The Shakespeare Academy has been running at King’s for the past three years as a Widening Participation project. In 2017-18 we reached over 350 students, continuing to develop close partnerships with teachers and pupils at eight London state-funded secondary schools, from Key Stage 3 to GCSE. We run workshops with the students that investigate Shakespeare’s plays through seminar-style sessions, readings, and creative writing activities. Read more about the Shakespeare Academy here.
Below you can read some examples of creative writing by Years 9 and 10 students from our summer 2018 workshops. We asked them to imagine what Lady Macbeth might have written if she had left a suicide note. As you can see, the pieces are inspired by the imagery and language of the play, but re-imagined for a modern audience.
I was particularly encouraged by the ways in which students engaged with the gender politics of Macbeth. Their writings express the limitations of Lady Macbeth’s agency within early modern patriarchy with a subtlety that I found truly impressive. The entrants showcased below were chosen for their originality, insight and imaginative engagement with Shakespeare’s text. They express the individual poetic and creative voices of the students, while maintaining close adherence to the characterisation, imagery and tone of the play.
– Dr Gemma Miller, English Department and Globe Education
Hiral Galaiya, Avanti House, Stanmore, Year 10
So much has happened in the last few months; it is hard to wrap my head around everything. Suddenly, Macbeth has prevailed from the mere Thane of Glamis to King – my husband took my advice, transforming from an innocent flower to serpent, only I never saw the goodness of the petals till it was far too late. I should be glad, I should be happy, but I know I shall not be, for I now understand the power of my ambition, and how it will forever leave me wanting more. Desire stripped me, and now I lay here, naked. Naked in guilt.
I am beginning to question as to whether any of this was worth it. I feel as though I am stuck in a downfall. A self-inflicted downward spiral. I must take responsibility, before it is too late, so I admit to having pushed…manipulated even, Macbeth to be King. I realise now that my actions were wrong; Cawdor lost one of its loyalist beings (again a quality I never appreciated). My position as a woman drove me to yearn for power, and consequently, it grew resentment. Honestly, power seemed like the ideal substitute to soothe my corrupted mind – I was so afraid of being kept behind doors, that I caused a war – yet look where I’ve ended up!
Never have I experienced such guilt or pity. I am still struggling to fathom my own insanity; they say it came now, as a form of remorse, yet I suppose all of my crafty schemes have been folly. I would like to end this by saying I regret all, and that I never thought it would come to this. The witches were said to be defectiveness, yet my evilness is far worse than theirs, and so is my fate. I suppose this is my suicide note, but ironically, it is not addressed to anyone. Why? Because I am alone, and I deserve it. What’s done cannot be undone.
Jathursha Maniyalagan, Avanti House, Stanmore, Year 10
My dearest partner of greatness, I can barely write as my wicked tears fill my eyes, blurring my vision and a huge painful lump is stuck in my throat, suffocating me, my body is shaking and burning up and I feel as though my life has collapsed. The guilt has consumed me and I can’t escape this pain any longer. Screams from Duncan paralyse my head and torture me during the day, I am truly sorry that you have to find out what happened through someone other than me, I feel like a coward I went against everything I told you, but I am still a woman. Knowing about the supernatural has caused me to go downhill and I could only solve this by forgetting everything, so I ended my life, fast and painlessly, I had to get away from life immediately. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t handle the guilt, my sins will never be forgiven and all of Neptune’s ocean could never wash this blood clean from my hands. I truly wanted everything to go back to normal but miracles aren’t for everyone.
I felt like Eve to you, Adam. I deceived you. I made you feel like a woman, I made you become a disloyal man and I did this by being the serpent under the flower by manipulating you. I made the crown become your fruit, I persuaded you to becoming king in the wrong way and the moment I received the letter from you, I tried to lead us to power but I should never have taken fate into my own hands. The spirits disappointed you the same way I did to you, I deserve to be tortured, burned at the stake, maimed, but I am too much of a woman, I commanded the spirits to turn me into a man but they knew I couldn’t handle it. The guilt was eating me alive, so ending my misery was the best decision for the both of us, as I could exclude my horrid self from you, to make you feel happy once again. I really hope you can truly forgive me and I’m unaware of your current position in life but I want you to know that you will always be my king, deep down in my twisted little heart.
Jesal Vadgama, Avanti House, Stanmore, Year 10
Dear my dearest love Macbeth,
Full of serpents is my mind, the three witches have bestowed a curse upon us. Death to those treacherous witches, for they have played with our minds. There is nothing but unholy wine running through my veins; no power on Earth can cure what has been done. We should stop murdering and confess to the lord for we have sinned. I was mistaken; no water can clear us of this deed. I am as weak as a petal on a wilted flower; I cannot bear all this shame so I am going to take my life putting an end to all of this. The witches are to blame for our downfall, kill the witches and you will have a happy life again.
Fair well my love I will miss you, nothing can cure me of this disease. I have decided upon my fate which is suicide and nothing is going to stop me from my death, I am very sorry Macbeth but this is the only way I can get rid of this shame as I have truly become weak. Someone is going to come for me. Do me the greatest favour by not forgetting to kill those three witches. With so much sorrow I must part you for the greater good, I must go this instant. To bed to bed! There is knocking at the gate come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone – To bed, to bed, to bed!
Long live my heroic Macbeth,
From your love Lady Macbeth
Radhey Patel, Avanti House, Stanmore, Year 10
Spirits. Spirits I called, that tend mortal thoughts, manifest with sheer hunger within me. Their reach thickens my blood, to where my system art clogged and obscured my hope. I has plagued th’ inventor, I has plagued myself, and there seem’th to be no control. The burden of Macbeth’s poisoned chalice has overcometh me and now I desire to wash it off.
Oh, Macbeth. You made me the snake and thou the God above. The God that wreaked thine destruction onto my mind. The same being that encompassed my mind, my fear, my ambition into one concoction of hatred. Hatred colours my soul. It spreads throughout my entire system, shutting down all other feelings, and becoming central to mine breath and the intent. He has turns his attention to other matters, and I have been driven alternate, but then the wave of his ill thoughts return with a vengeance. My soul is now coloured completely, and all the negative energy that one can muster is thrown into my imagined ill will racing wildly around the mind of mine. Hatred becomes a sickness of the mind, and of the heart. For where hatred has claimed possession, there is no room for love. Left unchecked, Macbeth’s hate has completely poisoned me.
What now? I challenge those thoughts, those intentions before. These spirits have withheld, and now they return to forces beyond with my soul. They left me with the malevolence, with hatred for my own husband. He was the cause. The reason. The drive. I did all this for his progression, his dark hunger! Stars have hidden their fire, and revealed his black desires beneath. Gall has burnt my breasts, and frothed my child. The sex has strengthened me and weakened me. The flower above has left me smelling sweet and seductive, but all this for what? For Macbeth’s desire, greed, avarice, want, determination, hunger that I mistook for love.
There is no more. No more too live for, no more to love. Why should I cage my mortal conscience within my weak body, while Macbeth is glorified at Birnam Wood. His greed is like a net, sweeping up all his pupils, but not me. Not his prithee, no. I inherently deserve nothing. Nothing. Now, it is the vengeance that drives me. The vengeance that poisoned my chalice tenfold ago. The vengeance that has been the death of me. There is no more time for Macbeth, and I bid him my final farewell with hatred, horror and despair.
Ryan Radia, Avanti House, Stanmore, Year 10
Be the serpent underneath the flower. No! The flower is no longer visible; it was never visible. I was always the devilish snake, still am. Merely crawling, scratching, slithering through the tragedy we have dubbed Life. Life will walk onwards. Life does not care. Life shall never cease to the living. Always one step ahead; like I thought. Lies I tell again; deep down the flower inside told me to stop but for me, the sly snake within forgot the consequences of deeds so unimaginable; the Lord almighty would not forgive.
Forgiveness is all I crave, that word that would cleanse my soul. A word so precious, my tainted tongue would dare to speak. Power was all I have wanted, accepting the darkness within, only to be powerless at the end of the line. Line which has been drawn short, like the level of power I had gained. Desire turned into greed; lust turned into addiction; so so into the final stretch, I still crave, lust, desire my power. Power which deep down I know will never present itself.
Imagine never achieving something of worth, despite turning into a snake, ruining relationships, tearing trust and killing kindness. That’s me. The black spot has grown too much; the end is here. Sorry…
Shaan Vadher, Avanti House, Year 10
Dear my sweet Macbeth,
I cannot take it anymore. The guilt is eating at my innards. I have not got the power within me to keep continuously lying and keep this dark sin from the knowledge of our closest companions. It seems I am too full of the milk of human kindness to carry all of this guilt upon me.
In these dark times, I have realised what it really means to have power. My dear, it is not attained by killing everyone who threatens to take the throne, it is about creating a sense of respect when people hear your name. The more people you slaughter, the more respect you lose.
The blood on my feeble hands remain. It has stained my pale, white skin for all eternity. Anyways, I have written this letter to you to tell you to stop. Your ambition has gotten the better of you; you are a different man now. Your ambition has also been affecting me, the burden is crushing my soul and feeding it to the devil; you will be his next meal.
It is time for me to leave this wretched place, although I feel I won’t be able to feel happiness again, wherever I am. My beloved Macbeth, just always remember that yo______
This is just the beginning.
Meet me at Birnham Wood to finally meet your fate…
Tolu Oluwafisayo, Ark All Saints, year 9
The thought of you who kill man
Water is not enough to cleanse this hand
I can’t live with guilt
Even for kingdom we have built
This is all I hear in my dream
All I hear is the screams
This where my body lies
This is the reason for my suicide
I will forever love Macbeth
Sorry you will have to live on after death
This is the end of the letter
This is where we part
I shall live in your heart
You may also enjoy:
Blog posts on King’s English represent the views of the individual authors and neither those of the English Department, nor of King’s College London.
Featured image: Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth in 1888.