I’d just like to start by saying that the opening night performance of Macbeth on Friday the 13th went quite well. Superstition, as aforesaid, can suck it. Now, where were we?
When Lennox and the rest of the court got to Inverness, it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the air was sweet and the temple-haunting martlets (at least, that’s what the birdwatcher Banquo said they were) were everywhere.
The night, however, was miserable. The sky was clouded over and, as Banquo pointed out, starless (“There’s husbandry in heaven; their candles are all out”) and sometime after midnight a horrible windstorm began. Lennox (who normally couldn’t be pried away from the royals with a crowbar) didn’t manage to get a room in the castle and found himself sharing a room with Macduff, Thane of Fife, in one of the outbuildings… and apparently it wasn’t one of the better outbuildings, because the chimneys blew down. Servants who took refuge in the outbuilding were babbling about how the wind sounded like lamentings i’ the air, strange screams of death prophesying with accents terrible of dire combustion and confused events, blah, blah, blah. (Some said the earth was feverish and did shake, but Lennox is pretty sure he would’ve noticed if it had.) Worst of all, this damn owl somewhere in the dark wouldn’t stop hooting all night.
Now, by the clock ‘tis early morning, which is strange because (a) clocks haven’t actually been invented yet, and (b) the sky is completely overcast to the point of being almost indistinguishable from night. Macduff has been given the job of waking up King Duncan. Lennox, with no prospect of getting any more sleep tonight, is accompanying him to the castle. They’re kept waiting outside in the cold wind for a really long time while the drunken porter rambles about being the gatekeeper of Hell, but finally the two thanes are allowed inside.
Macduff goes in to wake up the king… and comes out raving like a lunatic. He uses such highflown language that it takes Lennox a moment to figure out what he’s talking about — the king is dead.
When Lennox and Macbeth enter the king’s chamber, there’s the king. Stabbed to death. Blood all over everything. And on either side of him, a guard with blood on his hands and face. There are bloody daggers on the pillows.
The guards are waking up.
Lennox didn’t think to bring his sword.
Then, right behind him, he hears Macbeth’s cool and steady voice — “Go find Ross.”
Right. Good old Ross. He’ll know what to do. (Of course, Macbeth doesn’t need Ross. He just said that to get Lennox out of the room.)
So Lennox goes and wakes up Ross. Then they have the horrible job of giving Malcolm and Donalbain the bad news. And then it turns out that as soon as Lennox was out of the king’s chamber, Macbeth killed the two guards — in a fit of rage, he says, which doesn’t quite square with what Lennox saw.
From Bad To Worse
So far, nothing about this has given Lennox any reason to feel sorry for himself. He’s outraged on Duncan’s behalf and heartsick for Malcolm and Donalbain, but he’s still in pretty much the same position he was before.
All this changes that dark morning. The princes flee without a word… and everyone seems convinced they murdered the king.
To Lennox, this is crazy. First of all, he knows these guys as personal friends, and knows they’d never kill their father. Second, it makes no sense. Everybody was all set to crown Malcolm king, and now he’s run away and they have to crown Macbeth — and this proves Malcolm killed his father so he could become king? WTF?
Lennox is an intelligent young man. It makes him feel frightened and alone to hear the people around him — people whose judgment he’s always thought sound — solemnly repeating silly nonsense like this. What he isn’t old enough to understand is that the highest priority of the thanes right now is putting a strong leader on the throne before another Macdonwald gets ambitious or the Norwegians attack again. Macbeth has proven himself as a leader in battle, and is related to the royal family — that’s more than good enough. And they can’t very well accuse Macbeth of murder while they’re crowning him.
But Lennox, a courtier and politician to his core, keeps his thoughts to himself and lands on his feet. He quickly works his way into King Macbeth’s good graces and serves him as capably as he served Duncan. In fact, at the big solemn supper he’s seated right next to the king — no small honor.
And that’s when the plot really starts to thicken…
(Next week the saga of Lennox concludes.)