Shakespeare’s ‘MacLeod’-“The Stornoway Play”

12 01 2010

As previously mentioned in this blog, the young William Shakespeare spent many happy years in Stornoway before he found fame and fortune as a playwrite. Whilst in Stornoway, Shakespeare started work on his first play. This was a very rough and ready affair called ‘MacLeod’.  As the previous blog entry explains;

“Inspired by the many tales of the Viking settlement of Lewis, the young William started work on his first play in 1586, known today as ‘The Stornoway Play’. The storyline involved the arrival of the first Vikings  on Lewis, a cunning plot to cut down all the trees and build thousands of windmills (the corn milling kind) across the Barvas Moor in order to provide a ready supply of porridge, and eventually a plan to tow the island back to Norway which results in the break up of the island chain.

The original manuscript was discovered recently in an old fish box (wrapped in a 1592 edition of the Stornoway Gazette) in the old stables behind the Lewis Hotel and is currently undergoing a modern day treatment by Theatre He-ho-ro.”

We are privileged to be able to bring you excerpts from this manuscript.

MacLeod by Uilleam Shakespeare

ACT I

Scene 1

A bleak headland, evening, a lone figure sitting by a fire outside a hermits stone cell

MURDO (Hermit)

These years past I’ve lived at peace, a hermit in cold seclusion,

I’ve spurned the trappings of modern life, the better to earn absolution.

No homely comforts for this Holy Man,  just  berries, nuts, (some gammon?)

and chill-ed water from the stream (and, ahem, occasionally a poach’d salmon).

And no discourse with man I have, no contact I beget,

(Except upon a Thursday, when I go in town for the Gazette.

As night approaches and day retires,  I gaze out on the sea.

And lo what is that I behold, between the horizon and me?

My eyes upon the water stare and look out on strange shapes,

I see a speck, grown larger now, and is that billowing drapes??

Giant curtains? A boat? A beast? A dragon prow perchance?

Ohhh fleeking hengoes! It’s Viking sails a-dance!

I must away and warn the town that the Norseman’s come to visit

And I hope that I don’t get caught or they’ll slit me to my gizzard

What ho! There’s fellows on yond beach. I must warn them as well.

And then we must to Stornoway, run like merrie hell.

Scene 2

A viking longship in the north Atlantic, dawn

BJORN ( A Viking Chief)

I stand in the prow of my fine craft, scanning the sea both front and aft.

I’ve left my lands, my fiord, my past, to discover the fable New World at last

Riches untold in that land of honey, (the set kind that’s not too runny)

I’ll bring a fortune in my hold, and pay off my debts to the gods of old

No more will Thor be on my case, since I lost a load on yon horse race.

Sail with me warriors! Strike up a song!!

To raise our spirits as the journey will be long

We’ll see no landfall for many a moon – I can’t see us finding the New World anytime soon!

VIKING WARRIOR (A Viking Warrior)

Land Ho!!!!

BJORN

What????

VIKING WARRIOR

Land ho!! Off the port beam!!!

BJORN

Oh……

OLAF (Another Viking)

He’s right my Lord I see a shape, a darkened isle beneath night’s cape

We’ll make landfall before o’er long, so there’s not really much time to strike up a song.

BJORN

Ohh, I thought the New World would be further, are you really sure it’s not some place other?

OLAF

Yes my Lord there is no doubt, see even the sun sets the other way about!

In the east and not the west, like the wisemen wisely guessed.

BJORN

Send for Ragnar he is clever, we’ll question him and he’ll endevour

To explain it all in easy terms, that tax not my brain

OLAF

Send forth Ragnar The Clever

VIKING WARRIOR

Send forth Ragnar

RAGNAR (A clever Viking)

My Lord I’m here, you wish my aid? My Council? Or perhaps some mead?

BJORN

I’ve no time for drink despite its merits, Look, see before us! Lands to inherit!

Is this the New World in all its glory? As the Bard’s once formed in story?

RAGNAR

Uhhhhhhhhhhhh, yes. Probably.

OLAF

And it looks a green and fertile place, with trees and woods with a delicate grace

And farms and pastures overstuffed, with cow and swine to make us chuffed!

BJORN

And what about hives? And bees and honey?

RAGNAR

I’m sure there’s plenty worth the journey.

BJORN

Then to the oars and strike for land! Let us ready our warrior band.

This day we plunder and we pillage. In fact we’ll start with yonder village!

Scene 3

A beach, early morning, two men approach each other

DIGGUM (A Court Jester)

This blone I yearn for has brak’d mine heart

I know not what I’ve done

She says no more she’ll court with me

and so now I’m getting none

BOGEY (A Court Jester)

Pshaw you gawk, you waste your time

so what if you’re to blame

me thinks you’ve ‘scaped and not too soon

Cos I think she’s on ‘the game’

DIGGUM

My Cursty! No, no, not a chance

I should prepare thee for a wallop!

What care I for her many foibles

or indeed if she’s a trollop

BOGEY

She was just using your good nature

that no good fleekin’ girl

Using your good station

To get closer to the Earl

DIGGUM

You give me pause for thought, you do

Some words may-have some truth

I always wondered what she did

By the harbour in yon booth

BOGEY

If I were you I’d breath a sigh

And forget about this blone

Look elsewhere for loves desires

Cos you’re better off alone

DIGGUM

Me thinks your fleekin’ right, ma tha

I wish I’d found out more soons

All because  this social climber

Is aiming for the Earl’s pantaloons!

BOGEY

But wait! What sight in yonder hillside comes?

A cove is making haste, here hence.

with mighty strides he runneth forth

Fleek me, he’s cleared yon fence!

DIGGUM

It’s Murdo that lives upon the cliffs

A hermits life so crabbit.

You’re right about the speed he’s going

He’s scaring all the rabbits

BOGEY

Something fears him mightily

He looks like he’s boked his drarsh

And it might have some connection

with these Viking ‘jacky-tars!

Scene 4

a heath, early morning

MURDO

I must get me hence to a brewery as strong drink I desire, and I shall drink many tankards once I cross this mire.

Heng, what the fleek is up ahead, figures in the mist, they seem to be two witches, for I can hear them hiss!

PEIGI MAIRI (Blone from Tolsta/Witch)

When shall we two meet again?

CHRISSY PEIGI (Another blone from Tolsta/Witch)

Probably around about half past ten.

PEIGI MAIRI

We’ve got to make a marag dudh.

PEIGI MAIRI

Ahh fleek I’d forgotten, thats the truth.

CHRISSY PEIGI

There’s too much work for chust two of us.

PEIGI MAIRI

No time for potions, nor to work a curse.

CHRISSY PEIGI

We should recruit another soul.

PEIGI MAIRI

There’s bound to be witches on the ‘dole’.

CHRISSY PEIGI

Fell beasts to feed, and covens to see

PEIGI MAIRI

If only ‘stead of two we were three!!

CHRISSY PEIGI

But wait! See yonder in the bog

PEIGI MAIRI

It’s chust some cove out having a jog

CHRISSY PEIGI

Let’s have a crack and scare his wits

PEIGI MAIRI

We’ll pretend we’re going to cook his bits!

CHRISSY PEIGI

Booooooooo!!!

MURDO

What the fleek! You startled me, begone you smelly hags

Or I shall get Calan Bow to turn you into marags

PEIGI MAIRI

Calan Bow! Oh no not that. We’re only having a laugh

CHRISSY PEIGI

We wouldn’t want to upset him, we’re really not that daft

PEIGI MAIRI

We’re just out to take the air, and cast a spell or two

CHRISSY PEIGI

And we’ll even cast your fortune as a special treat for you

MURDO

What lies ahead for me you mean? Into the great unknown?

How can I trust predictions from you, you scabby blone.

PEIGI MAIRI

We shall tell your fortune true, so please cove don’t you fret

CHRISSY PEIGI

And what we say is more reliable than the Stornoway Gazette

PEIGI MAIRI

We see great change upon this land and the dogs of war do hunt

CHRISSY PEIGI

Great war and pestilence, and all the trees they do grow burnt.

PEIGI MAIRI

Warriors on dragons come, in search of new found land

CHRISSY PEIGI

In fact I think that’s one approaching along Ardroil sand.

Scene 5

Irish minstrels in coracles in the middle of the sea, fleeing from something…

BARNEY

Feck me, this is a painful slog, a’ drift the sea alone

Nine days inside a coracle,and battered by the foam

I can’t swim and don’t understand,

why we couldn’t go on tour by land?

SEAMUS

A Barney-bochd you know full well the reason we’ve decamped

And you cannot tour the Hebrides without getting a wee bit damp

If we’d stayed upon the Shamrock shore, our petards would be hoist

So the choice was pain and torture or put up with being slightly moist?

CHARLES

He’s got a point old Barney has, about this choppy sea

These rocks remain a constant threat, did we really have to flee?

EAMON

And well you know the reason why, so cease now with your prattle

Wasn’t it not all your idea to steal yon fleekin’ cattle?

SHONNY

Yus indeed oh Charlie boy on you the blame must lay

Didn’t you know that Queen was fond of all her Charolais?

CHARLES

Happy to meet the risk you were

And there’s no going back now

Each and everyone of us is known

As the man who kill’t a merry cow

BARNEY

And now look at us all looking pale

This is an unfortunate cup of ale.

sudden turmoil as a viking longship passes

EAMON

Fleek me! will you look at yonder ship

It nearly ran us down

It seems to be making westward-ish

Towards that little town

CHARLES

Quick, chuck a rope and get a tow

We can follow it to land

They’re probably gentle merchants

Who would like to hear a band.

Act 2

Scene 1

Stornoway Castle

Clamour, alarums and excursions. Earl of Stornoway sits on his throne in his great hall.

STORNOWAY (A nobleman)

What’s that noise? Who’se banging so? My head is fain to split!

FOOTMAN

I think it’s someone at the doors, I’ll check, so just you sit.

Footman leaves to investigate

STORNOWAY

Can’t a man be left in peace.I was nearly off to sleep. Factor! Get thee hither its time to earn your keep.

FACTOR

My Lord, I’m here, you called me hence.What ails you? You seem stilted?

STORNOWAY

You’re right my friend, you sense my spirit. I’m not feeling very gunhilted.

Footman returns in haste

FOOTMAN

Murdo the Hermit is at the door, he’s giving it a clout.

FACTOR

What’s he doing in Stornoway, the Gazette is not yet out?

FOOTMAN

He says he must seek audience, he has grim news of things

STORNOWAY

Well so long as its not anything pertaining to Vikings

Footman leaves and returns with Murdo

MURDO

My Lord I must impart to you grave tidings of lament

STORNOWAY

Don’t tell me that once again you’re behind with the rent?

MURDO

No my Lord its worse than that. I’ve seen the dragon prow!

FACTOR

You mean to say…?

STORNOWAY

In a roundabout way….

MURDO

That the Norse are coming now!

MURDO

I spotted sails last evens’ time, approaching like a sea beast, a longship with a dragons head and eighty oars at least.

FACTOR

What was their destination, could you perceive their plot?

MURDO

I didn’t feel to tarry, so fast away I got!

STORNOWAY

They could be in this bay by now in full view of this Castle

FACTOR

This pile is falling ’round our ears, they’ll capture it no hassle.

STORNOWAY

stands and draws sword

Summon forth my arm-ed men and loudly blow the horn. Who will not join with me to defend the honour of Storn?

FACTOR

Your arm-ed men? My Lord, you jest. Our budget has constrain’s. We’ve only got two jesters, and they’re both fixing the drains.

STORNOWAY

Well, summon them and stand them forth, they are our last defense. My heart has sinking feelings as I know both of them be dense.

FACTOR

Summon forth the Court Jesters! Diggum! Stop at nowt! Bogie fetch your jangly hat and put down your carry out.

STORNOWAY

Meet me on the Castle Green where we shall make known our dissent. And gentlemen still abed will be fleekin’ glad they’re absent.

exit stage left

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2 responses

12 01 2010
Jingles

Great stuff – does the story have a happy ending?

15 01 2010
Judith Jesch

I’m also looking forward to the next act…

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