Lady Macbeth held the letter which the messenger had just brought her. She paced her room, reading it aloud.
They met me in the day of success. They have supernatural knowledge. When I tried to question them further they vanished into the air. While I was still standing there, wrapped in wonder, some messengers came from the King, calling me Thane of Cawdor: the title which the weird sisters had only just saluted me with! And they had also referred me to the future with ‘Hail, king that shalt be!’ I had to tell you this my dearest partner of greatness so that you wouldn’t miss the joy of knowing what has been promised you. Think about it and farewell.
Lady Macbeth clutched the letter to her heart. He was Glamis already and also Cawdor now! And she knew he would be… what he had been promised!
And yet… She didn’t think he could pull it off. He was too full of the milk of human kindness to do… what was necessary. He wanted greatness, he wasn’t without ambition, but he had no ruthlessness in him. Whatever he wanted to achieve always had to be done honourably. No, he would never betray anyone. And yet he still wanted something he shouldn’t have: what he wanted screamed out: ‘If you want me you must do such and such!’ But he feared to act on it.
She couldn’t wait for him to get home so that she could pour her influence into his ear, persuade him away from all the excuses that kept him from wearing the… the round golden shiny headpiece that fate and the supernatural seem to have crowned him with already.
There was a knock at the door. She thrust the letter behind her back guiltily. ‘Who is it?’ she called.
The door opened and a servant came in.
‘The king comes here tonight,’ he said.
‘Shhh!’ She said. ‘Don’t say it! Isn’t your master with him? If it were true he would have given me notice.’
‘I beg your pardon, Madam, but it is true. Our Thane is on his way. A messenger’s just arrived, so out of breath that he could hardly talk.’
‘Go and look after him. He brings great news.’
When the servant had gone Lady Macbeth went to the window and looked out over the battlements to the country through which the royal party would ride.
‘Even the raven – the bird of death – that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements is hoarse,’ she said aloud. She closed her eyes and raised her arms to the sky. ‘Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts. Take all my femininity away and fill me from the crown to the toe top full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood, stop me from feeling pity so that no natural feelings can get in the way.’
She put her hands on her breasts. ‘Come to my woman’s breasts, you spirits of evil, and suck gall from me where there should be milk. Come thick night and shroud me in the dunnest smoke of hell, so that my sharp knife won’t see the wound it makes, nor that the light of heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry, ‘stop! stop!’‘
She became aware of a noise below. She opened her eyes. It was Macbeth, surrounded by adoring members of the household. She turned and ran.
‘Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!’ she cried, rushing into his arms. He lifted her, held her close and kissed her.
‘Greater than both, according to the all-hail hereafter,’ she murmured as she kissed his ear. ‘Your letters have transported me beyond the immediate present: I feel the future in this moment.’
He put her down. ‘My dearest love, Duncan comes here tonight.’
‘And when’s he leaving?’
‘Tomorrow as he intends.’
‘Oh never shall sun that morrow see!’ She dragged him upstairs, pulled him down on their bed and began unbuckling him.
Some time later she lay, propped on her elbow, stroking his hair and staring into his eyes.‘Your face, my Thane, is like a book where one may read strange things.’ She kissed him. ‘To deceive everyone look like everyone else. Be welcoming: show welcome in your eyes, your hand, your tongue. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it. We must provide for… him that’s coming. And you must leave tonight’s great business to me. Business that will shape the rest of our lives.’
Macbeth said nothing. She kissed him again then looked at him with a question in her eyes. He sat up and lifted his clothes from the floor. ‘We’ll talk about it later,’ he said.
‘Only be positive,’ she said. He was getting dressed. ‘To hesitate is fatal,’ she said. ‘Leave it all to me.’
He went down to give the servants their instructions.