, you drunken sod!

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