Richard III: A Comedy of Genetic Errors

(Author’s Note: Please accept my apologies as this draft is as yet incomplete, however I have posted it in the interests of whetting the appetite for further instalments as U.S President Donald Trump’s administration wends its way toward it’s own inevitable version of the Battle of Bosworth Field:

“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”- I can almost hear his exclamations now.)

As a very wise man in antiquity once stated:

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players”

With that in mind, what follows attempts to live up to this dictum. The following play takes the guise of a senatorial satire, a congressional caricature if you will, that seeks to provide some witty and wry observations, with somewhat glib insights into the internal machinations of the highest and most influential political offices in the entire Western world.

The current American political situation, from even the most cursory glance, has devolved of late into such high farce that it would be extremely difficult to exaggerate sufficiently to give these events any satirical edge, or to lampoon such a bizarre situation with enough vigour and piquancy to be worthy of more than one’s passing attention, let alone amusement.

Notwithstanding this salient point, what follows below is my Shakespeare-inspired interpretation of these recent and current events, which attempts to make a sardonic commentary on the unrelenting battles fought between the Democrats (as represented by the House of Lancaster) and the Republicans (as represented by the House of York). In so doing, I hope to pointedly reference some of the main players and their respective roles in these Presidential proceedings (through the lens of Shakespearean drama) as these events have unfolded during the recent political history of the good ol’ US of A.

On a final point of interest, you may also notice many literary allusions derived from famous English poets, with some of their most influential works interspersed liberally throughout the play, a device I have used in order to embellish either the action of the play itself or to enhance the dialogue between the characters. I have particularly referenced works by such luminaries as John Donne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Andrew Marvell, John Milton, John Dryden, John Keats, William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as some of the wonderful sonnets by Shakespeare himself. Each one has been used to give greater context to proceedings, as well as to highlight what I believe to be a common thread of cognition that links these creative icons together, forming an uniquely English literary perspective on life and love that I believe further enhances the themes that I had hoped to develop in adapting Shakespeare’s play, “Richard III”, for my politically-inspired purpose.

Dramatis personae:

Richard, Duke of Gloucester (eventually crowned King Richard III):

Deformed in body through a severe scoliosis of the spine, and twisted in mind by his hatred of not only his own hideous form, but also of those near and “dear” to him. Richard finds refuge and solace in aggressive bluster and machismo, topped off by more than a tincture of over-weaning self-confidence and narcissism. He is inherently evil, fatally corrupt, sadistic and incredibly manipulative, and will therefore stop at nothing to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming King. His undoubted (if under-appreciated) intelligence, his political savvy, and his at times dazzling use of blunt language keep his audience of loyal followers suitably enthralled—and his subjects and rivals are thus kept firmly under his thumb, or more accurately perhaps, underfoot … Donald Trump

Buckingham:

Richard’s right-hand man in his schemes to gain power. The Duke of Buckingham is almost as amoral and ambitious as King Richard himself … Steve Bannon

King Edward IV:

The older brother of Richard and Clarence, and the King of England at the start of the play. Edward was deeply involved in the Yorkists’ brutal overthrow of the Lancaster regime, but as King he seeks to unify the various political factions that epitomise his reign against common enemies from beyond England’s shore, a tactic that succeeds at least until the Black Prince’s rebellion comes to the fore. He is blissfully unaware of his brother Richard’s scheming ways, and more tellingly his none-too-subtle designs on Edward’s throne … George.W.Bush

George, Duke of Clarence:

The gentle and naively trusting brother, born between Edward and Richard in the York family, and thus a classic embodiment of middle child syndrome. Richard eventually has Clarence murdered before he can achieve the mantle of his older sibling as he stands between Richard and the ultimate prize: the British crown … Jeb Bush

Queen Margaret:

Widow of the recently deceased King Henry VI (Bill Clinton), and mother of the slain Black Prince Edward (Barack Obama). In medieval times, when Kings were deposed, their children were often killed to remove any threat from the royal line of descent—but their wives were left alive because they were considered somewhat harmless. Margaret’s husband was deposed and murdered (along with their children) by the family of King Edward IV (George W Bush) and Richard of Gloucester (Donald Trump). As a result, she is consumed with bitterness and detests both Richard and his fellow Yorkists, all of whom were, in her view, complicit in not only the destruction of the House of Lancaster, but also in usurping their God-given right to rule … Hillary Clinton

Anne:

The young widow of Edward, The Black Prince (Barack Obama), who in turn was the son of the former king, Henry VI (Bill Clinton), and Margaret of Anjou (Hillary Clinton). Lady Anne hates Richard (Donald Trump) for his part in the death of her husband, but for reasons of politics—and for sadistic pleasure—Richard persuades Anne to marry him, against not only her better judgement, but also the wave of nausea that enveloped her with every fond caress … Michelle Obama 

Queen Elizabeth (aka Lady Gray):

The wife of King Edward IV (George W Bush) and the mother of the two young princes (at that time the would-be heirs to the throne) and their older sister, young Elizabeth. After Edward’s death, Queen Elizabeth (also known as Lady Gray) is at Richard’s mercy. Richard rightly views her as an enemy because she opposes his ruthless rise to power, and because she is an intelligent and strong-willed woman who represents a potential threat to him. Elizabeth is part of the Woodeville family; her kinsmen—Dorset, Rivers, and Gray—are her allies in the court … Condoleezza Rice

Dorset, Rivers, and Gray: 

The aforementioned kinsmen and allies of Queen Elizabeth, and members of the Woodeville and Gray families. Rivers is Elizabeth’s brother, while Gray and Dorset are her sons from her first marriage. Richard eventually executes Rivers and Gray, but Dorset flees and manages to survive … Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich,  John McCain

Duchess of York:

Widowed mother of Richard, Clarence, and King Edward IV. The duchess of York is Elizabeth’s mother-in-law, and she is very protective of Elizabeth and her children, who are the duchess’s grandchildren. She becomes very angry with Richard for his heinous actions as the play develops … Barbara Bush

The Princes:

The two young sons of King Edward IV (George W Bush) and his wife, Elizabeth. Notably, their names are actually Prince Edward and the young Duke of York, but they are often referred to collectively. Agents of Richard murder these boys—Richard’s nephews—in the Tower. Young Prince Edward, the rightful heir to the throne, should not be confused with the elder Edward, Prince of Wales (the “Black Prince”: first husband of Lady Anne, and the son of the former king, Henry VI.) … Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Young Elizabeth:

The former Queen Elizabeth’s daughter. Young Elizabeth enjoys the fate of many a Renaissance noblewoman. She thus becomes a mere pawn in political power-brokering, and is promised in marriage at the end of the play to Richmond (Jared Kushner), the Lancastrian rebel leader, in order to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster … Ivanka Trump

Ratcliffe, Catesby:

Two of Richard’s flunkies among the nobility, who generally do his bidding in matters of a delicate, or even a contentious nature … James Comey and Mike Flynn

Tyrrell:

A murderer whom Richard hires to kill his young cousins, the princes in the Tower … Dick Cheney

Richmond (a.k.a Henry Tudor, soon to be King Henry VII):

A member of a branch of the Lancaster royal family, Richmond gathers a force of rebels to challenge Richard for the throne. In the play, he embodies all the regal qualities of goodness, justice, and fairness—all those things that Richard lacks. Richmond is portrayed in such a glowing light not least because he founded the Tudor dynasty, which still ruled England during Shakespeare’s time … Jared Kushner

Hastings:

A lord who maintains his integrity, remaining loyal to the family of King Edward IV (George W Bush). Hastings loses his life for making the mistake of trusting Richard … Mike Pence

Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby:

The stepfather of Richmond. Lord Stanley secretly helps Richmond (Jared Kushner), although he is under Richard’s constant and watchful gaze… Al Gore

Lord Mayor of York City:

A once popular and influential, if somewhat unsophisticated fellow whom Richard and Buckingham dupe and then use as a pawn in their ploy to help Richard become King … Boris Johnson

Cardinal Bourchier

A man of considerable power within the church hierarchy, whom Buckingham convinces  to enable the release of the young Duke of York from sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, thereby facilitating his unfortunate murder at the hands of his devious uncle … Nigel Farage

Vaughan:

A friend of Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, Rivers, and Gray, who is executed by Richard along with Rivers and Gray at Pontefract (aka Pomfret) Castle… Mitt Romney

Gramm, Leach & Bliley:

Moneylenders of nefarious purpose and dubious repute… Robert Rubin (in various guises)

Baroness Lewinsky:

A Russian-born former courtesan, turned secret agent for the wily Grand Prince of Moscow: Ivan III (Vladimir Putin). She was then to become a highly favoured mistress to the former King Henry VI (Bill Clinton), who was otherwise blissfully unaware of both her sordid past and her foreign affiliations. Her surprising emotional vulnerability eventually leads to her downfall, leaving her with an unenviable reputation as a scarlett woman who becomes a pariah across the kingdom … Monica Lewinsky

Countess Melania:

A one-time Habsburg countess and niece to the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III. She was secretly betrothed in an arranged marriage to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Donald Trump), and is now locked high in the Tower where she remains his prisoner at (among other things) his sexual beck and call … Melania Trump

Characters not appearing in the play proper, but integral to the plot and/or action: 

Richard II: … John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Henry Bolingbroke/Henry IV: … Lyndon Baines Johnson

Henry V: … John Fitzgerald Kennedy (in a dual role)

Richard, Duke of York: … George Bush Snr.

King Henry VI: Bill Clinton

Edward, The Black Prince: Barack Obama

Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow (“Ivan the Great”) … Vladimir Putin

Narrator:

Our story begins in the year of our Lord 1478, during the reign of the Yorkist King, Edward IV. The so called “War of the Roses” has been raging on and off for over two decades, with two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, the Houses of York and Lancaster, fighting tooth and claw for ultimate supremacy, and thereby hoping to wrest absolute control of the English throne for their posterity.

King Edward’s younger brother, the hunchback Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is a misbegotten creature who represents the very culmination of centuries of inbreeding, deformed not just of body, but also of mind. He is further characterised by a pervasive self-loathing that has been sublimated into a cruel and sadistic personality that not only lusts remorselessly for power, but also has an utter disdain for the health and welfare of others. Somewhat ironically perhaps, Richard simultaneously projects an inflated over-confidence and an air of completely unearned self-entitlement, which eventually leads him to furtively covet the throne of his brother. This envy is destined to soon be sated with the brutal murder of his brother (the Duke of Clarence), and subsequently the untimely death (from natural causes) of his eldest sibling King Edward, leaving only Edward’s very young sons (the “Young Princes”) as heirs to the throne, sadly for them becoming the only remaining obstacles in the path of Gloucester’s ascent to becoming ruler of all England.

But, before we delve further into the action of the play, some background detail is essential for those unfamiliar with the history of this rivalry.

The House of Lancaster’s claim to the English throne stems from a rather dubious usurper, the Lancastrian Henry Bolingbroke, a not-so-delightful rogue who would subsequently become King Henry IV after defeating and deposing his cousin, Richard II, in 1399. Upon the assassination of this erstwhile King Richard, the new King Henry embarked on a massive program of expenditure to curry favour with the peasantry, whereby he promised to build a “Great Society” to elevate every downtrodden soul in the kingdom from their privations, a scheme that was meant to especially promote the welfare of those denizens at the very lowest echelons of civil society. This scheme would come to serve the dual purpose of being seen to ostensibly improve the lot of the poor serfs, whilst simultaneously ensuring that in return they would form a bulwark against any uprising or rebellion being fomented against his rule, being thereby forever indebted (and effectively indentured) to the largesse of the Crown. This was to be a tactic employed and perpetuated by the Lancastrian kings down through the ages, whereby the championing of the poor became nothing more than a political tool (of noteworthy effectiveness) ensuring the stability of their various reigns. Needless to say, the rub so to speak was that this required the peasants to remain peasants, and for the poor to remain poor (preferably in perpetuity), since the establishment of a “middle class” of burghers and other bourgeois upstarts was anathema to maintaining the emotional blackmail of this alleged, and some would say largely illusory compassion.

Henry IV was eventually succeeded on the throne on his death by his son Henry V, who embodied all that a King should be in his brief time as monarch. A renowned miscreant in his youth, the young Prince Hal mingled seamlessly with the lowlifes of the demimonde in the various gaming houses, taverns and bordellos of the city, but would subsequently reform completely on the death of his father, becoming a paragon of virtue (in the public eye at least) in his short but successful reign. After a famous and rousing victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V would become supreme ruler of both England and France, only for him to die unexpectedly from dysentery at the tender age of 36 years. This was indeed ironic given that, at the age of 16, Henry had managed to survive an arrow shot by a rebel soldier that pierced just under his left eye and then penetrated his skull backward to the occiput, a wound that was incurred during the torrid Battle of Shrewsbury. In order to remove this embedded arrowhead, special tongs had to be designed, made and carefully inserted nearly six inches into the wound to grip and extract the metal from his cranium. It then took a further three weeks to cleanse and close up the hole – and all without the benefit of anaesthesia. A miraculous recovery indeed, and one that stood in ironic counterpoint to the rather mundane nature of his eventual demise.

This untimely death elevated the heroic King’s infant son, Henry VI, to the throne. After ruling through a series of regents throughout his childhood, the younger Henry’s reign was eventually to be fatally compromised by his recurring mental instability, and more particularly by the compulsive womanising he scandalously and serially undertook with the sundry scullery maids, domestics, flower sellers and lowly attendants who were unfortunate enough to cross his path. His affair with the Russian courtesan and undercover spy, Baroness Lewinsky, compromised the legitimacy of his crown even further, as it reflected poorly not only on his political judgement but also (symbolically at least) on his ability to keep his irons in the fire without getting his fingers burnt. Even more egregiously perhaps, King Henry would come under the undue influence of three thoroughly unscrupulous money lenders (Gramm, Leach and Bliley), who persuaded the degenerate King to make various financial decisions that not only benefitted these usurers mightily, but which would also come to compromise the wealth of the entire kingdom to the gradual impoverishment in particular of many of his most lowly subjects, where the most vulnerable were either left homeless or destitute, while the land barons and gentry remained largely untouched or even profited by his financial profligacy.

King Henry VI’s legitimate birthright to the throne was eventually challenged by Gloucester’s father Richard, Duke of York, leading to an initial defeat of the Lancastrian forces in the Battle of St Albans in 1455, a defeat that marked the beginning of the aforementioned War of the Roses between the two noble houses. Henry VI’s queen, a formidable woman known as Margaret of Anjou, stoked the embers of this conflict between the upstart Yorkists and the Lancasters still further by labelling her husband’s rivals as “a basket of deplorables”, leading to an even more deadly turn in the feud. This would shortly result in the capture of her husband at the Battle of Northampton in 1459, and then to a period of his living in exile after being rescued by loyalist forces, before ultimately leading to Henry’s eventual murder in the Tower some years later at the hands of his Yorkist rivals. As was the custom at the time, Queen Margaret’s life was fortunately spared, having been political neutered in Yorkist eyes upon the death of her husband, a decision they no doubt would come to regret as she remained a thorn in their collective side for a decade or more thereafter, harbouring ambitions for the crown herself in spite of seemingly having no legitimate claim to the throne by right of ascension.

Upon the defeat of Henry VI, his one time rival’s eldest son ascended to the throne, becoming King Edward IV, whereupon an albeit short-lived peace and stability was attained. However, the new Yorkist King was soon to meet many almost insurmountable challenges, principal among which was the first ever successful attack on English soil by the barbarous Andalusian Berbers and Moors from the continent. These Islamic invaders managed to mount a decisive incursion into the northern city of York, wherein they sacked and destroyed the two tallest castle keeps in the entire city, leading to hundreds of peasants and soldiers being burned to death or crushed as these two symbols of Yorkist supremacy were razed unceremoniously to the ground. King Edward thus took little time in setting about planning and executing reprisals for this impudence, sending forth crusaders to Granada in the southern most regions of the Iberian peninsula, and to the Maghreb in North Africa to hunt down the Caliphs and their generals who were thought to be responsible for this vicious attack. His crusaders even made their way to the Holy Lands, to the very heart of Ottoman Caliphate, but these latter forays became not only hideously expensive to finance, but also led to great deal of bloodshed, and the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives. This provided little if any worthwhile gain for England’s security, especially as the crusaders failed to find any of the legendary (some might suggest mythical) weapons of mass destruction responsible for such devastation, but nonetheless the fruitless search for this particular Holy Grail placed an appalling strain upon the overall financial solvency of the kingdom’s treasury.

Other notable incidents that characterised Edward’s short but eventful reign included the establishment of Guantanamo castle on the island of Majorca to house the Islamic fighters captured by the crusaders, where they were brought back from Africa and the Middle East for some friendly persuasion in picturesque surroundings, and where they could especially enjoy the various water-sports that were on offer. Of course, Edward’s largesse was not merely confined to enemy combatants in far off lands, but also to his subjects who were to benefit from a vastly improved homeland security, where the populace were made to feel much safer indeed from any further attacks through greatly broadening the powers of the local militias who policed the cities and surrounding townships. Every conversation between the peasants and among the townsfolk was to be monitored through a network of informants, and every bowel movement and sexual act was from now on to be faithfully recorded for the edification of those public officials whose task it was to scrutinise such important affairs, purely in the public interest of course. Such actions ensured that all patriots acted solely in the interest of their sovereign realm, and individual freedoms were thus frowned upon as undermining the protection of the people against the spectre of further possible terrorist attacks.

After 8 years of Edward IV’s reign, the House of York’s grip on power was challenged by the heir apparent to the albeit dubious Lancastrian claim to the throne: Edward of Westminster, the “Black Prince” of Wales. The son of Margaret of Anjou and the former King Henry VI, the Prince was currently living in exile under the rule of the Moaheb Sultanate, in a large township on the Swahili coast of East Africa. There he organised the local community in order to raise an army that he hoped would allow him to retake England for himself (and by extension for his fellow Lancastrians), thereby to regain their “rightful” place as sovereign rulers of England. This period of exile was preceded by his four year stint of spiritual enlightenment on the island of Java in the Majapahit Empire under the tutelage of the great Rishi Soetoro, before then completing his formative education in, of all places, the Sandwich Islands. Now, patiently biding his time in this African idyll, the Black Prince vowed he would soon be ready to launch his ultimate campaign for hope and change across the British Isles, with his zealous army of followers faithfully in tow.

Eventually, the Black Prince arrived on English soil and first established a beachhead in East Anglia where a settlement was soon under construction, a township that would come to be known as Washing Town. This township was founded on reclaimed swamp land, and in spite of this inauspicious foundation it soon became a thriving hub of activity, sadly though it would eventually become most conspicuous for the extreme level of institutionalised graft and corruption to be found there.  The young Prince, in order to fund the construction of the town, had foolishly curried favour with those same unscrupulous usurers who were the undoing of his father (Henry VI). Through his naive (at the very least) complicity with these money lenders, he further allowed an incredibly high level of unregulated money printing to occur under his watch, an action that utterly devalued the local currency. This merely served to undermine the monetary worth of the hard toil and the earnings of his loyal subjects, whilst the young Prince compounded the error further by authorising zero or negative interest rate loans to be established for the sole benefit of these same financial wunderkinds, allowing them to engage in the most outrageous and predatory speculative practices. By virtue of these decisions, many of dubious merit (at best), all of this speculation became effectively underwritten by the taxes extracted from his followers, and also those raised from the common folk whose assets were to be confiscated as his seat of power expanded from beyond the Washing Town environs into the surrounding hills and valleys.

As the Prince further consolidated his base of power, he began to cultivate a cult of personality among his acolytes, to the extent that these deluded zealots believed to a man that he could not only control the weather, but had the power to keep the tide at bay like a modern day variation of the famous Dane of yesteryear, King Cnut. This adulation was sorely tested, however, when all those hundreds of windmills and sun traps he had built around the town failed miserably to quell any of the winter storms and squalls that routinely rolled in off the North Sea, let alone to forestall the frosts and snowstorms that often blighted the region, nor did they ameliorate the stifling heat of the summer that provided a most conducive environment for the flies and mosquitoes that swarmed in their millions around the reclaimed swamp that gave Washing Town its pungent ambience.

Before launching his planned final drive toward York City in his bid to unseat the incumbent King Edward IV, the Black Prince decided to take time out to first embark upon a grand tour around the Mediterranean Sea, starting in Libya, then moving on to Tunisia then Egypt, before finally travelling throughout the Levant, spreading his good will and offering his support to all the incumbent rulers and potentates of these regions. By the most amazing of coincidences, no sooner had our would be pretender to the English throne left each of these countries in turn on his “Arab Spring Tour”, that spontaneous rebellions and civilian uprisings would break out, each devolving inevitably into widespread death and destruction across the countryside, on the path to the bloody carnage of all out civil wars.

His goodwill mission complete, the young Prince then embarked on his homeward voyage aboard the galley of a notorious corsair, where he struck up a firm friendship with a wandering Bedouin who had only just joined the ship as they sailed along the treacherous Barbary Coast. Sadly, whilst examining an arquebus from a captured Hungarian soldier, the weapon discharged unexpectedly killing the mysterious Bedouin instantly. Once the shock of what had occurred to his new found companion had properly sunk in, the Black Prince and his corsair hosts buried the hapless Arab anonymously at sea, according not only to his religious custom, but also to convenience. Unbeknownst to all, including the young Prince, he had inadvertently (not to mention serendipitously) killed the infamous Abu Abdallah, none other than the devious mastermind behind the twin tower attacks in York City a few years earlier.

Finally, the Black Prince returned to English soil, where he rallied the troops in Washing Town together and then marched on toward the capital, York City. On the outskirts of the city, he met up with his mother Queen Margaret and her followers to assess the best laid potential plans of attack against the King’s enclave, but they became somewhat hesitant in the face of his vastly superior forces and heavily fortified positions. Rather than a direct frontal attack to dethrone the King, the Prince and his mother resolved instead to launch a relentless propaganda campaign amongst the townsfolk designed to undermine the faith of the populace in the Yorkists in general, and the King and Duke of Gloucester in particular. This was to be achieved by disseminating paid agent provocateurs liberally amongst the town folk, who relentlessly lampooned the alleged lack of intelligence and the perceived failings of the King and his sibling. The Duke of Gloucester’s physical deformities in particular were a constant source of mirth and merriment in the taverns and the marketplaces of the city, where these agents would relentlessly mimic and mock his general appearance, stumbling gait, pale complexion and unruly hairstyle. Additionally, the Lancastrians sought to completely undermine the integrity of the local political scene through the mass importation of unskilled foreigners to form voting blocs throughout the city, and by establishing widespread gerrymander through propagating multiple rotten and pocket boroughs within the York City electorates to unduly influence the representative balance in the House of Commons to their own nefarious ends.

Once the King and the Duke realised what treason was being plotted and enacted against them, they marshalled their powerful Yorkist forces to hunt down and root out the interlopers, and in the ensuing melee the Black Prince was put to the sword and a sizeable portion of his army were either killed or maimed, whilst his loyal wife Anne and his mother Queen Margaret somehow managed to escape, living to fight yet another day for the apparently forlorn Lancastrian cause, a cause that refused to die in spite of the very best efforts of their adversaries. The lifeless corpse of the Black Prince, on the other hand, was hastily buried in a shallow, unmarked grave directly beneath the keystone in the arch of the Micklegate Bar, in ironic counterpoint to its primary purpose as the ceremonial entrance point of the city for receiving and honouring visiting monarchs.

And so now we find ourselves in the present day. It is mid winter in England’s north and in spite of his recent victories, the Duke of Gloucester finds himself in the throes of a strange melancholy, as the continued existence of his regal sibling and his inconvenient issue begin to rankle interminably……………..

Act I Scene 1:

York City. A busy city street.

Narrator:

It is in the full chill of midwinter, with people walking to and fro in front of a large and foreboding tower. Wind is whistling down the street, and the condensation from the breath of common throng clings tightly to the cold stone walls of the building.

A lonely figure stands hunched over in the cold,  gripping his overcoat tightly against his chest as he gazes out on the cityscape before him. It is Richard, Duke of Gloucester, cowering there against the tower wall, a tower that formerly stood in London Town but was then dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt at his request in the city of York as a monument to his family’s supremacy.

The rebellion of the Black Prince has just been quashed, but Richard has been unduly stung by the criticism the traitorous operatives had recently been spreading about the city regarding his rather ungodly appearance. Richard’s vanity had been wounded and so he had sought the services of a local apothecary, with a view to helping him at the very least with his ghostly pale complexion. Richard was soon to be mightily pleased with the effects of the concoction he prescribed, and presently his skin tone was miraculously transformed from its usual deathly pallor to a more vibrant and virile orange and caramel hue. Our hero could not wait to exclaim his new found feelings of confidence in his appearance to the world, yet almost immediately to then lament the cruel hand that fate had dealt him in being born so misshapen and repulsive to the fairer sex.

Richard:

“Now is the winter of our discontent,

Made glorious summer by this sun of York!

(Aside)

But I, alas, am not shaped for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;

I, that am rudely stamped and want love’s majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them—

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to see my shadow in the sun

And descant on mine own deformity.”

Narrator:

Realising that he was not well cut out to avail himself of more than the merest tincture of the pleasures of the flesh, Richard resolved instead to be a villain par excellence; to revel in the discomfiture of others, to gain pleasure from the tears of the grieving widow or the abandoned child, to find mirth in the face of pain and anguish wherever it might be found.  So, he laid a course directly for treachery and deceit, making landfall at first light upon his own brother, the unfortunate Duke of Clarence, in whom he saw not a loving older brother, but instead merely his greatest obstacle to power should his oldest brother, King Edward, ever shuffle from the mortal coil.

As such, it was now necessary to sow the seeds of discord and distrust between his two brothers, set one against the other through subtle deception by the spreading of lies, distortions and misrepresentations. In the midst of drunken carousing with Edward one winter’s eve, one such seed was planted subtly by Richard in the king’s mind that his brother, the Duke of Clarence, had designs on the throne and was actively plotting against him. Whilst outwardly fond of his brother, secretly Richard despised Clarence’s lack of vigour and his passivity, seeing his low energy levels as a sign of undeniable weakness. The Duke was, in Richard’s mind, merely riding on the coat-tails of his stronger siblings and forebears, and basking in so much unearned reflected glory, rather than relying solely on victories won due to his own mettle and toil.

(Enter Clarence, guarded, and Brackenbury)

Richard:

Brother, good day. What means this armèd guard

That waits upon your Grace?

Clarence:

His majesty,

Tend’ring my person’s safety, hath appointed

This conduct to convey me to the Tower.

Richard: 

Upon what cause?

Clarence:  (shrugs shoulders)

Because my name is George.

Or, perhaps because ’tis not!

Richard:

Alack, my lord, that fault is none of yours.

Clarence:

The King has harken’d after prophesies and dreams,

These have moved his highness to commit me now!

Richard:

‘Tis not the King that sends you to the Tower:

My Lady Gray, his wife, Clarence, ’tis she

That tempers him to this extremity.

Why, this it is, when men are ruled by women!

Brackenbury : (interjecting)

I beseech your graces both pardon me;

His majesty hath straitly given in charge

That no man shall have private conference,

Of what degree soever, with his brother.

Clarence:

We know thy charge and will obey.

Richard: 

Well, your imprisonment will not be long:

Meantime, have patience.

(Exuent Clarence, with Brackenbury)

Richard: (Aside)

“Go tread the path that thou shalt ne’er return.

Simple, plain Clarence, I do love thee so

That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven,

If heaven will take the present at our hands.”

(Aloud)

But who comes here? Hastings?

(Enter Hastings)

What news abroad?

Hastings:

No news so bad abroad as this at home:

The King is sickly, weak and melancholy

And his physicians fear him mightily.

Richard:

Now, by Saint Paul, that news is bad indeed.

O, he hath kept an evil diet long,

And overmuch consumed his royal person.

‘Tis very grievous to be thought upon.

I’ll be along presently.

(Exuent Hastings.)

Narrator:

There was suddenly no time to lose, as soon his oldest brother, King Edward, was destined to meet his maker. His brother, Clarence, on the other hand, needed to be dealt with post haste before the web of lies and deceit became untangled, or else the sudden death of the King would undo all the best laid schemes that Richard had put in train. So, away to the Tower it was, where Richard resolved to despatch his increasingly inconvenient brother Clarence with some urgency, leaving only Edward’s young Princes in his path to power.

(Exuent Richard, on horseback)

Act I Scene 2:

York City. Under the keystone at Micklegate Bar, on the edge of the city centre. The corpse of King Henry VI is carried in on a bier. Followed directly behind by Lady Anne, the widow of Edward the Black Prince, dressed in mourning clothes, and several armed guards accompanying her.

Lady Anne:

Set down, set down your honorable load,

If honor may be shrouded in a hearse,

Whilst I awhile obsequiously lament

Th’ untimely fall of virtuous Lancaster.

Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost

To hear the lamentations of poor Anne,

Wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughtered son,

Stabbed by the selfsame hand that made these wounds.

O, cursèd be the hand that made these holes;

Cursèd the heart that had the heart to do it;

Cursèd the blood that let this blood from hence.

(Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester)

Lady Anne:

What black magician conjures up this fiend

To stop devoted charitable deeds?

Richard:

Villains, set down the corpse or, by Saint Paul,

I’ll make a corpse of him that disobeys.

Lady Anne:

Avaunt, thou dreadful minister of hell.

Thou hadst but power over his mortal body;

His soul thou canst not have. Therefore begone!

Richard:

Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curs’d.

Lady Anne: 

Foul devil, for God’s sake, hence, and trouble us not,

For thou hast made the happy Earth thy hell,

Filled it with cursing cries and deep exclaims.

If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,

Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.

(Points to the corpse)

Richard:

Indeed, ’tis true, I slew this noble King,

And hath sent him swiftly to his Heaven.

He was much fitter for that place than Earth,

Yet I have taken scant pleasure in it.

So, dear lady, spare thy wrathful curses,

I did not kill your once belov’d husband,

He was slain instead by King Edward’s hand!

Lady Anne:

In thy foul throat thou liest: Queen Margaret saw

Thy murderous falchion smoking in his blood;

Which thou once didst bend against her breast,

But that thy brothers beat aside the point.

Richard: (feigning hurt feelings)

I was provoked by her slanderous tongue,

Which laid their guilt upon my guiltless shoulders.

Is not the causer of the timeless deaths

Of these Plantagenets, Henry and Edward,

As blameful as the executioner?

Lady Anne:

Thou art the cause, and most accursed effect.

Richard: (leaning closer to milady, and whispering in honeyed tones)

Divine perfection of a woman!

Your beauty was the cause of that effect;

Your beauty: which did haunt me in my sleep,

To undertake the death of all the world,

So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom.

Lady Anne: (recoiling momentarily in a mixture of horror and indignation)

If I thought that, I tell thee, homicide,

These nails should rend that beauty from my cheeks.

Richard: (carefully and furtively putting his right arm around Lady Anne’s shoulder in a gesture of supportive affection)

It is a quarrel most unnatural,

To be revenged on him that loveth you!

Surely, thou hast more than ample reason

To distrust this lamentable creature,

Standing before thee, bereft in love’s thrall,

But, have pity on this restless spirit,

Who hath gazed upon a wandering star

Daring to dream of snatching it hither,

Predicting that there in heaven will find:

That from thine eyes love’s knowledge shall derive.

(Then, thrusting his left hand southward toward milady’s nether regions, Richard (surprisingly) met little resistance. It would seem that Lady Anne, ever the pragmatist, realised belatedly that in the fortunes of war, to the victor inevitably goes the spoils!)

Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith her right,

By these we reach divinity!

Say, then, my peace is made.

Lady Anne:

I would I knew thy heart.

Richard:

‘Tis figured in my tongue.

Lady Anne:

I fear me both are false.

Richard:

Then never man was true.

Lady Anne:

Well, well, put up your sword.

Richard:

But shall I live in hope?

Lady Anne:

All men, I hope, live so.

Richard:

Vouchsafe to wear this ring.

Lady Anne:

To take is not to give.

Richard:

Look, how this ring encompasseth thy finger.

Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart;

Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.

(Exuent Lady Anne, and her entourage)

Richard: (to himself)

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?

Was ever woman in this humour won?

I’ll have her; but I will not keep her long.

What! I, that kill’d her husband and his father,

To take her in her heart’s extremest hate,

With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,

The bleeding witness of her hatred by;

Having God, her conscience, and these bars

against me,

And I nothing to back my suit at all,

But the plain devil and dissembling looks,

And yet to win her, all the world to nothing!

Ha!

Hath she forgot already that brave prince,

Edward, her lord, whom I, some three months since,

Stabb’d in my angry mood at Tewksbury?

A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman,

Framed in the prodigality of nature,

Young, valiant, wise, and, no doubt, right royal,

The spacious world cannot again afford

And will she yet debase her eyes on me,

That cropp’d the golden prime of this sweet prince,

And made her widow to a woeful bed?

On me, whose all not equals Edward’s moiety?

On me, that halt and am unshapen thus?

My dukedom to a beggarly denier,

I do mistake my person all this while:

Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot,

Myself to be a marvellous proper man.

I’ll be at charges for a looking-glass,

And entertain some score or two of tailors,

To study fashions to adorn my body:

Since I am crept in favour with myself,

Will maintain it with some little cost.

But first I’ll turn yon fellow in his grave;

And then return lamenting to my love.

Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass,

That I may see my shadow as I pass.

(Exit)

Act I Scene 3:

Narrator:

Having seen to it that Henry VI’s body was suitably interred, burying him in a pauper’s grave beside the turbulent whitewater of a small brook adjacent to the Ouse River Bridge, Richard then set his sights upon a confrontation with Henry’s widow, the one time Queen: Margaret of Anjou. In spite of others in the Yorkist camp perceiving her as little more than nuisance value, Richard rightly believed that she remained a woman of considerable power and influence, and a potential obstacle to his plans to gain ascendancy to the throne. Thus, he rode to the exotically named Xanadu, the former Queen’s palatial estate in the York city hinterland, to confront her over her role in the recent uprising by her son, Black Prince Edward, and his cohorts.

Upon arrival, Richard was ushered through the body of the manor into an ornate and elaborate garden paradise at the rear, where her ladyship awaited him, standing beneath a stately pleasure dome of oriental design. Running by the structure was a stream blessed with a charming ambience, while beyond that were twice five miles of fertile ground with walls and towers girdled all around. Beyond the bright gardens were many a blossoming incense-bearing tree, surrounded then by forests, ancient as the hills, so that the garden became completely enfolded in sunny spots of greenery.

The former Queen was clad in the most bizarre of raiments imaginable for a lady of her standing, with a buttoned double breasted straw-coloured suit top, under which she wore somewhat incongruous black pantaloons that seemed at odds with not only her royal status, but also her gender. She explained that her attire was allegedly more than 150 years old, having been brought back from the mystic Far East by the Venetian trader Marco Polo in the late 13th Century. Reputedly, it was once worn by a certain Yuan Dynasty Princess known as Kököchin, a member of the royal court of the great Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. Or, at least, that was the tale the merchant in the town who sold it to her would have had her believe. To Richard’s eye, it more suggested a garb more suited to Kublai Khan’s manservant than to that of a lady of the Royal court, no matter whether of the Chinese or the English variety. Well, to each his (or her) own, Richard thought.

Richard: (with his trademark tact)

You certainly cut a fine figure of a man, milady!

Margaret:

Why don’t you crawl back under that rock whence you came, villain!

Richard: (feigning a fawning disposition)

Why, dear lady, it was you who summoned me hence.

Margaret:

How so, oh malformed devil’s spawn?

Richard:

By your rebellious acts in York city,

To further the claims of thy upstart son.

Margaret:

Am I to suffer for my Edward’s sins?

I am guiltless, despite thy assertion.

Richard:

Foul wrinkled witch, what makest thou in my sight?

Wert thou not banished on pain of death,

On the demise of thy lecherous spouse?

Margaret:

I was; but I do find more pain in banishment

Than death can yield me here by my abode.

Did York’s dread curse prevail so much with heaven?

That Henry’s death, my lovely Edward’s death,

Their kingdom’s loss, my woeful banishment,

Could all but answer for that peevish brat?

Can curses pierce the clouds and enter heaven?

Why, then, give way, dull clouds, to my quick curses!

If heaven have any grievous plague in store

Exceeding those that I can wish upon thee,

O, let them keep it till thy sins be ripe,

And then hurl down their indignation

On thee, the troubler of the poor world’s peace!

No sleep close up that deadly eye of thine,

Unless it be whilst some tormenting dream

Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils!

Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!

Thou that wast seal’d in thy nativity

The slave of nature and the son of hell!

Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb!

Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins!

Thou rag of honour! thou detested………

Richard: (interrupting)

Have done thy charm, thou hateful wither’d hag!

Thou hast stamina indeed to endure,

Through the travails of a life lived at court,

But thou canst scarcely talk to me of “peace”,

When thy son hath worn a destructive path

Across the Holy Lands, ere this past spring,

From Benghazi to the Levant.  Co-sign’d,

It seems to me, by thy well sullied hand.

Margaret:

Forsaken bastard son of Narcissus!

Thou art the most brazen of demagogues!

‘Twas nought to do with me that my Edward,

With youthful zeal, didst bring such misery.

Those drums of war doth beat in hostile lands,

At the whim of Mullahs bent on revenge,

For past injustices that bred disdain,

And made loyal envoys ripe for slaughter.

Richard:

Such bad, bad experiences, ’tis true,

But such fake tales make thy motives ring false,

Thy chronicles dwell in their own reality,

Entwined in thy tangled web of deceit.

Margaret:

Misogynous knave!

Grope for masculine “truth” if thou desire.

‘Tis a woman’s right to choose false from real!

Deceiving foes is something to cherish,

If it advances one’s malign purpose!

Richard: (leaning over her imposingly)

Thou hast such tremendous hate in thy heart!

Thy misdeeds fester in those dank corners,

Found within the dungeon of thy conscience,

And my hope most fervent: thou remaineth,

Imprison’d by those tormented memories,

As I bear righteous arms to strike thee down,

To banish thy unworthy soul to hell,

For unpunish’d crimes thou hast committed.

(Raises his broad sword and strikes her dead with one deft blow)

Richard: (to himself, standing over Margaret’s bloodied corpse)

I’ve now return’d this most taxing burden,

With one sword’s blow, to her maker’s bosom,

Consign’d her to her sweet oblivion,

Where perhaps this supreme higher power,

Might recast this pestilent fighter’s will,

Leaving her to more affordable care.

Narrator:

His soliloquy finished, Richard dragged Margaret’s lifeless body to the edge of the stream, crossed himself in a vague attempt at piety, and then gently lowered her body into the flowing waters. Her body floated down the stream as it widened to a river, there meandering with a mazy motion through wood and dale until it reached a vast cavern, measureless to man, where her body sank in tumult. Onward and onward her body was carried, until it faded beyond view, headed ultimately towards a lifeless ocean.

His sacred duty to the dead complete, Richard then bestrode his noble steed and began riding hastily back to York city, to the Tower where his hapless brother Clarence awaited his final curtain, a fate Richard was hopeful of expediting before there was any chance that King Edward’s death might precede it. As he rode back along the country lanes, he gazed about the fields that lay on either side of the road, where it fleetingly seemed to him, in a moment of rare and all-too-brief clarity, that his country was dying. The vines in the vineyards seemed strangely withered, their grapes were now shrivelled and dry, not plump and robust as they had seemed on his forward journey. The wagon that he had seen along the way loaded with corn now lay askew as its front axle had broken, sheared off no doubt by the undue weight of its load. Now its bounty lay strewn about on the ground, spoiling in the hot summer sun, while the farmers ploughed in the surrounding withered fields for bread in vain.

It was an easy thing, he thought, to triumph in the summer’s sun. Richard could easily listen to a hungry raven’s cry in the wintry season when his red blood was fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs, without so much as a twinge of conscience or the slightest pang of guilt. Similarly, it had always been an easy thing for him to laugh at wrathful elements, to hear the dog howl at the wintry door, or listen to the ox in the slaughter house moan. Richard had long since chosen to see a God on every wind and a blessing on every blast; To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroyed his enemies’ houses; To rejoice in the blight that covered their fields, and the sicknesses that cut off their children.

But now, this groan and the dolor should be quite forgotten, he thought. It remains universal that there will always be slaves to grind at the mill, whilst captives remain bound in their chains, and the poor confined to their prisons. Soldiers, for whom Richard had always held a special fondness, would remain forever consigned to their inevitable fates: to lie dying in the sundry battlefields to come, where their shatter’d bones would lay them groaning among the happier dead. The injustices of the world beyond, from now on, would be of no further consequence to him. He was henceforth to be nought but an island, entire of himself in a sea of iniquity, and such considerations would not deter him one moment longer from his brutal and ambitious mission.

Richard soon heard a bell tolling in the distance as he rode briskly into town, and strangely came to the singular belief that it was tolling for him, and for him alone. Thus, it finally dawned on him: It was an easy thing indeed for people to talk of patience to the afflicted. Those such as he of such misshapen form or of misbegotten lineage, who thereafter would routinely suffer the mocking derision from the common folk, and were then expected to wither and shrivel in a discrete corner awaiting the merest crumb of kindness or favour from their “betters”.

Well, it was not to be so any longer for such deplorable creatures as he! Richard was now even more determined to make his path to glory in his own image, in his own way and in his own time. No wall could be built too long, no tower too high, no barricade too impenetrable to keep him from his destiny!

(Exuent, riding off into the distance)

Act 2 Scene 1:

York City. The Tower, where Clarence awaits word from his brother, King Edward, hoping against hope that he might be summoned so that he might clear his name of these wrongful accusations of treason that had unjustly been levelled against him. Clarence is sitting in a lime tree bower within the centre courtyard of the tower, a place of contemplation reserved for the condemned prior to their execution, when his brother Richard arrives to offer comfort and consolation to his brother.

(Enter Richard)

Clarence:

Richard! Dearest brother, you are well come.

I regret I’ve lost beauties and feelings,

Such as those that would have been the most sweet,

To my remembrance even when advanced age

Hath dimm’d mine eyes to blindness! Woe, alas!

Richard: (feigning concern)

My gentle-hearted Clarence! Thou hast pined

And hunger’d after Nature, many a year,

In the great City pent, winning thy way

With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain

And strange calamity! It shan’t be long,

Dear brother, before the King sees reason,

And thou canst enjoy sweet freedom once more.

Clarence:

As I looked out this very eve, the last rook

Beat its straight path along the dusky air.

Homewards, I blest it! Deeming its black wing

(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)

Had cross’d the mighty Orb’s dilated glory,

While I stood’st gazing; or, when all was still,

Flew creeking o’er my head, and had a charm

For thee, my kind-hearted Richard, to whom

No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

Richard:

I’m grateful, brother, for thy well-wishes.

I hope thy blessing is returned in kind,

For ’tis thee who needs the Lord’s Grace, not I.

Clarence:

I’ve seen the World in a grain of sand,

And Heaven in a wild flower,

Held Infinity in the palm of my hand,

and Eternity in an hour.

Richard:

I must hasten now to King Edward’s side,

And entreat His Majesty on your behalf.

Trust me, sweet Clarence, I shalt not fail thee!

(Exuent Richard)

Clarence: (to himself)

As virtuous men pass mildly away,

And whisper to their souls to go,

Whilst some of their sad friends do say,

“The breath goes now,” and some say, “No,”

So let us melt, and make no noise,

No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;

‘Twere profanation of our joys

To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,

Men reckon what it did and meant;

But trepidation of the spheres,

Though greater far, is innocent.

Narrator:

As Richard walked away from his brother, he thought of how much he despised his trusting and innocent disposition,  not to mention his complete lack of perceptiveness as to Richard’s own true nature and motivations. He thought of his brother Clarence’s naivety thus:

“This life’s dim windows of the soul,

Distorts the heavens from pole to pole,

And leads you to believe a lie,

When you see with, not through, the eye.”

With this in mind, Richard then wandered down into the town to a local public house of his acquaintance where he met with two ruffians who, for the princely sum of 30 gold nobles, were hired to deal with his milquetoast sibling once and for all. A warrant in Richard’s hand was then given to these murderers, a missive in which Clarence was summoned from the Tower to confront the King over the allegations that had been made against him. As one might expect, Richard had ensured that his brother would not survive this final journey,  and some hours later Clarence’s body was indeed found in the bushes by the highway some four miles out of town, stabbed multiple times in the chest, abdomen and neck, with much blood and gore spread round the scene that left the impression of a frenzied attack.

When notified of the murder of his brother, Richard feigned distress and shock at first, then collecting himself waxed philosophically to those gathered around him:

“Man was made for joy and woe,

Then when this we rightly know,

Through the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,

A clothing for the soul to bind.”

As Richard accepted the consolations and expressions of sympathy from those around him, he could not help but smile inwardly at his well laid plans having come to fruition so successfully. He consoled himself with a final thought on his late, lamented brother:

“Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.”

Act 2 Scene 2:

The Tower, in Richard’s private quarters situated high atop the newly constructed castle keep that arose from the west wing of the tower, a turret heavily machicolated to protect against unwanted intrusions by allowing boiling oil to be dropped on those plebeians below who might dare to arrive uninvited.

Narrator:

Richard and his partner in crime, the Duke of Buckingham, are pacing back and forth across the room, engaged in vigorous debate over the most pressing affair of state imaginable, namely how Richard, the hideously hunchbacked Duke of Gloucester, might conquer that most insurmountable of foes: namely the indomitable and not-always-so-fair Lady Anne. Having made short work of the former Queen Margaret and his own weak-willed brother Clarence, Richard planned to wed and bed the Black Prince’s widow in due course in the expectation of an upcoming ascent to the kingly throne, that is once his sickly older sibling, King Edward, had finally reached the end of his ever shortening rope.

Richard:

Her raven-hair’d beauty dost beguile me,

But to win her I must dress in finery

Of the highest fashion to hide my form,

Lest it should invoke her womanly scorn.

Buckingham:

All the finest silken cloth in the realm,

Could but scarcely hide thy misshapen form,

But a prodigious gift for poetic arts,

Hath been known to make the hardest of hearts,

Soften through those persuasive allusions,

That pander to love’s grander illusions.

Richard:

Having little prowess for poetry,

Could I rely upon thy skills, kind sir,

To produce words of persuasive devotion,

To seduce this most feminine creature,

And release her wanton harlot within?

Buckingham:

A sight to see, I’m sure, my noble friend.

But what of thy wife, Countess Melania?

Wilt she not object most strenuously,

To thy assignation with Lady Anne?

Richard:

Our union is a secret well guarded,

So the Countess therefore has little choice,

But to acquiesce to allow my desires,

Whether in marriage or the bedchamber!

Any protestations she might care to make

Are destined to fall upon deaf ears.

But, of course, what she doth not know…….

Buckingham:

Precisely, milord!

Let’s not delay any longer; Lady Anne awaits

And love’s destiny is in the offing!

(Exuent)

Narrator:

So Richard and his literary offsider, the not-so-noble Duke of Buckingham, rode off to the Black Prince’s estate on the outskirts of Washing Town. Undeterred by the hostile reception he was likely to receive from the acolytes of the recently deceased would-be usurper, Richard confidently headed east at some pace, certain that the prize awaiting him there would be all the sweeter for hearing the distant chorus of consternation arising from these unpatriotic vermin who resided in the swamp waters surrounding this corrupt, little backwater township.

Act 2 Scene 3:

Casa di Caprio, the magnificent hacienda-styled villa sitting high atop the tallest hill overlooking Washing Town. Beyond the main building’s manicured grounds were surrounding plantations of coffee, tobacco and cacao, where the Spanish-speaking braceros and slaves who were indentured to the former Black Prince harvest these cash crops from dawn till dusk. Presently, Richard and the Duke of Buckingham arrive on horseback, tie their mounts to the hitching rail and stride confidently inside. There they meet with Lady Anne’s maid servant, who ushers them into the reception room to await her ladyship.

(Enter Lady Anne)

Lady Anne: (still wearing Richard’s ring, feigning disdain but secretly pleased at his arrival)

A sudden pall hath enshrouded my home,

And Lo! Who else but thee, noble Gloucester!

Hast thou come to claim thy prize, foul devil?

Richard:

Thy shape of beauty moves away the pall,

Of our dark spirits, and o’er-darken’d ways!

Thou art more lovely and more temperate

Than a summer’s day, and more refreshing

Than endless fountains of immortal drink,

Pouring unto us from the heavens’ brink.

Lady Anne: (in mock derision)

Thy silver’d tongue belies a blacken’d heart!

Richard:

Let’s now leave the woeful world behind us,

With careless lips, eyes and hands desirous,

To enslave our bodies to passion’s needs,

That are soon reconciled in carnal deeds,

Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,

Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Lady Anne:

Let’s retire to my bedchamber, milord,

To abandon ourselves to lust and need,

Where thou shalt match thy eloquence in deed!

Narrator:

Lady Anne then ascended he stairs and, turned to Richard, giving him a conspicuous “come hither” look as she entered the bedchamber above. Richard acknowledged her with a wink, and when she had gone from his view he turned to Buckingham and thanked him for his service in scripting those two crucial snippets of dialogue that he had used so tellingly in wooing the reluctant wench who now awaited him in her boudoir.

Richard:

Thy honey’d words hath soothed the savage breast,

Of that luscious creature whom I shall best,

In the brutish battleground of her bed,

In stark remembrance of her maidenhead!

Buckingham:

The pleasure is most surely mine, milord.

Anything to help that promotes thy cause.

Richard:

Lady Anne hath been heartily impress’d,

With false declamations of tenderness.

To ensure her assent to sate my lust,

Needs thy poetic skills to win her trust.

Narrator:

Richard then convinced his friend to gather his writing materials together and to sneak furtively into Lady Anne’s bedchamber, and then to hide himself under her bed, where hopefully he might find inspiration to compose suitable words of love and devotion with which Richard might impress his new found love. Fortunately for Buckingham, in a manner common to ladies of the court in this era, Lady Anne’s preparations to make herself more amenable and demure for the erotic congress to follow were laborious and time consuming. With the various unguents, fragrant oils, emollients, powders and perfumes being applied liberally to various parts of her ladyship’s no doubt voluptuous body, the hapless Duke managed to roll out a series of poems designed to weaken the moral resolve of even the most reluctant ingénue.

The scents of rose-water, oil of cloves, lavender and sandalwood emanating from Lady Anne’s dressing room were becoming ever more overpowering to the senses as he finished his screed, but before he could extricate himself from her room unseen, Lady Anne had re-entered her bedchamber and was making her way, scantily clad, to the bed where Richard awaited her, blissfully unaware of the unwelcome interloper who hid in the shadows beneath him. Richard, meanwhile, stood proudly by the bed as he watched in anticipation as his tender prey became, in his mind at least, a willing accomplice to her own demise.

The two lovers, Richard thought, were no doubt completely unequal partners in this transaction of matters sexual; he for contemplation and valor formed, while she for softness and sweet attractive Grace. His fair, large front and eye sublime declared his absolute rule; with hyacinthine locks round from his parted forelock which hung in manly clusters, down to but not beneath his broad shoulders. She wore her unadorned umber tresses dishevelled as a veil down to the slender waist, and in wanton ringlets waved in the way a vine curls her tendrils, implying subjection, but required with gentle sway: by her yielded, and by him best received. He was thus aroused to the utmost as he watched her prepare herself to yield to his lust with such coy submission, modest pride, and sweet, reluctant amorous delay.

While outwardly, it seemed, the very picture of sexual readiness and desire, for her part Lady Anne’s wan expression, her pouting lips and her gentle tousling of her long black hair hid her true feelings; those of sheer terror and violation at having to submit to the bestial lusts of the man who only just recently had slain her husband, and then his father, in cold blood. She must choose, she thought, to just ignore that sick, sinking feeling that threatened to overwhelm her. She must strive to overcome that pervasive sense of utter revulsion that had shaken her to her very core. She must resolve, instead, to fixate solely on attaining her ultimate revenge on that cloven-hoofed demon that now stood before her. Thus, she tenderly wrapped her arms around his serpentine body, and the lovers then fell upon the soft, luxurious bed in rapturous embrace.

Richard:

Should I, at thy harmless innocence, melt?

(pauses)

License my roving hands, and let them go,

Behind, before, above, between, below,

Oh my America! My new-found-land!

Narrator:

After a couple of hours or more of torrid lovemaking, of every conceivable variation, deviation and aberration, Richard decided to enhance his romantic credentials still further by reading a poem that he alleged to have prepared in honour of his new love’s consummate elegance and beauty. With this pièce de résistance, Richard hoped to win not just the body of the beautiful Lady Anne, but also her mind and her heart, and thus holy matrimony would be assured to soon follow.

Richard: (reading from Buckingham’s hastily written poems)

So we thy airs contemplate, words and heart

And virtues, but we love the centric part.

Nor is the soul more worthy, or more fit

For love, than this, as infinite as it.

But in attaining this desired place

How much they err that set out at the face.

The hair a forest is of ambushes,

Of springs, snares, fetters and manacles;

The brow becalms us when ’tis smooth and plain,

And when ’tis wrinkled shipwrecks us again—

Smooth, ’tis a paradise where we would have

Immortal stay, and wrinkled ’tis our grave.

The nose (like to the first meridian) runs

Not ‘twixt an East and West, but ‘twixt two suns;

It leaves a cheek, a rosy hemisphere,

On either side, and then directs us where

Upon the Islands Fortunate we fall,

(Not faint Canaries, but Ambrosial)

Thy swelling lips; to which when we are come,

We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,

For they seem all: there Sirens’ songs, and there

Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear;

There in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,

The remora, thy cleaving tongue doth dwell.

These, and the glorious promontory, thy chin,

O’erpassed, and the straight Hellespont between

The Sestos and Abydos of thy breasts,

(Not of two lovers, but two loves the nests)

Succeeds a boundless sea, but yet thine eye

Some island moles may scattered there descry;

And sailing towards thy India, in that way

Shall at thy fair Atlantic navel stay;

Though thence the current be thy pilot made,

Yet ere thou be where thou wouldst be embayed

Thou shalt upon another forest set,

Where many shipwreck and no further get.

When thou art there, consider what this chase

Misspent by thy beginning at the face.

Rather set out below; practise my art.

Some symetry the foot hath with that part

Which thou dost seek, and is thy map for that,

Lovely enough to stop, but not stay at;

Least subject to disguise and change it is—

Men say the devil never can change his.

It is the emblem that hath figured

Firmness; ’tis the first part that comes to bed.

Lady Anne:

What a strange concoction thou art, milord.

The soul of an artist, but the instincts of a knave,

Ennobling my mind, yet defiling my body.

Such a paradox in so misshapen a man!

Narrator:

Inwardly, Lady Anne was not only struck by the apparent irony of Richard’s seemingly dual personality, but also of her current unenviable situation, having to feign sexual interest in a man whom she despised, and who physically and emotionally repulsed her. She lamented the necessity for women such as herself, widowed and with a family decimated by the fortunes of war or civil conflict, who are then forced to find some small consolation, or even ensure their own survival, through an undesired union with another man, even one who might be a mere shadow of their former husband in style, wit and decorum. It was either that or eke out a living hand to mouth on the streets, or find themselves debased still further as a whore in one of the many squalid ‘stewes’, bawdy houses and brothels that proliferated in the darkest corners of the realm. Such was the life for such women since time immemorial – thrown out, often through no fault of their own, into the very margins of civil society: neglected, abused, debased and discarded. Fortunately, perhaps, this sorry situation had conveniently afforded her the rarest of opportunities to obtain revenge against the very man who had so recently killed her beloved husband!

Richard: (reading from another of Buckingham’s hastily scrawled scripts)

I wonder, coy mistress, what thou and I

Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?

But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?

Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?

’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

Lady Anne: (suggestively)

As our two loves be one, and, thou and I

Love so alike, then none do slacken, none can die!

Richard:

Are thy appetites so insatiable,

That I, thrice risen, shall die once again?

Lady Anne: (Launching herself upon him once more)

Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

Rather at once our time devour

Than languish in his slow-chapped power.

Richard:

Had we but world enough, and time,

And coyness, Lady, were no crime

We would sit down and think which way

To walk and pass our long love’s day.

But at my back I always hear

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Lady Anne:

Thy stamina hath now deserted thee?

Then, let us cease this promiscuous fun,

Rest thy weariness in soft, silken sheets,

And thus surrender to oblivion.

Narrator:

As Richard rolled over having completed his requisite debauchery to his satisfaction, his contorted carcass soon lay motionless and within minutes he was loudly snoring, thus confirming to Lady Anne that the time was nigh to strike. Having subdued her prey into such a state of sweet exhaustion, she now reached up to the bed head above the sleeping Devil’s head, where inlaid in the detail of its carving was a jewel-encrusted dagger, obscured as to its true purpose by appearing to be an ornamental feature. As she clutched the dagger and raised her arm above her head to strike, the Duke of Buckingham suddenly appeared from his hiding place under the bed and firmly grasped her wrist, driving the dagger downwards instead into the poor Lady Anne’s own abdomen. Her sudden screams awoke the slumbering Richard, who in a half-dazed state watched on as the last vestiges of life ebbed out of milady’s naked body, as she writhed and contorted on the bed beside him. After a few short moments, her struggling ceased and her body lay completely motionless in a large pool of blood, while the Duke of Buckingham looked on passively at his sordid handiwork.

Richard:

By Saint Paul! I owe thee my life, my friend.

Duke of Buckingham:

Think no more upon it, milord. A pleasure.

(pauses, then crosses himself as he eulogises the fallen Lady Anne)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Richard: (with rueful venom, glancing down at Lady Anne’s now bloodless body)

When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead

And that thou think’st thee free

From all solicitation from me,

Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,

And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;

Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,

And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,

Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think

Thou call’st for more,

And in false sleep will from thee shrink;

And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou

Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie

A verier ghost than I.

What I will say, I will not tell thee now,

Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,

I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,

Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.

Narrator:

Having vented his spleen sufficiently at milady’s corpse, Richard dressed himself hurriedly and the two friends were quickly to horse, and they rode off back through those very same gates at the entrance to the former Black Prince’s villa. They were soon headed down at a fast gallop toward the township that lay below them upon the swampy plain- Washing Town; that den of iniquity that Richard had now decided, in his indignation and fury, must be destroyed once and for all so that every last remnant of the Lancastrians and their followers should be obliterated from the very face of the Earth.

(Exuent)

Act 2 Scene 4:

The Blacksmith’s on the outskirts of Washing Town. Midnight. A stiff breeze rolling in off the North Sea.

Narrator:

After their brush with death at the hands of Lady Anne, Richard and Buckingham were determined to rid themselves of all their remaining Lancastrian opponents once and for all. Having stolen their way into a wooden “smithy” on the edge of town, the two men overpowered and killed the unfortunate blacksmith, and then set about stoking up the burning coal in the hearth to a high intensity. Strapping bundles of branches and straw together, the two men set them alight in the hearth and then rode off into the township, spreading the flames to the straw and thatched roofs of the surrounding houses as they went. Soon many of the homes were well alight, with the slumbering residents initially unaware of the conflagration about to consume them. Through the town the two men rode until they could no longer hold their flaming torches, whereupon they dropped them among some discarded rubbish nearby, and then rode straight out of town to the top of the nearest lookout, where they watched this evolving catastrophe unfold from a discrete distance.

At first there was an eerie silence, but it wasn’t long before the first screams started to pierce the night sky. In very short order, these screams became a cacophony as panicked residents of the town were either trapped within their burning homes, or else ran about in a panic through streets that were becoming increasingly impassable as the flames spread quickly from house to house across the length and breadth of the township. Eventually, the entire town was engulfed in a firestorm, fanned by the strong winds that were sweeping in from the ocean to the East. This swirling vortex of fire quickly destroyed every last free standing building within the township, while the intense pall of smoke suffocated any of those fortunate enough to avoid being directly burnt in the flames. A stash of gunpowder exploded in the midst of this melee, but that blast only added very little to the general chaos and confusion that was already well in train. Eventually, the township was reduced to a mere smouldering ruin, while the few whimpering cries that emanated from the precious few poor souls who still remained clinging, all-too-briefly, to their barest thread of life, were soon to become completely and ominously silent.

Richard: (attempting ironic commentary)

This is the way the world ends;

Not with a bang but a whimper!

Buckingham: (somewhat aghast)

Words are barely adequate,

To describe so appalling a sight!

And our dried voices,

When we whisper together,

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass!

Richard: (temporarily beset by his conscience)

A hollowness pervades me,

Despite enemies now vanquish’d.

Yet, I can but wonder; Is it like this

In death’s other kingdom?

Buckingham: (waxing lyrical)

This is the dead land,

This is the quagmire land.

Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man’s hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Richard:

Success beyond ev’ry expectation,

Yet horrors beyond all redemption!

Thus, it has been wisely written:

“Between the idea and the reality,

Between the motion and the act,

Falls the Shadow!”

Buckingham:

Night comes, but without darkness or repose,

A dismal picture of the gen’ral doom:

Where Souls distracted when the Trumpet blows,

And half unready with their bodies come.

Those who have homes, when home they do repair

To a last lodging call their wand’ring friends.

Their short uneasy sleeps are broke with care,

To look how near their own destruction tends.

Those who have none sit round where once it was,

And with full eyes each wonted room require:

Haunting the yet warm ashes of the place,

As murder’d men walk where they did expire.

Richard: (gesturing to the dismal vista before them)

Alas, my gentle and eloquent Duke,

There are no such souls left to thus repair

Those sad, remnant homes in abject ruin!

Buckingham:

Nought left but desolation and despair,

In this valley of dying stars,

In this hollow valley,

This broken jaw of our lost kingdom!

Richard:

And what will not ambition and revenge

Descend to? Who aspires must down as low,

As high he soared, obnoxious first or last

To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,

Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.

Buckingham:

Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom

Remember us—if at all—not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men,

The stuffed men.

Richard:

Such eyes I dare not meet in dreams

Nor in death’s dream kingdom!

(pauses)

But, let’s have done with such superstition.

We must return to York to attend the King.

My brother is at life’s very brink,

And I aim to be there for the fall.

(Exuent)

Act 3 Scene 1:

London. The palace. King Edward IV is lying ill in his bed within the royal bedchamber. His wife, Queen Elizabeth is in attendance at his bedside, doting upon his every need and whim in applying tepid sponges to his fevered brow, and offering him cups of broth and small morsels of food for sustenance in view of his rather tenuous state of health: a heady combination of corpulent obesity, anxiety neurosis, terminal hypochondriasis, polyarticular gout and dropsy.

(Enter Rivers, Grey, Dorset, Lord Stanley and Hastings, with various attendants)

King Edward IV: (in a weak and sickly voice)

I have summon’d thee all to make amends

To once bitter adversaries at court.

(pauses)

I ev’ry day expect an embassage

From my Redeemer to redeem me hence;

And now in peace my soul shall part to heaven,

Since I have set my friends at peace on earth.

Rivers and Hastings, take each other’s hand;

Dissemble not your hatred, swear your love.

Rivers:

By heaven, my heart is purged from grudging hate:

And with my hand I seal my true heart’s love.

Hastings:

So thrive I, as I truly swear the like!

(Enter Buckingham)

King Edward IV: (turning to address his wife, still tending to him lovingly)

Madam, yourself are not exempt in this,

Nor your son Dorset, Buckingham, nor you;

You have been factious one against the other,

Wife, love Lord Hastings, let him kiss your hand;

And what you do, do it unfeignedly.

Queen Elizabeth:

Here, Hastings; I will never more remember

Our former hatred, so thrive I and mine!

King Edward IV:

Dorset, embrace him; Hastings, love Lord Marquess.

Dorset:

This interchange of love, I here protest,

Upon my part shall be unviolable.

Hastings:

And so swear I, my lord

(They embrace)

King Edward IV: (gesturing to Buckingham)

Now, princely Buckingham, seal thou this league

With thy embracements to my wife’s allies,

And make me happy in your unity.

Buckingham:

Whenever Buckingham doth turn his hate

On you or yours,

(To the Queen)

but with all duteous love

Doth cherish you and yours, God punish me

With hate in those where I expect most love!

When I have most need to employ a friend,

And most assured that he is a friend

Deep, hollow, treacherous, and full of guile,

Be he unto me! This do I beg of God,

When I am cold in zeal to yours.

King Edward IV:

A pleasing cordial, princely Buckingham,

Is this thy vow unto my sickly heart.

There wanteth now our brother Gloucester here,

To make the perfect period of this peace.

(Enter Richard)

Richard:

Good morrow to my sovereign King and Queen:

And, princely peers, a happy time of day!

King Edward IV:

Happy, indeed, as we have spent the day.

Brother, we have done deeds of charity;

Made peace of enmity, fair love of hate,

Between these swelling wrong-incensed peers.

Richard:

A blessed labour, my most sovereign liege:

Amongst this princely heap, if any here,

By false intelligence, or wrong surmise,

Hold me a foe;

If I unwittingly, or in my rage,

Have aught committed that is hardly borne

By any in this presence, I desire

To reconcile me to his friendly peace!

Queen Elizabeth:

A holy day shall this be kept hereafter:

I would to God all strifes were well compounded.

My sovereign liege, I do beseech your majesty

To take our brother Clarence to your grace.

Richard:

Why, madam, have I offer’d love for this

To be so bouted in this royal presence?

Who knows not that the noble duke is dead?

(They all start)

You do him injury to scorn his corpse.

Rivers: (aghast)

Who knows not he is dead! Who knows he is?

Queen Elizabeth: (in shock)

All seeing heaven, what a world is this!

King Edward IV:

Clarence is dead? My order was revers’d!

How could this be so?

 

Narrator:

Richard related to all those present how the two ruffians, dressed as messengers from the court, had taken Clarence from the Tower using forged papers, on the pretext of taking him to a meeting with the King to appeal for clemency. Clarence’s mutilated body had then been found by the side of the road several hours later, and those same fiends responsible for the heinous act had long since vanished into the aether, without so much as a trace left behind to help in their capture.

The grief-stricken King Edward was now also filled with a deep and abiding remorse for his rash imprisonment of his gentle brother, due purely to unfounded speculation and baseless suspicions of treason, in an action that indirectly led to Clarence’s demise at the hands of these brutal, murderous villains. Edward then banished all those attending from the bedchamber to be alone with his grief, with only his wife Elizabeth and trusted brother Richard remaining behind to console him.

(Exuent Rivers, Dorset, Grey, Lord Stanley, Hastings, Buckingham and their various attendants)

King Edward IV: (ruefully)

My brother slew no man; his fault was thought,

And yet his punishment was cruel death.

Oh, poor Clarence!

Richard:

Thou didst love our fair brother so, my liege,

That makes his fall from Grace all the harder,

And this woeful grief most acutely felt!

King Edward IV: (sobbing)

Yet nothing can to nothing fall,

Nor any place be empty quite;

Therefore I think my breast hath all

Those pieces still, though they be not unite;

And now, as broken glasses show

A hundred lesser faces, so

My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore,

But after one such love, can love no more.

(Dies)

Queen Elizabeth: (distressed, draping herself over Edward’s body)

Oh no! My love, my soul, my life hath gone!

(pauses)

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

And Time, that gave, doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.

And yet to times in hope my words shall stand,

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Narrator:

Queen Elizabeth knelt by her dead husband’s body for the longest time, sobbing bitter tears of regret. Richard excused himself and took his leave after a short time, leaving his brother’s widow alone to her grief. Meanwhile, news of Richard’s announcement of Clarence’s untimely death spread through the palace among the various maids and manservants, until it reached the ear of not only Clarence’s mother, the Duchess of York, but also sadly to be overheard by his two young children, who had the misfortune to hear of their father’s death second hand from the indiscreet chatter of the staff.

 

Act 3 Scene 2:

The Palace. Another of the many reception rooms within, where the various members of the King’s extended family tended to congregate. The Duchess of York is consoling her two young grandchildren, the son and daughter of the murdered Duke of Clarence.

Girl:

Please, grandam, tell us our father is not dead!

Duchess of York:

Peace, children, peace. The King doth love thee well.

Boy:

Grandam, we heard, from our good uncle Gloucester!

He said the King, provoked to it by the Queen,

Devised impeachments to imprison him;

And when my uncle told me so, he wept,

And pitied me, and kindly kissed my cheek,

Bade me rely on him as on my father,

And he would love me dearly as a child.

Duchess of York:

Incapable and shallow innocents,

You cannot guess who caused your father’s death!

(pauses)

Ah, that deceit should steal such gentle shape,

And with a virtuous visor hide deep vice.

He is my son, ay, and therein my shame,

Yet from my dugs he drew not this deceit.

Boy:

Think you my uncle did dissemble, grandam?

Duchess of York:

Ay, child. What noise is this?

(Enter Queen Elizabeth, hair dishevelled, with Dorset and Rivers accompanying her)

Queen Elizabeth: (distressed)

Ah, who shall hinder me to wail and weep,

To chide my fortune and torment myself?

I’ll join with black despair against my soul

And to myself become an enemy.

Duchess of York:

What means this scene?

Queen Elizabeth:

To make an act of tragic violence.

Edward, my lord, thy son, our king, is dead.

Why grow the branches when the root is gone?

Why wither not the leaves that want their sap?

All springs reduce their currents to mine eyes,

That I, being governed by the watery moon,

May send forth plenteous tears to drown the world.

Ah, for my husband, for my dear lord Edward!

Dorset:

Take comfort, mother. What God hath lent us,

In kindness from His most bounteous hand,

Must be return’d in kind with thankfulness.

In common worldly things, ’tis called ungrateful

With dull unwillingness to repay a debt.

Rivers:

Madam, bethink you, like a careful mother,

Of the young prince your son. Send straight for him.

Let him be crowned. In him your comfort lives.

Drown desperate sorrow in dead Edward’s grave

And plant your joys in living Edward’s throne.

(Enter Richard, Buckingham, Hastings, Stanley and Ratcliffe)

Richard: (to Queen Elizabeth)

Sister, have comfort. All of us have cause

To wail the dimming of our shining star,

But none can help our harms by wailing them.

(turning to his mother, the Duchess of York)

Madam, my mother, I do cry you mercy;

I did not see your Grace. Humbly on my knee

I crave your blessing.

(kneels)

Duchess of York:

God bless thee, and put meekness in thy breast,

Love, charity, obedience, and true duty.

Richard: (stands)

Amen.

Narrator:

Of course, Richard had no intention to obey his mother’s wishes and thus become a mere compliant lap dog to Edward’s heir. Not for him would it be to reach a ripe old age as the genial and kindly uncle to those gilt-edged, precocious brats. It had indeed been many a summer since Richard had felt remotely obliged to listen to that mischievous old crone, or to be at all persuaded by her outwardly demure, yet inwardly guileful persona.

Buckingham:

Let’s cheer each other in each other’s love.

Though we have spent our harvest of this king,

We soon shall reap the harvest of his son.

The broken rancor of your high-swoll’n hates,

But lately splintered, knit, and joined together,

Must gently be preserved, cherished, and kept.

(pauses)

‘Twould seemeth good that, with some little train,

Forthwith from Ludlow the young prince be fetch’d

Hither to London, to be crowned our king.

Rivers:

Why “with some little train”?

Buckingham:

Marry, my lord, lest by a multitude

The new-healed wound of malice should break out,

Which would be so much the more dangerous….

Richard:

I hope the king made peace with all of us;

And the compact is firm and true in me.

Rivers:

And so in me, and so, I think, in all.

Hastings: (with Stanley and Ratcliffe in unison)

And so say I!

Richard:

Then be it so, and go we to determine

Who they shall be that straight shall post to Ludlow.

Narrator:

Richard bade his mother and Edward’s widow to go about their business in preparation for the young Prince’s return to the palace, whilst ushering Hastings, Rivers, Stanley and Ratcliffe out of the room to discuss amongst themselves who might accompany Richard and Buckingham on their journey to escort the young Prince Edward back to London to be crowned as the new King. Of course, Richard and his henchman Buckingham had other ideas entirely.

(Exuent all) 

 

Act 3 Scene 3:

The palace. Queen Elizabeth’s bedchamber. The Queen is sitting with her mother-in-law, the Duchess of York, and various attendants awaiting word of her son’s safe return from Ludlow. The Archbishop is also in attendance, offering his condolences for the Queen’s lamentations over her husband’s recent death.

(Enter Messenger)

Duchess of York:

What news?

Messenger:

Lord Rivers and Lord Grey are sent to Pomfret,

And, with them, Sir Thomas Vaughan, prisoners!

Duchess of York:

Who hath committed them?

Messenger:

The mighty Dukes, Gloucester and Buckingham.

Queen Elizabeth:

For what offence?

Messenger:

I have disclosed all I know, your highness.

Queen Elizabeth: (dismayed)

Ay me! I see the ruin of my house.

The tiger now hath seized the gentle hind.

Insulting tyranny begins to jut

Upon the innocent and aweless throne.

Welcome, destruction, blood, and massacre.

I see, as in a map, the end of all!

Duchess of York: (shaking her fist skywards)

O’ accurs’d days, where blind ambitions reign,

Setting blood on blood, brother on brother,

And spurring damned war upon themselves.

(pauses)

Enough of brutality and bloodshed!

So let me die, and look on death no more.

Narrator:

Queen Elizabeth rightly feared for not only the safety of her young son and the heir to the throne (Edward), but also for her youngest son (the young Duke of York), and also for herself as the nominal Queen. She thus sought sanctuary for herself and her son to protect them both from the Duke of Gloucester’s no doubt nefarious schemes. The Archbishop, who was in attendance ministering to the grieving widow, upon hearing of this possibly treasonous development, offered to assign the Great Seal of England to Queen Elizabeth, by which he would be treating her, and not her son (nor her brother in-law Richard), as the lawful monarch. He offered also to take it upon myself to protect the Queen and her son York, and to conduct them both to sanctuary. With the aged Duchess of York in tow, they hastily fetched the young Duke, gathered all their belongings and valuables together and left the palace, putting themselves as far from harm’s way as they possibly could in the limited time they had at their disposal.

 

Act 3 Scene 4:

The Tower.

Narrator:

Richard and Buckingham arrived on horseback accompanied by the young Prince, who was soon to be crowned as the new King: Edward V. The two conniving Dukes had managed to convince the heir to the throne that he should remain at the Tower for his own safety until his coronation, whilst the alleged co-conspirators of Rivers and Gray could be captured, and therefore his safe passage back to London could be assured.

At the gate to meet them was the Lord Mayor of York City, an affable if unrefined and none too bright gentleman whom the two Dukes had convinced of the need to foil a plot alleged to be afoot to kidnap the Prince and thereby prevent his rightful ascension to the throne. Thus, he was more than willing to assist them by welcoming Edward to the safety of the Tower, where he could vouchsafe that the young Prince would have no contact with the outside world, more particularly anyone other than those completely loyal to the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham.

In due course, the young Prince was shown to his luxurious living quarters high atop the Tower, in the apartment formerly occupied by the secret bride of the Duke of Gloucester, the countess Melania. She had been relocated temporarily to another part of the Tower to make way for the future king, and was reputedly none-too-happy to lose her gilded cage, even for the briefest of times. The living area of the apartment was the last word in opulence and splendour, decorated with white marble Corinthian columns spread liberally around the perimeter of the room, with elaborate capitals of acanthus leaves and scrolls in 24 carat gold leaf. The ceiling was bordered by embossed gold leaf cornices, and in the centre was an elaborate hand-painted fresco depicting Grecian Gods and other mythological figures in heavenly surroundings. Around the room were also scattered various priceless objet d’art, including Athenian vases and urns, statues of both Eros and Psyche, and a large painting in a gold frame of Apollo being led by Aurora, the Greek goddess of dawn.

Lord Mayor:

Welcome, sweet Prince. Herewith is York’s finest,

As would befit a future sovereign!

(Gesturing to the view of the cityscape below)

With a most glorious panorama,

Spreading before us, of our fair city.

Prince:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever!

I shall drowse here a sleep full of sweet dreams,

And reside in health with quiet breathing.

(pauses)

Now whilst I cannot hear the city’s din,

I shall rejoice in this cheerful splendour!

Lord Mayor:

God bless your Grace, with health and happy days!

(Enter Richard)

Richard:

Welcome, dear nephew, my thought’s sovereign.

(pauses)

Sweet prince, the untainted virtue of your years

Hath not yet dived into the world’s deceit

Nor more can you distinguish of a man

Than of his outward show; which, God he knows,

Seldom or never jumpeth with the heart.

Those uncles which you want were dangerous;

Your grace attended to their sugar’d words,

But look’d not on the poison of their hearts :

God keep you from them, and from such false friends!

Prince:

God keep me from false friends, but they were none!

(pauses)

Leave me alone to my thoughts, dear uncle,

Lest my melancholy does leave a pall

On thy most lavish hospitality.

Richard:

Yes, of course, my liege. Upon my orders

York’s Lord Mayor is at thy disposal.

(Exuent all but Prince Edward)

Prince: (to himself whilst gazing about at all the splendid artworks around him)

Such a lustrous feast for both eye and mind!

(picking up a Grecian urn from its plinth)

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

Of deities or mortals, or of both,

In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

(having replaced the urn, now the young Prince turns his attention to a marble statue of Psyche)

O latest born and loveliest vision far

Of all Olympus’ faded hierarchy!

Fairer than Phoebe’s sapphire-region’d star,

Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;

Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,

Nor altar heap’d with flowers;

Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan

Upon the midnight hours;

No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet

From chain-swung censer teeming;

No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat

Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.

(pauses, contemplating all the treasures he has just beheld)

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

(Exuent: retiring to his bedchamber)

 

Act 3 Scene 5:

The Tower. Dawn.

Narrator:

The young Prince and heir to the throne awakened in the gilded palace of sin that had only recently served as the bedchamber for the Duke of Gloucester’s secret consort, the Countess Melania. As he lay there on that bed in quiet contemplation, he noticed that above him on the ceiling were various scenes depicting all manner of cherubim, satyrs and nymphs cavorting suggestively with one another in the verdant forests and idyllic meadows, whilst various Greek myths were then represented in each corner of the fresco.

As he gazed around the perimeter of the ceiling, he noted various explicit scenes from mythology rendered in somewhat graphic detail. In the first corner, Danaë (the daughter of King Acrisius of Argos) was portrayed being impregnated by Zeus (by cleverly turning himself into a shower of golden rain that fell down upon her naked body), whilst in the second corner the tale of Leda and the Swan was starkly rendered (Zeus transforming himself on this occasion into a swan, and then raping the wife of Sparta’s King Tyndareus). In the third, the myth of Callisto, the Princess of Arcadia, was shown in all its perverse glory (with Zeus disguising himself as the goddess Artemis to then through this deception have his way with her), then finally to the last where the myth of Europa, King Agenor of Tyre’s daughter, was depicted (Zeus metamorphosing into an eagle and ravishing her in a willow-thicket), with no depravity left to the imagination.

Of course, such scenes of depravity would normally have been rather daunting to the sensibilities of a pious young teenage aristocrat such as our heir apparent Prince, but being couched in Greek mythological trappings lent them an artistic license they probably didn’t deserve, nonetheless allowing him to largely overlook their inappropriately lewd and ribald content. His thoughts instead were soon moving on to matters of more immediate import, that being how to make his way safely to London to be reunited with his mother the Queen and his brother York.

The Prince bathed and dressed himself, and was sitting on a divan when his uncle, Richard, called upon him.

(Enter Richard

Richard:

The cock is up! Now, arise my sweet Prince.

Hast thou slept well in my fair mistress’ bed?

Prince:

‘Twas surely an experience to savour,

And I’m grateful for thy hospitality.

Richard:

Thou must prevail upon it further still,

Whilst my soldiers seek those conspirators,

Who hath remain’d elusive to capture.

Please, do remain here as our welcome guest,

Until thy journey can be safely made.

Prince:

The Tower is most pleasant and secure,

And it shall do very nicely indeed!

Despite its history most unsavoury,

We shall sojourn here till our coronation.

(pauses)

Did Julius Caesar build this place, uncle?

Richard:

He did, my gracious lord, begin this place;

Which, since, succeeding ages have re-edified.

Prince: (admiringly)

Methinks the truth should live from age to age,

As ’twere retail’d to all posterity,

Even to the general all-ending day.

(pauses)

Julius Caesar was a famous man;

With what his valour did enrich his wit,

His wit set down to make his valour live.

Death makes no conquest of this conqueror;

For now he lives in fame, though not in life.

Richard:

His legacy is indeed prodigious,

Yet I dismantled this place, stone by stone,

Rebuilding it to suit my own image;

Consigning Caesar to obscurity.

Prince:

Caesar’s template is one to emulate,

And I, through valour and wit, do propose

That if I live until I be a man,

I’ll win our ancient right in France again,

Or die a soldier, as I lived a King.

Richard: (excusing himself)

I regret I must depart now, my liege.

I shall leave thee in our Lord Mayor’s care,

So I might be given greater freedom

To attend those remnant traitors’ demise.

(Exit Richard)

Narrator:

The Young Prince was thus left to his own devices in the Tower, whilst Richard left to hunt down the alleged conspirators who were plotting against him. Meanwhile, Buckingham had convinced Hastings (the trusted former right hand man to Edward IV) and Cardinal Bourchier that the young Duke of York was too young and naive to have asked of his own volition for sanctuary, and that he was in no imminent danger that would even require the Church’s protection. Thus, they both had proceeded to journey to London, where they soon retrieved the young Duke from sanctuary so that he might join his brother under the “protection” of their uncle.

Soon, the two young boys were reunited in the Tower in York City, where they could at least while away the hours in each other’s company. The young Princes were well fed, and servants attended their every need and whim, but they both had a nagging and lingering sense of foreboding as to what might occur between now and Edward’s coronation, which was set down for one week hence. The boys felt somewhat relieved, however, at the constant presence of Hastings, whom they knew as a loyal friend and subject of their father, and whose devotion to the true descent of the former King Edward’s rightful heirs was known to be unwavering.

Act 4 Scene1:

The parlour of Baroness Lewinsky’s relatively modest York City apartment.

Narrator:

Richard had long since given up any pretensions of searching himself for the mythical co-conspirators to the hapless Rivers and Grey, and instead left his soldiers to continue their fruitless fool’s errand without him, whilst he made his way to the abode of the former mistress of the degenerate King Henry VI, Baroness Lewinsky. Richard had actively cultivated her friendship during those difficult years, using her intimate connection to King Henry as a means of gathering information to undermine the interests of the Lancasters in general, while simultaneously having the fortuitous effect of nurturing an ever-burgeoning clandestine relationship between Richard and the Baroness’ sovereign ruler: Ivan the Great, the Grand Prince of Moscow. Through this relationship, Richard hoped to find a trusted ally with whom he could align if ever the opportunity arose to seize the throne that he firmly believed he was predestined to one day attain. For his part, Ivan clearly admired the Duke of Gloucester’s ruthless ambition, his predatory attitude and his complete lack of a moral compass; features which made him not only a highly dangerous potential adversary, but equally a more than useful comrade he might use in his constant battle with the other continental European aristocrats who plagued the integrity of his borders on a regular basis.

Over the years, Richard had almost exclusively utilised his friend Catesby as an intermediary between the Baroness and himself, passing messages to and fro between the two and allowing the Grand Prince to keep abreast of all the various intrigues and affairs of state within England’s Royal Court almost as soon as they actually occurred. In return, Ivan not only supplied the insatiable Duke of Gloucester with an endless supply of his most highly sought after courtesans, but also offered him generous financial inducements that effectively underwrote Richard’s relentless push to maximise his power and expand his ever-widening sphere of influence.

This secret alliance was now to become instrumental in Richard’s final act of deceit in his path to the throne, wherein he sought Baroness Lewinsky’s help in potentially casting doubt upon the legitimacy of the young Prince Edward’s current claim to the throne, whether by hook or by crook. It fortuitously transpired that the young Baroness had indeed recently learned, through her many spies and informants at court, that the former King Edward IV may have been secretly pre-contracted in marriage to the beautiful widow, Lady Eleanor Butler, the daughter of the Duke of Shrewsbury. This action was reputed to have taken place some 3 years before his marriage to the current Queen (Lady Gray, the former Elizabeth Woodeville), and the existence of such a pre-contract for marriage would, under English law at that time, thereby entirely nullify the legitimacy of any subsequent marriage that Edward would thereafter undertake. As a consequence, this delicious tidbit of information happily negated any claim that either of the Princes in the Tower would otherwise have had to England’s throne. Thus, with the benefit of this undercover Russian reconnaissance and intelligence, the path had now been miraculously cleared for Richard to claim the throne as the “rightful” heir, being his former brother Edward’s nearest legitimate living relative.

(Enter Catesby and Richard)

Catesby:

Milady, it’s been too long since last we spoke.

How fares Grand Prince Ivan? Is he in health?

Baroness:

He is hale, hearty and in full vigour.

He sends kind regards to you, good Catesby,

Catesby:

Has he return’d safely from the Crimea,

After quelling rebellion there this Spring?

Baroness:

Prince Ivan hath fought off those vile rebels,

In the pay of Europe’s aristocrats

To incite civil unrest and affray,

And restor’d comfort and order to all.

Richard:

Agents of our Black Prince and his mother,

Had their stamp all over that rebellion.

I am well reliev’d at Ivan’s victory,

That secures his sacred territory.

Baroness: (with a wry smile)

The Grand Prince passes on his gratitude

For thy most judicious slaughter of both.

Richard:

It serves our dual purpose to collude,

To work in tandem as kindred spirits,

And through the use of shared intelligence,

Tighten our grip on the reins of power.

Baroness:

The intelligence from my informants,

About King Edward’s betrothal contract

To wed Lady Eleanor of Shrewsbury,

Clears thy path to become the lawful King!

Richard:

It is indeed a most apt happenstance!

Edward’s bastard offspring are thus annull’d,

And they represent a threat no longer.

Pray, thank the Grand Prince for his interest.

(pauses)

By your leave, mistress, we must now depart.

We have a coronation to attend!

(Exuent Richard and Catesby)

 

Act 4 Scene 2:

Outside the Tower. At the large iron gate that provides the only entry point to the imposing edifice.

Narrator:

Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, Lord Stanley and a disguised Lord Dorset have gathered at the gate to the Tower, hoping to gain entry to visit the young Princes within. Brackenbury and the Lord Mayor of York are barring their entry with their guards at their back, under strict instructions from the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham.

Queen Elizabeth:

Master Lieutenant, pray you, by your leave,

How doth the Prince and my young son York?

Brackenbury:

Right well, dear madam. By your patience,

I may not suffer you to visit them.

The King hath strictly charged the contrary.

Queen Elizabeth:

The King? Who’s that?

Brackenbury:

I mean, the Lord Protector.

Queen Elizabeth:

The Lord protect him from that kingly title.

I am their mother. Who shall bar me from them?

Brackenbury:

No, madam, no. I may not leave it so.

I am bound by oath, and therefore pardon me.

(Exits)

Dorset:

Be of good cheer, mother.

How fares your Grace?

Queen Elizabeth:

O Dorset, speak not to me. Get thee gone.

Death and destruction dogs thee at thy heels.

Thy mother’s name is ominous to children.

If thou wilt outstrip death, go, cross the seas,

And live with Richmond, from the reach of hell.

Go, hie thee, hie thee from this slaughterhouse,

Lest thou increase the number of the dead

And make me die the thrall of Margaret’s curse,

Nor mother, wife, nor England’s counted queen.

Lord Stanley: (to Dorset)

Take all swift advantage of the hours.

You shall have letters from me to my son

In your behalf, to meet you on the way.

Be not ta’en tardy by unwise delay.

Duchess of York: (to Dorset)

Go thou to Richmond, and good fortune guide thee.

(to Queen Elizabeth)

Go thou to sanctuary, and good thoughts possess thee.

I to my grave, where peace and rest lie with me.

Queen Elizabeth: (Looking back to the Tower)

Pity, you ancient stones, those tender babes

Whom envy hath immured within your walls.

(pauses)

Rough cradle for such pretty little ones.

Rude ragged nurse, old sullen playfellow

For tender Princes, use my babies well.

So foolish sorrows bid your stones farewell.

(Exuent)

 

Act 4 Scene 3:

The Tower.

Narrator:

Lord Hastings had just met with his good friend Catesby at his stately home to express his concern regarding any likely delay in the coronation of the heir to the throne, young Prince Edward. Hastings had not been too perturbed by the capture and forthcoming execution of Lord Rivers and Lord Gray, as they were his longstanding personal enemies over many decades. He was, however, happy to tell Catesby that he was prepared to defend the rightful line of Royal succession of the young Prince at the risk of his own death. Little did he know that his friend Catesby was soon to be more than happy to oblige him. Thus it transpired that Catesby had arranged for Hastings to meet with Buckingham and Richard at the Tower that evening to allay his concerns, but had gone ahead of him to let the two Dukes know of this potentially inconvenient fly in the Royal ointment.

(Enter Catesby and Buckingham)

Catesby:

I fear that Hastings shall not acquiesce

To Richard wearing the garland Royal

Should our plans succeed in discrediting

The young Prince’s tainted claim to the throne.

Buckingham:

Fear not, noble Catesby. ‘Tis of no mind.

Our Russian intelligence leaves no doubt,

That Edward’s bastard hath no righteous claim,

Despite Hastings’ thorny protestations.

Richard is aware of this allegiance,

And intends to deal with him presently!

Catesby:

What dost he suggest we do to rid us

Of this inconvenient naysayer?

Buckingham:

Since the testy gentleman is so hot

That he will lose his head ere give consent

His master’s child, as worshipfully he terms it,

Shall lose the royalty of England’s throne,

He plans to soon fulfill his heart’s desire!

(Enter Hastings)

Hastings:

Now, noble peers, the cause why we are met

Is to determine of the coronation.

In God’s name, speak. When is the Royal day?

Buckingham:

Are all things ready for the Royal time?

Hastings:

They are, wanting but the nomination.

Buckingham:

Who knows the Lord Protector’s mind herein?

Lord Hastings, you and he are near in love.

Hastings:

I thank his Grace, I know he loves me well.

I’ve not yet sounded him on that subject.

(Enter Richard)

Buckingham:

Welcome milord, speaking of the devil!

Richard: (in jest)

I doth resemble that dark gentleman!

(laughs)

Buckingham:

Surely not remotely so, Lord Protector.

Thy deeds belie that characterisation!

Hastings:

His grace looks cheerful and smooth this morning.

Richard: (with a sudden scowl and pained expression on his face)

I pray you all, tell me what they deserve

That do conspire my death with devilish plots

Of damned witchcraft, and that have prevailed

Upon my body with their hellish charms?

Hastings:

The tender love I bear your Grace, my lord,

Makes me most forward in this princely presence

To doom th’ offenders, whosoe’er they be.

I say, my lord, they deserved death.

Richard:

Then be your eyes the witness of their evil.

(shows his withered arm)

Look how I am bewitched! Behold mine arm

Is like a blasted sapling withered up;

And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch,

Consorted with that harlot, strumpet Shore,

That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.

Hastings:

If they have done this deed, my noble lord –

Richard:

If? Thou protector of this damned strumpet,

Talk’st thou to me of “ifs”? Thou art a traitor-

Off with his head. Now by Saint Paul I swear

I will not dine until I see the same.

(guards enter and grasp Hastings forcibly by each arm)

Hastings:

O bloody Richard! Miserable England,

I prophesy the fearfull’st time to thee

That ever wretched age hath looked upon –

Come, lead me to the block. Bear him my head.

They smile at me who shortly shall be dead.

(Exuent)

 

Act 4 Scene 4:

London. The Palace.

Narrator:

Lord Hastings was soon to be carted off to the chopping block in the Tower in York for his allegedly treasonous defence of that delight of many a cold winter’s night, his sweet if not especially innocent mistress Jane Shore. Meanwhile, some distance away at Pontefract (Pomfret) castle, Richard’s staunchest ally Sir Richard Ratcliffe was busy despatching Rivers, Gray and Vaughan in the most brutal fashion imaginable at his master’s behest. Being among the nearest relatives and last remaining loyalists to Lady Gray (the former Queen Elizabeth), their demise was indeed vital, clearing the way with exquisite timing for Richard to be crowned as King of England virtually unopposed.

To put further icing on the political cake, Ratcliffe had also sent his various emissaries out amongst the York City townsfolk, spreading rumours of Edward’s alleged serial infidelities and more particularly of his marital pre-contract to Lady Eleanor Butler, a narrative that he hoped would sway public opinion once and for all against the two young Princes held in the Tower, who were now clearly shown (through the agency of intelligence derived from those Russian informants) to be merely ill-bred little bastards with no legitimate claim to the throne. As a further consequence, Lady Gray’s marriage to King Edward had also been effectively annulled not only by the law of the land, but now also in the eyes of the great majority of the broader populace.

With victory almost within his grasp, and nearly all of his potential obstacles to power eradicated, Richard now ventured back to London with his trusty henchman Lord Buckingham and loyal Catesby in tow, where plans for his coronation had already been well and truly set in motion. On the steps of the Palace, a massive platform had been erected with a huge throne set in the centre, with smaller chairs on either side where various dignitaries, lords and ladies, and various members of the clergy (Abbots, Canons, Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals) would be seated whilst the newly crowned King gave his acceptance speech, allowing them an aspect of appropriate reverence and awe to his most supreme and puissant majesty!

As word of the coronation of the new King, now known as Richard III, filtered around the kingdom, a huge crowd (of a magnitude never before seen in similar circumstances) gathered to hear his acceptance speech, eagerly anticipating that the new sovereign would soon set England on a course to far greater prosperity, by eliminating entrenched corruption and especially the pernicious influence of the usurers and the land barons who had previously all but monopolised the benefits to be obtained from the favours of the crown.

(Enter King Richard III, in pomp, crowned; Buckingham, Catesby, a Page, and others)

King Richard III:

Give me thy hand, cousin of Buckingham!

(ascends the throne)

Thus high, by thy advice

And by thy assistance is King Richard seated.

(pauses)

Why, Buckingham, I say, I would be King!

Buckingham:

Why, so thou art, my thrice renowned liege.

King Richard III:

O bitter consequence! –

That Edward and his brother should still live.

Can I be plain? I wish the bastards dead!

Buckingham:

Your Grace may do your pleasure, in due course.

I shall resolve your Grace immediately!

(Exits)

Narrator:

Presently, Buckingham returns with a certain man by the name of Tyrrel, whom the good Duke knew to have, figuratively at least, ice cold water running through his veins and to be capable of almost any deed, no matter how gruesome, if the price was right. King Richard looked Tyrrell directly in the eye and immediately was struck by a callous and menacing indifference he saw there, and instinctively Richard knew he was just the right man for the task at hand. Richard soon took the opportunity to take this psychopathic gentleman to one side for a quick, discreet word before his inauguration speech:

King Richard III:

Wouldst thou kill a friend of mine, my good man,

If I were to ask for thy assistance?

Tyrrel:

I’d rather kill two foes of thine, my liege.

King Richard III:

Why, there thou hast it: two deep enemies,

Foes to my rest and my sweet sleep’s disturbers

Are they that I would have thee deal upon:

Tyrrel, I mean those bastards in the Tower.

Tyrrel:

Let me have open means to come to them,

And I’ll soon rid you from the fear of them.

King Richard III:

Thou sing’st sweet music. Hark, come hither, Tyrrel

Go, by this token: rise, and lend thine ear.

(whispers) 

There is no more but so: say it is done,

And I will love thee, and prefer thee too.

Tyrrel:

‘Tis done, my gracious lord.

(Exits)

Narrator:

With his coronation ceremony successfully behind him, all that was left (pending the slaughter of the babes in the Tower, of course) was a rousing inauguration speech to inspire the populace to rally behind him as loyal subjects.

King Richard III:  (reading out his speech, pre-prepared by Lord Buckingham)

We, the citizens of the realm, can now join in a great national effort to rebuild our sovereign nation, and to restore its promise to its people. We will face challenges, and we will face hardships, but I am confident that with your support we can achieve our goal of a more equitable and prosperous kingdom.

We are gathered now on these steps to honour the peaceful and orderly transition of power. This transition has been made all the more seamless since the death of my dear brother, the former King Edward IV, by the graceful withdrawal from public life of his former Queen, Lady Gray. I offer her not only my condolences on her recent loss, but also my everlasting loyalty and affection.

Notwithstanding my personal feelings, and the love I have for my dear departed brother and his fair wife, it pains me to admit that my brother’s reign was, on the whole, an utter catastrophe for England. Under his rule, a small number of land barons and usurers became more and more wealthy at the expense of the common folk, whose jobs disappeared into the hands of slave labour imported illegally into the kingdom, whilst fields were often left untilled, and the mills and the blacksmiths’ hearths often lay idle due to all those foreign goods being smuggled in under cover of darkness into our fair kingdom. Those lucky few who did remain in some form of gainful employment merely struggled to eke out a miserable existence without adequate reward for their labours.We are one nation — and your pain is my pain. Your dreams are my dreams; and your success will be my success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

To every Englishman, in every city near and far, small and large, from hilltop to hilltop, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

“Ye shall never be ignored again.”

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour for action.

We shall make Britain powerful again. We must strengthen our military to restore our position as the greatest sovereign power in the entire world, feared by our foes and respected by our allies. We will no longer defend borders on foreign soil but then fail to protect our own borders at home.

We shall make Britain safe again. Our borders have recently been breached by Islamic hordes who then razed the two tallest castle keeps in the kingdom, showing a weakness that makes us seem more vulnerable in the eyes of the world. We will therefore reinforce our old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

We shall make Britain wealthy again. We shall embark on a program of building many more roads and fortifications, with new shipping ports, mills and granaries to provide greater potential for gainful employment for the peasantry to improve their lot in life. We will get our people away from needing to beg in the streets and instead get them back into work — rebuilding our country with English hands and English labour.

We shall make Britain proud again. Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our British destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to Great Britain. Through our loyalty to our kingdom, we shall rediscover our loyalty to each other.

And yea, verily! With God’s Grace, we shall indeed make Britain great again!

God bless you all. And God bless our sovereign realm.

Narrator:

Throughout his speech, a tumultuous applause greeted King Richard’s every utterance, which the common throng saw as a rallying cry to restoring the hard won rights and freedoms enshrined in the Magna Carta Libertatum at Runnymede in 1215, some 250 years or so before.

At its completion, the gathered crowd raised three cheers to the King, and as they left the forecourt of the palace they were imbued with a newfound sense of optimism and hope for a more prosperous future, where even the most lowly of subjects would now have the opportunities afforded by the expansion of a stronger and more robust kingdom, now engaging with the wider world from a position of strength and with renewed purpose.

Alas, those hopes and dreams were soon to be proven to be thoroughly misplaced as word and deed became ever more widely divergent.

Act 4 Scene 5:

Narrator:
Tyrrel returned from his mission to the Tower, where he suborned two ruffians in Dighton and Forrest to assist him with the murder of the two young Princes. The deed was soon done, and Tyrrel returned to London to inform the new king of the news, and in expectation of the favours he might now receive.

(Enter Tyrrel)

Tyrrel:

The tyrannous and bloody deed is done.

The most arch of piteous massacre

That ever yet this land was guilty of.

Dighton and Forrest, whom I did suborn

To do this ruthless piece of butchery,

Although they were flesh’d villains, bloody dogs,

Melting with tenderness and kind compassion

Wept like two children in their deaths’ sad stories.

‘Lo, thus’ quoth Dighton, ‘lay those tender babes:’

‘Thus, thus,’ quoth Forrest, ‘girdling one another

Within their innocent alabaster arms:

Their lips were four red roses on a stalk,

Which in their summer beauty kiss’d each other.

A book of prayers on their pillow lay;

Which once,’ quoth Forrest, ‘almost changed my mind;

But O! the devil’–there the villain stopp’d

Whilst Dighton thus told on: ‘We smothered

The most replenished sweet work of nature,

That from the prime creation e’er she framed.’

Thus both are gone with conscience and remorse;

They could not speak; and so I left them both,

To bring this tidings to the bloody king.

And here he comes

(Enter King Richard)

All hail, my sovereign liege!

 

The Ghost in the Machine

images

The phrase “The Ghost in the Machine” has many different meanings (both implicit and explicit), and has been utilised in many differing contexts over the last 70 years, but has become an especially prevalent concept in our collective consciousness lately as the advance of the modern technological age continues relentlessly and, in the eyes of many, remorselessly.

esq-hal-9000-xlg

To some of us at least, this metaphor of a ghost in the machine resonates because it reflects the perception that our human “spirit” is trapped within the “machinery” of the very technology that we have ourselves devised and nurtured, which then ironically serves to prevent the fullest expression of our true and basic humanity. This is the central theme of many a classic science fiction novel or film (“2001: A Space Odyssey” for example), as well as in Japanese ‘Anime’ cartoons and art work, while it is the inspiration to two of the most seminal rock music albums of the modern era: Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and Radiohead’s “OK Computer”. As a result this definition of “Ghost in the Machine” has gained significant primacy almost by osmosis with the younger pre-millennial and millennial generations, in Western culture in particular.

images

Although rough equivalents to this phrase have been known since Ancient Greece, it is in the twentieth century that it was most prominently put forth on the path to its present day meaning through the works of Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle, particularly in his 1949 book, The Concept of Mind. In his book, Ryle critiques the dogmatic adherence of modern philosophers to the mind/body theories of Rene Descartes, with a general consensus that viewed the mind as completely separate and distinct from the physical body, a philosophical dogma that has come to be known as “Cartesian dualism”. Ryle was determined to prove this idea as false on a first principles basis, and in derisive fashion he referred to the human “spirit” as depicted under this doctrine as a “ghost in the machine” of our physical bodies.

dualism

It is, however, the next iteration of this phrase that I wish to primarily examine and critique, that being the work of Hungarian born philosopher and author Arthur Koestler nearly 20 years later that built upon and modified Ryle’s original idea and writings. Koestler brought Ryle’s concept to much wider popular attention in his 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine, which takes his phrase as its title and then endeavours to take his concept to a new and more specific meaning. When Koestler alluded to the “Ghost in the Machine”, he instead referred to a supposedly fatal flaw found within the human psyche that led to our innate propensity to fear, anger, aggression and often violence, a flaw that he contended acted as a barrier to the fullest expression of our higher order thinking, to logic and to maximising our analytical capability. This fundamental design limitation, in his estimation, derived largely from the evolutionary processes that shaped the formation of the human brain, and which had retained and built upon earlier, more primitive brain structures.

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While Koestler’s hypothesis undoubtedly has much of merit to recommend it, I would contend that it underestimates the fundamental necessity of these basic primitive emotions and the functions that these particular “ghosts” actually perform within our human psyche as a matter of necessity, without which we as individuals and collectively as a species would be unable to survive, let alone thrive. Koestler’s proposition suggests by extension that these primitive brain centres could ideally be dispensed with to maximise our logical and analytical thought, but that presupposes a world without any significant threat or danger, and therefore one without any need for this aggression or anger or violence under circumstances in which one or all of these actions or responses would not only be appropriate, but necessary for survival or the protection of either our selves or those others who depend upon us.

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Our instinct of “fear”, for example, serves an even greater function than merely protecting us from physical or emotional threats. This heightened emotional state with its attendant physiological changes enables increased vigilance through increased blood flow to the brain to improve attention and focus (thereby allowing rapid assessment of any threat), but also serves equally to perfuse our skeletal muscles to facilitate any fight or flight response to that danger, especially when often there may be little or no time to respond logically or in a considered fashion to such a perceived threat. Without fear, many of our most precious and meaningful experiences would seem inordinately bland and passionless precisely because of the absence of that fear, whether it be a fear of failure, of rejection, of abandonment or of being humiliated before our peers or loved ones. Part of the emotional depth or resonance of any experience comes in that context of avoiding that which we most dread. Victory, for example, is sweeter overcoming fear of failure, whilst love is all the more fulfilling knowing that one could so easily have been rejected or abandoned.

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It is obvious that wholly irrational fears are entirely unhelpful and potentially self-destructive to the individual, but then the opposite should also be true for any rationally held fears, since the threat and its response are proportionate to one another and therefore they are a legitimate and indispensable tool for survival. Thus it is not the instinct of fear itself that is to be dispensed with, but rather it requires logical processing to give that specific fear context and proportionality, and then to help mediate the appropriateness of our responses to that fear. Unfortunately, most sensate creatures are unable to process such higher responses in a timely enough fashion to respond effectively in many circumstances, leading to the necessity for an automatic response based upon instinctive reaction.  It is also by no means invariable that the logical or considered response is always a better response than an immediate one, as many a rueful regret could have possibly been averted if we followed our instincts, at least in certain situations, where a failure to trust that instinct has eventually proven costly as our hyper vigilant state picked up cues that our logical brain functions managed to miss.

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Clearly, it is unarguable that much of what is wrong with our society throughout its history can be traced, in part at least, to our propensity to unreasoning anger, aggression and our tendencies to violence, but the very opposite of this (the total absence of anger, aggression and violence) suggests a society marked by complete conformity and passivity in the vein of H.G.Wells mythical “Eloi” in his seminal fictional novella, “The Time Machine”. The lives of the Eloi, as depicted by Wells, are utterly banal and colourless having regressed to a life of such intellectual stagnation and passive compliance that they are unable to defend themselves from their competitors: the “Morlocks”, who prey upon the Eloi and feed on their flesh in order to survive. The regressive Eloi live in a completely co-dependent, communal society and dwell either in the blissful ignorance of hedonistic pleasure, or are paralysed by an immense fear of the unknown, being completely devoid of either self-sufficient survival skills or any trace of individuality.

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Whilst a preponderance to unreasoning violence is clearly counter-productive to overall social cohesiveness and even could potentially compromise species survival as we evolve technologically, the behaviour of “aggression” is a necessary feature of the human condition, defending vulnerable loved ones and offspring from potential threats to their safety, as well as establishing social hierarchy and mating prioritisation based on the fitness to survive in a hostile environment. It is linked to territoriality and competitiveness, and is hard-wired into the genome of most species, mankind included. Violence, on the other hand, is an extension of this necessary survival characteristic, where it is misapplied to promote sadistic pleasure in the suffering or deprivation of others, to the greed of coveting the possessions or wealth of others, or to promote the pursuit of power over individuals, groups, or (in the extreme case) that of nations. Such acts of violence can be random and sociopathic, or targeted and purposeful (such as an assassination) for one or other personal or sociopolitical purposes.

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While Koestler might argue that this is merely a regression to our primal state, I would argue instead that it more reflects a socio-culturally triggered distortion of our innate survival instinct of aggression, an instinct that would otherwise be self-protective, rather than innately destructive or irrational. As evidence of this, I would cite the example of the aestheticization of violence in the media, in art and in cinema, where imagery is often presented by essentially non-violent people that deliberately presents concepts of violence symbolically or otherwise as desirable, or alternatively as a form of expression that is in some ways seen to be aesthetically pleasing. This suggests that such tendencies can actually arise out of our complex higher order thinking rather than in spite of it, transforming an otherwise healthy instinct into something that would provoke senseless or random violence for its own sake. In fact, the arts has a long history of corrupting the minds of the vulnerable and the uninitiated by constructing attractive narratives around immoral or reprehensible behaviours of all kinds, representing a kind of socially constructed and wholly artificial form of propagated psychopathology that can enlighten on the one hand, yet promote the basest of emotions on the other.

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Finally, in the case of “anger”, it is clear that unreasonable anger can not only provoke fear in others within a social group causing unnecessary distress (particularly to those most vulnerable), but in many instances it can have negative social or physical consequences on the person involved as a consequence of acting out on this anger. However, there is no doubt that anger directed appropriately at provocation, hurt or threat by another can contribute to better maintenance of boundaries of appropriate behaviour in others, and it can prepare us for physical confrontation when threatened by energising and physically empowering us. It can also communicate (in a crude if unmistakeable way) a sense of injustice, and can act as a motivating force for change in the face of problems or barriers to our personal or social advancement. It acts as a social signal that a conflict has occurred, and that a situation is in urgent need of peaceful resolution. Finally, in a more cynical sense, it can also act as a strategic manoeuvre to intimidate others to achieve personally desired outcomes. Thus anger is neither primitive nor wholly instinctive, but can be informed by higher order processing that modifies the instinctive and the emotive to induce a response, sometimes controlled and calculating, while at other times it may be entirely unconstrained and counterproductive.

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Many of these behaviours described above are heavily imprinted by social modelling from observation of the similar behaviours of parents and peers, which belies any suggestion of this being a purely instinctive regression to our primeval “reptilian” brain functions, as suggested by Koestler’s description. Instead, it can be seen to be a complex interaction of not only instinctive responses, but of hormonal and neurochemical reactions, with learned responses in their socio-cultural context, and a filter of rational “higher order thinking” overlying these basic emotional substrates to deliver a set of behaviours that run the gamut of responses from the self-destructive to the self-promoting, from the passive to the aggressive, and from the ingenuous to the manipulative.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Author’s note:

I never cease to be amazed at just how prescient and perceptive Shakespeare was, and how the course of human affairs recurrently follows along very similar patterns of behaviour that transfer seamlessly from Medieval Scotland in the 11th Century to Elizabethan England, and then to the Australian political scene 400 years thereafter.

Whether it be in the echoes of the tragic demise of Julius Caesar found in Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s recent political “assassination” (as I have satirised in my parliamentary pantomime: “The Tragedy of Julia Caesar”, found elsewhere on this blog site), or with current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his uncanny similarities to the famous Scottish usurper Macbeth as I have dramatised below, it is the universality of the foibles and frailties found within our collective human natures through time that is most intriguing and amusing to me.

Please note, I have included some helpful footnotes within the text that are then listed below the body of the play, particularly for the politically uninitiated and non-Australian readers, that explain most of the allusions and sundry intricacies concealed or referred to within the text. The play as I have written it, as you will no doubt notice, contains more than a smattering of unexpurgated Shakespeare where it was either deemed unavoidable, or was otherwise appropriate to promote my overall purpose, while some passages have been altered (often markedly) from the original text for dramatic and satirical effect. I have also blended into the play entirely original passages of my own devising that interweave the various intrigues of our current Australian political situation to further reinforce my assertion regarding Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension bearing many similarities to Macbeth’s actions in seizing power from the rightful ruler.

To quote Shakespeare at his best: 

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

 

With that in mind, what follows, dear reader, is just such a tale.

And I am, as the following readily attests, just the idiot to bring it to you.

 

The Tragedy of Macbeth:

A Comedy of Political Ambition Gone Awry 

            by Winston101

   

Dramatis Personae:

Macbeth –
Macbeth is the ultra-wealthy thane of the palatial Glamis Castle, situated within earshot of an idyllic place known as the Pipers’ Point1, to be found somewhere in the wilds of the Scottish highlands. He is led to the most dastardly and treasonous thoughts by the flattery and half-baked prophecies of three witches2, thoughts that would soon become especially conspicuous indeed once their prophecy that Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor3 comes miraculously true. He is a powerful yet fatally self-important man, with a born-to-rule mentality and an over-inflated ego, lacking completely in humility or grace. He is therefore easily tempted into treason and murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and once he is crowned King, he embarks on yet further atrocities to consolidate his albeit slender grip on power. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself much better suited to the Machiavellian intrigue of politics than to meaningful or substantive policy. He lacks the skills necessary to rule without constantly undermining friend and foe alike to protect his position, or else to cover for his litany of failures, let alone (heaven forbid) to serve his subjects to improve their general wealth and prosperity … MALCOLM TURNBULL

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Lady Macbeth –
Macbeth’s wife, and a deeply ambitious woman who remorselessly lusts for both power and position. Initially, she seems to be both strong and capable in her role, that is until her true colours are revealed as she urges Macbeth (Turnbull) to kill the king (Abbott) and seize the crown. After the bloodshed begins, however, Lady Macbeth falls victim first to the conspicuous narcissism that attends those who court the spotlight for the glamour of fame and position4, then to guilt over her misdeeds, until finally she descends into the dark realms of madness. Her conscience, such that it is, affects her to such an extent that she eventually dies a broken woman, no doubt in no small part as she comprehends the damage she has wrought both to her reputation and, irrevocably, to her sovereign nation … JULIE BISHOP

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The Three Witches –
Three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth (Turnbull) using charms, spells, and prophesies, in only the finest soothsaying (or journalistic in the modern idiom) tradition5 of course! Their conniving and devious predictions prompt him first to murder his King (Abbott), then to order the deaths of his friend Banquo (Morrison) and his son Fleance (Cormann), and finally to believe blindly in his own infallibility and even immortality. Just as destiny was guided by the Fates in Greek mythology, these denizens of the medieval equivalent of the fourth estate impersonally weave the threads of political destiny to their own ends, and clearly take a perverse delight in using their dark arts to toy with and destroy the noblest and most virtuous of human beings6 in favour of promoting the shallow, the pretentious and the ignoble … NIKKI SAVVA, PETER HARTCHER, and LAURIE OAKES

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Banquo –
A once brave and noble general, famed for his hard won battles against invading hordes7, and whose children, according to the witches’ prophecy, will one day inherit the throne8. Like his friend Macbeth, Banquo has highly ambitious thoughts, but he (to his credit) does not immediately translate those thoughts directly into action, but nor does he (to his personal shame) intervene to prevent Macbeth bringing his ambitious treachery to fruition, a fatal flaw that ultimately leads to his demise9… SCOTT MORRISON

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King Duncan –
The rightful King of Scotland, whom Macbeth murders in his ambition to usurp the crown. The King, while not without his flaws, is the very model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler10. His ignominious death at the hand of an unscrupulous and blood-thirsty usurper symbolizes the destruction of an order that can be restored only when the king’s line of succession, in the person of Malcolm (Hastie), once more occupies the throne … TONY ABBOTT

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Macduff –
The Thane of Fife, a nobleman who is hostile to Macbeth’s ascent to the throne from the very beginning, a hostility that grows ever more violent as the truth of his misdeeds come to the fore, and finally reaching its crescendo with the brutal murder of his wife and children. He eventually becomes a leader of the crusade to unseat Macbeth and to place the rightful heir, Malcolm (Hastie), upon the throne of Scotland … CORY BERNARDI

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Malcolm –
The son of Duncan (Abbott) whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. Malcolm becomes a serious challenge to Macbeth with Macduff’s (Bernardi) aid. Prior to this, he appears weak and uncertain of his own power, as when he and Donalbain (Taylor) flee initially after their father’s murder … ANDREW HASTIE

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Hecate –
The goddess of witchcraft, who helps the three witches work their mischief on Macbeth11, leading to the death of the King (Abbott) and the removal of the rightful line of succession to the throne … BRONWYN BISHOP

Fleance –
Banquo’s (Morrison) son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him. At the end of the play, Fleance’s precise whereabouts are unknown. Presumably, he may come to rule eventually, thereby fulfilling the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s (Morrison’s) sons will eventually sit upon the throne … MATHIAS CORMANN

Lady Macduff –
Macduff’s wife. The scene in her castle provides our only glimpse of a domestic realm other than that of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. She and her home serve as contrasts to Lady Macbeth and the hellish world in which that conspiratorial couple reside … PETA CREDLIN

The Murderers –
A group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth12 to murder Banquo (Morrison), Fleance (Cormann)- whom they fail to kill, and Macduff’s wife (Credlin) and children. A looser collection of disloyal, spiteful, self-serving and spineless backstabbers you could never hope to meet … CHRISTOPHER PYNE, ARTHUR SINODINOS, MAL BROUGH, IAN McFARLANE and GEORGE BRANDIS, among others.

Donalbain –
Duncan’s (Abbott) son and Malcolm’s (Hastie’s) younger brother … ANGUS TAYLOR 

Porter –
Drunken doorman of Macbeth’s castle … CLIVE PALMER

Lennox –

A General loyal to Duncan … BARNABY JOYCE

Sergeant – 

A Soldier …                    MARK TEXTOR

Siward –

An English General … ANDREW ROBB

 

Also Appearing:

First Apparition       TONY ABBOTT

Second Apparition  JULIA GILLARD

Third Apparition …     KEVIN RUDD

 

Act I Scene 1:

 

Narrator:

This is a chronicle of Macbeth, a man of little substance, a hollow man who aspires well above his limited capabilities and station, and is driven by an excess of vainglory and hubris to commit the most foul and heinous betrayal, merely in the service of his ruthless and predatory ambition. It is a betrayal not just of a noble gentleman in King Duncan, a man who embodies all of the qualities Macbeth so sorely lacks, but also of a nation and, more importantly, its people. In the hurly-burly13 of political conflict, it is invariably the interests of the common folk, those people that all true good leaders are meant to serve, that suffer most at the hands of the vaulting ambition of men such as Macbeth.

Our story begins shortly after a period of great upheaval in Scotland, with 6 years of chaos14 marred by incessant infighting and seemingly endless scheming and devious machinations that often come as a consequence of bitterly disputed rule. The source of this division came from those aligned with, and loyal to the sly and manipulative Gillard the Red15, who stood opposed to a grandiose and narcissistic fop, in the guise of Kevin of the obscure clan of MacRudd16. Through their mutual actions, these pretenders to the throne managed to thoroughly debase the noble position of monarch17 to its lowest ebb, with underhanded political intrigue and recurring coups d’etat18 becoming the order of the day, thus causing the kingdom to fall precipitously into disarray, as solemn duty to the populace became altogether secondary to a generalised debauchery, to systemic corruption for both political and personal gain, and to the over-arching ambitions of two equally unsuitable and disreputable leaders.

This period of upheaval and mismanagement was eventually brought to an end, and a new era of relative stability and repair began under the reign of an admittedly imperfect, though far more noble and benevolent king, in Duncan the Brave. But, meanwhile, dark and sinister forces19 were conspiring in the background, determined to undo this hard won peace and stability, to sow the seeds of disunity and discontent, and ultimately to provoke untold mayhem and destruction.

Thus we are transported to a desolate place on a far-flung heath. A gathering storm is heard to rumble in the distance, and there is a shroud of mist which envelopes three lonely figures, hiding (momentarily at least) their most lurid and sinister purpose……………..

 

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First Witch:

“Come here, sisters! Heed me now,

Chant with me, our solemn vow,

Round about the cauldron go,

In the poison’d entrails throw.”

 

Witches (in unison):

“Double, double toil and trouble,

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

 

 

Second Witch:

“Within this pungent, fetid brine,

Destiny’s threads will thus entwine!

With smell that’s utmost foul and base,

And cruel and bitter to the taste,

From all those evil things to come

That cannot ever be undone!”

 

Third Witch:

“Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake.

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”20

 

First Witch:

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair,21

Mischief’s here, with time to spare.”

 

Second Witch:

“To sow the seed for treason’s flower

And spur a heart that lusts for power

Needs but a prick from envy’s thorn

To overwhelm his conscience scorn’d”22

 

Third Witch:

“The fourth estate’s a liar’s lair,

For balanc’d debate?  Au contraire!23

Revenge’s flame’s now burning bright,

That lights these caverns of the night”

 

Witches (in unison):

“But by the pricking of our thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes!”

 

Act I Scene 2:

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Kowen Forest24, a camp just to the east of Dunsinane.

Narrator:  Macbeth has just returned in triumph from a comprehensive victory in the battle of Godwin’s Grech25, over the rag tag remnants of the armies of a pretender to the throne, Kevin MacRudd. On the battle eve, Macbeth had stood proudly upon a fallen tree to deliver a stirring oration of over two hours duration to inspire his troops to action. As a result, so soundly did these soldiers sleep that they barely even stirred from their slumbers, to awaken the following morning thoroughly refreshed and energised, where they then proceeded to comprehensively rout the enemy. With the battle in the balance, a brave captain in form of our hero Macbeth had led a surprise rapid retreat manoeuvre26 that cleverly lured the opposing forces into pursuing him thoughtlessly into a deep ravine, whereupon they became exposed on all sides to King Duncan’s archers, who then cut them down in a hailstorm of arrows until every last enemy soldier lay dead or dying. Among the dead was the erstwhile Thane of Cawdor, a once trusted ally of King Duncan, but who was fatally to be seduced by MacRudd’s grandiose plans of conquest that, perhaps predictably, came to nought but abject wreck and ruin.  

 Duncan:  Who is this bloody man I see before me?

 Sergeant: Sire, this is the hero of Godwin’s Grech, your noble captain Macbeth. He has slain a thousand men this very day through his bravery. In a twinkling, this gentleman hath turned tail and bolted at the proverbial rate of knots, running like a half-starved ferret into a rabbit hole did he, forcing the enemy to follow him with reckless abandon into an ambush. Our archers then shot their bolts straight and true, and with God’s grace, my liege, we were delivered to a victory most glorious!

 Duncan:  Well played, sir! Such quick thinking shows a man of considerable resourcefulness. In appreciation of thy deeds and undeniable courage on this great day, I confer unto thee all the titles, lands, goods, chattels and duties that the treacherous villain, the Thane of Cawdor, did himself possess prior to his demise. As Cawdor’s new thane, thou shalt have the additional responsibility for supervising the dispersal of all the important royal missives27, and also the great honour of making announcements to the public on the King’s behalf. What say thee, my good man?

Macbeth: (effusively) Thou, by that I mean our most noble and generous monarch King Duncan, a monarch innovative and agile and ready to meet the needs and challenges of the coming era, looking outward with benevolence and magnanimity to our friends and with courage and fearsomeness to our foes, hast bestowed upon me, thy humble servant, a servant willing and able to lay down life and limb in loyal service to his sovereign, a great honour.28

Duncan: (somewhat bemused) A grateful nation thanks you!

(Exuent)

 

Act 1 Scene 3:

A heath near Kowen Forest

Enter three witches.

 

First witch:

“Where hast thou been, sister? “

 

Second witch:

“Having such a brilliant time,

Torturing and killing swine.

In plague proportions hereabouts,

Cull’s overdue, I have no doubts”.

 

Third witch:

“And what of thou?”

 

First witch:

“Been up to mischief most refin’d,

The lives of mortals thus malign’d,

With evil’s intent to misinform,

Truth no longer becomes the norm.”

 

Second witch:

“The good and true are soon torn asunder,

In blind panic, they’ll thrash and blunder,

The noblest of hearts can be distorted,

By spells and charms, innocents are thwarted.” 

 

(A drum sounds in the distance)

Third Witch:

“A drum! A drum!

Macbeth doth come”.

 

Second Witch:

“At risk of falling into dull banality

Macbeth is ripe for a naval analogy“.

 

Witches (in unison):

“We weird sisters, hand in hand,

Let it be known across the land,

This empty vessel that sails these seas,

To reach our shores by aimless breeze,

His sails filled with puff and bluster,

Vanity’s vessel will lose its lustre,

When storm clouds gather on the horizon,

He’ll sink just like the S.S Poseidon”.29

 

(Enter Macbeth and Banquo)

 

Macbeth:

Hold fast, Banquo!

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

 

Banquo:

What are these that stand before us, my friend?

They do most closely resemble humble peasant women, with their clothing so dishevelled and unkempt. One of them is certainly a corpulent old shrew, with those stumpy legs and flabby jowls, and that hair like blackened straw plaster’d to her head, she resembles none so much as a bloated scarecrow.30

The other two are so opposed in type, having such thin and wispy fingers and being so wizened in their features, but especially with their long and flowing beards that certainly make their apparent gender a most questionable proposition, to say the least.

What art thou ……….. Will o’ the wisps? Restless ghosts? A coven of witches, perhaps?

 

Macbeth:

Speak, if thou canst. What art thou?

 

First witch:

All hail, Macbeth! Thane of Glamis!

 

Second witch:

All hail, Macbeth! Thane of Cawdor!

 

Third witch:

All hail, Macbeth! Thou shalt be king thereafter!

 

Macbeth:

That I became Thane of Glamis upon the death of Brendan, Niall’s son31, is well known, but how of Cawdor? This honour has only just now this very day been given to me many a mile from here by King Duncan, for my valiant efforts in the battlefield, by single-handedly killing fifteen hundred men!32 Wither comes such a prophesy that has such truth within it? And what of a king? This strange, yet oddly tantalising prophesy simply beggars belief!

Of course, I have always considered that a gentleman such as I, a man of such noble countenance and high-born lineage, would make an ideal candidate for such an auspicious honour, but dare one to hope that such a prediction could now possibly come to pass? (stares wanly into the distance, contemplating the absolute perfection that has been distilled into the shape and form of our hero, Macbeth)

Banquo:

And what strange intelligence canst thou share with me, oh loathsome hags?

 

First Witch:

To be King is naught but fantasy,

For one as unaligned as thee,33

Diplomacy seems such a clever ploy,

For those who have dwelled in doubtful joy,

But thy heirs will nonetheless be able,

To feast as Kings at the Royal table.

 

Witches (All):

All hail, Macbeth and Banquo!

(Disappearing in puff of smoke)

 

Macbeth:

What dost thou maketh of those shrivell’d crones?

They seem of unnatural possession,

Yet their predictions seem preposterous?

You, the father of kings, noble Banquo,

And yet I am to be King before them!

It is beyond earthly comprehension

That such a happenstance could thus occur.

And yet…….

 

Banquo:

I must admit a tincture of mistrust,

As to these apparitions’ true nature.

I suggest to thee, my most noble friend,

That these malcontents mean us a great ill!

It should remain our most egregious fault

If we were to pay any further mind,

To their devilish prognostications.

I resolve to think no further on it,

And suggest thou doest the same, withal.

 

Macbeth:

As thou say, Banquo, my most loyal friend.

Fear not! So shall it be.

(Exuent)

 

Act 2 Scene 1:

Glamis Castle, overlooking Blackburn Cove.34 Piper’s release their tuneful melody to the heavens, from their position high upon the point.

Lady Macbeth sits reading a letter, in stunned disbelief, as her husband relates his valiant exploits on the battle field (with more than a touch of poetic license, no doubt), and the strange and supernatural prophesy of the witches for Macbeth’s predestined ascension to the throne.

(Enter a porter)

Lady Macbeth:
What is thy tidings?

Porter: (inebriated)
M’lady. Thy husband returneth from battle. He hath senteth a methenger ahead, to informeth thee to maketh preparations for the King, who cometh thish very eve.

Lady Macbeth:
This is indeed great news. Tell the servants to prepare to receive his majesty, and also tell the cooks to make ready a feast fit for a King!

(Exit Porter)

(Aside) King Duncan has just sealed his fate, coming to reside, however briefly, under my battlements. Hiding behind a veil of polite manners and congenial hospitality,  I shall meanwhile be spreading any vicious rumour I can to devalue him, working assiduously to undermine his integrity with those who trust and value him. I shall insinuate myself into his affairs of state to cast a shadow on his every achievement, all the while furtively throwing the cold light of day upon his every weakness, every hesitation, every misstep, and all of which will be performed with a most demure and womanly subtlety, of course. I shall then contact my many friends and confidants in the West Country35, and entreat them all to embark on a relentless campaign to further discredit him, piece by remorseless piece, until nothing remains but the merest shadow of his once robust fame and reputation.

I must confess that my mortal thoughts have absolutely no conscience nor compassion, no recourse to remorse, no pact with peace. My blood runs cold as ice, and is thickened in anticipation of enacting the direst cruelty upon King Duncan in the furtherance of my ambitions for my husband and myself.

(Enter Macbeth)

My dearest husband! Welcome home O’ worthy Glamis, O’ great Cawdor, and O’ noblest King that will be! Come hither.

Thy letters have transported me beyond this ignorant present, and I feel now the future in the instant! Unsex me here and now, and fill me from the crown to the toe-top full………..36

Macbeth:

Not now, Josephine. Calm yourself, lest lustful thoughts betray thee.

I regret the cockerel failed to arise this very morn, a portent we ignore at our very gravest peril!

Lady Macbeth:

Lo! But is that a dagger I see before me?

Macbeth:

Nay! I am but an innocent flower that lacks a serpent under it.

I shall stick my courage to the sticking place all in good time,

But he that’s coming must first be provided for.37

Lady Macbeth:

You shall put this night’s great business into my dispatch,

Which shall to all our nights and days to come

Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom!

(Pauses)

And, my thane,

Once you’ve held up your end of our bargain, 

You can leave all the rest to me!

(Exuent)

 

Act 2 Scene 2:

Macbeth’s Castle.

Narrator:

Presently King Duncan , Malcolm, Donalbain, MacDuff and Banquo, along with their assorted attendants and other members of their retinue, arrived at Macbeth’s castle, whereupon they were received by their host and hostess with all the expected fawning pleasantries and false representations of hospitality that usually attend such occasions.

Behind the curtain of conviviality, however, lurks the spectre of a dark and deadly enterprise, one which would tear the edifice of stable representative government from its foundations.

Once the feasting had been done, the King retired to his bedchamber, where he slept in blissful ignorance that plans for his assassination were being brought to their treasonous and bloody fruition.

In the bowels of the castle, within those chambers below the unsuspecting guests, Macbeth and his wife are engaged in secret counsel, where the details of their deadly pact are being finalised.

Macbeth:

If it were done when ’tis done,

Then ’twere well it were done quickly!

Alas, I am his host and he my guest,

And also his kinsman and his subject.

I owe him due fealty as expected

For one so lofty in position, and

Our shared bond to kith and kin.

(Pauses)

Duncan hath indeed borne his faculties

With such great, unerring acuity,

And thus been so clear in his great office,

That his virtues will no doubt stand

In stark relief to mine own.

(Pauses)

Should I now take his life this very night?

Now, to kill one’s sovereign is to partake

From a chalice poison’d by one’s own hand.  

As surely as darkest night follows day, 

Dire consequences are bound to follow.38

 

Lady Macbeth:

Art thou afeard to be the same

In thine own act and valour,

As thou art in desire?

Woulds’t thou live a coward

In thine own esteem, my husband,

Or grab that fateful dagger

That stands right now before thee

And beckons thee to thy destiny?

(Pauses)

(Singing playfully to her husband in a taunting fashion)

“In the murderous arts, thou art somewhat callow,

And in personal charms, thou art far too shallow.

If thou hast no stomach for acts of thuggery,

Then you, my dearest lord, can go to buggery!

The time is now at hand for a man of action,

To prove worthy of my most lustful attraction.”

 

Macbeth:

You leave me no choice my poison’d petal,

Duncan’s flesh must taste the kiss of metal.

I’ll plunge my dagger deep into his spine,

Whilst he sleeps under influence of wine,

I dare do all that may become a man,

Even though, in my heart,  I’m but a sham.

(Exuent)

 

Act 2 Scene 3:

Outside Duncan’s bedchamber.

Narrator:

The conspiracy is now in full swing. Presently, Lady Macbeth offers the guards at the door of the King’s bedchamber a glass of wine each, as the perfect hostess would, of course. But, unbeknownst to them, she has tainted the wine with a sleeping draught of her own concoction, and soon the guards are safely in the land of nod, while King Duncan lies asleep, awaiting his fate unguarded and utterly defenceless.

Silently, Macbeth enters Duncan’s chamber, with legs a-trembling and knees a-weakening. He can barely contain the urge to run at the mere sight of his slumbering sovereign. As Macbeth stands over him, a wave of nausea rises from the pit of his stomach and reaches upward like an invisible hand clutching at his throat.

Unable to look, Macbeth covers his eyes with his left hand, with dagger shaking wildly in the right, and then plunges the knife into the darkness, by sheer luck he stabbed straight into the back of the hapless King Duncan.

As a stifled groan of pain is heard to emanate from this most noble gentleman in the throes of death, Macbeth proceeds to continue to stab him again and again. Four and fifty blows39 were struck into his back in an orgy of bloodlust, until the King finally struggled no more and lay stone cold dead in the comfortable bed so kindly provided by his host. Macbeth stands in startled disbelief at his actions, and then looks down upon the bloodied hands of a most treasonous usurper.

 

Macbeth: (to himself)

Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!

Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast, now begone!

 

(Exit bedchamber, bloodied dagger still in hand)

I’ve done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?

I thought I heard a cry, but cannot be sure.

 

Lady Macbeth:

Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,

Thou dost unbend thy noble strength, to think

Such brainsickly of things. Go get some water

And wash this filthy witness from thy hands.

(Pauses)

Why did you bring these daggers from that place? 

They must lie there: go carry them; and smear

The sleepy grooms with blood to ensnare them .

(Pauses)

These deeds must not be thought of again, 

And so forget what thou hast just done,

My husband, lest it doth make thee mad.

 

(Voice raised, in an annoyed tone)

Conscience is a luxury thou canst scarce afford,

If thou hast any pretensions to Kingly robes!

 

(Aside)

My hands are of your colour; but I shame

To wear a heart so white.

 

Macbeth:

Retire we to our chamber,

Get on your nightgown, lest occasion call us,

And show us to be watchers.

 

Lady Macbeth:

A little water clears us of this deed:

How easy is it, then!

And be not lost, my noble husband,

So poorly in thy thoughts.40

(Exuent)

 

Act 2 Scene 4:

Antechamber to Macbeth’s castle.

(Knocking repeatedly from within. Enter a Porter, just aroused from his perennial slumber)

 

Porter: (yawning, half asleep, muttering under his breath)

Here’s a knocking indeed!

And I wish they’d just knock it off!

It’s not as though such a splendid

Specimen as I really needs this exercise.41

(Aside)

If a man such as I were the porter

Of the gates of hell, he would likely die

Of old age before the turning of the key.

 

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock! (to himself laughing)

Who’s there? One who in name is meek and mild?

But here is a most insubordinate woman,

Foul of mouth and lacking in the social graces,

Who now wears her independence as a cloak,

Which hides a dog that is a pup no more.42

 

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock!

Who’s there? Bethany’s favourite son?

Here’s an equivocator, who rose anew

From his place of final and peaceful rest,

And whose loyalty to his kith and kin,

Led him to wander from the fold.43

 

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock!

Who’s there?  Defender of the despot’s boot?

Here’s a most resourceful gentleman,

Who engineered his own slow degradation,

The one pup left in the devil-hound’s litter,

Who remains in his place ’till his final dissolution.44

 

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock;

Never any peace and quiet,

For such a lumbering brute as me,

Who would prefer to stand from prehistory,

Like a hulking monument to his own folly.45

 

(Aside)

So bankrupt am I46 of earthy pleasures

That I’m scarcely worth a plugg’d nickel47

So I’ll donate liberally48 to further my desires,

And steel49 myself against these incessant calls

(Pauses)

This place is far too cold for hell!

So I’ll play the devil’s porter no further:

(Pauses)

T’is a shame: I had hoped to let pass

The Bishops50 and the Abbots51,

The Soldiers and the Mayors52,

The Dukes, Earls and Barons

And the Shysters53 and Charlatans54,

Who would go the primrose path,

To dwell in the everlasting bonfire.

 

(Knocking within)

Anon, anon! I pray you,

Remember this most portly of porters

Is not the most mobile of conveyances!

 

(Opens the gate)

(Enter Macduff and Lennox)

Macduff:

Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,

That you do lie so late?

Porter:

Faith sir, we were carousing till the second cock:

And drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.

Macduff:

What does drink provoke, my corpulent friend?

Porter:

A ruddy nose, an overactive bladder and the sleep of the dead.

I’d add a fourth in lechery, but as they say:

“What the lord giveth, the lord taketh away!”

Macduff:

Is thy master stirring?

(Enter Macbeth)

Our knocking has awaked him. Here he comes.

Lennox:

Good morrow, noble sir!

Macbeth:

Good morrow, both.

Macduff:

Is the king stirring, worthy thane?

Macbeth:

Not yet.

Macduff:

He did command me to call timely on him:

I have almost slipp’d the hour.

Macbeth:

I’ll bring you to him. There is the door.

 

(Exit Macduff)

Lennox:

It was indeed a very strange night, my lord.

We thought we heard all manner of strange noises

Coming out of the darkness near our encampment.

 

Macbeth:

‘Twas a rough night indeed.

 

(Re-enter Macduff)

Macduff:

O horror, horror, horror! 

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!

Noble Duncan is slain,

And lies a bloodied corpse in his bed,

A victim to the most heinous treason.

 

Lennox: (agape)

His majesty? Murder’d?

 

Macduff:

Awake, awake!

Ring the alarm. Murder and treason!

Shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit,

And look on death itself! Up, up, and see

The great doom’s image! Malcolm! Banquo!

Ring the bell.

 

(Bell Rings)

(Exit Macbeth and Lennox)

(Enter Lady Macbeth)

 

Lady Macbeth:

What is it that alarms you so,

That need rouse us so abruptly?

 

Macduff:

O gentle lady.

(Enter Banquo)

Our royal master ‘s murder’d!

 

Lady Macbeth:

Woe, alas!

What, in our house?

 

Banquo:

So cruel a fate for one so noble. Say it is not so.

 

(Re-enter Macbeth and Lennox)

Macbeth:

Renown and grace is dead!

 

(Enter Malcolm and Donalbain)

Donalbain:

What’s amiss?

 

Macduff:

Thy royal father is murder’d!

 

Malcolm: (shocked)

How? By whom?

 

Lennox:

Those who guarded his bedchamber were found,

Their hands and clothing cover’d in the King’s blood,

And daggers bloodied lay near the pillows where they slept.

 

Macbeth:

O, yet I do repent me of my fury,

That I did kill them. And there lay Duncan,

His silver skin laced with his golden blood;

And his gash’d stabs look’d like a breach in nature

For ruin’s wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,

Steep’d in the colours of their trade, their daggers

Unmannerly breech’d with gore: who could refrain,

That had a heart to love, and in that heart

Courage to make ‘s love known?

 

Lady Macbeth: (fainting)

Help me!

 

Macduff:

Look to the lady!

 

(Lady Macbeth is carried out)

(Exuent all but Donalbain and Malcolm)

 

Malcolm:

Am I the only one, dear brother, who smells

A treacherous rat in this most bloody business?

 

Donalbain:

We are indeed in the most mortal danger!

We must thus make ourselves scarce, mon frère,

Lest we suffer the same fate as our dear father.

 

Malcolm:

What wilt thou do?

Let us not consort with them:

To show an unfelt sorrow is an office

Which these false men do easily.

I’ll to England.

 

Donalbain:

To Ireland, I; our separated fortune

Shall keep us both the safer: Where we are,

There’s daggers in men’s smiles.

 

Malcolm:

This murderous shaft that’s shot

Hath not yet lighted, and our safest way

Is to avoid the aim. Therefore, to horse;

And let us not be dainty of leave-taking.

(Exeunt)

 

Act 3 Scene 1:

Outside Macbeth’s Castle

 

Soldier:

Most noble Thane of Fife,

Our troops grow wary and restless,

A’witness to unnatural portents

At every turn of their eye.

The death of Duncan has spook’d

E’en the most fearless of them.

 

(Aside)

Still, the most disgruntled core of them,

In both mind and heart conservative,55

Doth lash out in both sound and fury,56

Yet matter little in the grander scheme,57

As we turn to thoughts more temperate. 

 

Macduff:

I, too, have seen hours dreadful,

And things most eerily strange,

As though the very heavens rebel

At those acts of men upon the bloody stage.

 

Soldier:

By the clock t’is the midst of the day, 

Yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp!

Is it the day’s shame, or the night’s dominion, 

That darkness does the face of earth entomb?

 

Macduff:

A falcon, towering in her pride of place, 

Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d.

And Duncan’s horses, beauteous and swift,

Turn’d wild in nature, and broke from their stalls.

 

Soldier:

Indeed they did, upon the amazement of mine eyes!

 

(Enter Banquo)

Macduff:

How goes the world, sir, now?

Is’t known who did this more than bloody deed?

 

Banquo:

It seems it is those whom Macbeth hath slain. 

They wore those bloodied instruments of death,

Upon their person in the fullest of glory!

Still, they may have been suborn’d to this foul act.

Malcolm and Donalbain are stolen away and fled,

Which puts upon them suspicion of the deed!

 

Macduff: (in disbelief)

Such thriftless ambition, against nature itself!

What manner of bestial union doth this proclaim?58

 

Banquo:

T’is most likely, now, that sovereignty falls to Macbeth,

Upon whose noble brow, the crown will rest easily, no doubt.

 

(Enter messenger, who passes a message to Macduff)

Macduff:

Macbeth is already named as king,

And gone to Scone to be invested.

 

I’ll now return to Fife, where I hope

To put this sorry business behind me.

(Exuent)

 

Banquo: (to himself)

Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all.

As the weird women promised, and, I fear,

Thou played most foully for it! And yet, 

Those same wizened hags proclaimed, 

 It shall not stand in thine own posterity.

These oracles proclaimed that I, Banquo,

Shall be the root and father of many kings!

 

But, hush! No more to think upon it,

Lest such ignoble thoughts lead me on,

And light the way to dusty death.

(Exuent)

 

Act 3 Scene 2:

Milady’s bedchamber, Scone castle, prior to Macbeth’s investiture.

 

Lady Macbeth: (gazing into a looking glass)

Out, out damn spot! Out I say!

Stars hide your fires. Let not the light see

The ravages that time has wrought upon me.

These lines upon my visage are but tiny crevices,

That by the flicker of the candle are gaping

Like mortal wounds that more resemble crevasses.

(Enter Macbeth)

 

Macbeth:

How now, milady!

What ails thee?

 

Lady Macbeth:

My face is an utter catastrophe!

I cannot possibly be seen in public

In such a state of total disrepair.

 

Macbeth:

Surely thou jest!

I am about to be crowned King of all Scotland,

And I need thee at my side, now more than ever.

The intricacies of thy facial features

Will just have to wait for another time and place.

 

Lady Macbeth:

Forgive me, my dear husband.

I am feeling very vulnerable and fragile.

I am a complex lady with simple needs!

 

(grabbing her husband forcefully)

Quickly, milord! Mount thy trusty steed.

Draw thy sword and charge my battlements!

If thou thrust thyself into the heat of battle now,

I’ll guarantee a glorious conquest is in the offing!

 

Macbeth: (rolling eyes)

Calm yourself, woman!

Good things of day begin to droop and drowse;

While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.

Thou marvell’st at my words: but hold thee still;

Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.

So, prithee, thou must accompany me now.

(Exuent)

 

Act 3 Scene 3:

Grounds of Scone castle59, upon the legendary Stone of Destiny60, the site of the coronations of Scotland’s kings since time immemorial. Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, 53 loyalist Thanes61 and their various attendants surrounding.

Narrator:
And so came the time for Macbeth’s ascension to the throne, in complete accord with the prophesies of the three witches. While standing in the centre of the admiring throng, Macbeth’s thoughts turned from the sea of smiling faces around him to the second element of the prophesy: that Banquo’s sons and grandsons would be future kings, and not his own.

Macbeth: (thinking to himself)

To be thus is nothing;

But to be safely thus.–Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear’d: ’tis much he dares;

And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,

He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour

To act in safety. There is none but he

Whose being I do fear: and, under him,

My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said,

Mark Antony’s was by Caesar. He chid the sisters

When first they put the name of king upon me,

And bade them speak to him: then prophet-like

They hail’d him father to a line of kings:

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,

And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,

Thence to be wrench’d with an unlineal hand,

No son of mine succeeding. If ‘t be so,

For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind;

For them the gracious Duncan have I murder’d;

Put rancours in the vessel of my peace

Only for them; and mine eternal jewel

Given to the common enemy of man,

To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!

Rather than so, come fate into the list.

And champion me to the utterance!62

 

Narrator:
The coronation ceremony reached its conclusion, with the crown sitting uneasily upon Macbeth’s head. Now came the time for his acceptance speech, and Macbeth cast aside his misgivings about his rivalry with Banquo to outline his vision for the nation. And what a circuitous and addled concoction that turned out to be!

Macbeth:

My loyal subjects,

Thank you all for having confidence in me, and for the honour and privilege you have bestowed upon me by installing me in this most august role as your sovereign and most supreme ruler. I would like to begin by acknowledging the Gael and Pict peoples, upon whose lands we meet, and honour their elders past and present.63

I stand here, on the famous Stone of Destiny, ready to assume the mantle of royalty and mindful of the great kings of posterity, from the legendary Kenneth MacAlpine the Conqueror who united the Picts and Gaels at the point of his mighty sword, to his great and noble son Donald MacAlpine, to the courageous Cullen the White, to the indefatigable Indulf the Aggressor, to the ever-ruthless Malcolm the Destroyer, to the noble Kenneth the Brown, and finally to the stable and bountiful leadership of Constantine 1st and 2nd…………………..(pauses, momentarily)64

It is a great honour to join this pantheon of legends, having myself slain two thousand men single-handedly65 with my bare hands at the Battle of Godwin’s Grech, in a feat of bravery and strength that, quite frankly, completely defies all earthly comprehension!

Our great Scottish nation is at a crossroads, and what is needed now is an agile and innovative66 leadership, one that is prepared to adapt and change for the demands of the 11th century, an era that will no doubt be fraught with many challenges that require the quick thinking, the flexibility and even the ambivalence that only I can muster.

This is an exciting time, but also a sobering and a humbling time, a time to embrace our cultural diversity, and a time to encourage the innovation, the creativity and the agility of our people67. I intend to be a collaborative ruler, one who listens and engages, and one who instills confidence by laying out the issues before us and presents the path forward for all of us to stride confidently forth into a bright and compelling future.

I propose therefore, as my first act as your King, to restore the plan that was, ironically, once laid down by that pretender to the throne, Kevin MacRudd, and over which I have toiled assiduously in my time as Thane of Cawdor. A vast network of carrier pigeons68 is to be rolled out over the next decade, to bring cutting edge, modern communications to the peasantry in the outlying heaths and highlands, thereby connecting them to all of their compatriots in the villages and townships of our kingdom at lightning speeds. This will catapult our little Scottish nation rapidly into the 11th century: a bold, new era in the modern technological age.

I intend also to set aside a sum of 100,000 bronze sceattas69 in the Clan Energy Fund70 to promote the sustainable milling of grains throughout the land. These funds will be used to fell vast tracts of useless old-growth forest to build gigantic quern-stones, some 30 ell71 in girth, with massive windmills72 upon them for their source of power, to provide every clan with a millstone for their bread making. I call it “clan energy”, because each mill will often be entirely powered, when the wind is not blowing or else is blowing too powerfully to be safely utilised, by the two first born able-bodied sons of each clan, turning the stone in custom-made harness and halter73, making it not only 100% sustainable and renewable energy, but completely friendly to the environment!74

Furthermore, I intend to levy a tax on every transaction between the merchants and their customers at the village marketplaces whenever goods are exchanged, at a rate of 15 bronze sceattas per every silver sceat75. Additionally, this tax will be collected by each Thane within the grounds of his castle, and to be used for the provision of all the health and community services that their serfs expect within their feudal circle, without resort to the King’s treasury76.

Also, I intend to ask our friends in far off Gaul, to build us a fleet of submersible vehicles, made of hessian soaked in creosote77, to ward off the threat of those monstrous sea creatures that dwell within the dark waters of our lochs, lurking below the surface just waiting to attack any innocent peasants that might happen to walk along the shoreline. Of course, this will require us to levy a water tax upon every peasant in the kingdom, in order to pay the price of 500,000 Parisian livre to produce these submersibles over the next 40 years or so that would be required to build them…………..78

Narrator:
On and on Macbeth’s long-winded and bombastic speech continued, meandering along over every hill and down every dale, often winding circuitously around itself in an intellectual Möbius strip back whence it began, or alternatively wandering aimlessly up the garden path of the narrative until it eventually lost its trail of breadcrumbs, which did indeed occur on many an occasion. But, undaunted our intrepid Macbeth continued, launching a veritable armada of canards, a flotilla of fallacies, a cavalcade of platitudes and an argosy of ostentation. No sophistry was too inane, no mendacity too spurious, and no conceit too presumptuous.

As the hours ticked by, the “sea of smiling faces” gave way to looks of agonising despair, with eyes becoming progressively more staring and lifeless, eyelids drooping repeatedly, postures sagging progressively, and limbs weakening until a paralysing numbness supervened for many. Those who could discreetly leave unnoticed stole away, and as a timely and welcome darkness descended after sundown it soon became a mass exodus, until those that remained were only those poor unfortunates too conspicuously close to the “action” to be able to make good their escape.

Eventually, it would seem that even Macbeth began to tire of the sound of his own relentlessly pontificating and increasingly ponderous voice. He finally concluded his oratory with his final grand plan for the kingdom, that being the transition of Scotland from a traditional kingdom with a monarch as the head of state, to that of a Republic where the royal succession would be replaced by a parliamentary model with what he termed a “President” as head of state79. In this system, the “elected” leader would govern for life while his various ministers of government were subject to elections by popular vote every 4 years. Macbeth seemed completely undaunted by the fact that such a proposition had been roundly defeated only a couple of decades prior, when just such a model was first put to the people in a referendum. Nor was he in the least bit fazed by the apparent irony of his coronation this very day to then become the incumbent King of Scotland.80

Those that gathered about him, at least those hardy souls more than semi-conscious, were left to wonder whether Macbeth’s heart was truly into fulfilling the obligations of his role as King, or whether he was merely determined to be renowned as the last lineal monarch in Scottish history. None could have guessed that the real reason for this proposed sham democracy was to eliminate the possibility of Malcolm or Donalbain ever challenging for rule should they perchance clear their name of suspicion in their father’s regicide, and further to deny Banquo’s heirs any chance of their prophesied succession.

Once this seemingly interminable, relentlessly monotonous monologue reached its eventual (if not inevitable) conclusion, the remaining Thanes and their assorted attendants wended their way to bed, exhausted after the death of a thousand cuts they had just endured. All of their various heads had barely touched their respective pillows when a wave of oblivion rapidly enveloped them, propelling them headlong into the soundest sleep they had ever experienced in their entire lives!

(Exuent all, and to all a good night!)

Act 3 scene 4:
Antechamber Scone castle

Narrator:
Early in the morning following the coronation ceremony, a meeting is taking place in secret between the newly crowned King and some ruffians of his acquaintance who are eager to perform any and every manner of nefarious deed for the right price.

First murderer: (Pyne81)

What would be your pleasure, highness?

 

Macbeth:

T’is clear to all of thee who have gather’d here,

That the time is nigh to settle old scores.

Our mutual interests seem to be best served

If noble Banquo is shortly to meet his maker.

Our mutual adversary hath outlived his usefulness,

And must pay the price for his egregious sins.

Hath he not thwarted all of your ambitions,

Depriving thee all of the rewards owed to thee?

Are thou not beggar’d by his ascendancy,

And desirous of revenge to cut him down?

 

Second murderer: (Sinodinos82)

I am one, my liege, who knows of the pain

Of false accusations of malfeasance,

Whilst I stood at Banquo’s right hand.83

So incensed was I at his scant protection,

Against the vile blows and buffets of misfortune,

That I am reckless what I do to spite the world.

 

First murderer: (Pyne)

And I am also a man sorely rebuffed,

Weary with disasters, tugg’d with fortune,

That I would set my lie on any chance,

To mend it, or be rid of it, once and for all.

No mincing poodle84 am I, more a terrier,

Gnashing tooth and claw to rip and tear,

At Banquo’s flesh, so mottled and pale,

Till life’s last breath is subdued to silence.

 

Third Murderer: ( Mal Brough85)

I am one whom Banquo trusts implicitly,

And am sure I can get us close enough,

Without arousing his suspicions unduly,

To perform with gusto this bloody mission,

Be just and fear not86, my noble liege,

We’ll sink the slipper87 in good and proper.

 

Fourth murderer: (MacFarlane88 – in a distinctive gravelly voice)

Our black hands shall see the deed is done, sire!

Banquo and his son are as good as gone.

Count upon our discretion and valour!

(Exuent all)

 

Act 3 Scene 5:

The dining hall, Scone palace.

(Enter Lady Macbeth with a servant)

 

Lady Macbeth:

Say to the king, I would attend his leisure

For a few words.

 

Servant: (curtsies)

I will, madam.

(Exuent servant)

 

Lady Macbeth:

Nought’s had, all’s spent,

Where our desire is got,

Without content.

(Enter Macbeth)

Come on;

 

Be bright and jovial among your guests to-night;

Gentle my lord, sleek o’er your rugged looks,

Lest the expedition of my most violent love,

Outrun the pauser, reason.

 

Macbeth:

Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,

Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:

So shall I, love; and so, I pray, be you:

Unsafe the while, that we must present

Our faces as camouflage to our hearts,

Disguising what they are.

 

Lady Macbeth:

Let’s away and greet our invited guests,

Who are gathering now in the dining hall,

Presenting a front united in its semblance,

To quell any doubters lingering in our midst.

 

(Lady Macbeth and her husband enter Banquet Hall, to be greeted by Lennox and several other of Macbeth’s most loyal thanes)

 

Macbeth:

Gentlemen,

A hearty welcome to one and all!

Take thy seats, and our hostess will attend presently.

 

Lords:

Thanks to your majesty.

 

Lady Macbeth:

Friends, from my heart, welcome.

 

Macbeth:

Canst thou see that person there,

On the bench at the back89 of the hall!

There he sits, that beard, those features,

It has the shape and form of King Duncan!

How can that be? Duncan is in his grave;

After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well;

Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,

Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,

Can touch him further.90

 

Ghost of Duncan:

How canst thou forget me and my deeds so quickly?

No longer were those tillers of the soil encumbered91,

Nor their faces blackened by both wind and sun!92 

Hast thou not ridden to such conspicuous glory,

By grasping firmly upon my kingly coat-tails?

Art thou also content to wear a usurper’s crown,

Trading freely upon the reflected glory of my legacy?93

 

Lady Macbeth:  (to Macbeth)

My worthy lord, why art thou so pale?

What see you as you gaze upon that empty chair?

Thy noble friends do lack thee, my husband.

 

Macbeth:

Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!

Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes

Which thou dost glare with!

 

Lady Macbeth: (nudging her husband)

Sit, worthy friends: my lord is often thus,

And hath been from his youth: pray you, keep seat;

The fit is momentary; upon a thought

He will again be well: if much you note him,

You shall offend him and extend his passion:

Feed, and regard him not.

 

Ghost of Duncan:

In two short years,

A delicate seed was planted to prosperity,

And gently nurtured to its fullest flowering.

Now cut short by such treasonous betrayal,

From a craven coward’s restless dagger,

That wantonly ripped at my defenceless flesh,

Whilst I, in innocent sleep, confidently reclined,

In the reputed safety of my brother’s bosom.94

 

Macbeth: (regaining his senses)

I do forget myself.

Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends,

I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing

To those that know me. Come, love and health to all;

Then I’ll sit down. Give me some wine; fill full.

I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table,

And to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss;

Would he were here! To all, and him, we thirst,

And all to all.

 

Lords:

All hail Macbeth!

 

Lennox:

We hope that thou shalt recover thyself,

And overcome whatever ails thee, my liege.

(Exuent all)

 

Act 4 Scene 1:

Narrator:
In a park near the palace, Banquo and Fleance have just begun walking back after having been locked in intense discussions about the somewhat parlous state of the King’s treasury95, which in spite of the grandiose plans announced by the newly crowned sovereign, were sadly more inclined to abject penury than aspiring to conspicuous affluence.

Shortly thereafter, the father and his son were set upon by a group of cut-throats and scoundrels, who attacked them with knives and clubs. In the melee, Banquo was struck a fatal blow and fell to the ground motionless, his life’s flame tragically extinguished. His son, Fleance, managed to fight off his attackers to flee into the woods nearby where he disappeared into the darkness.

These hoodlums then returned to the palace, to report the news of their success and failure to Macbeth.

(Antechamber at Scone Palace)
(Enter first murderer)

Macbeth:

There’s blood on thy face.

 

First Murderer:

‘Tis Banquo’s then.

 

Macbeth:

‘Tis better thee without than he within.

Is he dispatch’d?

 

First Murderer:

My lord, his throat is cut; that I did for him.

 

Macbeth:

Thou art the best o’ the cut-throats: yet he’s good

That did the like for Fleance.

 

First Murderer:

Most royal sir,

Fleance is ‘scaped.

 

Macbeth:

Praise to thee for thus dispatching Banquo.

But Fleance’s flight is a grave misfortune.

There the grown serpent lies; the worm that’s fled

Hath nature that in time will venom breed,

No teeth for the present, but the future?

(Pauses)

Get thee gone!

(Exit Murderer)

 

Macbeth: (to self)

Blood hath been shed here now, i’ the olden time,

Ere human statute purged the gentle weal;

Ay, and since too, murders have been perform’d

Too terrible for the ear: the times have been,

That, when the brains were out, the man would die,

And there an end; but now this is more strange

Than such a murder is.

(Exuent Macbeth)

 

Act 4 scene 2:

A distant and desolate heath.
Thunder rumbles in the distance, and then a vortex of wind swirls upward, before Hecate’s gyrating figure96 appears amidst the maelstrom and hovers briefly before setting gently down amongst the three witches standing below. Her loyal followers and partners in crime and mischief-making welcome her.

First witch:
How now, Hecate!

But, Lo! By thy visage thou seemeth unduly angered.

 

Hecate:

Have I not reason? How did you dare

To trade and traffic with Macbeth

In riddles and affairs of death;

And I, the mistress of your charms,

The close contriver of all harms,

Was never call’d to bear my part,

Or show the glory of our art?

 

Second witch:

We beg forgiveness, mistress.

How might we make amends

For our grievous trespasses?

 

Hecate:

All this that follows must be done,

To bring to heel a wayward son,

Spiteful and full of wrath and scorn,

Hope for recompense seems forlorn,

Loves only for most selfish ends,

His pride can never make amends.

So, get you gone, sisters!

 

 

Third witch:

And at the pit of Acheron

We shall meet once again this very morn.

 

Hecate:

There Macbeth, incidentally,

Will come to know his destiny:

Your vessels and your spells provide,

Your charms and every thing beside.

I am for the air; this night I’ll spend

Unto a dismal and a fatal end.97

(Exuent)

 

Act 4 Scene 3:

Fife Castle, overlooking the Firth of Forth.

(Enter Lady Macduff and her chambermaid following shortly thereafter)

 

Chambermaid:

I regret, milady, I must inform thee,

That I have heard some of the common folk,

Spreading vicious rumours about thee ’round town.98

 

Lady Macduff: (aghast)

What rumours, girl?

 

Chambermaid:

I could scarcely believe my ears, madam.

They say there was a scandal involving

The late King and thee, milady. They claim

Thou art engaged in liaisons with him,

And behind the master’s back, milady.

So, that is why thy husband is gone

Now to England for the shame of it!

 

Lady Macduff: (recoiling in horror)

Such vicious slander as was ever heard!

Who could be so malicious to invent,

Such a despicable and bare-faced lie?

 

It’s the gravest insult to my honour,

But also to our noble King Duncan,

Who lies in his grave unable to defend,

This unjust stain on his reputation.

 

Chambermaid:

I’m so sorry, milady,

But I thought thou shouldst know

What has been said of thee.

 

Lady Macduff:

Worry not, my dear girl. But rest assured,

There’s not the slightest modicum of truth

In suggestions of impropriety

Between noble King Duncan and myself.

Such gutter gossip is utterly false.

 

T’is true that, in life, King Duncan didst show 

Many a kindness, and that I wouldst often

Give him counsel on issues politic,

But, verily, unseemly relations,

Canst not e’en remotely be imagin’d.

I adore my sweet husband most dearly,

The light from love’s candle remains undimm’d

Through our many happy years together

As devoted husband and faithful wife.

I would certainly never submit him,

To suffer in the shame of a cuckold.

 

Now, go and attend to your chores,

With an untroubled mind.

(Exit Chambermaid)

 

Lady Macduff: (to herself)

These vicious rumours bear the fingerprints

Of some vengeful and venomous harpy,99

Roused only by her unbridled hatred

And naked ambition to her own ends.100

 

I fear I’ve a powerful enemy 

Who set her sights on my ruination.

Hoping to use all her womanly wiles,

And all manner of stealth and baleful guile,

Therein sullying my reputation.

(Enter a messenger)

 

Messenger:

I bear a letter from his lordship, madam.

 

Lady Macduff: (reading the letter from her husband)

Thank you, that will be all.

(Exit messenger)

Narrator:
Macduff’s letter to his wife warned her that she was in a most mortal danger. Having travelled to England to the court of King Edward the Confessor, her husband had met with Duncan’s son, Malcolm. Both were now convinced that Macbeth had killed Duncan to attain the throne, and were marshalling forces against him with the support of the English army. His final words were to entreat his wife to gather his little ones together and flee to a safe haven across the Firth, and forthwith.

 

Lady Macduff:

Whither should I fly?

I have done no harm. But I remember now,

I am in this earthly world; where to do harm

Is often laudable, to do good sometime

Accounted dangerous folly!

 

(Enter Murderers)

What are these faces?

 

First Murderer:

Where is your husband?

 

Lady Macduff: ( defiantly)

I hope, in no place so unsanctified

Where such as thou mayst find him.

 

First Murderer:

He’s a traitor to the crown.

 

Lady Macduff:

Thou liest, thou shaggy hair’d and flea-bitten mutt!

 

First Murderer:

Thy husband set thee upon this road to ruin.101

Take now what’s coming to thee!
(Stabs her)

Lady Macduff:

Villain! Thou hast kill’d me!

(Calling out to her children in the room next door)

Run away, my precious ones, I prithee!

(Dies)

(Exeunt Murderers, with the screams of children heard shortly thereafter)

 

Act 4 Scene 4:

A cavern in the glen.

Three witches are seen in the glimmering firelight, gathered round a cauldron in the centre.

All:

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

 

First Witch:

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,

For the ingredients of our cauldron.102

 

Second Witch:

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

(Enter Hecate to the other three Witches)

 

Hecate:

O well done! I commend your pains;

And every one shall share in the gains;

And now about the cauldron sing,

Live elves and fairies in a ring,

Enchanting all that you put in.

(Hecate gyrates skyward and disappears into the aether, never to be seen again).

 

Second Witch:

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

(Enter Macbeth)

 

Macbeth:

How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!

I conjure you, by that which you profess,

Howe’er you come to know it, answer me:

What doth the fates decree, in time’s fullness,

And destiny’s whim, for one such as me?

 

First Witch:

Speak.

 

Second Witch:

Demand.

 

Third Witch:

And we’ll answer.

 

First Witch:

Say, if thou’dst rather hear it from our mouths,

Or from our masters?

 

Macbeth:

Call your masters; let me see them.

 

All:

Come, high or low;

Thyself and office deftly show!

 

(Thunder. First Apparition: A disembodied head with very prominent, even oversized ears103)

Macbeth:

Tell me, thou unknown power.

 

First Witch:

He knows thy thought:

Hear his speech, but say thou nought.

 

First Apparition:

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

Stop those leaky boats that cross the Firth,

To block those clamouring for a berth,104

Then axe the tax that would break our backs,

From those whose vision tends parallax,105

Repay the debt that’s weighing us down,

From purse strings loosen’d by a clown.106

To stop this waste of most recent times,

Requires wholesale shifts in paradigms.107

(Pauses)

Beware Macduff;

Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.

(Descends)

 

Macbeth:

Whate’er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks;

Thou hast harp’d my fear aright: but one

word more……..

 

First Witch:

He will not be commanded: here’s another,

More potent than the first.

 

(Thunder. Second Apparition: A Flame-haired and bloodied crone108)

Second Apparition:

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

Labour’s tools are blunt and rotted,109

That dig the graves of those besotted,

With a union that sets class on class,110

In trying to break a looming impasse,

By starting a war of gender on gender,111

That for this phoney is the ultimate agenda.

Misogyny! Misogyny! She cries in warning,

Yet gladly pays tithes to global warming.112

(Pauses)

Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn,

The power of man, for none of woman born,

Shall harm Macbeth!

(Descends)

 

Macbeth:

Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee?

But yet I’ve made assurance double sure,

And taken a bond of fate: Macduff shalt not live;

That I may fall a’foul of pale-hearted fear ever more.

 

(Thunder. Third Apparition: A grey-haired, bespectacled dwarf wearing a crown upon its head, slightly askew113)

What is this

That rises like the issue of a king,

And wears upon his baby-brow the round

And top of sovereignty?

 

All:

Listen, but speak not to’t.

T’is the most dangerous of all!

 

Third Apparition:

I regret I’m but the rankest amateur,

In the ways of iambic pentameter.

 

Explicit sorrow to history’s kin

Determin’d by the colour of their skin

Is, all in all, my most crown’d glory,114

But is far remov’d from my whole story.

(Pauses)

Like a pig in a muddy pen wallows

So, a litany of failure now follows:

 

With molesters of children uncover’d,

Till a lawful inquiry was smother’d,

By those who stood in some authority,

Yet smote their eyes as their sole priority.

That such neglect was amply rewarded,

Shows scant regard for a tale so sordid.115

 

In haste some untrained souls were despatch’d,

To fulfil a best laid plan that was hatched,

Without recourse to safety or prudence,

Leaving a quartet of corpses, young students,

Whose faith was misplaced in regulations,

To prevent such reckless operations.116

 

With the wave of my hand, floodgates open,

A human tide roll’d to shore unbroken,

Till calamity struck and hundreds drown’d,

As a consequence of borders unbound.

Far be it for me to accept any fault,

To hell with conscience, best kept in the vault.117

 

A crisis event of finance sub-prime,

Made for an orgy of spending sublime,

With debt ballooning exponentially,

Each and every budget sequentially,

While this debacle seems unsustainable,118

It’s made global leadership attainable.119

(Pauses)

Mark my words:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.

(Descends)

 

Macbeth:

That will never be.

Rebellion’s head, rise never till the wood

Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth

Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath

To time and mortal custom. Yet my heart

Throbs to know one thing: Tell me, if your art

Can tell so much: Shall Banquo’s issue ever

Reign in this kingdom?

 

All:

Seek to know no more!

(Apparitions vanish)

 

Macbeth:

What, is this so?

 

First Witch:

Ay, sir, all this is so: but why

Stands Macbeth thus amazedly?

 

Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,

And show the best of our delights:

I’ll charm the air to give a sound,

While you perform your antic round:

That this great king may kindly say,

Our duties did his welcome pay.

(Witches disappear)

 

Macbeth:

Where are they? Gone?

Now let this most pernicious hour

Stand accurs’d in the calendar.

(Exuent)

 

Act 4 Scene 5:
Glamis Castle, an ante-room.

Narrator: Since the untimely demise of King Duncan at the hands of her husband, Lady Macbeth whiled away the hours exercising obsessively120 and gazing lovingly at her reflection in the looking glass in her bedchamber, dreaming of the moment when her husband would return, sweeping her into his muscular embrace and ravishing her in the tradition of the lurid “bodice-ripper” novels she was wont to read to pass the time when she was alone. As the reality of her husband’s continued absences and ongoing indifference to matters sexual hit home, her unrequited desires became unbearable, until she was reduced to wandering aimlessly through the halls of the castle, scantily clad and carrying a candelabrum in a delirium of thwarted erotic anticipation.

Presently, a doctor was called, a visiting Irish physician from Limerick, Dr O’Loughnane,121 who was regarded as an absolute expert in the various troubles that beset the mind, and who was a fine purveyor of herbs, unguents and folk remedies to quell the various disturbances of the humours. In more severe cases such as the queen’s, he would induce vomiting with a series of emetics and following that apply specific purges to her using a concoction developed by Ptolemy called Hiera Logadii, which combines aloes, black hellebore, and colocynth to hopefully cleanse her of her melancholy. When this failed, blood letting was then performed, first with leeches and then by serial phlebotomy, followed by fire cupping of her entire body, all of which unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, failed to do the trick and restore her to herself.

Sadly, some cases such as the queen’s remained resistant to such cutting edge treatments, and our skilled physician as a last resort recommended to pierce the skull with a metal trephine, so that through this opening made by the good doctor, the evil spirits inhabiting her mind could thus be easily released. In spite of such medical heroics, Lady Macbeth lapsed further into madness, wherein she became totally disconnected from reality. Her husband eventually returned to find his wife in just such a state, and consulted the physician for the latest on her deteriorating condition.

 

Macbeth:

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart?

 

Doctor:

It seems that thy queen is now much troubled,

By the sins of her past that up-bubbled,

To cure all of her sadness,

And remove all the madness,

Would require sev’ral miracles redoubled.122

 

Macbeth:

What dost thou mean, doctor?

 

Doctor:

In matters of the mind I’m no oracle,

To make all my prognoses categorical,

But your wife is quite mad,

Despite the treatment she’s had,

Which makes her quite stuffed, metaphorical!

 

Macbeth:

That bad is it? Thou doth not say.

Oh well, er, I s’pose I’ll be off then.

Kingdom to run and all that.

(pauses)

I’ll to Dunsinane, across the cove.

Tally ho!

(Exuent Macbeth)

 

Doctor: (calling)
Nurse! Come hither.

 

(Enter Nurse)

Nurse:

Yes, doctor?

 

Doctor:

How goes milady?

 

Nurse:

The queen lies in her bedchamber, sir.

Delirious she is, rambling and raving,

Thrashing about in fits of St Vitas’ dance!123

 

Doctor:

Let’s attend her. Come with me.

 

Narrator:
Soon the good Dr O’Loughnane and the nurse were at the woman’s bedside. They watched passively as her pallor, her fevered brow and her body wracked in pain told of her being in extremis and near to death.

 

Lady Macbeth: (raving)

Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,

Then, ’tis time to do’t.  What need we fear them

That knows it, when none can call our power

To account?–Yet who would’ve thought the old man

To have had so much blood in him.

 

The thane of Fife had a wife: Where is she now?

What, will these blood-stain’d hands ne’er be clean?

Here the putrid smell of blood still lingers,

All the fine perfumes of Arabia

Will not sweeten this little hand. 

 

Doctor:

The queen doth not need a physician,

But requires a priest’s divine mission,

To give balm to her malady,

Or a singer whose balladry,

Will give voice to her need for contrition.

 

(Orders to the nurse, as he is leaving)

Remove from her the means of all annoyance,

And still keep eyes upon her. So, good night.

 

(Exit Doctor)

Nurse: (holding her hand)

It is a’right, milady, I’m here with you.

 

Lady Macbeth: (in a feeble voice)

Am I pretty?

(Dies)

 

Nurse: (crosses herself)

May the good Lord bestow his Grace and mercy,

Upon thy immortal soul!

(Closing her eyelids, and covering her with a sheet)

(Exuent)

 

Act 5 Scene 1:
Outside Dunsinane castle. Macduff and the English army gather in support of Malcolm as they marshal their respective forces to overthrow the usurper to the crown.

Macduff:

Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath,

Those clamorous harbingers of blood and death.

 

(Enter messenger)
Messenger:

I bring you sorry news, milord.

Let not your ears despise my tongue for saying it!

 

Macduff:

Speak, man! What say you?

 

Messenger:

Your castle is surprised, your wife and babes

Savagely slaughter’d!

 

Malcolm:

Merciful heaven!

What vile and most despicable felons

Could have perform’d such a deed?

 

Macduff: (aghast)

My wife? My children, too?

 

Messenger:

Wife, children, servants, all milord.

 

Macduff: (in disbelief)

All my pretty chickens and their dam,

At one fell swoop?

(Draws his sword, anger fit to bursting written upon his manly face)

Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself,

Within my sword’s length set him; if he ‘scape,

Heaven forgive me! Macbeth is ripe for shaking,

And the powers above put on their instruments.

Receive what cheer you may, the night is long

That never finds the day.

(Exit Macduff)

 

Siward:

What wood is that before us?

 

Malcolm:

The wood of Birnam.

(Calling out to his troops)

Let every soldier hew him down a bough,

And bear’t before him. Thereby shall we shadow

The numbers of our army from discovery.

 

Soldiers: (in unison)

It shall be done.

 

Malcolm:

An overconfident tyrant, is Macbeth.

And none serve with him but constrained things

Whose hearts are absent too.

 

Siward:

The time approaches

That will with due decision make us know,

What we shall say we have and what we owe.

Let us prepare for war!

(Exuent, marching)

 

Act 5 scene 2:
Dunsinane Castle

Narrator:
Upon the battlements of Dunsinane castle, Macbeth is seen gazing out upon the great Birnam wood, a sea of green124 as far as the eye can see that stands as a metaphor for our “environmentally conscious”, if duplicitous and blood-thirsty, monarch.

Macbeth:

This heavenly scene that stands before me,

Birnam wood in all its verdant glory,

Stands steadfast and unfaz’d by man’s affairs,

Nor does it care for human pride or airs,

As nature’s resilience does not yield,

To conspirators’ devious schemes conceal’d.125

 

(Enter Sergeant)

Sergeant:

I regret, sire, I bear bad tidings.

 

Macbeth:

No chateaubriand on the menu again tonight?

 

Sergeant:

No, my liege, much more important than that.

 

Macbeth:

What could be more important than that?

 

Sergeant:

It is the queen,

She has shuffled off the mortal coil, sire!

 

Macbeth: (staring off into the distance)

What do you mean, sergeant?

 

Sergeant:

She has pass’d from this earthly realm,

Been call’d to God, kicked the bucket, bitten the dust,

Popp’d her clogs, taken a long walk off a short pier,

Dearly departed, left the building, bought the farm,

Went the way of all flesh. In short, she’s dead, my liege.

 

Macbeth:

She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

Sergeant: (casting a casual eye askance)

Look sire! The forest, my liege, it moves!

 

Macbeth:

Liar!
(Turns to look toward yonder wood, and stands agape at what he sees)

 

Narrator:

Lo and behold, the once indifferent and steadfast forest was indeed moving unto Dunsinane, as a green tide126 rolled in promising to envelope the castle and all who reside within. The usurper stood transfixed, his eyes widening in horror, mindful of one of the conditions for his demise suddenly being now in play.

 

Macbeth: (shaking in his boots)

Sergeant! So much for those that don’t matter!

They are marching on the gates as we speak!

But holdfast, for none of woman born can defeat me.

Let’s at them.

(Exuent both)

Act 5 scene 3:
In the field, outside Dunsinane castle.

Narrator:
Opposing forces are locked in battle, a relentless assault of sword and axe on blood and bone. As Malcolm and his English allies set to their battle against their foes, Macduff, with sword in hand has eyes for only one man, the tyrant whose minions slaughtered his wife and children. Inevitably, he came face to face with his mortal enemy, with a reckoning of the highest order firmly in his sights.

They engage in a monumental clash of giant broadswords, with Macbeth exuding the grandiose overconfidence gained from the supernatural prophesies of the old crones. Macbeth thus considered himself truly invincible, even in the face of the adept and clinical swordsmanship of his rival. But, alas, this confidence was soon to be shown to be misplaced, and poetic justice was soon to be delivered, with razor sharp precision.

Macbeth:

Thou losest labour:

As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air

With thy keen sword impress as make me bleed:

Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;

I bear a charmed life, which must not yield,

To one of woman born.

 

Macduff:

Despair thy charm;

And let the angel whom thou still hast served

Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb

Untimely ripp’d.

 

Macbeth:

I will not yield! Lay on, Macduff,

And damned be him that cries, “Hold, enough!”

(Exuent, fighting)

 

Act 5 Scene 4:
Another part of the castle, as the last of Macbeth’s forces are slain, and lie dead or dying upon the bloody field.

(Enter Macduff, with Macbeth’s head firmly implanted upon a spike)

Macduff:

Hail, King ! for so thou art: Behold, where stands

The usurper’s cursed head: the time is free:

I see thee compass’d with thy kingdom’s pearl,

That speak my salutation in their minds;

Whose voices I desire aloud with mine:

Hail, King of Scotland!

 

All:

Hail, King of Scotland!

(Flourish)

 

Malcolm:

We shall not spend a large expense of time

Before we reckon with your several loves,

And make us even with you. My thanes and kinsmen,

Henceforth be Earls, the first that ever Scotland

In such an honour named. What’s more to do,

Which would be planted newly with the time,

As calling home our exiled friends abroad

That fled the snares of watchful tyranny;

Producing forth the cruel ministers

Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen,

Who, as ’tis thought, by self and violent hands

Took off her life; this, and what needful else

That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace,

We will perform in measure, time and place:

So, thanks to all at once and to each one,

Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone.

(Flourish. Exuent)

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

Malcolm Turnbull’s lavish harbourside home is found in Sydney’s swank upper crust suburb of Point Piper, a name that does indeed suggest the quintessentially Scottish imagery of a piper playing his bagpipes on the point of a headland, which I then transposed to the environs of Macbeth’s seat of Glamis castle in the play.

The three witches represent (and are therefore played by) the three journalists principal in undermining the former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. These three in particular, among of Greek chorus of like-minded cohorts, constantly denigrated Mr. Abbott’s achievements and lambasted his perceived failures, unfairly in my view, in favour of boosting the challenge of Malcolm Turnbull, a superficially charming and well spoken man but who is sorely lacking otherwise in leadership skills or judgement.

Thane of Cawdor, for the purposes of our play, equates to the Communications minister portfolio occupied by Malcolm Turnbull under Tony Abbott’s leadership. Although no doubt conscious of the old axiom: “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer”, Tony Abbott clearly erred in giving this media platform to his rival. A ministerial portfolio, I might add, that Malcolm Turnbull failed dismally and conspicuously to manage efficiently and appropriately, as has more recently come to light in the lead up to the upcoming July 2, 2016 general election.

Julie Bishop, as Foreign Minister and Deputy PM in the Abbott government, enjoyed a relatively high profile for a conservative female politician with the media, and in these roles, superficially at least, she performed quite admirably. As time went on, however, it became increasingly obvious that Ms. Bishop revelled in the spotlight, and seemed to become more and more fashion conscious and fitness obsessed in what amounted, at least in my opinion, to a desperate attempt to become a fashion icon and media darling.

Modern journalism, as it has evolved, has become an increasingly subjective, partisan and often blatantly propagandising profession, characterised by the selective presentation of facts and “factoids” (often seamlessly intertwined with undifferentiated editorial opinion), by the regular misuse and manipulation of language to distort meaning,  and more troublingly by the emergence of an all-pervasive tendency to left-wing activism, complete with its politically correct moral posturing and proselytising. The spells and charms are analogous to the stock in trade propaganda tools the fourth estate regularly employs in this capacity, whilst prophesies are often seen to be self-fulfilling, such is the power of the mainstream media in the modern political scene.

6 The hatchet job performed on Tony Abbott after his election to Prime Minister was, in my opinion, the most concerted campaign of relentless distortion, systematic undermining and often outright abuse ever directed at an elected politician in Australia’s history. Even actions of obvious virtue, including charity and fundraising events, working tirelessly in Aboriginal communities for their betterment, and volunteer firefighting and surf lifesaving were routinely mocked, lampooned and derided, mostly by people who would never actively lift a finger to help anyone but themselves.

Scott Morrison, as Immigration Minister in the Abbott government, was responsible for the implementation of “Operation Sovereign Borders”, a policy which restored the integrity of Australia’s border control, by removing the incentive for people smugglers to place asylum seekers at severe risk of death or injury on the high seas for profit. He was generally lauded for his application of this policy, and for the apparent mastery of his portfolio. As time has gone by, however, the prevailing opinion seems to be that this apparent efficiency had very much to do with the steadfast resolve of his leader, Tony Abbott, as he has conspicuously floundered since without his stewardship.

8 Scott Morrison was seen in many quarters as a natural successor to Tony Abbott, particularly during Morrison’s highly successful tenure as Immigration Minister, and again as Social Services Minister.

9 Scott Morrison’s elevation to the role of Treasurer subsequent to Malcolm Turnbull’s overthrow of Tony Abbott, may ironically have put paid to any chance he may have had to become Prime Minister, in spite of his alleged neutrality in the leadership spill. Having voted for Abbott, he nevertheless keep silent about his foreknowledge of the challenge and upcoming spill, and failed to help gather any support for his incumbent leader among his colleagues, keeping his options open for a place in Turnbull’s ministry if the cards fell that way. Such playing of both ends against the middle has completely undermined any likely trust he ever could expect to receive from his colleagues in such a leadership bid in the future.

10 In spite of a hostile and uncooperative senate, a media contingent hell bent on facilitating his demise, ruthlessly ambitious colleagues undermining him at every turn from the very beginning of his tenure, and an awkward public persona and communication style (due in part to a mild speech impediment), in 2 years as PM Abbott managed to curtail significantly the proliferation of useless bureaucratic entities that served little or no purpose other than to drain the public purse (such as the Climate Change Authority), brokered 3 free trade agreements with our most significant trading partners in Asia, repealed the economy destroying Carbon tax and the useless investment killing mining tax, and also stemmed completely the relentless flow of asylum seekers arriving by boat to a mere trickle, thereby avoiding countless further deaths at sea to add to the 1200 (at least) unfortunate souls who died as a direct consequence of the Rudd Labor government’s foolhardy repeal of offshore processing and temporary protection visas, measures that had successfully stopped people smuggling operations under the Howard government that preceded it.

11 Bronwyn Bishop, former Speaker of the House, almost certainly wins the award as the single most disloyal (amongst a hot field of candidates) of former PM Abbott’s senior government figures. As such, she is overqualified for the role of Hecate, the wellspring and inspirational leader of witches everywhere. Having caused Abbott such great embarrassment in trying to protect her from the fallout of the Choppergate scandal she had embroiled herself in through her needlessly elitist attitude and errant stupidity, and then in damaging Abbott’s reputation out of his misplaced loyalty to her as a once valued colleague, Ms. Bishop then proceeded to betray Abbott in a twinkling and vote for his rival Turnbull in the leadership spill that would eventually see Abbott removed as PM. That’s gratitude for you!

12 In the overthrow of Abbott’s position as PM, Bronwyn Bishop aside, there were several others who covered themselves in glory as vile betrayers of the worst kind, with many turning on a leader who had supported them in adversity (Sinodinos), promoted them to positions of trust and influence (Pyne, Brandis), and otherwise enabled them (Brough) in their rise to prominence. Such unprincipled behaviour made them shoe-ins for their roles, not withstanding that some of them have since fallen from grace (Brough, MacFarlane, Sinodinos), in a tincture of what many would consider poetic justice.

13 “Hurly-burly” is derived from 14th century England, and means a disturbance that is loud and chaotic, but was popularised by Shakespeare in the play Macbeth, when one of the witches states, “When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won”.

14 “6 years of chaos” refers to the dysfunctional Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era from 2008- 2013, where multiple policy failures and economic profligacy was the order of the day. The overthrow of Rudd by Gillard was a calculated move to consolidate Union power, and then the subsequent constant undermining of Gillard by Rudd in revenge leading to her demise just prior to the 2013 election, set Australian politics on a path to self- imposed destruction that is likely to take at least another decade to finally set right, if indeed it ever does. I remain sceptical.

15 Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

16 Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

17,18 The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years set the precedent of removal of first term sitting Prime Ministers based on at least dubious, and often rigged opinion polls and through self-centred personal ambition rather than any consideration for the needs and desires of the humble voter. Sadly, the subsequent Liberal government has learned nothing from the opprobrium that resulted from their opponent’s example, and have followed the exact same template, somehow expecting a different result in the context of an upcoming election. They are soon to be disabused of any illusions they may have held that their behaviour would somehow be perceived more positively by the electorate.

19 A loose affiliation of left wing pressure groups (The Socialist Alliance, Get Up, etc.), the mainstream media (Fairfax, ABC), unions (CFMEU, et al.), Marxist academics, and assorted vested interests (particularly Global Warming advocates and Renewable Energy carpet-baggers, such as Al Gore, et. al).

20 Who am I to interfere with Shakespeare’s recipe of secret herbs and spices?

21 A statement meant to highlight the malevolence of the witches, but I can think of no better summation of the nature of journalism in the present day than this.

22 Malcolm Turnbull has always harboured but one ambition, to be Prime Minister and reshape Australia in his own image. He needed little encouragement, but a fawning and complicit media hanging on his every word, and undermining his opponent at every turn, certainly made his challenge and grasp for unelected power inevitable.

23 Anyone who expects that the mainstream media will report the truth impartially and for the betterment of our society, clearly hasn’t been paying enough attention.

24 Kowen Forest is the pine forest on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, Canberra, and so was an appropriate substitute for Forres in the play, given that it alludes to the Australian political landscape in my version.

25,26 Godwin Grech was the senior public servant at the heart of the “Utegate” scandal, an embarrassing fiasco that first highlighted Turnbull’s complete lack of judgement and hubris. It is only fitting to use his name as the battle in which Macbeth rises to undeserved prominence, albeit through his conspicuous cowardice.

27 Thane of Cawdor equates to the role of Communication’s minister, the portfolio Turnbull held down in such underwhelming fashion prior to his coup. By handling all the King’s announcements (appearances on the sympathetic ABC in particular) and dealing with his communications, both Turnbull and Macbeth were in prime position to make their play for overthrowing the incumbent leader.

28 Turnbull’s circuitous speaking style, full of asides, pauses, non-sequiturs and tangents, gives lie to his reputation as a great communicator. For the first few months of his Prime Ministership, I was concerned he may never actually finish a sentence. Granted, he certainly started many, but so often he lost his way half way through and failed to find the trail again by the end. A casual glance at various transcripts of some of his off the cuff, and even many of his scripted comments will no doubt confirm what I duly observed.

29 Turnbull’s inflated sense of himself is unsustainable. He will, in my opinion, come undone at the upcoming election, barring an underhanded preference deal and an unholy alliance/coalition with the Greens, which would be the ultimate vile betrayal of his party and its core principles. That being said, I wouldn’t put that behind the scenes double dealing past him at all. If he plays it “straight”, ignominious defeat, or at the very least a major comeuppance, is almost inevitable.

30 Laurie Oakes, the doyen of the Canberra Press gallery, whose hatred of John Howard was instrumental in starting this mess in 2007, and who has helped facilitate Australia’s ignominious slide into banana republic status through his rather blindly partisan “expert” evaluations of the nation’s current political status. Well done, Laurie.

31 Brendan Nelson was Leader of the Opposition after John Howard lost the 2007 election, before being deposed in a leadership spill by Malcolm Turnbull.

32 1500 men contrasts with the initial estimate of 1000, suggesting that, like the fisherman with his catch, Turnbull will continue to embellish his achievements for effect and to garnish unearned praise.

33 Refers again to Scott Morrison’s effort to have a foot in each court in the overthrow of Abbott, a perceived disloyalty and duplicitousness that will likely remove any hope he may have held for his future leadership aspirations.

34 Blackburn cove is the small cove in Sydney Harbour immediately below Point Piper. Nice Scottish name if ever there was one.

35 Julie Bishop represents the federal seat of Curtin in Western Australia, being elected in 1998. During the lead up to Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership challenge, rumours and leaks began to emanate from unnamed sources in WA against Abbott, and also his chief of staff Peta Credlin, with the purpose of undermining their integrity and worthiness to govern. Subsequent events indicate that Ms Bishop, or her staff, were the likely source of these destabilising leaks, which if true is an act of political bastardry of the highest order, given her position of trust as deputy leader.

36 In Shakespeare’s original version, this dialogue refers to Lady Macbeth looking to be instilled with the courage to perform the deadly deed upon the King herself. In my version, she has something else quite different in mind.

37 In my version of the play, Macbeth’s lack of sexual interest and vigour is not only the instigating factor for Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness, but also acts as a metaphor for Malcolm Turnbull’s “all show and no go” persona, where he is always “promising much but delivering little”. “All style, no substance” would be yet another analogy that springs readily to mind.

38 The problems that now beset the Turnbull government and the Liberal party in being re-elected on July 2, 2016 should have been obvious from the start, given the voters complete rejection, and their own strident criticism of the dysfunctional revolving door politics of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor governments, for precisely the same behaviour in which Turnbull has just engaged. They have indeed drunk from the chalice that they themselves have poisoned, being now pilloried for actions they had once mocked, having revelled in their criticism of their political adversaries for exactly this same sort of duplicitous behaviour.

39 Four and fifty blows (54), one for each of those “turncoats” who voted in favour of Malcolm Turnbull, thus betraying Tony Abbott in his first term as PM, whom I believe had a right to expect far greater loyalty, especially given his electoral mandate from the comprehensive 2013 election win.

40 I have left this section largely intact from the original text, as I have in various other sections to follow where appropriate, for the sake of continuity and to keep some link beyond plot to the play’s source material, as an oblique satirical commentary on the present political situation through the prism of Shakespeare’s play.

41 The porter, as played by Clive Palmer, is a Falstaffian figure who is first seen inebriated on duty, and then as a shiftless and lazy tub of lard who reluctantly performs his few uncomplicated duties, while grumbling incessantly in discontent from go to whoa.

42 Clive Palmer herewith launches his embittered soliloquy about the various members of his party, former and current. In this instance he refers to Jacqui Lambie, a former member of the defence forces, previously notorious for punching her commanding officer, and who became renowned in her brief and unproductive time in parliament (initially within the PUP, but then as an independent after a falling out with her benefactor) for her foul-mouthed and ignorant demeanour, and a general lack of decorum. Of course, she became a media darling of sorts among the cognoscenti at the ABC, who no doubt saw her as quaint and earthy, rather than as a loud mouthed “bogan” who was clearly unfit for public office.

43 Glenn Lazarus was another former member of Clive Palmer’s party, a famous Rugby League player who quit the party after his wife was unceremoniously sacked. The biblical Lazarus resided in the town of Bethany, where he died and then rose from the dead allegedly at Jesus’ instigation. It remains to be seen whether Glenn will be quite so lucky.

44 Dio Wang, the third leg of the PUP (Palmer United Party) trifecta, and the only remaining senator still in the party that sponsored him, was a former civil engineer and CEO of Australasian Resources, in which Clive Palmer has a 70% controlling interest. He has also courted controversy by actively defending China’s human rights record, the Tiananmen square massacre, and their rigidly enforced “one child policy”. His senate position is now jeopardised by the Double Dissolution election called by Malcolm Turnbull for July 2.

45 One of Clive Palmer’s most enduring claims to fame would no doubt be his somewhat odd predilection for scale model animatronic dinosaurs, of which he has 160 which “adorn” his Coolum resort in Queensland, making it the largest dinosaur theme park in the world. This monument to eccentricity was entirely counterproductive to the profitability of the resort, which has lost money and corporate sponsorship hand over fist since.

46,47&49 Clive Palmer’s business interests have suffered a significant decline since his foray into politics, with his Queensland Nickel company being forced into voluntary receivership in 2016, and his personal wealth having dropped according to BRW from $5 billion in 2011, to $1.4 billion in 2015, largely to dropping commodity prices, grandiose indulgences in football franchises, etc., and in poor business decisions and failed legal challenges.

48 Clive Palmer donated “liberally” to the Queensland Liberal Party but, like the Godfather of Hollywood lore, he expected quid pro quo favours from the incoming Campbell Newman government in looking preferentially upon his investments in the Galilee basin, where Palmer’s Waratah Coal subsequently lost out to rival GVK-Hancock to build a rail corridor to link the Galilee and Bowen basins with the Abbot Point coal terminal. Palmer failed to receive any special consideration, but was instead treated by the Queensland Liberals on the same level playing field as his rivals, as should rightfully have been the case, even in spite of Palmer’s long-standing membership and large financial donations to the Liberal party. Thereafter came the mother of all public spats and an almighty falling out, leading to Palmer’s resignation from the party. Premier Campbell Newman and his treasurer Mr Seeney were publicly highly critical of Mr. Palmer and his behaviour, and Mr Seeney subsequently made a decision to audit the billionaire’s mining operations in Queensland which further deepened the rift. Furthermore, when Queensland Nickel later requested a government bail out, these overtures were, quite rightly it would seem, “politely” refused.

50,51,52,53&54 Clive Palmer’s various enemies and foes include such luminaries as the two Bishops (Julie and especially speaker Bronwyn), one Abbott (Tony), a soldier who became a mayor (Campbell Newman), shysters (various lawyers in his multiple court cases), while as a member of the World Leadership Alliance he has been rubbing shoulders with the ruling elite. The Charlatan reference, of course, refers to the world’s leading charlatan, the mediocre Harvard graduate turned failed presidential candidate turned high priest of the pseudo-religion of Man Made Global Warming, Al Gore, who quite openly courted Palmer on a visit to Australia and thereby helped ensure that Tony Abbott’s repeal of the Carbon Tax had significant amendments added to the Legislation as a compromise to allow it to pass the senate (which required Palmer party votes), thus making it very possible to reverse this decision in future and maintain the potential for Gore’s desire to establish an Australian ETS. While the foes above were clearly Palmer’s fondest wish to be consigned to hellfire, there might well also be a place for his friends above as well, with the aforementioned Mr Gore particularly leaping to mind.

55,56&57 Mark Textor, media adviser to Malcolm Turnbull, infamously suggested after the overthrow of Tony Abbott that the conservative base of the Liberal party no longer mattered, assuming that those conservatives were so “rusted on”, like their Labor counterparts, that they would have no alternative but to continue to vote Liberal regardless of policy changes leaning toward a more left-of-centre direction. This is in spite of the cacophonous chorus of disapproval, particularly from conservative commentators such as Andrew Bolt, who railed long and loud against the wisdom and the validity of this assertion, and not to mention the literally thousands of blog postings from disenfranchised conservatives openly stating that for the first in their lives they would not vote for the party if Turnbull was still the leader. On July 2, therefore, Mr Textor is destined to find that his summation is a quite dramatic, and dare I say possibly fatal, miscalculation.

58 Corey Bernardi famously overstated the “slippery slope” argument against “same sex marriage” legislation by referring to bestiality as a potential consequence, which was drawing a rather long bow at best. This opened him to ridicule, when an anti-polygamy stance would likely have received a somewhat less hostile reception.

59 Scone castle was Scotland’s seat of power and centre of government probably from at least 908 AD, but Scone itself certainly was chosen as the capital by the first king of the Scots, the famous Kenneth MacAlpine in 843AD.

60 The Stone of Destiny was indeed to be found on the grounds of Scone Palace, and was the crowning place of Kings. It was believed that no king had a right to reign as King of Scots unless he had first been crowned at Scone upon the Stone of Scone.

61 53 Loyalist thanes refers to the 53 members of the Liberal party who voted, along with Turnbull himself, to overthrow sitting PM Tony Abbott in the second 2015 leadership spill.

62 This soliloquy of Macbeth regarding his fears of Banquo’s succession is presented verbatim from Shakespeare’s original to highlight the similarity of mindset that no doubt motivated Malcolm Turnbull in his not so subtle undermining of his own treasurer, Scott Morrison, after his ascent to the position of Prime Minister. Turnbull deliberately, in my view, kept his treasurer “out of the loop” and then “hung him out to dry” on several occasions on matters of future economic policy, then often directly contradicted him shortly thereafter to make Morrison appear less of a future, potential leadership alternative to himself. Although Turnbull stopped short of “killing him off” completely, as Macbeth does in the play itself, he reduced Morrison’s public standing and reputation effectively enough that any future challenge from him is now certain to fail, especially when combined with the trust in him many of his colleagues had lost due to his fence-sitting in the coup against Abbott in the first instance. To make a chess analogy- that’s Check and Mate to Turnbull!

63 This references the recent trend among the politically correct brigade to preface every public meeting or announcement with a “Welcome and Acknowledgement to Country” which has become an obligatory mantra in Australian public life. While clearly an attempt to promote reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, its repetitiveness and the sense of obligation renders the alleged sentiments behind it meaningless, and actually encourages the very resentments it aims to palliate.

64 The Kings of Scotland listed by Macbeth, drawn from the House of Alpin line of succession that lasted from 848 AD to 1034 AD, who were then succeeded by the house of Dunkeld, of whom Duncan 1st was the initial King to reign immediately prior to Macbeth in 1040 AD. In Macbeth’s speech where all due respect to the achievements of past monarchs is made, Duncan is notably omitted in spite of his successful reign, much in the manner that Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged the great Prime Ministers of the past in his speech and yet conspicuously failed to even mention his predecessor, Abbott, who had managed many notable achievements in his brief tenure, including three free trade agreements, stopping the people smuggling trade in its tracks, launching a long overdue Royal Commission into Union governance, abolishing the Carbon and Mining taxes, etc, etc.

65 The body count noticeable rises with every retelling. Such shameless self promotion is the mark of the narcissist, and if the shoe fits…….

66,67 Malcolm Turnbull’s first months in power have been marked by his repeated use of mantras of just such platitudes, with vague pleas to his alleged “vision” for a “progressive” and “innovative” and “agile” economy, with little or no substance anywhere to be found to give such weasel words any “meat on its bones”. Many of these statements of purpose by Macbeth at his coronation are derived from Turnbull’s victory speech, as well as from other speeches he has recently made, which are helpfully reproduced on his website, in all their glory.

68 The NBN network finds its medieval counterpart in Macbeth’s carrier pigeon scheme, having been formulated on the back of a beer coaster by Kevin Rudd, and then further mismanaged by Turnbull in his role as Communications Minister. Like the carrier pigeon example given in the play, the NBN is highly likely to be an expensive white elephant, and destined to be outmoded by the time it eventually rolls out at the snail’s pace at which governments of all political stripe seem to specialise.

69 The “sceat”, plural “sceattas”, were the medieval Scottish equivalent of the current day British pound, with bronze sceats obviously of lesser worth than the rarer and more precious silver sceat, which I set arbitrarily at 100 bronze to every silver sceat for the purposes of the play.

70 The Clan Energy Fund is the medieval Scottish equivalent of the modern Australian Clean Energy Fund. Both are monumental wastes of money in service of pie in the sky schemes of little practical merit to save the populace from a non-problem with non-solutions.

71 The “ell” is a medieval Scottish unit of measurement, the equivalent of a cubit (the length from a man’s elbow to tip of his fingers), approximately one half a yard.

72 Windmills as a source of power make a small modicum of sense in a medieval, pre- fossil fuel society, though as I pointed out subsequently they are of little benefit whatsoever in the frequent periods when the wind doesn’t blow with sufficient strength or regularity. Since modern day Scotland is now littered with monstrous windmills on every vacant hillside, it seems only fitting to include them in Macbeth’s plans for the future, wherein he can be said to have started the rot.

73 The need to supplement the wind power with human muscle, in this instance in harness with a halter, could perhaps have been, fancifully of course, the inspiration for the phrase: “a millstone around their necks”.

74 The “renewable” and “sustainable” energy generation strategies are the false idols at which both Macbeth and his modern counterpart, Turnbull, appear to worship.

75,76 Malcolm Turnbull did foreshadow an increase in the GST from 10% to 15%, and for Australia’s various states to take over responsibility for all health funding and provision of certain community services from their federal counterparts, before abruptly doing an about face leaving State Premiers nonplussed and his Treasurer embarrassed being left having to explain the issue away.

77,78 Malcolm Turnbull’s first big ticket announcement as PM was the deal to build 12 French submarines in South Australia for $50 billion to be completed by 2060, a monumental amount of money for submarines that are likely to be well and truly outmoded by the time they are fully operational in their entirety as a fleet.

79,80 Malcolm Turnbull has always harboured ambition to be Prime Minister, but his even more deeply held desire is for Australia to be a republic, and for a Presidential style leadership modelled on America’s disastrous example. Of course, if he could be Australia’s first “El Presidente”, then all the better.

81,84 First Murderer- Christopher Pyne, a trusted minister in Abbott’s cabinet with a high profile media presence, whose betrayal must have been very hard to accept for Mr Abbott when his removal was complete. Once famously referred to as a “mincing poodle” by then Deputy PM Julia Gillard, a woman who clearly liked to dish out the insults, but then tended subsequently to get rather precious if any negative connotation headed her way.

82,83 Second murderer- Arthur Sinodinos, accused (possibly unfairly) in an ICAC inquiry into dealings of Australian Water Holdings, of which he was a director, and its political donations. He was forced to step aside from his appointed position as Assistant Treasurer in the Abbott government, and in spite of great loyalty shown to him by PM Abbott to resist calls to sack him (and to keep the job open in his absence), Mr Sinodinos repaid this loyalty by voting against Abbott at the first opportunity when Turnbull challenged him.

85,86,87 Third murderer- Mal Brough. One of the chief supporters and behind the scenes movers and shakers in Malcolm Turnbull’s overthrow of Abbott. Currently under police investigation for his role in leaking contents of former speaker Peter Slipper’s official Parliamentary diary in the James Ashby/ Peter Slipper sexual harassment case. “Be just and fear not ” is the traditional Ashby family motto on its coat of arms, words Mal Brough would have done well to heed.

88 Fourth Murderer- Ian McFarlane is a prime example of a man who backed the wrong horse, having supported Turnbull in the false belief that his career prospects would advance, only to find himself on the outer being dropped from the ministry in September 2015. He then tried unsuccessfully to defect to the National party but this move was blocked by Queensland’s LNP executive, and so he was forced into quitting politics altogether prior to the upcoming 2016 election. A “Pyrrhic” victory if ever there was one.

89 Duncan’s ghost, like that of Abbott, can be seen sitting on the “back bench”, a constant reminder to Macbeth, and therefore also to Turnbull, of their previous heinous betrayal of their leader.

90 To some extent, Tony Abbott has not been as “fortunate” as King Duncan, because the malicious comments and false assertions, the snide innuendo, and the bile and venom directed at him have continued unabated long after he was deposed from the leadership, where Duncan’s death at least gave him some peace from the relentless machinations and abuse of his opponents.

91,92 King Duncan’s achievements, like those of his counterpart Abbott, include the abolition of Carbon and Mining taxes, both of which were designed to stifle investment and industry.

93 For the first 8-9 months of Turnbull’s government, he traded heavily upon Abbott’s achievements without once acknowledging his adversary, instead basking in the reflected glory of Abbott’s achievements, including one anti-domestic violence scheme (Abbott was Minister for Women in his government and toiled for 15 months on the policy) for which Turnbull then took sole undeserved credit. The policy was released only days after Turnbull came to power and was entirely instigated by his predecessor, and for this announcement Turnbull was universally praised in spite of having nothing whatsoever to do with its formulation.

94,95 The Abbott government, while far from perfect, achieved many positives in two short years, and began the unenviable task of curtailing wasteful government programs, dissolving or amalgamating the proliferation of governmental and quasi-governmental regulatory bodies that have metastasised throughout the economic landscape, only for these reforms to be stopped in their tracks by Turnbull, whose inclinations represent yet further expansion of the big spending, big government bureaucratic model that has led us into financial peril, and whose further failures are soon likely to become ever more stark and real as their ever-spiralling costs collide with economic reality headfirst in the coming decades. And, be assured, when the inevitable comes, it won’t be pretty. Debt has spiralled from a $40 billion surplus in 2007 prior to Rudd’s ascension to a deficit of over $400 billion federally sometime in 2017 highly likely, and with State and Federal combined debt likely to reach $1 trillion by the middle of next decade, a frightening thought for Australia’s highly vulnerable economy.

96,97 Hecate in Greek mythology was the goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, the moon, ghosts and necromancy, and as such she represents an extremely apt fit for the duplicitous and scheming Bronwyn Bishop. She guides the three witches in their evil mission in the play to dethrone King Duncan, and she was certainly instrumental in dethroning her PM in Abbott in the contemporary drama that unfolded. The “gyrating maelstrom” referred to is in reference to her infamous “Choppergate” scandal, where she claimed over $5,000 for a half hour chopper flight to Geelong for a fund raiser instead of negotiating traffic by road like normal people. This was a breech of parliamentary protocols because it was a fund-raising event rather than on government business, but rather than acknowledging her error of judgment with a mea culpa, she arrogantly tried to assume the moral high ground and thereby caused her PM Tony Abbott no end of grief in trying to defend her from calls for her resignation. Once the damage became irretrievable, there was no other choice but to ask her to resign from the Speaker role she had been fulfilling within the Abbott government, and Tony Abbott’s loyalty to her was repaid at the next opportunity by her voting for Turnbull’s faction in the spill. Then she tried to rewrite the history of the event to suggest Abbott was too intimidated to notify her of the decision for her to step down, which fooled no one, except of course the compliant press corps who happily parroted her nonsense in spite of its clear disconnect from events that were already on public record. She did indeed consign herself to “a dismal and fatal end”, wherein she embarrassingly lost preselection in her long-held safe Liberal seat of MacKellar for the 2016 election, thereafter to fade off into the aether and hopefully never to be seen again. Good riddance.

98,99,100,101 Among the most reprehensible tactics used to tear down Tony Abbott’s reputation, and to justify the coup against him, were the promulgation of rumours of an affair between Abbott and his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. These rumours emanated and were given credence by journalist, Nikki Savva, in her book “The Road to Ruin” about the last days of Abbott’s government, wherein Ms. Savva conveniently failed to interview either party, nor did she mention her rather major conflict of interest in that her husband, Vince Woolcock, was one of Malcolm Turnbull’s most senior advisors. Ms. Savva also is well known to bear a severe grudge against Ms. Credlin, for her allegedly trying to have Savva sacked by her newspaper editor, which whether true or not doesn’t justify the presentation of rumour as fact, especially rumour which could easily jeopardise the marriages of both Abbott and Credlin, when there is every likelihood that such an affair, which both parties vigorously deny, never actually took place. An example of gutter journalism at its finest. So, clearly Ms. Savva need look no further as to how she managed to land the role of one of the wicked witches in my version of the play!

102 Again, Shakespeare is clearly such a good chef, that I dare not alter the ingredients even slightly, or else they might lose their flavour, or their potency.

103 The first of three apparitions which appear to Macbeth, each representing one of his three preceding PMs. The first being Tony Abbott, as evidenced by his conspicuously prominent ears, which are somewhat of an unfortunate trademark.

104,105,106,107 The first apparition, prior to warning Macbeth to beware Macduff, outlines advice for his leadership, based on Abbott’s “3 word slogan” examples, namely to maintain strict border control to “stop the boats”, “axe the tax” by removing the hated economy destroying carbon tax, and “repay the debt” and “stop the waste” accumulated by the irresponsible expenditure of Kevin Rudd and his pathetic treasurer and partner in fiscal disaster, Wayne Swan.

108,109,110,111,112 The second apparition, former PM Julia Gillard, renowned as much for her serial image changes (just “who is the real Julia?” remains a mystery for the ages) as her extreme pro-Union sympathies, her repeated default to class warfare rhetoric, but most especially for repeatedly playing the gender card whenever any criticism of her, however justified, was in the offing. Her infamous misogyny speech, directed unjustly against Tony Abbott, was one of the worst abuses of her position of power, being merely a transparent, cynical and shallow attempt to divert attention from the real cause of her leadership instability, that being her predecessor Kevin Rudd, who was serially leaking against her and undermining her at every turn. Of course, like most socialists and especially erstwhile ex-university Trotskyites, Gillard happily bought into the Global warming narrative, and in spite of promising “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”, she only a few weeks after the election delivered us all exactly that: a carbon tax under a government she led. She then warns Macbeth that he cannot be vanquished by “one of woman born”, thereby giving his boundless overconfidence a fatal boost.

113 The third apparition, former PM Kevin Rudd, has such a chequered history that his warnings to Macbeth could easily have been longer.

114 Kevin Rudd’s most famous contribution, from the early days of his ascension, was his apology to the so called “stolen generation” of Aboriginal Australians. This heartfelt apology was almost universally acclaimed as a positive and essential step toward reconciliation, even if the apology itself does, arguably, take certain liberties with the true history of early European settlement in Australia, and the general treatment of Aborigines and more importantly the motivations of those allegedly involved in the removal and protection of children during that era.

115 The Heiner affair was a black mark on the Queensland political landscape, and involved a coverup of child sexual abuse at the John Oxley Youth detention centre, including the rape of a 14 year old Aboriginal girl, that led to the shredding of reams of documents and the aborting of an independent inquiry in 1990, during the first term of the Goss Labor government. A subsequent audit by QC David Rofe recommended up to 68 prima facie charges that could be brought against public officials past and present for their handling of the case. These included Mr Goss’s former Chief-of-staff and subsequent Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and the subsequent Governor General Quentin Bryce, suggesting that such dubious behaviour was no obstacle whatsoever to receiving the rewards of attaining the highest of public offices in the entire nation.

116 One of the many controversies that dogged the disaster-prone Rudd Labor government was the so called “pink batts scheme”, a subsidised home insulation scheme to allegedly improve energy efficiency of homes. This only served to encourage “fly by night” operators who sent untrained installers to install often inferior products that eventually led to several house fires and the deaths of 4 of the inexperienced workers put in danger by the poorly regulated scheme.

117 The principal disaster that the Rudd government was totally responsible for above all others was the deliberate relaxation of the previously effective policies of PM John Howard’s “Pacific Solution”, measures that had reduced asylum seeker boat arrivals to near zero and saw only 4 people in detention prior to the floodgates being opened. This exercise of misplaced moral posturing, and symbolism over substance eventually led to the deaths of at least 1200 people who perished being smuggled into the country on the high seas. In spite of this glaringly obvious policy failure, monumental in its stupidity, catastrophic in its effect, and completely counterproductive to the allegedly humanitarian intentions of those involved, neither the politicians involved nor the media enablers who cheered the policy change on would accept any responsibility for their actions, nor recant their beliefs once the disaster unfolded, thus reflecting very poorly on their sense of personal morality.

118 Finally, the Rudd Labor government’s response to the Global Financial Crisis, with excessive fiscal stimulus frittered away for little concrete benefit to show for it, and thus setting Australia on the course to fiscal ruin that has continued unhindered ever since, with debt ballooning at an alarming rate with very little likelihood of ever returning to surplus in our lifetimes.

119 Kevin Rudd has aspirations to obtaining high office at the United Nations, with even a potential run at the Secretary General position mooted at one stage. Not content with ruining Australia with his narcissism and incompetence, he now sets his eye on the world for his special brand of epic failure.

120 Shortly after the overthrow of Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop was conspicuous in being seen repeatedly going on runs and exercising in trendy exercise gear, like some kind of ersatz fitness icon. She seemed to become ever more gaunt, seemingly losing weight that she could scarcely afford in the quest to project this particular image of herself.

121 Brian Loughnane is a business and political adviser. He was the Federal Director of the Australian Liberal Party from February 2003 until January 2016, and Campaign Director for the centre-right Coalition parties in the 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 Federal elections. He is also the husband of Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

122 How else would a visiting doctor from Limerick express himself, but in his “native tongue”, using the form of the humble limerick?

123 St Vitus’ dance is the traditional term for Sydenham’s chorea, a movement disorder associated with rheumatic fever characterised by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet. To the untrained medieval eye, any thrashing about would mimic this condition, and clearly the treatment Lady Macbeth received would be enough for anyone to flail their limbs about in just such a fashion.

124,125 As an ardent believer in anthropogenic climate change, Malcolm Turnbull believes that mankind has a significant measure of control over the wrathful elements of weather, and the power to modify the climate globally through his own actions. While regional changes certainly do occur with altered land use and deforestation, the global climate remains imperious and relatively impervious to man’s puny influence, the scale of which gives lie to our hubristic belief in our own importance within the natural world.

126 The “green tide” of Birnam wood moving unto Dunsinane castle is an apt metaphor for the current contemporary political situation, where the Green Party wields a disproportionate level of power and influence in government policy, a figurative green tide that threatens to envelope all in its path. It is Turnbull’s pandering to “green” policies, toward which he is inordinately sympathetic, that will inevitably prove his undoing, in synchronicity with his dramatic counterpart, Macbeth.

 

Random quotes from the play, including some that never quite made the final text unexpurgated (with translations and/or explanatory notes appended):

“By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.”

(The press gallery was heard to utter as Macbeth (Turnbull) arrives for a press conference.)

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.”

(An apt description of the policy paralysis that has accompanied Macbeth’s (Turnbull) rule, with everything on the never-never, with much ado about nothing, and the death knell for the party he allegedly represents.)

“Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

(Macbeth’s (Turnbull) political capital and the all too brief honeymoon with the press corps is predestined to vanish in a puff of smoke within an instant. The clock is ticking and his 15 minutes of fame are almost at an end. In spite of a surfeit of puff and bluster, the soufflé is about to collapse leaving a limp and unpalatable residue for the many cooks responsible to have to clean up.)

“Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!”

(The denizens of Fairfax media are clearly having a brainstorming session, seeing what “news” they can cook up for general consumption. Amazing what a concoction you can brew with a bit of eye of newt and tongue of bat!)

“Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.”

(Those who crave the spotlight sometimes don’t count on the intense scrutiny that goes with it. You can only run from the truth for so long before it, and your past, catches up with you, as Macbeth (Turnbull) proceeds to find out.)

“Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.”

(Excellent advice given to Macbeth (Turnbull) by his advisers before a Q&A appearance, advice that he obviously took completely to heart, and then ran with it)

“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.”

(Now if that doesn’t sum up our waffling usurper, then nothing does!)

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”

(The ethos of the modern mainstream media, as it has evolved, in a nutshell. Wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them on their collective arse!)

“Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief!

(Some need little encouragement to treachery, and Lady Macbeth (Julie Bishop) is just the lady to do it, by fair means or foul)

“I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the other.”

(All style and no substance, Macbeth (Turnbull) has but one quality in spades, that being a raw and naked ambition to power)

“Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters.”

(The hollow man cometh! Macbeth’s face is a blank canvas upon which any interpretation can be made in our collective desire to see substance in the insubstantial, intelligence and foresight where there is none)

“Receive what cheer you may. The night is long that never finds the day.”

(The dark abyss that the party has fallen into by following Macbeth (Turnbull) and his ascendency to the throne appears endless, and little hope remains for the restoration of sanity and reason to bring them back toward the light)

“T’is safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.”

(Following Labor’s dysfunctional example is apparently preferable to loyal service to one’s rightful leader in the interests of the party, and the nation as a whole. Usurping the throne ain’t all it’s cracked up to be either, not by a long shot, at least according to our friendly neighborhood psychopath-in-chief, Lady Macbeth)

“screw your courage to the sticking place”

(What? No foreplay?)

“Nothing in his life became him like leaving it.”

(And yet he speaks so highly of you!)

“Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles.”

(Ain’t that the truth! And we’re living the “dream” as we speak)

“Alas, poor country, almost afraid to know itself! It cannot be called our mother, but our grave.”

(Sadly, our beloved country’s epitaph)

“Fit to govern? No, not fit to live.”

(A trenchant observation of Lord Wentworth of Glamis castle, if there ever was one)

“Out, damned spot”

(Another trip to the plastic surgeon perhaps?)

“How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.”

(Not a tale for the mother’s group, I grant you, but certainly that Lady Macbeth is one determined lady, and clearly a piece of work into the bargain!)

 

On the Nature of God, and the Forces That Shape the Universe

We live in very troubling times, wherein there has been a conspicuous resurgence of pre-medieval religious fundamentalism in the Islamic world, with widespread conflict and atrocities performed in the name of “faith” in many parts of the developing world, most especially in Africa and the Middle East, and which now are inevitably spilling forth into Western democracies in this modern, globalised and largely interconnected world.

Not that all such violent and barbaric actions can be characterised purely to be motivated along religious grounds. Far from it, in fact, given the avowed atheism of Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot, which proved no barrier whatsoever to the indiscriminate genocide of millions of their own people, whilst nor did the overt satanism of Heinrich Himmler and his SS inner circle, or the Teutonic paganism of Adolph Hitler for that matter present any obstacle whatsoever to the deliberate slaughter of innocent men, women and children on a massive scale in the last century alone.

Nevertheless, this recent apparent trend of humanity devolving back to its seminal roots of religious intolerance, theocratic rule, sectarian warfare and the widespread treatment of those of a different religious faith as sub-human creatures beneath contempt (to be used with disdain as objects for sadistic pleasure or sexual gratification), causes one to pause and consider not only the nature of God (were He/She/It to actually exist), but also the overall influence of religious faith on the human species, particularly as it has manifest over the last 2 to 3000 years or so.

I preface my position by stating that I do not personally believe in any form of organised religion, and that I utterly reject the notion of God as some kind of moral arbiter or imperator for humankind. Nor do I accept the idea of an interventionist God who meddles in human affairs, inflicting divine retribution upon the faithless or the evil, or protecting the pious and the “righteous” from pain and suffering, or delivering comfort to the grieving, the ill or the infirm. I also do not believe in a God imbued with any of the human emotions, qualities or characteristics whatsoever, because I believe this merely an extension of anthropomorphic beliefs that are ultimately a reflection of our collective tendency for conceptualising the metaphysical, were it to exist, in broadly humanistic terms, by harkening back to our animist roots in prehistory.

Similarly, I have no faith or belief in prophets or in prophesy, nor do I believe that the various manifestations of weather or climate, or the multitude of different natural disasters that are bound by the vagaries of chance to befall us, are driven in any way by any deity or supreme being or entity, no matter what religious denomination or faith may hope to lay claims of absolute hegemony over such matters of divine retribution.

Instead, I believe in a thoroughly dispassionate, utterly remorseless, relentless and entirely rational universe, one which is driven by forces that have the potential at least to be definable and explicable (even in our otherwise rudimentary knowledge), but also in which there are a multiplicity of aspects for which humankind has yet to find even a suitable perspective, let alone a remotely comprehensive explanation. Therein lies the broad chasm in which religious beliefs are able to find their niche, in the realms of the unknown, and more especially the unknowable in a vast and mysterious universe that defies easy explanation at the current level of our very basic human understanding.

Clearly, throughout prehistory when the pool of human knowledge was relatively small, and many natural phenomena defied what those of the time would have thought to be a rational explanation, it is not difficult to understand the attractiveness of a divine or supernatural being with the power to modify the very forces of nature at a whim, as a means of quelling fear of the unknown, for providing comfort and guidance in times of hardship, but also in promoting a stimulus to action in the face of any consequent adversity, no matter how futile or irrational such beliefs and their consequent actions seem from our modern perspective.

Of course, as a result of this understandable human trait in seeking such authoritative guidance in the face of the unknown, there have always been those individuals who lay claim to special knowledge or insight into the spiritual or the divine, whether that be the shaman, the druid, the guru or the various readers of the Abrahamic faiths: the rabbis, the priests, the ministers or the imams. This is unfortunately the foundation for what is commonly known as “organised religion”, where those who form the enlightened core of the cognoscenti of a particular faith then decide those who are to be schooled in its core beliefs, and as a consequence also those that can be entrusted with its “divine” knowledge. These “chosen” are then given the authority to disseminate not only among the followers of that religion, but in many cases to proselytise and evangelise to those who have not yet gained exposure to their particular brand of belief and faith.

Needless to say that this is the source of much of human history’s litany of religious conflicts and the ensuing misery and suffering, that being a battle fought for the hearts and minds of not just the faithful but the unbeliever, but also for control of the”flock” through the propagation of the mythology of the faith. This also requires the subjugation or conversion of the “infidel” or “heretic” to reduce in number those of competing faiths, with the aim of swelling the ranks of one’s own religion to the maximum achievable extent to the exclusion of any others. For some faiths, that is best achieved through peaceful persuasion as to the merits of the faith though its humane works, with others it is through indoctrination and ritual, while still others it can unfortunately extend even to the edge of the sword, or to the point of a gun.

In spite of the widespread abuse of this power by many of those same leaders of the various faiths, it would be remiss of me not to mention that to some extent this over-riding belief in a higher power or in a divine purpose for humankind has not necessarily led solely to the propagation of superstition and ignorance, but it has also in many instances sharpened the mind and strengthened the resolve by providing great and enduring inspiration to some of the greatest intellects of history, men and women who have vastly improved our understanding of the natural world and the universe, while being entirely otherwise religious human beings who fervently believed in God and his dominion over mankind. Men of the calibre of Nicholas Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, Max Planck and Albert Einstein were known to be devout believers in a Judeo-Christian God, and are among the most highly influential and elite scientists in human history, responsible among other things for the development of the modern philosophy and concept of the scientific method itself, as well as fundamental understanding and breakthroughs in the areas of genetics, astronomy, fundamental physics, electricity and magnetism, the characteristics of atomic and subatomic particles, and in the formulation of quantum theory. It may also be no coincidence that the scientific enlightenment, from which much of our understanding of the universe arose, came from the predominantly Christian countries of Europe, a faith which drew clear distinctions between the Kingdom of God and faith, and the secular world which promoted the acquisition of scientific understanding.

Many of the most important figures in the history of science and philosophy have tried to reconcile their thoughts and their theories within their disciplines with their understanding of God, which was in turn largely seen through the teachings inculcated, and the preconceptions prevalent within the Christian Bible. My personal approach to understanding the creation and structure of the universe, however, differs somewhat from those teachings in that I begin with the presumption that the Christian, or for that matter the Jewish or Islamic perception of God is a false one, born of the influence of organised religion and its less than pure motivation for the broadest of control of the general populace, and in service of entrenching their role as the ultimate moral arbiters for their followers.

Thus, when looking for evidence of the existence or otherwise of some higher power that not only created, but shapes, guides and organises the universe, several physical manifestations appear to me to hold far greater promise than the concept of God as depicted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. According to the Big Bang theory of creation of the universe, for example, the universe originated in a dimensionless singularity where all the matter now within the universe was contained in its most highly organised state. Once that matter was released, thereafter the universe possessed high levels of entropy, the rate of increase of which must be finely balanced to support the formation of galaxies, planets and thus the environment capable of supporting life within the cosmos. So, the question must then be asked: Is entropy itself a form, or at least a manifestation, of what we might refer to as “God”, or at the very least a significant facet or even a fingerprint of a “creator” of some kind?

Additionally,  at least in our current level of understanding, there are four fundamental forces that act to “organise” the universe, over and above and in contradiction to the overarching tendency toward disorder. These four forces, Gravitational force, Electromagnetic force, Strong Nuclear force and Weak Nuclear force, each act over vastly different ranges and at vastly differing levels of strength, but which, in concert, interact harmoniously and precisely to form the very structure of the universe. These four forces, therefore, demonstrate qualities which would be completely consistent with what a religious person might term “divine” creative forces, that could constitute non-anthropomorphic aspects or facets of what we historically refer to as “God”, in at least the Judeo-Christian context.

The various forces that combine to stabilise the structural integrity of the universe include:

  1. Gravitational force, which is relatively weak but very long ranged in acting over cosmological distances. It is always attractive, and acts between any two pieces of matter within the Universe since mass is its source.
  2. The Electromagnetic force, which causes electric and magnetic effects, such as the repulsion between like electrical charges. It is quite long-ranged, but much weaker than the Strong Nuclear force at close quarters. It can be attractive or repulsive, and acts only between pieces of matter carrying electrical charge.
  3. The Strong Nuclear interaction is, as the name implies, very strong but it is extremely short-ranged. It acts only over ranges of the order of 1 femtometer (the diameter of a medium sized atomic nucleus) and is responsible for holding the nuclei of atoms together against the force of repulsion among protons of like charge. It is basically attractive, but can be effectively repulsive in certain circumstances.
  4. The Weak Nuclear force, on the other hand, is responsible for radioactive decay and neutrino interactions and has a very short range, of the order of about 0.1% of the diameter of a proton. As the name suggests, it is extremely weak relatively when compared to its Strong nuclear counterpart, though arguably it is no less influential to maintaining the structural integrity of matter.

Thus, it can be seen from the above description that these fundamental forces of nature form a complex interactive and harmonious framework, where should any of the components vary even ever so slightly, then the very existence of the universe as we currently experience it would be fatally compromised. If Gravity was too strong, then stars would burn too hot and too briefly to be conducive to producing and sustaining life, whereas if Gravity were too weak, stars would be too cool for nuclear fusion reactions to occur, thereby also being unable to support the formation of life. If Electromagnetic forces were stronger or weaker, chemical and molecular bonding would be substantially impaired, and significant instability of various elements would also occur. If Strong Nuclear forces were stronger, there would be no Hydrogen, an element essential to sustain life within the universe, while if weaker the only element would be Hydrogen, with higher molecular weight elements would be rendered completely unstable. Finally, if Weak Nuclear forces were stronger or weaker, not only would neutrinos, quarks and leptons be unable to interact or transmute at a subatomic level, but also the heavy element expulsion from stars would be compromised, and the balance of Hydrogen to Helium produced at the Big Bang would have been altered dramatically.

It can be seen from the aforementioned that without this meticulously precise interaction between these four forces, each with its own special spectrum and range of activity, nothing that we experience in our present reality would exist and the very fabric of the universe would be rendered entirely hostile to the establishment, let alone the ongoing maintenance, of life. Does this apparent precision merely come down to the vagaries of chance?  The vast improbability of this specific combination of forces being able to interact in such a complimentary way with one another to provide an environment capable of supporting life, is so great as to render probabilistic arguments in favour of mere chance to be completely unsustainable.

Does that mean that one must therefore believe in a deity or supreme being controlling the fate of the cosmos? I would argue that it doesn’t necessarily imply that at all, but it remains one possible explanation, albeit one that could never be falsified or refuted by its very nature. Rather, I would contend that there remains the distinct possibility that our universe is organised and shaped by forces which cross the boundaries of dimensional reality, that “bleed” from one or more higher dimensional planes across into our 4 dimensional space-time continuum. These forces may rely on the organisational principles found within those higher dimensions, principles that may possibly differ greatly from our own and be of far greater complexity by orders of magnitude. This higher order complexity might be the reason that these forces are organised within our dimensional space seemingly in such a precise, countervailing balance with one another. Our perception of “intelligence”, divine or otherwise, would therefore be largely irrelevant to the organising principles of physics within these higher dimensional planes.

Beyond the purely matter-based aspects of the physical universe, there are many organising and creative influences that counteract the relentless chaos of the cosmos, including but not limited to the consciousness and cognitive processes of higher order organisms, the process of natural selection through evolution in perpetuating and propogating more suitable species over those with less favourable traits, and also in the recurring patterns found in nature, especially the so called golden ratio of the Fibonacci mathematical sequence, evident in such diverse situations as the orbits of the planets in our solar system, to the structures of various plants and insects, to the structure of DNA, to the proportions found in the human face to name but a few. These may be markers for the influence of the four fundamental forces found in our cosmos, the relationship to which may not be readily apparent to our current level of understanding, but which could realistically have its own internal logic that drives these organisational influences in ways we are as yet unable to define.

The concept of “God”, a divine and infallible creator, has a tantalising plausibility for many thanks largely to the endless wonders of our natural world, the mind-boggling complexity, diversity and innate beauty of life on our planet, and the awe-inspiring power and vast magnitude of the observed universe. The greater our understanding of the forces that shape the universe and the intricacy of the atomic and sub-atomic basis for the structure of matter, the more compelling this belief seems to be that there has been some kind of design or an over-riding plan or scheme that guides the formation and maintenance of this structure. Notwithstanding this “Divine Creator” explanation that argues from the authority of holy writ (of whatever denomination), or ignorance of any other possibility to explain the inexplicable, I would argue that we indeed know so little of the nature and essential structure of the universe, both that which is observed and unobserved (remembering that it is generally held that approx. 80-90% of the energy and matter in the universe is unaccounted for in our present understanding), that we could just as easily be describing a “natural” physical phenomenon that guides us with seemingly clockwork precision, governed only by the rules of physics that originate in infinitely more complex realms of existence beyond the plane in which we mere mortal creatures currently reside.

In spite of this and other potentially plausible explanations for a universe free from guidance by divine intelligence and design, those that dogmatically deny the potential existence of a Creator may well be skating on thin ice intellectually, although perhaps not to quite the same extent as those who, as a matter of course, assume one. If indeed there exists a “God” that shapes the universe, it is my contention that this God is not a being as we currently conceptualise “Him”, but it would be appropriate to consider the Creator as an extracorporeal force (or interplay of forces) that not only provides the fabric upon which our universe is brought forth into existence, but also guides its path toward its eventual fate as either:

  1. the cold and lifeless oblivion of heat death (“The Big Freeze”),
  2. the cataclysm of reaching the limit of universal expansion (“The Big Rip”),
  3. the ultimate return to a perfect singularity (“The Big Crunch”),
  4. to an oscillating infinity mediated through contraction to a point where a reversal of gravitational forces occurs that then allows the universe to re-expand once again (“The Big Bounce”), or
  5. to some other fate that ultimately exceeds the limited purview of our understanding of the nature of the forces that shape our universe.

 

The Welfare Trap: A Prison From Which There Is No Escape

The altruistic desire to provide a comprehensive safety net, or at least some form of temporary assistance to aid our fellow citizens during times of distress or hardship is indeed a laudable and noble aim, and one to which any enlightened modern and compassionate society should ideally aspire. Unfortunately, as history readily attests, the road to hell is indeed paved with the best of intentions. The consequences of the development of a pervasive welfare state, one that characterised the social milieu in Western democracies in the latter part of the 20th Century, have become increasingly obvious over time, casting a very different light on the “real life” practical effects and overall influence of these seemingly well-meaning socialist reforms.

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Rather than a liberating and beneficent force against the five great societal ills, namely poverty, squalor, ignorance, idleness and disease, the welfare state as it has currently evolved has had modest but significant success in reducing the incidence and severity of disease through the advent of socialised medicine, while also possibly some modicum of effect in alleviating the most profound privation and poverty. This excludes of course the conspicuously poor health outcomes found within indigenous communities, where the rank failure of socialised medicine is at its most stark, while the incidence of abject homelessness also appears to have been largely unabated in spite of the imposition of the supposed welfare “safety net” designed to prevent just such a circumstance from prevailing. Notwithstanding these alleged exceptions to the benefits of such systems in alleviating poverty and disease, social welfare has nonetheless unarguably had minimal if any positive influence upon the remaining three societal ills, with idleness and ignorance especially being noticeably more widely disseminated and pervasive as welfarism reaches its absolute apex and thereafter, I fear, its ultimate reckoning.

As the welfare state reaches forth into the 21st century, it is becoming ever clearer that it has, in its very formulation and design, sowed the seeds of our society’s breakdown and perhaps even in the most pessimistic projection, its untimely destruction. A confluence of forces conspires to undermine the putative intentions of social reformers, as welfare remorselessly expands under the influence of the demographic imperatives of an ageing population, the all-pervasive culture of entitlement, an ever-widening definition of disability, the burgeoning of single parenthood, a shrinking of the employment base, and a rapid dwindling of the productive class of taxpayers available to fund them.

“Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” -Frederic Bastiat

These irreconcilable realities will inevitably see the system collapse under the weight of too many conflicting obligations, but in the interim the cost in terms of loss of social cohesion and moral decline is likely to be seen and felt in the propagation of the very impoverishment, ill health, ignorance, delapidation and sloth that it was reputedly designed to prevent.

The primary source of this systemic failure derives from the lack of any real impetus for those deriving benefits of welfare to break free from the bondage this imposes, with many feeling sufficiently comfortable to maintain their welfare dependence in perpetuity, with often such dependence flowing further onward into succeeding generations as an attitudinal and aspirational inheritance. Such a pattern of behaviour, without any fear of recrimination or sense of mutual obligation, inevitably would be unsustainable for any society, given the finite number of taxpayers who can legitimately subsidise the welfare upon which such people depend, as well as the burgeoning number of people similarly coming on board to further encumber an already over-burdened system.

“It is labor alone that is productive: it creates wealth and therewith lays the outward foundations for the inward flowering of man.” ― Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism

Additionally, those who do feel some sense of obligation to contribute positively to society, or who are motivated to get back into the workforce to improve their self-esteem and to give a sense of purpose, are often compromised by a lack of employment and vocational opportunities in areas where high levels of welfare dependence exists, and also by a loss of entitlements (such as transport or medical concessions) which act as a perverse disincentive to seeking gainful employment and breaking the welfare cycle. These obstacles and disincentives are inbuilt into the system and institutionalise dependence and laziness, and especially discourages proactive and self-assertive problem solving on the part of the welfare recipient, who thereby becomes as much a victim of this “assistance” as those who are forced through increased taxation to fund them.

Complicating matters still further is the thorny issue of precipitously declining birth rates among the more affluent members of many Western societies with many opting for no children whatsoever, in complete contrast to welfare recipients and single parents who often out-reproduce them by a factor of up to 3-to-1 in some studies. This is overall decline in birth rates is coupled with a simultaneous decline in death rates due to better medical care and health improvements, with additionally a looming post-WW2 “Baby Boom” tsunami that is likely to lead to a sudden and overwhelming increase in retirees, many of whom will become dependent on welfare through aged pensions due to a lack of superannuation savings and/or through ill-health and invalidity. This combination is a demographic recipe for disaster that can only end badly for those who wholly depend upon the welfare system for their income and for various services.

It is a matter of grave concern therefore that the majority of Western democracies have, largely as a result of massive and ever-increasing welfare expenditure, been taking on monumental debt burdens which approach upwards of 100% of GDP in some cases in the face of this obvious unsustainable burden, which can only lead to a further deteriorating fiscal situation that will only spiral out of control or unburden itself completely through total collapse. Therefore, those who depend entirely upon this system are effectively and efficiently trapped into a subtle form of bondage, for which consequences they are ill-prepared, and from which the media and governments of all persuasions do their level best to shield them from any semblance of foreknowledge that might prepare them for the inevitable.

The negative consequences of welfarism are most readily apparent (in the Australian experience at least) in the remote Aboriginal communities, where decades of unfettered welfare and socialist policy has served merely to entrench the most abject poverty, and has removed any vestige of hope these people may have had to aspirations of equality with their non-indigenous peers. A culture of widespread domestic violence, substance abuse (alcohol, glue sniffing, IV drug abuse), child abuse, chronic ill-health, rampant unemployment and lawlessness has been perpetuated at the very least in spite of, or more likely as a direct consequence of these social programs. The removal of incentive to engage in the broader society, to improve education and skills in a competitive marketplace, or to move to places where greater vocational opportunity exists, has led to a placid acceptance and acquiescence by many in these communities of the perpetuation of their own disadvantage, ignorance and squalor in their everyday existence.

“Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions….Liberty and responsibility are inseparable.” ― Friedrich Hayek

This aforementioned removal of the incentive to self-improvement has proven the final and most telling nail in the coffin of a disenfranchised people, with the very means of reputedly “closing the gap” being the eventual source of the greatest disparity between the indigenous recipients and those who make up the wider community. Unfortunately, it seems no amount of failure can dissuade those who advocate this social welfare approach from the uncritical belief in the merits of such programs, which seem more for symbolic purposes and to placate one’s conscience rather than any practical solution being provided to the many problems these people confront on a daily basis.

Not that the indigenous community is alone by any means in suffering under the influence of such a mentality, since many areas in our cities and larger regional towns are afflicted by similar, if somewhat less graphic social malaise. Where public housing and welfare recipients are congregated in the greatest concentration, social problems are manifest more prolifically in the form of widespread drug abuse (particularly marijuana), drug dealing and other criminal activity, alcoholism, domestic violence, neighbourhood disputes, racial intolerance and abuse, damage to homes and property, and a general reduction in social order and safety is felt by those forced by circumstances into such an environment through age, infirmity, mismanagement or misfortune. Yet, ironically these are the most conspicuous social problems that welfare was allegedly designed to resolve, which evidence suggests has not been the case in spite of many billions, if not trillions of dollars expended on programs globally whose aims are not even remotely being met.

Clearly, the implementation of the polar opposite to these social justice reforms is an at least equally, if not far more unpalatable prospect, especially after decades of entrenched welfarism has been in train, particularly for those who would hope for a lasting relief from the privations of widespread poverty and ignorance, because abrupt withdrawal or failure to provide any social support at all would inevitably lead to the consequence of even more widespread homelessness. This would likely further devolve precipitously into pervasive violence, and thus would lead to ever more intense suffering that would particularly marginalise and disenfranchise (at the very least) the most vulnerable. As such, it would seem that the die of fate has been already cast, and that there is no obvious, feasible recourse to modify these systems significantly as they currently exist without inducing massive societal upheaval or destruction, or perhaps worse still, through the slow and painful figurative death by degrees.

That being said, one of the definitions of what constitutes madness is repeatedly performing the same action, but expecting substantially different (or even diametrically opposite) results to miraculously occur in response to those same actions. As such the apparent rank failure of the social welfare system, especially given its potential collapse within the coming decade or so, needs to be addressed honestly and openly without fear or favour, whereupon any subsequent modifications to the current system need to better address the mutual obligations of welfare recipients to give back to the community in kind, and for the society involved to increase the opportunities for those at the bottom of the social ladder to improve their lot in life through appropriately rewarding effort and achievement such that there are seen to be numerous achievable pathways out of the welfare trap, and thereafter on to a more thoroughly productive and hopefully far more personally satisfying future.

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

The stakes are incredibly high, since the fate of Western civilisation itself would appear to largely depend upon addressing this pressing, and as yet entirely unresolved issue. It is timely to be reminded of the following truism when assessing the clearly finite nature of any society, no matter how “Western”, well constructed, democratic or enlightened:

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency; 
  • From complacency to apathy;
  •  From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.”

– Henning Webb Prentis

Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World? Competing Visions for a Dystopian Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As our world appears to be sliding inevitably and inexorably toward a global surveillance state run at the behest of a crypto-fascist oligarchy, the incredibly prescient concepts, themes and words of famous authors Aldous Huxley and George Orwell ring ever more loudly in our collective ears, as harbingers of a dystopian future whose reality bears down upon us at frightening speed. But, the question remains: Whose vision is the closest to the reality with which we are presently confronted , or possibly will soon be in the very near future?

At first glance, Huxley’s concept of a society drowning in a sea of irrelevant information and preoccupied with and distracted by trivia seems the more grounded in the reality of life in our contemporary Western society, a world that is increasingly dominated by mindless entertainment and amusement for its own sake (computer games, pornography, “infotainment”, lifestyle TV programming and “reality TV”), fascinated with celebrity (Hollywood stars, royalty, the “rich and famous”, gossip magazines and websites) and comprehensively fixated with superficial appearances (Facebook, cosmetic surgery, obsessive fitness regimes, fad diets). More troubling is that this is associated with a conscious and near complete rejection by the broader spectrum of our society of the significance of deductive reasoning, objective knowledge and an impartial view of historical fact. Similarly, there has been a significant diminution of the general appreciation of literature and reading as a means of broadening one’s experience and knowledge, a failure to appreciate the necessity for stringent adherence to scientific method and principle, and a lack of a realistic geopolitical perspective on matters that should be of paramount importance for not just ourselves, but our loved ones and those who descend from us. This institutionalised ignorance has been cynically coupled with the systematic conquest of individualism, self-reliant cognitive strategies and logical analysis through an overarching preponderance to default to collectivist group-think and an uncritical deference to perceived authority.

Huxley foresaw that governments and “the powers that be” would increasingly seek to exploit the apparently unquenchable thirst of the populace at large for aimless and mindless diversions to entertain them, the latter day equivalent mechanism of control of the masses to Juvenal’s famous observation regarding the efficiency of “panem et circenses” (bread and circuses) which characterised the socio-political landscape of the declining Roman Empire. This unhealthy modern fixation with such trivial constructs ultimately overwhelms our capacity to accurately prioritise information in order of relevance and importance, and diminishes our desire for knowledge and understanding leading to passivity, egocentrism and hedonism.

This “Brave New World” is conceived by Huxley as a totalitarian technocracy characterised by rigid and clearly demarcated social stratification, cradle to the grave brainwashing through hypnopaedic sleep teaching, the negation of the motivation to rebellion through the absence of war and conflict, and the destruction of the family unit with mother and father figures and life-long relationships absent. Personal freedoms are sacrificed for safety and the pleasure principle, the latter being reinforced by the use of drugs (“Soma”), “feelies” and by unconstrained sexual gratification without emotional context. Science is thus used by a ruthless government as the ultimate weapon to subvert the individual’s desire for self-determination, as well as a tool for structuring social hierarchy through genetic engineering. Many of these technological aspects of the dystopian world Huxley envisioned in his novel have indeed, in some way or shape or form, come to pass in our modern society as we experience it on entering the 21st Century.

George Orwell, on the other hand, imagined a far more overtly horrific and brutally repressed world, one of all-pervasive surveillance by an oppressive totalitarian regime embodied by and mediated through the supreme power and omnipresence of the all seeing eye, “Big Brother”. The world of Oceania that Orwell imagined contrasted heavily with Huxley’s vision, whereby in “1984” it was mass censorship and restriction of information through manipulation of the media (rather than an overload of trivial information) that kept the masses in ignorance, while inconvenient facts or undesirable persons or incidents were deliberately suppressed through alteration of the historical record, by disappearing facts down the “memory hole” to conceal inconvenient truths. Government control in Orwell’s society was further assisted and maintained by a network of informants, through the propagation of perpetual warfare, by inflicting pain and fear to dissidents and undesirables through torture (Room 101), and by the spectre of enemies of the state or false flag conflicts (Goldstein, Eurasia and, by turns, Eastasia). One of the key distinguishing features of this society was that language was completely corrupted to distort the true meaning in communicating ideas between people, with “Newspeak” often juxtaposing contradictory ideas with the aim of producing confusion and promoting ignorance and ultimately obedience.

Orwell’s world was therefore a dark, dank and decaying one of crumbling infrastructure, except perhaps for that enjoyed by the very elites of the inner circle of “The Party” (though their existence was similarly oppressive, albeit self-imposed), with the mass of humanity toiling in a joyless, loveless existence under the jackboot of oppression and fear, where every thought could be used against them, particularly if one is unfortunate enough to be accused of a “thought crime”, often arbitrarily, by the State. The large screen two-way televisions and listening devices monitoring the populace, and which were present in each and every home and public place, were the only progressive technology of note that rose above the dreary and the mundane of Orwell’s post-WW2 British milieu, which stands in stark contrast to Huxley’s gleaming, futuristic and technologically advanced, yet also entirely soulless society.

While each author developed a distinct and often somewhat contrasting potential scenario for humankind’s descent into a dystopian nightmare, it is apparent that each vision has certain aspects and qualities that are readily recognisable as being present within our current modern “Western” society, with each prediction in some ways being somewhat complimentary to the other, or perhaps more accurately representing sequential stages in a continuum, where the concepts and themes of one flow seamlessly into the other toward the same ultimate end. Unfortunately, it would appear increasingly that some of those currently in power in the early 21st Century seem intent on using these scenarios as outlined by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell in their respective novels as a template for our future, rather than as a timely warning to be heeded and thus avoided.

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Therefore, while it would appear to superficial analysis that Aldous Huxley has more accurately portrayed the pitfalls of “modern” society as we currently experience it, one cannot help but recognise the spectre of Orwell’s equally devastating prophesy which looms ever larger with each passing decade and may, indeed, prevail as the default setting in which our society will eventually languish. Perhaps ultimately each vision merely reflects the fundamental (and possibly inevitable) limitations in our human cognitive abilities, that serve to curtail our individual and collective endeavours, and thereby ultimately terminate our aspirations to the establishment of a truly egalitarian and progressive society.

Top 25 All-Time Greatest Rock Albums

I was asked by a relative recently to list my choice for the best albums in popular music history, in response to a similar list that polled viewers of Australia’s public broadcaster the A.B.C., the results of which aired shortly thereafter as a “Top 10 Albums of All Time”. As with any such list or poll, the entirely subjective nature of our personal preferences and the inability to be entirely comprehensive in our musical literacy limits the validity of such critical evaluations, however I believe it is still a worthy exercise to try to ascribe a rough meritocratic list of albums that this reviewer at least believes better exemplifies the ‘best and brightest’ in popular music than the aforementioned viewers’ poll.

I have tried to give extra weight to those albums that are not merely a collection of songs arbitrarily brought together in a ‘best of’ or ‘greatest hits’ anthology, but instead form a unified and internally consistent artistic work. I have deliberately excluded Jazz albums, whether Miles Davis or John Coltrane, or even Louis Armstrong or Jelly Roll Morton, because I believe this genre is as entirely different and removed from “popular music” as classical music or opera.

So, there you have it. For better or worse, my personal selection of the top 25 albums of all time and some attempt to justify their inclusion, with another 25 added in below them, just for good measure.

#1: Veedon Fleece: Van Morrison

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Van Morrison’s unsung masterpiece, a lilting and melancholic song cycle that elegantly mirrors, and ultimately compliments magnificently, his touchstone “Astral Weeks” album. Emotionally resonant songs, such as the brilliantly evocative “Streets of Arklow”, the mysterious fable “Linden Arden Stole the Highlights”, the delicately poetic “Who Was That Masked Man”, the wistful “Country Fair”, the romantic mysticism of “Come Here My Love”, and the swirling stream of consciousness meditation “Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River”, highlight a fantastic collection of songs that represent the pinnacle of Van Morrison’s songwriting prowess. This is a gorgeous, melodic and transcendent album, blending as it does the spiritual and the emotional in perfect synchrony. For my more detailed critique on this wonderful album, please consult my essay elsewhere on this site entitled- “The Ultimate Veedon Fleece Album Review”.

#2: Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan

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As innovative and transformative an album as any in the Rock pantheon, “Highway 61” combines folk, rock, blues and country influences into a swirling, hallucinatory, literate and surrealistic blend of poetry, whimsy, bitterness and regret. From the opening bars of the iconic “Like A Rolling Stone”, through the comedic nightmare of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and the disdainful rebuke of “Ballad of a Thin Man”, until the last verse of the sardonic 11 minute acoustic folk poem in “Desolation Row”, all 9 songs display a range and artistry never previously encountered in popular music, the result of which practically defined the 1960’s counter-culture while simultaneously smashing the staid traditions of Dylan’s beloved American folk music to smithereens. While endlessly analysable and often magnificent if obscure lyrically, the literary content is nonetheless matched by its estimable musical accompaniment from luminaries like Mike Bloomfield (guitar) and Al Kooper (organ), who manage a visceral and rollicking fluidity which at times equals that performed by the great Chicago Blues bands of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and with an authenticity and looseness that compliments the complexity, the angst and the surrealism of those inspired lyrics.

#3: The Complete Recordings: Robert Johnson

The defining music of the blues idiom, quintessential Delta bluesman Robert Johnson’s complete recording output is one of the most influential and groundbreaking musical transitions of 20th Century music. It is visceral, subtle, lyrically sophisticated and unique, played with compelling and haunting conviction by an innovative and yet enigmatic performer, who as legend would have it, sold his soul to the devil to achieve the level of prowess and artistic vision on display here. The inspiration for blues guitarists everywhere, none more so than guitar virtuoso Eric Clapton, for whom Johnson’s music remains the wellspring of his devotion to the blues. Songs such as “Hellhound On My Trail”, “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”, “Walking Blues”, “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Love In Vain” and “Rambling On My Mind” are absolute icons of the genre and reflect an artist who ultimately was a tormented genius, driven by demons and apocalyptic visions, and doomed to an ultimately sad and all too early demise.

#4: Astral Weeks: Van Morrison

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Van Morrison’s highly improvised, unique and daring valentine to his childhood memories, to the pain of love and relationships lost and opportunities missed, and to the dreamlike interior life to which he retreated that offered him both redemption and, ultimately, transcendence. An extraordinary burst of creative energy, born out of despair and financial hardship, “Astral Weeks” seamlessly blends the mystical with the mundane, the poetic with the prosaic, and the beauty of nature with the grinding poverty of his upbringing in working class Belfast, wherein its vignettes bear a more than passing resemblance to James Joyce’s short stories in “The Dubliners”. This extraordinary album, for a long time my personal favourite, is a modern operatic song cycle populated by eccentric characters and colourful detail, simultaneously interweaving a blend of folk, soul, blues, jazz and classical music, and which is more emotionally raw and self-revealing than any mainstream popular music had ever dared to be up until that point in time. It is an impressionistic masterpiece of passionate intensity and delicate tenderness, breaking new ground by defying the stereotypical musical expectations of its time, and expanding the perceptual possibilities for what constituted popular music into the modern era.

#5: OK Computer: Radiohead

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Radiohead’s third album, after the smashing artistic and critical success of their sophomore effort “The Bends”, reached new heights of creativity and originality in their Orwellian depiction of a dystopian nightmare world of all-pervasive technology, and its dehumanising and demoralising effect upon the individual. An internally cohesive suite of thematically linked songs, “OK Computer” explores the limits of electronic music with flashes of psychedelia, chiming guitars, ambient melodic interludes, dissonant chord progressions, and complex rhythm and tempo changes that demonstrate a musical virtuosity unmatched in this genre since the album was first released in 1997. Thom Yorke’s often anguished, melancholy and yet sometimes viciously snarling vocals run the full gamut of emotions, complimenting the diverse instrumental flourishes and the widely contrasting shifts in mood and style as the album evolves. Standout tracks include the shimmering, wistful “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, the complex multi-segmented rhapsody of “Paranoid Android”, the choral ambient crescendo of “Exit Music (For a Film)”, and especially the eerie and discordant masterpiece depicting a psychotic breakdown in “Climbing the Walls”, but ultimately every track is vital to the overall effect of the album, with the perfect sequencing and conceptual unity making this album so spectacularly successful and unique.

#6: Revolver: The Beatles

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Innovative and often revolutionary album, which transitioned from the folk-influenced “Rubber Soul” album to the overt psychedelia of “Sgt Pepper’s”. A monumental leap forward in aural effects and sonic experimentation, with a diverse and eclectic mix of songs from widely divergent genres which serve to amply demonstrate the Beatles’ complete mastery of the medium. The wry humour and resentful scorn of the hard rocking “Taxman” flows seamlessly into the string octet neo-classical melancholia of “Eleanor Rigby”, which in turn is followed by the sonically inventive psychedelia of “I’m Only Sleeping” and the Indian classical music inspired hedonism of “Love You To”. McCartney pays artful homage to Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows” in the romantic ballad “Here, There and Everywhere”, while “Yellow Submarine” mixes sea shanty with children’s nursery rhyme for light comic relief, and is then juxtaposed with the mordant satirical rebuke of “She Said She Said”. Side two continues in this same highly inventive vein, highlighted by the wide-eyed optimism of “Good Day, Sunshine”, the whimsical “And Your Bird Can Sing”, the innovative and evocative “I Want to Tell You”, the soulful sophistication of “Got to Get You Into My Life”, and finally the ground-breaking, LSD influenced aural experimentation of the hypnotic “Tomorrow Never Knows”. The sheer breadth of musical exploration and creativity involved have rarely been matched before or since in popular music history, and the album remains a pivotal work whose ongoing influence is difficult to overestimate.

#7: Dark Side of the Moon: Pink Floyd

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The ultimate concept album of the 1970’s, “Dark Side of the Moon” is an iconic magnum opus whose majestic whole is somewhat greater than the sum of its parts. It’s slow, atmospheric soundscapes are perfectly complimented by samples of carefully chosen ‘found voices’ and skilfully interwoven sound effects (cash registers, ticking and chiming clocks, human heartbeats), to provide a suite of songs encompassing the many facets of human existence in the modern world, detailing the eternally confounding issues of the nature of conflict, money, peace, stress, time and ultimately death. Side one commences with an overture, the instrumental “Speak to Me”, followed by a cautionary tale about the transient nature of human existence in “Breathe”, the instrumental depiction of the stress and pace of modern life in “On the Run”, the brilliantly evocative “Time”, and finally the death metaphor “Great Gig in the Sky”.  Side two opens with the anti-consumerism anthem “Money”, then flows into the delicate “Us and Them” which deals with conflict and the duality of human relationships, followed by the dream-like ambience of “Any Colour You Like”. The last two songs draw all these threads together, with “Brain Damage” dealing with emotional and mental breakdown under the stressors of the modern age, while the finale, “Eclipse”, draws the album to a satisfying resolution with an all-encompassing meditation upon the complexities of life and the fragility of our existence. “Dark Side of the Moon” therefore remains not only a critical and commercial success, but is a thought-provoking musical experience that engages on multiple levels with subtlety and creativity.

#8: Pour Down Like Silver: Richard and Linda Thompson

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Husband and wife duo Richard and Linda Thompson made 3 brilliant albums over a seven year period prior to their very public and acrimonious divorce, each demonstrating an exceptional lyrical and musical sophistication that elevated each work to the apex of English folk rock. “Pour Down Like Silver” is the most delicate and spiritual of the trio, dealing as it does with the couple’s conversion to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam. While the lyrics make allusions to religious themes and writings, it more immediately deals with the complexity of human relationships and investing in a deep, spiritual connection with one’s partner, and it is this that gives songs such as “Night Comes In”, “For Shame of Doing Wrong”, “Beat the Retreat” and especially the luminous “Dimming of the Day” their resonance and sense of immediacy. A truly beautiful collection of finely crafted songs, with brilliant virtuoso guitar work from Richard Thompson complimenting beautifully, in a work of artistry and grace that belies its relative obscurity.

#9: Exile on Main Street: The Rolling Stones

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The Rolling Stones may have produced albums of better songs (“Sticky Fingers” for example), but nothing quite epitomises their edginess, their rough and ready musicianship, their bluesy approach or their devil may care attitude quite like “Exile on Main Street”, a loose collection of songs demonstrating a bewildering range as they explore the length and breadth of American roots music, whether it be gospel, blues, folk, country, rock or soul. The lyrical sophistication and soulfulness of “Tumbling Dice”, “Loving Cup” and “Shine a Light”, are effectively counterbalanced by the fierceness and low down meanness of tracks such as “Rip this Joint”, “Rocks Off”, “Turd on the Run” and “Ventilator Blues”, which are among the most uncompromising and raw rock and roll in their entire career. Unfortunately, the Stones would never be able to match this level of achievement again in their career, and this remains at the very apex of their entire musical canon.

#10: Siren: Roxy Music

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Roxy Music’s masterpiece, bridging the divide between their avant garde and experimental art rock past with the more accessible (and admittedly somewhat less ground breaking) synthesizer pop and disco sensibilities that were to become an increasingly prevalent feature of their later albums. Bryan Ferry’s idiosyncratic vocal stylings perfectly compliment the sophistication of the lyrics, and these thematically-linked vignettes often flow seamlessly into each other giving the album an impressive aural cohesion. The album begins with the irrepressible ebullience and irresistible rhythms of “Love is the Drug”, then segues into the trenchant yet elegant pessimism of “End of the Line”, the brilliant self-reproach of “Sentimental Fool”, and then the pulsating and frenetic “Whirlwind”. Side two continues the same themes initiated on side one, but more overtly examining aspects of his ultimately doomed relationship with model/girlfriend Jerry Hall in “She Sells”, the pitfalls of finding love unexpectedly in “Could it Happen to Me?”, the toll of a hedonistic lifestyle in “Both Ends Burning”, and finally summed up in the wistful resignation of Ferry’s signature tune, “Just Another High”. A rare blend that is at once danceable, artful, melodic and atmospheric, “Siren” represents not only the apex of the glam-rock genre, but also an engaging dissertation on the emptiness of the self-obsessed celebrity lifestyle.

#11: Five Leaves Left: Nick Drake

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Nick Drake’s delicate and refined debut album, infused with a lingering sense of existential romanticism and a gentle poetic sensibility, is a gorgeous blend of the folk rock and singer-songwriter genres. A collection of subtle and reflective songs that have been greatly enhanced by marvellous cello and string arrangements, Drake’s soft spoken but expressive vocals deliver beautiful melodies that have only become more widely and greatly appreciated with the passage of time, and with the artist’s premature death at 26 years of age. Outstanding tracks such as “Day Is Done”, “Three Hours”, “Way To Blue” and “Fruit Tree” have an autumnal beauty and lyricism rarely encountered in modern music, and are all the more impressive given their tragic and at times prescient context.

#12: Are You Experienced? (U.S.): Jimi Hendrix

A brilliant and innovative guitarist who single-handedly redefined how the instrument could be played, Jimi Hendrix’s first album is a revolution in itself, in a complex fusion of jazz, avant-garde, funk, blues and rock that stands as one of the most potent and inspired debuts in rock history. His heavily distorted, entirely unconventional, fuzz-tone electric guitar riffs and effects are legendary, and are a source of inspiration for countless guitarists and bands who followed in his considerable wake. Highlights include the legendary acid-rock anthem “Purple Haze”, the bluesy revenge fantasy “Hey Joe”, the luminous “The Wind Cries Mary”, the overtly sexual “Foxy Lady”,  the propulsive and revealing “Manic Depression”, and the smouldering, slow-burning blues of “Red House”. The title track ends the album in a burst of psychedelia with slashing guitar, and unifying the whole work with the question posed of the audience, the affirmation of which signifying that Jimi Hendrix had arrived as an entirely new and radical musical force, and that a seismic shift in the rock landscape had occurred. An absolutely essential album by a legendary performer in his prime.

#13: New Adventures in Hi-Fi: REM

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REM’s relative commercial failure, “New Adventures in Hi-FI” is an under-appreciated gem that artistically surpasses many, if not all of the more famous and critically successful albums that preceded it. Stand out songs such as the undaunted and self-assertive “Bittersweet Me”, the wonderfully devotional “Be Mine”, the scathing “So Fast, So Numb”, the stream-of-consciousness valediction of “E-Bow the Letter”, and especially the scarifying “Low Desert” are further complimented by an eclectic range of songs of a similarly high standard that were derived from various out-takes, sound checks and live performances, giving the music an immediacy and a primitive feel that moved diametrically away from the polished, studio-bound efforts of their commercial peak. As such, this album is a deliberately rough-hewn diamond whose lustre increases with each playing, and whose treasures reveal themselves subtly, and often unexpectedly.

#14: Grace: Jeff Buckley

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A miraculous debut, with Jeff Buckley’s marvellous vocal ability and expressiveness to the forefront in a uniformly excellent blend of well chosen covers (including the definitive version of Leonard Cohen’s iconic “Hallelujah”) alongside stunningly inventive originals, including such highlights as the Led Zeppelin inspired “Mojo Pin”, the romantic despair of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Back”, the melancholy “Last Goodbye”, the ethereal “Dream Brother”, and especially the intensely personal and confessional bonus track “Forget Her”. A lush, romantic and emotional experience, this album remains a tragic epitaph to a career cut short by Buckley’s accidental drowning at age 30, and has only increased in stature over the succeeding years as its timeless qualities have come to be more fully and more universally appreciated.

#15: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Beatles

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The definitive psychedelic album, a justly famous and influential pastiche with a fusion of disparate musical styles, from classical to music hall to Indian music to baroque pop to rock and roll, which is then merged with the Fab Four’s highly developed Pop Art sensibilities, and producer George Martin’s unflinching resolve in exploring and expanding the limits of sonic embellishment, to form what amounts to their most exuberant collective burst of unbridled creativity. The album set the stage for, and duly dominated the “Summer of Love” in 1967, pushing the contemporary boundaries not only in its concept, sound and technical proficiency, but also in demonstrating the group’s complete mastery of the popular music genre. Only the addition of the omitted contemporaneous hit, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, could have improved upon the sheer brilliance on display here, with such standout tracks as “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “A Day in the Life” and “Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite” especially being at the absolute pinnacle of The Beatles’ artistic vision and expression.

#16: Achtung Baby: U2

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Leaving behind their somewhat productive infatuation with Americana, with the generally excellent “Joshua Tree” album and the somewhat under-rated “Rattle and Hum”, and eschewing the sometimes bombastic social themes that at times marred some of their previous work, U2’s “Achtung Baby” marked a bold departure toward a more introspective approach,with the songs revolving around themes dealing with the meaning of love, sexuality and even spirituality. The lyrics are often very dark, with some expressing anger and resentment at infidelity and betrayal, while the majority deal one way or another with troubled or doomed relationships or their emotional toll in consequent feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Songs such as “Love Is Blindness”, “One”, “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” and “So Cruel” are among the best of U2’s career, and mix sometimes spartan instrumentation with pervasive industrial alternative rock textures and electronic dance music rhythms to create soundscapes that perfectly compliment the torturous emotions on display. A uniformly excellent collection of songs that represent the band, and Bono as a lyricist, at their very absolute peak.

#17: Who’s Next: The Who

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The high watermark of The Who’s stellar career, “Who’s Next” began as an abortive attempt at a science fiction concept album tentatively entitled “Lifehouse”, but when that failed to come to fruition what remained were a collection of excellent songs that bore a loose affinity with one another, but were essentially self-contained and probably all the better for it. Iconic songs such as the devotional “Baba O’Riley”, the anthemic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and the brilliant angst-ridden “Behind Blue Eyes” are among the top 20 or 30 rock songs ever recorded, and are an impressive representation of a band who had by now fully matured from the young Mods with attitude of their youth to become fully rounded artists at their peak. “Song Is Over”, “Getting In Tune”, “Love Ain’t For Keeping”, and especially the dynamic and lyrical “Bargain”, are all top notch rock songs, and the album is further distinguished by the early innovative use of synthesiser effects and tape loops, which were not only pioneering in their novelty, but also represent some of the best examples of the judicious use of these effects, without becoming slavish to them (as much of the ’80’s music would subsequently become) to the detriment of the music it is meant to enhance.

#18: Moondance: Van Morrison

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Van Morrison followed his improvised, acoustic masterpiece in “Astral Weeks” with a more conventional, but no less brilliant album in the incandescent and spiritual “Moondance”. Beginning with the beautiful and evocative narrative to memory “And It Stoned Me”, there follows the jazzy and seductive “Moondance”, the impassioned falsetto of the heartfelt ballad “Crazy Love”, the joyous celebration “Caravan” and finally, to end a perfectly sequenced side of music, the metaphysical ode to secular and religious devotion in the transcendent “Into the Mystic”. While the second side perhaps represents a minor notch below this very high standard of excellence, it still contains the spirited and jaunty confidence of “Come Running”, the soulful horn-laden gem “These Dreams of You”, and the gloriously resonant spiritual awakening of “Brand New Day”. This latter song and “Into the Mystic” are religious-themed songs of the highest order, subtle and profound in spite of their apparent simplicity, and which remain as timeless and iconic as the day they were recorded. For these two songs alone, this album would be worthy of inclusion in any “Best of…..” list, but this merely scratches the surface of the treasures found within this meticulously conceived and finely honed collection.

#19: Darkness on the Edge of Town: Bruce Springsteen

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Bruce Springsteen’s fourth studio album, coming three years after his smashing success with “Born to Run”, was a marked departure thematically from his previous work, which was populated with urban characters and told stories revolving around city life and growing up in New Jersey and New York City. Instead, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” told largely dark and foreboding tales of the working class in small town America, where frustration, violence, passion and regret walk hand in hand, and where the honest toil of labour can wear away the last vestiges of hope and optimism, leaving only a hollow shell in its place. Songs like “Badlands”, “Factory” and “The Promised Land” deal with straight-forward if downbeat ideas of working class aspirations being thwarted by circumstances beyond their control, while the stinging bitterness and anger found in “Adam Raised A Cain”, “Something in the Night” and “Streets of Fire” are as fierce and as brutally passionate a response as any ‘grunge’, ‘indie’ or ‘punk’ band has been able to muster within their respective idioms. These tracks in particular highlight Springsteen’s expressive vocal raspiness, which perfectly compliments his fearsome and at times tortured and heavily distorted guitar playing. The closing songs on each side, “Racing in the Streets” and the title track are both at times wistful and despondent, at times bitter and resentful, but with each offering redemption through acceptance and making the best of life’s offerings and, in the case of the latter song, in admonishing the desire for the impractical and the unattainable. A brilliant and passionate album of high quality songs, this also marked a remarkably fertile songwriting period for Springsteen, as evidenced by the recently released, uniformly excellent double album of outtakes from these same recording sessions, entitled “The Promise”.

#20: Howlin’ Wolf (Red Rocking Chair Album): Howlin’ Wolf

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The most essential single album of the Chicago Blues renaissance in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, showcasing the primeval, gravelly yet soulful vocals of the one and only Chester Burnett, a.k.a Howlin’ Wolf. Combining a larger than life persona, a massive girth and awesomely powerful delivery, he managed to blend passion, grit, emotion and wry humour in delivering Blues classics of the calibre of “Shake For Me”, “Little Red Rooster”, “Going Down Slow”, “Who’s Been Talking” and “Down In the Bottom”, most of whom were penned by his bassist Willie Dixon and laced with more than a modicum of venom, sexual innuendo and humour. Hubert Sumlin’s guitar playing is inspired and ground-breaking, and the whole band of accompanists demonstrate a looseness and raw energy that would inspire a generation of predominantly English blues guitarists, and bands such as The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Them, Cream, Led Zeppelin, etc, etc. ‘The Blues’ doesn’t get any more definitive than this.

#21: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: Derek and the Dominoes

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The best album of virtuoso guitarist Eric Clapton’s career, this double album of songs is dedicated to the guitarist’s conflicted feelings at falling in love with his best friend George Harrison’s wife, Pattie. The result of his obsession, and the (at that time) unrequited love for her, was a collection of songs running the full gamut of emotions, from the soaring cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, to the fiery remake of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway”, from the definitive reading of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, to the all out attack of the frenetic “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad”. The luminous title track, whose name was taken from a 12th century book of Persian poetry, stands as Clapton’s best (and most heartfelt) song of his stellar career, and the entire album particularly is noteworthy for featuring his dynamic interplay with ace guitarist Duane Allman that pushes both men to their absolute limits as musicians. Combine that with a collection of songs all of an exceptionally high standard, and a backing band of the highest possible order, and “Layla” confirms itself as one of, if not the best purely guitar-oriented albums in the history of Rock music.

#22: Led Zeppelin IV: Led Zeppelin

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Led Zeppelin’s most archetypal song, “Stairway to Heaven”, blends folk and blues with a lyric styled on a medieval template to produce one of the most famous, and somewhat unique rock songs of all time, barely diminished by over-exposure over decades of radio airplay. The album on which it is found contains a mere 8 songs, all of prime quality, which together produce the definitive ‘heavy metal’ statement. From the demented blues of “Black Dog”, to the improvised rockabilly of “Rock and Roll”, to the folkish and melodic “Going to California”, to the Tolkien-inspired “Battle of Evermore”, on to the final thundering reverberation attack of the 12-bar blues standard, “When the Levee Breaks”, the playing is never less than inspired, while the singing and unique phrasing of Robert Plant redefined the standard for Rock God superstardom. Highly influential and much imitated, but never equalled, Led Zeppelin IV remains one of the best examples of its genre, and among the most innovative and inspired albums from any group in Rock and Roll history.

#23: Liege and Lief: Fairport Convention

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The brilliant folk and rock fusion, “Liege and Lief”, is an innovative and stimulating mixture of ballads (the wistful lament of “Farewell, Farewell”, “Crazy Man Michael”), British and Celtic folk tales (“Matty Groves”, “Tam Lin”), jigs and reels (“The Lark in the Morning” medley) performed with consummate musicianship by a stellar band including Dave Swarbick (viola and fiddle), Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson (electric and acoustic guitars), Ashley Hutchings (Bass) and Dave Mattacks (Drums), and adorned with the absolutely stunning, ethereal and at times other worldly vocals of the late, great Sandy Denny. With their original material blending seamlessly with the traditional folk arrangements, and the complex interplay between the players and vocalist wringing every last emotion out of each song, the album is nearly universally recognised as the pivotal and most influential album in the British folk rock idiom, and rightly so. An album that entrances and becomes more imbued with emotional connections with each listening, it stands as the definitive response to the American folk renaissance that had just occurred, through Bob Dylan and The Band and others, across the Atlantic.

#24: The Bends: Radiohead

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Radiohead’s second album is a masterpiece of aural textures, light years ahead of their debut, “Pablo Honey”. From the shimmering and plaintive “Planet Telex” and the hard rocking grunge of the title track, through until the metronomic rhythms of the stunning emotional climax “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, the album displays an impressive expansiveness and musical diversity that is at once instantly accessible and memorable, and yet seems entirely new and experimental also. Songs dealing with abandonment (“High and Dry”), the shallowness of modernity (“Fake Plastic Trees”), human frailty (“My Iron Lung” and “Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was”), shameless self- imposed victimhood (“Just”), the unattainable nature of love and happiness (“(Nice Dream)”) and the vicissitudes of melancholic depression (“Black Star”), are performed with supreme vocal conviction coupled with the engaging melodic complexity of its instrumental accompaniment that effectively enhances the thematic connections between the songs in order to facilitate a coherent and cohesive journey of emotional exploration that stands up right until the final note. A remarkable achievement.

#25: Little Feat: Dixie Chicken

Graduating from the earthy garage band rock and blues of their eponymous debut, to the country-inflected grace and quirkiness of their brilliant sophomore effort, “Sailin’ Shoes”, created a dilemma for this quintessential southern rock band, the only American rival to remotely incorporate the Rabelaisian spirit and musical influences of the Rolling Stones. With minimal sales impact in spite of the critical success of the first two albums, a change of direction was needed, and as a result their subsequent effort, “Dixie Chicken”, incorporates the syncopated rhythms and flavour of the musical melting pot New Orleans to produce their most definitive album. Stunning originals such as the country funk of the title track, the easy rolling rhythms of “Two Trains”, the slow burning sexuality of “Roll Um Easy”, the humorous blues workout of “Fat Man in the Bathtub” and the gorgeous soulful “Juliette” are complimented perfectly by crackerjack readings of Allen Toussaint’s scornful “On Your Way Down” and Fred Tackett’s admonition, “Fool Yourself”. The album features irresistible rhythms, a diverse musical palette and sophisticated lyrics which combine into a piquant musical gumbo that many have tried to emulate, but has never been equalled within its genre.

SO NEAR, AND YET SO FAR…….

#26: Pink Moon: Nick Drake

Third and final album of Nick Drake’s career, with sparse arrangements , delicate guitar textures and obscure allusions which leave a troubling epitaph to an artist cruelly deprived of recognition and fame he so richly deserved. The despair at this lack of acknowledgement is palpable throughout the album, which is adorned with such classic if obscure and elusive tone poems as the whimsical title track, the lilting “Things Behind the Sun”, the self-deprecating “Parasite”, and the elliptical “Harvest Breed”.

#27: The Joshua Tree: U2

U2’s commercial colossus, adorned with a collection of uniformly outstanding songs, and steeped in Americana but also intensely personal and emotionally engaging on a number of levels. The cautionary and highly symbolic drug tale “Running to Stand Still”, the romantic inquisition “With or Without You”, the spiritual quest of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and the iconic “Where the Streets Have No Name” are particular standout tracks. That being said, lesser known tracks such as “In God’s Country”, “One Tree Hill”, “Red Hill Mining Town” and “Trip Through Your Wires” match this high standard and the album’s sequencing holds up till right near the end, giving the songs a fluidity and flow that is highly impressive, and builds in cumulative fashion throughout the album.

#28: Wish You Were Here: Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd casts a cynical eye over the exploitative nature of the music business (“Welcome to the Machine”, “Have a Cigar”), as well as engaging in a devotional suite of songs (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”) dedicated to the fragile soul of founder member, Syd Barrett, whose nervous breakdown under the pressures of the music industry and fame forms the backbone of the album. The iconic title track, “Wish You Were Here”, is an acoustic and lyrical masterpiece, and is undoubtedly the best song on the album, and likely also of the band’s stellar career.

#29: Sticky Fingers: The Rolling Stones

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A fantastic rock album, containing some of the best songs penned by the Jagger/Richards writing duo, namely the country-folk parable “Wild Horses”, the scarifying drug valediction “Sister Morphine”, the lilting “I Got the Blues” and the brilliantly evocative classic “Moonlight Mile”, and it features some searing and dynamic guitar work from Brian Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor prior to his departure from the band, to be replaced by erstwhile Faces alumnus Ron Wood. Concert staple “Brown Sugar”, a twisted tale with controversial undertones, has the raw sexuality and morally ambivalent attitude the Stones were famous for, while “Sway”, “Bitch” and the latin-influenced “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” are as hard edged as any in the Stones’ canon. Finally, “You Gotta Move” is probably their most faithful (along with “Love In Vain”) Delta Blues invocation, and is adorned with gorgeous acoustic slide guitar work by Taylor that brings it all back home with consummate ease.

#30: Live at the Star Club Hamburg: Jerry Lee Lewis

Quite probably the greatest live rock album ever, from the supremely talented, ferocious and incendiary “ball of fire”, Jerry Lee Lewis. Utterly inspired, and playing and singing like a man possessed, Lewis runs through a choice selection of many of the most popular and iconic hits of the 1950’s, not only his own, but those of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, which he throws into the mix and attacks with passion and venom. Essential Rock and Roll from “the Killer” at his absolute peak, with a point to prove and taking absolutely no prisoners.

#31: Beggar’s Banquet: The Rolling Stones

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Beggar’s Banquet is a Delta Blues inspired collection of top notch songs, with slide guitar to the forefront on such classics as “Love In Vain”, “Stray Cat Blues” and “No Expectations”, and tinges of country (“Dear Doctor”, “Factory Girl”), roots rock (the overtly political “Street Fighting Man”, “Salt of the Earth”) and even a macabre samba jazz inspired anthem of sorts (the notorious “Sympathy for the Devil”). Inventive and complex, while firmly grounded in blues and rock traditions, this excellent album boasts exceptional playing , attitude to spare and a diversity of influences that provide one of the touchstone albums of the late 1960’s, and somewhat of an antidote to the rampant psychedelia of that era.

#32: Hallelujah I Love Her So: Ray Charles

Ray Charles’ unique blend of blues and gospel formed the nascent foundation for the development and popularisation of the ‘soul music’ genre that would dominate the R&B charts from the late 1950’s to the mid ’70’s. This 1962 album reissue of his 1957 eponymous debut collects his most groundbreaking and iconic music, from stunning originals like the title track and “I Got a Woman”, with definitive covers of “Drown In My Own Tears”, “Losing Hand” and “Sinner’s Prayer”. Essential and timeless.

#33: St Dominic’s Preview: Van Morrison

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An album of rich textures and transcendent emotions, highlighted by such evocative tracks as the soulful and autobiographical title track, the charming valentine to childhood “Redwood Tree” and the incandescent “Gypsy”. Dominating the album, however, are two extended tracks: “Listen to the Lion” which features one of Morrison’s most primal and intense vocal performances, where he expresses his inner most personal feelings in utterly compelling and innovative fashion; and the trance-like closing track “Almost Independence Day” that induces an almost mystical and meditative state in the listener that is somewhat unique, and ultimately emotionally cathartic. An album of an artist luxuriating in the peak of his creativity, unafraid to experiment and to boldly step outside the mainstream to achieve a higher level of sophistication in his musical communication.

#34: The Band: The Band

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Following on from their rough hewn, but nonetheless masterful debut album “Music From Big Pink”, The Band’s second effort went one step further, delivering a superlative set of a dozen original songs, penned by guitarist Robbie Robertson, that depict vignettes of 19th century rural life in the American South. Such classics as “Rag Mama Rag”, “Up on Cripple Creek” and the iconic “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” are just a few of the gems found on this uniformly excellent set, while “King Harvest (Will Surely Come)”, “Whispering Pines” and “The Unfaithful Servant” in particular are notable songs of the highest order. The album displays expressive and distinctive harmonies that are interwoven with consummate musicianship, from Robertson’s understated guitar to Garth Hudson’s majestic organ and keyboard embellishments, that gives these songs a timeless quality that perfectly compliments the album’s themes, and the vivid portraits being drawn therein.

#35: London Calling: The Clash

Punk rock’s magnum opus blends the reactionary angst and attitude of the ‘punk’ movement with an overtly political and anti-authoritarian thematic base, and combining that with a dizzying array of styles from reggae to ska to rockabilly, to New Orleans R&B and inevitably hard rock in an eclectic mix that brought a new level of sophistication and diversity to the genre. The searing anthem “London Calling”, “Spanish Bombs,” and “The Guns of Brixton” are among the standout tracks in a landmark album that defined an era.

#36: No Other: Gene Clark

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Gene Clark’s once unjustly maligned album was considered over-wrought and over-produced on initial release, but through succeeding decades has been re-evaluated and has become generally regarded as a sublime masterpiece. Opening with the gospel and country inflected “Life’s Greatest Fool” building to a choral crescendo, each subsequent song boasts awe-inspiring arrangements, top notch musicianship and often unexpected and at times overwhelming emotional depth. Highlights include the serpentine title track, the haunting drug anthem “Silver Phial”, the Eastern mysticism of the brilliant abstraction “Strength of Strings”, and the emotionally resonant closing track, “Lady of the North”. This little known gem generously rewards repeated listening, revealing ever deeper layers of both sound textures and meaning, and deserves a wider popular exposure and appreciation.

#37: Let’s Get It On: Marvin Gaye

The most erotic and sensual album of Marvin Gaye’s career, which is to say that “Let’s Get It On” is without peer as the most sexually seductive album of all time. Each track casts Gaye’s impeccable vocal abilities against a backdrop of both sexually explicit and none-too-subtly implicit lyrics that flow seamlessly into one another to form the ultimate aural depiction of carnal desire, intimacy and passion. The music is sophisticated, rhythmically irresistible and incredibly smooth, yet still manages to remain masculine, earthy and lustful. The emotional crescendo is reached with the wonderful, heartfelt ballad “If I Could Die Tonight”, while the title track is persuasively soulful yet funky and insistent, “Distant Lover” is dreamily romantic eroticism, and the controversial single “Baby You Sure Love to Ball” is so overtly explicit as to feature prominently the sounds of a couple moaning during love-making intertwined within and framing the song’s melody. Much imitated by the lesser artists who followed, but never equalled.

#38: Right Place, Wrong Time: Otis Rush

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An album all the more essential and remarkable because it lay unwanted and unappreciated for five years, and because the career of Otis Rush has been a litany of false starts, near misses, wrong turns, poor management and unsympathetic production. Nonetheless, this particularly fine album is a wonderful example of blues crossover, merging soul and blues idioms in a similar vein to the incomparable B.B.King, although more directly paving the way for the likes of Robert Cray in the decades following. For once in this performer’s chequered career, the production is note perfect, the material is never less than prime quality, and Rush’s virtuoso guitar work never less than inspired and subtly innovative, yet at the same time wholly understated. The album contains such gems as “Tore Up”, “Three Times a Fool” and the wonderful career defining title track, while also including the definitive reading of Tony Joe White’s classic hit “Rainy Night in Georgia” and the pained regret of the brilliant and moving closer, “Take a Look Behind”.

#39: Chuck Berry Is On Top: Chuck Berry

The primordial source and wellspring for what would eventually become Rock and Roll. Needless to say, Chuck Berry invented much of the idiom’s foundation language through his trademark guitar licks and riffs, which were endlessly imitated by those whom he inspired. This his third album contains many of his most famous and influential material, from “Johnny B. Goode” to “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Around and Around” to “Almost Grown” to “Maybelline”. Every song is virtually a classic of the genre, invoking an era more perfectly then almost anything else recorded in the 1950’s (against some admittedly very stiff competition), or since for that matter. Absolutely essential recordings from a pioneer and consummate artist, with lyrics whose simplicity belies their sophistication and wit.

#40: Robbie Robertson: Robbie Robertson

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Infused with subtle textures, rhythms and themes related to his Native American ancestral heritage, ex-The Band guitarist Robbie Robertson’s first solo album diverges substantially from the rural Americana of that musical excursion, and instead opted for a moody and atmospheric, more contemporary sound in a similar vein to Peter Gabriel or U2 (who, not coincidentally, also appear on the album), and then benefitted greatly in acquiring the talents of ace producer Daniel Lanois (The Joshua Tree, So, Yellow Moon). The album opens with “Fallen Angel”, a sad and loving tribute to departed friend and band mate Richard Manuel, while other highlights include the plaintive gem “Broken Arrow”, the apocalyptic “Showdown at Big Sky”, the passionate U2 collaboration “Sweet Fire of Love”, the menacing “Hell’s Half Acre” and the brilliantly evocative memoir “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”, a spoken word ‘song’ that sounds like a Dashiell Hammett novel describing the seedy underbelly of New Orleans at night. One of the best and most under-appreciated albums of the 1980’s.

#41: Every Picture Tells A Story: Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart’s third solo album is a sublime collection of excellent originals (“Maggie May”, “Mandolin Wind”, the title track) with a brilliantly selected collection of covers, the interpretations of which often equal or even surpass that of the original artist’s version. Vocally, Stewart is in prime form, with estimable support from his former Faces bandmates (especially guitarist Ron Wood), delivering among others a searing rendition of the Temptations hit “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, a gorgeous and heartfelt version of Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”, and a beautifully rendered interpretation of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe”. A near perfect album that thoroughly deserved the commercial success and critical accolades accorded it, with a recipe that Stewart attempted on several occasions to repeat but whose serendipity he subsequently failed to recapture.

#42: Blood on the Tracks: Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan’s album output became increasingly inconsistent after the motorcycle accident that nearly claimed his life in the 1960’s, but  an exception to this was the bittersweet and emotionally resonant album, “Blood on the Tracks”. Inspired it would seem by the emotional turmoil and pain caused by the impending breakdown of his marriage, Dylan delivered an album of finely-honed songs that were sentimental and nostalgic without being maudlin, starkly honest and yet often artfully obscuring its true meaning behind a veil of symbolism and metaphor. The highlights of this exceptional work of maturity and conviction include such classics as the warm and inviting “Shelter from the Storm”, the romantic fable and lament of “Simple Twist of Fate”, the complex ode to memory “Tangled Up in Blue”, and the wistful regret of “If You See Her Say Hello”.

#43: Here’s Little Richard: Little Richard

Richard Penniman, a.k.a Little Richard, was a true original and a formidable force of nature, merging fire and brimstone gospel fervour with New Orleans rhythms, and a tincture of the blues hollering just for good measure. His debut record was infused with so much energy, such unbridled excitement and a strange sexual tension that it ignited Rock and Roll with its explosive combination of perversity, desperation and anarchic flare, with particularly his trademark vocal attack being much imitated, but never equalled. Choice cuts include “Long Tall Sally”, “Rip It Up”, “Tutti Frutti”, “Miss Ann” and “Slippin’ and Slidin'” to name but a few in this exceptionally strong collection of his most galvanic tracks.

#44: The Beatles (White Album): The Beatles

The Beatles’ White Album is a masterpiece of ragged eclecticism, its 30 songs covering a breadth of musical influences that are awe-inspiring in their sprawling diversity, from the manic, heavy metal attack of “Helter Skelter” (where Paul McCartney effectively presages Led Zeppelin et al), the Chuck Berry meets Beach Boys of “Back In the USSR”, the blues influence of “Yer Blues”, the 1920’s jazz of “Honey Pie”, ska/reggae of “Ob La Di, Ob La Da”, mock country with “Rocky Raccoon”, baroque harpsichord and string quartet of “Piggies”, and the acoustic folk of “Mother Nature’s Son”, to the ground-breaking ‘musique concrete’ of the avant garde and experimental “Revolution 9”. Some of the band’s best music is found here, with the gorgeous and childlike “Dear Prudence”, the emotive “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, the lyrical satire of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, the heartfelt valentine to Lennon’s dead mother in “Julia”, the distorted looking-glass encapsulation of the band in “Glass Onion”, and the stinging rebuke to misguided activism in “Revolution”. The Beatles display all their trademark ambition, audacity and artfulness in this musical chocolate box collection, thereby underlining and reinforcing their utter uniqueness and conspicuousness within the popular musical landscape.

#45: The Sun Collection: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley’s formative recordings, recorded for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, were the root source for what would become the genre of rockabilly, a blend of country with southern R&B, with Elvis’ trademark swagger and sexuality as well as soulful vocal styling proving such an inspiration for much of the white American popular music that followed. Presley was a product of the regional melting pot influences of his home town (Memphis, Tennessee), where black performers like Junior Parker and Arthur Crudup merged with such country icons as Bob Wills and the Carter Family, acting as high quality raw material for the cross pollination that would propel Elvis to eventual superstardom. Hits such as “That’s Alright, Mama”, the iconic “Mystery Train”, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Trying to Get to You”, are merged with covers of many country standards, given what would at that time be considered to be a modern ‘Rock and Roll’ twist that brought a new vitality to the material. These early recordings remain Elvis’ most enduring, innovative and iconic, and form the most important foundation stone of his musical legacy.

#46: Live at the Apollo: James Brown

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Great live albums are often determined by the sheer intensity of the performance (as in Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Live at the Star Club Hamburg” above), and by the rapport and interplay between the performer and the audience. Much like B.B.King’s similarly iconic “Live at the Regal” recording, James Brown’s performance in “Live at the Apollo” is not only powerful and intense, but it is matched by the passionate fervour and responsiveness of his wildly enthusiastic audience. In this performance, the “Godfather of Soul”, with able support from his Famous Flames, literally powers through the cream of the material he had released up to that point in time, and his passion and boundless energy and enthusiasm is vividly displayed in this album, the most seminal work from one of the pivotal figures in the history of R&B music.

#47: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society: The Kinks

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The Kinks were the most quintessentially English of the British Invasion bands of the 1960’s, and in this quiet gem chief songwriter Ray Davies has fashioned a valentine to a vanishing England, depicting village life that probably only ever existed in the imagination, and much in the vein of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milkwood”. This concept album is a brilliantly executed paean to disappearing traditions, nostalgic for simpler times and for the quirky characters and idealised memories of youth. From the statement of purpose extolled in the lyrics of the title track, the songs invoke images of childhood friends (“Do You Remember Walter”), rural idyll (“Animal Farm”, “Sitting By the Riverside”), the romance of a bygone era (“Last of the Steam Powered Trains”), memory and ageing (“Picture Book”), as well as vignettes that celebrate eccentricity and individuality (a rebellious biker in “Johnny Thunder”, a local witch in “Wicked Annabella”, the town prostitute in “Monica”). A glorious collection that paints vivid, sepia-toned portraits with affection and intelligence.

#48: Abbey Road: The Beatles

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The Beatles’ swansong, “Abbey Road” is the product of a band at the end of its collaborative life, but yet still manages to sound like a cohesive and coherent whole in spite of this. Some of the gems contained within are among their very best, not least of which being the highly idiosyncratic classic “Come Together”, the gorgeous ballad “Something”, the exquisitely crafted perfection of “Here Comes the Sun”, the joyous “Oh, Darling!” and the classically inspired harmonic splendour of “Because”.  The second side of the LP, segues into an extended medley of musical fragments that coalesce to form a pastiche thematically linked by the dualism inherent in love and relationships. The selection of songs within this medley is not as random as it might initially appear, with each component being either a mirror image of a previous fragment, or interconnected in some other way either lyrically or musically to enhance the meaning of the piece as a whole. As such, this sequence is an inventive and unique accomplishment, enhancing an album fully deserving of all of the critical sobriquets it would receive.

#49: Dummy: Portishead

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Emerging from the vibrant Bristol music scene of the 1990’s, Portishead defined the trip hop genre with this classic album, which merge influences of hip hop, electronica, jazz and cabaret to form a highly cinematic musical melange that blended seductive grooves with dark backbeat rhythms and torch song vocal stylings. This seductive combination crossed over from the narrow dance club scene (as exemplified by groups like Massive Attack) to a broader appeal to alt rock and indie audiences without sacrificing credibility or creativity. Songs like “Sour Times”, “Wandering Star”, “It Could Be Sweet”, “Numb” and the luminous “Glory Box” highlight an incredibly strong set that is by turns sultry then melancholy, sophisticated then confessional. The pinnacle of the dance/hip hop genre.

#50: Nevermind: Nirvana

To my mind the most contentious selection of the lot, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” is without doubt a highly influential recording, an essential era-defining album of the early 1990’s that energised an entire burgeoning movement in rock music, namely “grunge”- a blend of punk and heavy metal emanating out of the Seattle music scene. Lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain evolved a songwriting style that utilised an angst-ridden, self-deprecating and simplistic approach that emphasised melodicism over literary flourishes. Songs such as the anthemic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are”, “Lithium” and “In Bloom” garnered Cobain an enviable reputation as a gifted songwriter able to cut down his original songs to their barest essence. While I consider the album overall to be somewhat over-rated, there is no denying that it represented a timely reflection of, and a driving force for, a cultural shift that was evolving among a jaded generation looking for new forms of musical expression. As such it deserves inclusion in spite of any misgivings I may have regarding its originality or its likely longevity as a musical statement.

Eugenics and Malthusian Misanthropy

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The modern era, and most especially the early years of the 21st century, has become pervasively dominated by the false perception of alleged ever-dwindling resources, a supposedly “dying planet” marked by species extinction and environmental degradation, and an over-arching obsession with the seemingly inevitable potential for disaster from massive global overpopulation that has been broadly predicted to reach a crescendo at some time during the coming century.

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As a consequence, there has been a troubling recrudescence of the previously discredited demographic belief system of Malthusianism that derived from the writings of Thomas Malthus from the 1800’s (and which was latterly resuscitated by the Club of Rome in its influential, if not notorious, 1972 “Limits to Growth” publication). Of even greater concern, this alarmist philosophy has seemingly become closely entwined with that of the egregious Eugenics movement. The Eugenics movement gained prominence and flourished from the 1890’s into the early 20th century, and was only to be derailed by its application in justification of an Aryan “master race” by Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists in the 1930s, which thus led its apparent demise with Germany’s abject defeat at the end of WW2.

However, these two closely aligned movements have now arisen, Phoenix-like from the ashes of their chequered pasts to become an increasing influential tandem in the collective mindset of the “progressive” elite, and gained undue prominence amongst certain members of the political and academic classes, in spite of neither philosophy realistically demonstrating any practical application to a properly functioning, humane or cohesive society.

Malthusian beliefs show a readily demonstrable lack of accuracy in even remotely predicting the path taken thus far to achieve our contemporary, modern global society, which gives little cause for confidence in being able to predict any future achievable parameters, thereby making it an entirely counterproductive and ultimately fruitless intellectual blind alley for humanity that has the effect of stifling future progress, curtailing ingenuity and thwarting the aspirations of the many for the unvalidated concerns of the few. These beliefs at the very least vastly underestimate, and more accurately fail completely to envisage the seemingly unrelenting developments in such diverse areas as agricultural techniques and improved productivity, medicine and health promotion, birth control and genetic engineering/modification, and crop fertilisation and pest control.

Malthusianism not only lacks the intellectual rigour to take account of the significant and perpetual impact of various technological advancements that have been, and continue inevitably to be, developed across the entire range of human activity (whether industrial, medical, scientific or social), but also it vastly underestimates the flexibility and adaptability of human systems to answer every challenge (within geopolitical limits) that our increasing population has thus far posited, or is likely to into the future. Linear extrapolations of futurist demography are therefore shown to be a highly flawed concept, and take too little account of human resourcefulness and ingenuity, nor the declining birth rates that inevitably come with affluence, nor the effect of the inevitable march of progress that must necessarily occur as the pool of human knowledge expands inexorably merely with the passage of time.

From a philosophical standpoint, Malthusianism as a belief system remains conspicuously rooted in an overly Utopianist mindset that heavily romanticises the traditions of the past, worships the primitive over the modern, and the pre-industrial feudal society over the post-industrial, predominantly egalitarian and largely democratic, while yearning for a simpler and supposedly less complicated existence that avoids the rapid evolutionary change to which we have become increasingly accustomed.

Eugenics, on the other hand, is a set of philosophical beliefs and practices that aim to modify and improve the genetic quality of the human population by actively selecting and promoting desirable genetic traits while simultaneously reducing or eliminating the prevalence of so called undesirable, or merely less desired traits. This may be, in its more benign forms, through genetic screening, birth control, and the promotion of higher rates of sexual reproduction for people with desired traits (positive eugenics), or through reduced rates of sexual reproduction and/or sterilization of people with allegedly less-desired or undesirable traits (negative eugenics), or both. However, this becomes increasingly open to coercive and restrictive policies by those political movements and governments who could exploit the false legitimacy of its roots in scientific methodology and reasoning. Inevitably, these Eugenics policies and programmes eventually come to potentially incorporate such prejudicial and punitive actions as gender selection, marriage restrictions, racial segregation, compulsory sterilization, forced abortions or forced pregnancies, and even on to the extreme human rights abuses of enforced euthanasia, “ethnic cleansing” and genocide.

Advances in genetic engineering, gene selection and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis have conspicuously increased the possibilities for such beliefs to reach new levels of sophistication, and enhanced its opportunities for its broader application, and therefore this emergent technology provides a renewed impetus to rekindle this social philosophy in spite of any negative connotations of its past associations. Fortunately, for those who value the rights of the individual, the reputation of the Eugenics movement remains, at least for the present, indelibly tarnished by the atrocities and genocide committed by its foremost proponents in the early 20th Century, which remains the only practical example thus far upon which to assess the likely outcome of its widespread application should its ideology ever regain intellectual gravitas and attain popular appeal.

The Eugenics movement is thus also predicated upon a completely flawed concept, in that a narrow genetic definition of normality or perfection is more desirable for the benefit of human evolution. This presupposes the rather unlikely possibility that ideal genetic traits could in fact be predicted accurately to maximise our developmental adaptability, beyond of course the clearly beneficial elimination of certain serious genetic diseases or harmful mutations that could alleviate needless suffering. The hypothesis ultimately founders on the failure to comprehend that the vast array of diverse genotypes and phenotypes that comprise the total variety of human characteristics is entirely necessary to humanity’s future survival and prosperity, and this diversity represents a strength that renders our species more resilient and adaptable to a multiplicity of environmental and situational variables. Narrowing the gene pool in the fruitless quest for supposed perfection or the illusion of some optimal genetic composition is a poorly conceived idea which assumes a credibility that it scarcely deserves, given it is essentially a pseudoscientific concept that has very little objective evidence to validate it.

Eugenics advocates mine a similar vein of anti- humanism to the Malthusians in proposing the need for a scientifically planned society in order to arrest the supposed genetic decline of humanity, at the expense of individuality, freedom of choice and the complete suppression of basic human rights. Eugenics at its heart derives from the misapplication of Darwin’s evolutionary theories to human society (in what would come to be euphemistically termed as “Social Darwinism”), and was unfortunately supported at one time or another by such eminent thinkers as H.G Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Alexander Graham Bell, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and many of the various founding members of the Fabian Society. The Fabian Society, originating in the 1880’s, remains a highly influential organisation promoting Marxist ideology and global governance through what they term “quiet gradualism” (as opposed to violent revolutionary activity) and has been instrumental during the course of the 20th century in driving the formation and hegemony of the United Nations (and the League of Nations before it), but also in establishing such bodies as the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

While this outwardly benign organisation ostensibly promotes “international peace, love and brotherhood”, the emblem of their society (a shield with a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing) hints at a somewhat darker purpose, with their putative social justice agenda hiding a more sinister vein of unabashed elitism, laced with overtly racist, segregationist and even fascist overtones (see prominent member George Bernard Shaw’s quotes below as but one example).

Eugenics also gained widespread traction among the political and scientific establishment in the early 20th century, backed by supreme court justices like Oliver Wendell Holmes, august bodies like the National Academy of Sciences, major universities like Harvard and Yale, and was actively advocated by the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations. The Fabians also attained a significant degree of infamy among the more cognisant members of society for their pivotal role as serial apologists for the worst atrocities and injustices perpetrated by Stalin’s Bolshevik totalitarian regime, including the deliberate starvation of 10-12.5 million Ukrainians in the Holodomor genocide.

However, Eugenics reached its apotheosis when adopted with tremendous zeal by Germany’s National Socialist movement, whereupon Adolf Hitler’s plans to establish a global “Aryan Master Race” led predictably to conspicuous levels of mass-murder and ethno-religious genocide, to the eventual discredit of Eugenics as a concept by its egregious association. One can also see from the 1932 International Eugenics Congress proceedings quoted below that an undercurrent of overtly misanthropic and Neo-Malthusian philosophical concerns were central to their belief system also, and these same underlying anti-capitalist and eco-centric ideas have conspicuously and pervasively returned to the fore with renewed vigour in the last 20-30 years or so, if somewhat more covertly and subtly than under the Nazis.

A decade of Progress in Eugenics, Proceeds of the 1932 International Eugenics Congress, p30-31 “The outstanding generalizations of my world tour are what may be summed up as the “six overs”; these “six overs” are, in the genetic order of cause and effect:
1.Over-destruction of natural resources, now actually world-wide;
2.Over-mechanization, in the substitution of the machine for animal and human labor, rapidly becoming world- wide;
3.Over-construction of warehouses, ships, railroads, wharves and other means of transport, replacing primitive transportation;
4.Over-production both of the food and of the mechanical wants of mankind, chiefly during the post-war speculative period;
5.Over-confidence in future demand and supply, resulting in the too rapid extension of natural resources both in food and in mechanical equipment;
6.Over-population beyond the land areas, or the capacity of the natural and scientific resources of the world, with consequent permanent unemployment of the least fitted”.

As a result, however, of the stubborn adherence of an increasing number of prominent individuals to these failed doctrines, the “prophets of doom” have sought to impose a rigid framework of sustainability controls, most clearly represented by the UN Sustainable Development Plan (commonly referred to as “Agenda 21”) that seeks to inculcate a flawed and unscientific belief system upon the broader global society, the likely result of which would be an enforced reduction in the utility of resources (even those that are not immediately or even foreseeably finite), a diminution of effective development and industry, and the unwarranted compromising of individual freedom, self-determination and private enterprise, to the ultimate detriment of the human species.

This mindset, as most readily seen in the writings and quotations of the highly influential John Holdren (President Obama’s chief science advisor) and Paul Ehrlich (ecologist, and charismatic author of “The Population Bomb”), has become all-pervasive among policymakers in the corridors of power in Western democracies (the USA particularly) and in the UN, as well as in the upper echelons of society, and in the ivory towers of various branches of academia. This has unveiled a deeply troubling propensity among these so called “pillars of society” to express the most misanthropic and, some might argue even genocidal beliefs that stand in stark contrast to any pretensions to ethics or morality on behalf of their individual or collective ideology.

A sample of statements by prominent ideologues is found below demonstrating a blithe and, in my opinion, a clearly disdainful willingness to consign large swathes of humanity to an untimely demise, an ultimately blood-thirsty and murderous mindset masquerading behind a spurious concern for “the planet”.

“The moment we face it frankly we are driven to the conclusion that the community has a right to put a price on the right to live in it … If people are fit to live, let them live under decent human conditions. If they are not fit to live, kill them in a decent human way. Is it any wonder that some of us are driven to prescribe the lethal chamber as the solution for the hard cases which are at present made the excuse for dragging all the other cases down to their level, and the only solution that will create a sense of full social responsibility in modern populations?”
Source: George Bernard Shaw, Prefaces (London: Constable and Co., 1934), p. 296.

“A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people’s time to look after them.”

Source: George Bernard Shaw, Lecture to the Eugenics
 Education Society, Reported in The Daily Express, March 4, 1910

Obama’s Science Czar, John Holdren. From the books he co-authored:

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political”

John Holdren, Anne Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (San Francisco; W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973), p. 279.

“Only one rational path is open to us—simultaneous de-development of the [overdeveloped countries] and semi-development of the underdeveloped countries (UDC’s), in order to approach a decent and ecologically sustainable standard of living for all in between. By de-development we mean lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence.”

John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “Introduction,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology, 1971, p.3.

“organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than today’s, and movement toward some kind of world government” (1977: p. 5).

Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1977), p. 954.

From another article:

“Land, because of its unique nature and the crucial role it plays in human settlements, cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. Social justice, urban renewal and development, the provision of decent dwellings-and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole.”

Source: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I): UN Agenda 21 – “Sustainability”.

Quote by Henry Kissinger, Architect of the New World Order:The elderly are useless eaters“. Source: from the book “the Final Days”.

Quote by Henry Kissinger (National Security Memo: 2/24/1974):Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the third world, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries.”

Quote by Club of Rome:“The Earth has cancer and the cancer is Man.”

Quote by John Davis, editor of Earth First! journal:
“Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs.”

Quote by Paul Ehrlich, professor, Stanford University:
“A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. We must shift our efforts from the treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer.”

Quote by John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor:“There exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated…It has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.”

Quote by Christopher Manes, a writer for Earth First! journal:“The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing.”

Quote by Ted Turner, billionaire, founder of CNN and major UN donor, and large CO2 producer:“A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”

Quote by David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!:
“My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”

Quote by David Brower, a founder of the Sierra Club:
“Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.”

Quote by Club of Rome: “…the resultant ideal sustainable population is hence more than 500 million people but less than one billion.”

Quote by Susan Blakemore, a UK Guardian science journalist:“For the planet’s sake, I hope we have bird flu or some other thing that will reduce the population, because otherwise we’re doomed.”

Quote by Paul Ehrlich:“The addition of a temporary sterilant to staple food, or to the water supply. With limited distribution of antidote chemicals, perhaps by lottery.”

Quote by Prince Philip: “I don’t claim to have any special interest in natural history, but as a boy I was made aware of the annual fluctuations in the number of game animals and the need to adjust the cull to the size of the surplus population.”

Quote by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, architect of the new Germanic masterplan, the ‘Great Transformation’:
 “When you imagine that if all these 9 billion people claim all these resources, then the earth will explode.”

Quote by Jacques Cousteau, celebrity French scientist:“In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 per day.”

Quote by UN Commission on Global Biodiversity Assessment:“A reasonable estimate for an industrialized world society at the present North American material standard of living would be 1 billion. At the more frugal European standard of living, 2 to 3 billion would be possible.”

Quote by John Miller, a NOAA climate scientist: “I would be remiss, as a scientist who studied this, if I didn’t mention the following two things: The first is that, most importantly, we need to do, as a society, in this country and globally, whatever we can to reduce population”…..”Our whole economic system is based on growth, and growth of our population, and this economic madness has to end.”

Quote by John Davis, editor of Earth First! journal: 
“I suspect that eradicating small pox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.”

Quote by Prince Philip:“If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to Earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”

Quote by Ingrid Newkirk, a former PETA President: 
“The extinction of Homo Sapiens would mean survival for millions, if not billions, of Earth-dwelling species. Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on Earth – social and environmental.”

Quote by Ted Turner, billionaire, founder of CNN and major UN donor, and large CO2 producer: 
“There are too many people, that’s why we have global warming. We have global warming because too many people are using too much stuff.”

Quote by James Lovelock, known as founder of ‘Gaia’ concept:
“The big threat to the planet is people: there are too many, doing too well economically and burning too much oil.”

Quote by Nina Vsevolod Fedoroff, science advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
“There are probably already too many people on the planet.”

Quote by Al Gore, former U.S. vice president, billionaire, and large CO2 producer:
“Third world nations are producing too many children too fast…it is time to ignore the controversy over family planning and cut out-of-control population growth…”

Quote by Susan Blakemore, a UK Guardian science journalist:“Finally, we might decide that civilisation itself is worth preserving. In that case we have to work out what to save and which people would be needed in a drastically reduced population – weighing the value of scientists and musicians against that of politicians, for example.”

Quote by David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!:“We advocate biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake. It may take our extinction to set things straight.”

Quote by David Graber, scientist U.S. Nat’l Park Services: “We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

Quote by Eric Pianka, professor at University of Texas: “Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Roaston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people.”

Quote by Maurice King, well known UK professor: “Global Sustainability requires the deliberate quest of poverty, reduced resource consumption and set levels of mortality control.”


A common theme emerges in many of these quotations, namely that there are too many people struggling for existence on our planet, that “resources” are finite and fragile and it is somehow offensive to utilise them rather than leave them untouched by human hand in their “pristine natural state”, and that this means that passive neglect, or even active culling of “undesirables” or less worthy beings than themselves is somehow justified, or at least justifiable. Of course, few if any of the above social, business, academic or political leaders opts themselves to ease their burden of humanity upon the planet, nor I’m sure do they volunteer their family or loved ones for the ultimate sacrifice to Gaia. Rather, they intend for those nameless and faceless creatures in far-flung lands, or those in perceived lower socio-economic classes than themselves, who must therefore ultimately sacrifice their aspirations, their livelihoods and their lives on the altar of Nature for the sake of the “greater good”.

Meanwhile, many of these same people display a lifestyle unfettered by such concerns, with “carbon footprints” of often gargantuan proportions, as befits people of such nobility and importance as themselves, no doubt. As Miranda, in William Shakespeare’s  ‘The Tempest’ (and later famously appropriated by Aldous Huxley for the title of his famous dystopian novel), prophetically opined:-

“O brave new world That has such people in’t!”.

It is apparent, therefore, that the fear of dwindling resources and overpopulation, as well as the insidious intention of various intellectual and political elites to exert ultimate social control upon the “lesser’ members of society, are indelibly and inevitably linked to one another. While Eugenics was assumed by many to have been thoroughly and permanently discredited through Hitler’s murderous example, it still has its powerful, largely covert and highly influential advocates who are seemingly endeavouring to rekindled this ideology through propagating a mythology regarding the inevitable diminishment of the bounty and abundance of resources enjoyed in Western society thus far in the latter 20th century through the agency of modern technology and numerous pivotal scientific and technological advances. It is plain that the revival of such an ideology would inevitably lead to a similar trail of suffering and death to that exemplified by Nazism and its ilk, and as a consequence is to be resisted with the utmost vigour by those capable of understanding the lessons of history, and especially those determined not to allow this history any opportunity to repeat itself.

The Academy of Over-rated Films

#1: Lincoln

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A truly bad film, being completely misconceived at its inception and even at times poorly executed by its director, Steven Spielberg. The potentially interesting and compelling story of one of the most important and complex characters in American history, not to mention a small skirmish known as the American Civil War as potential backdrop, has been completely bypassed in favour of a plodding and predictable dissertation regarding the passage of The Emancipation Proclamation (the 13th Amendment) through congress.

Endless scenes showing cabinet discussions in laborious detail with undue emphasis upon the voting by each and every senator (two of whom are factually incorrect), replace what should be a comprehensive depiction of Lincoln the man, including his early life, his influences, his legal and political career, his troubled relationship with his mentally ill wife (Mary Todd), the establishment of “Greenback” currency to brilliantly fund the war effort while maintaining the relative health of the economy under trying circumstances, and especially the no doubt agonizing decision to send his fellow countrymen to war in a conflict that would eventually lead to the deaths of 750,000 soldiers, and inevitably causing untold civilian casualties. Issues of states rights, sectionalism, protectionism, and economic, industrial and territorial disputes that were equally important causes for the civil war are glossed over or ignored, and so is Lincoln’s known at least partial ambivalence to the issue of slavery itself, which some would argue was not as deeply held as depicted, and was likely a mere pretext for initiating war with ulterior, if probably patriotic motives.

Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of his most mesmeric performances as Lincoln, and remains the sole reason for watching this tedious misfire. Nevertheless, even his considerable acting talents must contend with a script that reduces Lincoln to a ponderous automaton, nearly devoid of humanity. There is also a pervading sense of claustrophobia with so many interior dimly lit scenes, which are not counterbalanced by enough external depictions of the battlegrounds, nor the cities in wartime or the broader society to give the senatorial machinations much needed context at least, if not lending a modicum of the epic quality and majestic sweep to the proceedings one might expect in such a complex story.

Among many mishandled moments in the film, an initial scene near the battlefront where Lincoln is sitting engaged in a highly unlikely casual conversation with two black soldiers, both of whom speaking with Ivy League accents using meticulous grammar, and sporting gleaming white “Hollywood” teeth which seems not only patently improbable and ridiculous, but completely artificial and terminally “politically correct”. To crown a comprehensively inglorious display by both scriptwriter and director, the finale deals with Lincoln’s assassination merely by reporting on it second hand, rather than a scene, perhaps from Lincoln’s perspective, of his last moments of life in what is perhaps the second most famous political assassination in history. I would therefore rate “Lincoln” as the most over-rated film of all time, as it is rare that so highly praised a film misses so many opportunities for drama, insight, emotion, human interest or historical accuracy.

#2: Avatar

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Massively over-hyped, ultra-expensive Sci-Fi opus that was billed as the “Star Wars” of its generation. Unfortunately, Avatar fares particularly poorly in comparison to this popular film, being merely an admittedly entertaining but highly derivative and somewhat predictable CGI-laden spectacle, devoid of the mythic qualities, complexities of plot or the nuance of character development found in its predecessor. The ludicrously named “Unobtainium” is the supposed raison d’etre for rapacious humankind to strip-mine with impunity the pristine environment of the distant, verdant planet of Pandora.

In his depiction of the creatures who inhabit this planet, James Cameron draws far too heavily (and cynically) on native American culture for comfort, and his Gaia-worshipping neo-pagan hippie pseudo-philosophy in the central premise of “connectedness” with the planet of indigenous “peoples” presents a woefully naïve and idealized view of “noble savages” being pitted against ruthlessly evil capitalist exploitation. Cardboard cutout, generic character types abound, with the chief villain Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) particularly being a one-dimensional caricature of a mindlessly bloodthirsty military killing machine consumed by hatred and blood-lust, whose sole purpose is to kill as many of his adversary as possible regardless of the justification or the morality involved.

Needless to say, Avatar was incredibly popular at the box office, which bears testament to the falling standards and expectations of a jaded and completely uncritical viewing public, rather than any auspicious merit in the film beyond its special effects and its pre-publicity.

#3: Wolf of Wall Street

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Director Martin Scorsese’s dramatisation of the rise and fall of Wall Street stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, is a lurid and gratuitous exercise in justification of an amoral narcissist, unrepentantly running roughshod over friend and foe alike. The film veers dangerously away from a much needed penetrating analysis, toward an adolescent and leering celebration of unbridled hedonism, taking unseemly pleasure in forensically and extensively detailing the pleasures of rampant drug use, fetishism and orgiastic sexual exploitation. The film is also a relentlessly misogynistic work in which women are purely perceived sexually and are routinely used and discarded, or victims of serial sexual infidelity, and the story is thus totally devoid of moral context by also giving no balancing insight into the plight of the innocent victims of Belfort’s criminal stock speculation activities.

Scorsese seems inordinately in awe of Belfort’s lifestyle, even going so far as to present his eventual jail term as nothing more than a brief time out playing tennis at a “resort”, rather than showing any harsh penal punishment suitable to the callous disregard for the law and for others that Belfort serially displayed throughout his life as a Wall Street trader. Scorsese even goes to the trouble of glossing over Belfort’s eventual betrayal of his friends to the FBI by fabricating a scene in which Belfort tries to warn his puerile and annoying best friend that he is wearing a wire (in order to protect him from exposure as complicit in illegal acts), when in reality the real life Belfort acted purely out of self-preservation when rolling over on all of his co-conspirators at the first opportunity to lighten his own sentence.

That such a film has served to further enrich the convicted felon Jordan Belfort through the sale of film rights while simultaneously propagating a highly whitewashed version of his “story” (with an undeservedly sympathetic portrayal of the facts) is particularly galling, and unfortunately merely exemplifies Hollywood’s sorry history in acting as serial apologist for narcissistic individuals, and in glorifying gratuitous drug taking and lionising criminal behaviour.

#4: Gone with the Wind

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Overblown and episodic soap opera notable for its abrupt shifts in tone, likely due to the artistic guidance and supervision of three separate directors during its making (George Cukor, Victor Fleming and Sam Wood). Excellent performances by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh cannot make up for deficiencies in the plot, nor an insipid performance from Leslie Howard, or even a nauseatingly pious Olivia de Havilland.

The film also takes an overly romanticized and nostalgic view of the slave owning southerners, and is filled with caricature portrayals of many of the subordinate characters, especially those of colour. The set pieces are indeed brilliant (the burning of Atlanta, the wounded soldiers filling the town square, etc.), and it contains many powerful and even iconic scenes between Rhett and Scarlett, but overall, while a very good film, GWTW falls short of the accolades and universal acclaim accorded it, even allowing for the passage of time.

#5: Titanic

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An epic film in scope, but one that follows a similar template to GWTW, in that its set pieces are excellent and well handled, but some connecting scenes leave much to be desired, with some bordering on farcical.

Good performances from Leonardo Di Caprio, certainly too young to be remotely believable in the role notwithstanding, and especially from a luminous Kate Winslet enliven the romantic angle of the somewhat hackneyed plot, but this is fatally undermined by ludicrous scenes of Billy Zane roaming through the sinking ship attempting to shoot the lovers in a fit of jealousy, while thereafter his offsider, played with exaggerated villainy by David Warner, frames Di Caprio’s character for a robbery he didn’t commit and then allows him to remain handcuffed in the sinking ship in order to murder him in cold blood, for reasons which would seem elusive given the scale of the disaster that was unfolding, not to mention the lack of any personal motivation whatsoever for him to spitefully consign our hero to such an awful fate.

Similarly, a rather trite monologue by Bill Paxton as he ponders the “significance” of finding the Titanic’s wreck also undermines the intended effect, while Gloria Stuart ultimately throwing the much-treasured jewel overboard at the finale completely strains our capacity to suspend our collective disbelief.

#6: The Sound of Music

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A highly saccharine and completely contrived concoction. The film concerns a virginal ex-postulant employed as a governess (Julie Andrews) and falling into dewy-eyed romance with jut-jawed Austrian widower Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), while caring for and nurturing his seven motherless children, singing away merrily to the backdrop of picture-postcard alpine scenery, and frolicking among the edelweiss. When the Nazi’s come to power and are hell-bent on recruiting the good and noble Captain to their cause, the family are forced to flee en route to a concert in Salzburg, to escape their homeland and start anew abroad, away from the tyranny of Nazism.

The musical numbers are certainly memorable, the scenery beautiful if somewhat idealized and the escape, such that it is, has mildly chilling moments of suspense. Nevertheless, Robert Wise’s hugely successful film remains cloying and artificial, with infuriatingly idealized depictions of the family and their story, which could have withstood a more authentic depiction without resorting to excessive sugar coating or predictable stereotypes. The film remains notable for its inspiration for the Mel Brook’s comedy “The Producers”, including especially its hilarious parody of Broadway musicals, “Springtime for Hitler”.

#7: Saving Private Ryan

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Wildly over-praised and over-hyped film is the third dealing with the subject of WW2 by director Steven Spielberg, and it is his least effective, the most derivative and the most contrived of the trio. “Saving Private Ryan” is fatally undermined by its implausible premise, that a troop of soldiers are assigned to “rescue” a soldier, through the heart of German lines during the Normandy invasion no less, because his four siblings have all perished during the war and thereby provoking not only fear of adverse publicity that another death in the same family would cause, but also demonstrating compassion for a mother’s circumstances in losing so many children in the service of her country (a narrative borrowing liberally from the real life story of the Sullivan family in the Pacific theatre of WW2 operations).

The initial framing sequence veers dangerously toward mawkish sentimentality replete with bucketloads of heavy-handed Stars & Stripes flag waving symbolism, but is then quickly followed by the landing on Omaha beach, an admittedly impressive 20 minute supposedly “real time” interlude of thunderous barrages, where the full horror of war, death and destruction is filmed in gruesome, fly-on-the-wall detail. Historical inaccuracies of the depiction of the landing aside (and these are numerous), America’s Allies are egregiously given barely a mention and relegated to mere bystanders in the conflict, with the sole exception of one derogatory remark in passing about the capabilities (or lack thereof) of British General Montgomery. Meanwhile, their German adversaries are depicted throughout the film as either incompetent and disorganized fighters (nothing could be further from the truth), or as mindless psychopathic killers without even a hint of morality or humanity.

Such a lack of insightful perspective into the vicissitudes of war and the similarities in experiences of soldiers on both sides (as compared to “All Quiet on the Western Front” for example), as well as its exclusively American-centred viewpoint (complete with prominent Stars & Stripes flag-waving at the beginning and end of the film), gives the film an overtly jingoistic tone and a two-dimensional outlook that is largely unsatisfying to discerning viewers looking for a more well-rounded, objective and thoughtful treatise on WW2 and the soldiers fighting in it.

The latter part of the film, while professionally filmed, is entirely derivative, predictable and not a little overly patriotic, and not especially memorable or distinguished either. The film therefore pales in comparison to its contemporaneous companion piece, Terence Mallick’s “The Thin Red Line”, which has intellectual depth and an emotional resonance that “Ryan” fails comprehensively to match.

#8: Forrest Gump

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Overly sentimental and at times exploitative morality tale with a problematic message is, despite its rather mindlessly entertaining trappings, a largely empty vessel of vacuous homilies and sweeping generalisations in trying vainly to capture a broad 30 year era of American history through the eyes of its intellectually impaired protagonist. Forrest is in some ways quite an endearing character, but is essentially incapable of learning or emotional connection with anything he does, and his  character is by turns often incredibly irritating or unbearably cloying. This perception is thanks mainly to some heavy handedness in the script, that seeks too readily to milk emotional responses out of its audience that are not always proportionate or warranted by the action taking place, and often straining for significance where there is little or none.

Competently made, at times brilliantly edited and somewhat ingeniously packaged, Zemeckis’ film contains the germ of a good tragi-comedy, but instead of being insightful and showing Forrest’s character grow through the action of the film, he is content to have him portrayed as a frustratingly passive and intransigent cipher, a blank canvas swept along by the events that surround him without ever questioning or engaging with them. As such, the film is very much like a box of chocolates, superficially pleasing but leaving one feeling guilty afterwards, and finding one’s hunger for something more substantial largely unsatisfied.

#9: The Shawshank Redemption

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The highest rated film on the IMDb database, this paint-by-numbers prison yarn packs in every genre cliché from the “Defiant Ones” to “Escape From Alcatraz” to “The Big House” to “I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang” into one solid, workmanlike yet somewhat unexceptional prison film.

Even though “Shawshank Redemption” is hardly ground-breaking (and possibly somewhat derivative), it does boast strong performances by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, sharp dialogue and reasonable production values, however it is undermined by some glaring plot holes that strain credibility, a caricature religious bigot in the shape of a corrupt Warden Norton (Bob Gunton), and most notably by the rather repellent notion of prison guards portrayed uniformly as brutal villains while the violent rapists and murderers in Shawshank Prison are made to appear as delightful rogues or reformed saints.

The absence of any racial conflict in the prison also appeals as particularly far-fetched, while the witty and erudite dialogue from otherwise illiterate prisoners appears false and rather contrived. All in all, it is a reasonably proficient and entertaining film that is wildly overpraised by those who are otherwise starved of quality cinema for a more reasoned and well-rounded perspective. 

#10: Pulp Fiction

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A relentlessly incoherent pastiche of old gangster movie clichés, dressed up in modern garb and blessed with dialogue that is at times undoubtedly mordantly funny, but mostly is defined by endless annoying prattle which diverts off into various tangents that distract from any semblance of plot thread for audiences to follow. Ground breaking after its own sloppy and non-linear fashion, and spawning many inferior and often downright awful imitators (for which alone it could possibly stand condemned), it is perhaps a little too smug and self-satisfied with its “coolness” for its own good, and its casual violence loses its shock value after the first reel and becomes somewhat tiresome as the movie rambles its way to its eventual conclusion.

Some scenes clearly stick in the mind, especially Thurman and Travolta engaged in their dance at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, and the heroin overdose scene to name but two, and its endless referencing of old Blaxploitation, Kung Fu or classic movies, potboiler crime fiction or other popular culture icons can become a bit wearing after a while, the whole film coming across as too preconceived and attention seeking to warrant the accolades effusively accorded it.

As such, Pulp Fiction is no doubt an influential film that shook up the staid 1990’s Hollywood approach to cinema literacy, however I for one found its somewhat unique take on the genre to be an intellectual blind alley that left little leeway to expand upon further, as evidenced by Tarantino’s increasingly dwindling cinematic legacy subsequent to this film, which along with “Reservoir Dogs” remains his signature success.

Other Notable Nominees include:

 12 Years A Slave                               
The English Patient imagesThe Piano imagesElizabeth imagesShakespeare in Love imagesAs Good As It Gets imagesThe Player imagesNashville imagesTom Jones images8 and 1/2 imagesKlute imagesShane imagesMrs. Miniver imagesThe Best Years of Our Lives images   Crash

Scent of a Woman

Academy of All-time Great Films

 

The following lists represent the very best feature length films in cinema history, according to this reviewer at least. Firstly, the general all category list that includes the “Best Of The Best”, followed by lists for each major genre, represented with a top 25, 50, 75, 100 or 150 film list, and that are then placed in order of (entirely subjective) merit:

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The Top 50 All- time Great Films (All Categories):

1.Citizen Kane (1941)

2.La Règle Du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) (1939)

3.Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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4.Shichinin No Samurai (The Seven Samurai) (1954)

5.Viridiana (1961)

6.Les Enfants Du Paradis (The Children Of Paradise) (1944)

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7.Vertigo (1958)

8.Paths Of Glory (1957)

9.City Lights (1931)

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10.Ran (1985)

11.The Third Man (1949)

12.The Searchers (1956)

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13.The Godfather (1972)

14.2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

15.Det Sjunde Inseglet (The Seventh Seal) (1957)

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16.Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

17.M (1931)

18.Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

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19.The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

20.Fanny And Alexander (1982)

21.Andrei Rublev (1966)

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22.El Espíritu De La Colmena (The Spirit Of The Beehive) (1973)

23.La Grande Illusion (The Grand Illusion) (1937)

24.On The Waterfront (1954)

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25.Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage) (1921)

26.Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle (The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser) (1974)

27.Rashomon (1951)

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28.Days Of Heaven (1978)

29.La Belle Et La Bête (The Beauty And The Beast) (1946)

30.Kwaidan (1964)

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31.Kumonosu-jō (Throne Of Blood) (1957)

32.My Darling Clementine (1946)

33.Double Indemnity (1944)

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34.Schindler’s List (1993)

35.Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949)

36.Out Of The Past (1947)

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37.Rear Window (1954)

38.Badlands (1973)

39.Smultronstallet (Wild Strawberries) (1957)

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40.Sherlock Jr. (1924)

41.Chinatown (1974)

42.The Chimes At Midnight (1965)

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43.Suna No Onna (The Woman In The Dunes) (1964)

44.Solaris (1972)

45.Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

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46.The Night Of The Hunter (1955)

47.Apocalypse Now (1979)

48.The General (1927)

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49.Sunrise (1927)

50.Popiół I Diament (Ashes And Diamonds) (1958)

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The Next Best 150 All-time Great Films For Honourable Mention:

(in release year order)

Nosferatu, A Symphony Of Terror (1922)

Our Hospitality (1923)

Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) (1924)

The Gold Rush (1925)

The Big Parade (1925)

Faust (1926)

Metropolis (1927)

Docks of New York (1928)

The Crowd (1928)

La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) (1928)

Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929)

Die Büchse Der Pandora (Pandora’s Box) (1929)

Chelovek S Kinoapparatom (The Man With the Movie Camera) (1929)

Zemlya (Earth) (1930)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Frankenstein (1931)

Love Me Tonight (1932)

Boudu Sauve des Eaux (Boudu Saved From Drowning) (1932)

Trouble In Paradise (1932)

L’Atalante (The Passing Barge) (1934)

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

David Copperfield (1935)

Modern Times (1936)

My Man Godfrey (1936)

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)

Gone With The Wind (1939)

The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Stagecoach (1939)

Midnight (1939)

The Grapes Of Wrath (1940)

Pinocchio (1940)

Rebecca (1940)

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Casablanca (1942)

Vredens Dag (Day Of Wrath) (1943)

Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)

Great Expectations (1946)

Une Partie de Campagne (A Day in the Country) (1946)

Henry V (1946)

Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thief) (1948)

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Red River (1948)

Asphalt Jungle (1950)

All About Eve (1950)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Umberto D (1952)

High Noon (1952)

Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games) (1952)

Ikiru (To Live) (1952)

The Wages Of Fear (1953)

Earrings Of Madame De… (1953)

Ugetsu (1953)

La Strada (The Road) (1954)

Sansho The Bailiff (1954)

Rififi (1955)

The Ladykillers (1955)

Ordet (1955)

Sommarnattens Leende (Smiles of A Summer Night) (1955)

Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) (1957)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Touch of Evil (1958)

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Le Quatre Cent Coups (The 400 Blows) (1959)

North by Northwest (1959)

Psycho (1960)

Spartacus (1960)

Yojimbo (1961)

Ivanovo Detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) (1962)

Harakiri (1962)

Les Dimanches De Ville D’Avray (Sundays And Cybele) (1962)

Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (1963)

Dr Strangelove (1964)

Gamlet (Hamlet) (1964)

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965)

Repulsion (1965)

Vonya I Mir (War And Peace) (1966)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Persona (1966)

Battle Of Algiers (1966)

A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Belle de Jour (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

The Lion In Winter (1968)

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Patton (1970)

Il Conformista (The Conformist) (1970)

The Last Picture Show (1971)

Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (1972)

Cries and Whispers (1972)

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Mean Streets (1973)

The Conversation (1973)

Barry Lyndon (1973)

The Godfather, Part II (1974)

Lacombe Lucien (1974)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Zerkalo (Mirror) (1975)

The Day Of The Locust (1975)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1976)

Being There (1979)

Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) (1979)

Tess (1979)

Manhattan (1979)

Wise Blood (1979)

Atlantic City (1980)

Kagemusha (1980)

The Elephant Man (1980)

Raging Bull (1980)

Mephisto (1981)

Gallipoli (1981)

Reds (1981)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)

Danton (1983)

1984 (1984)

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

The Killing Fields (1984)

Paris, Texas (1984)

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

Come And See (1985)

The Last Emperor (1987)

Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye Children) (1987)

Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) (1988)

Glory (1989)

Crimes And Misdemeanors (1989)

Mountains Of The Moon (1990)

Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

Raise The Red Lantern (1991)

Black Robe (1992)

Farewell My Concubine (1993)

Utomlennye Solntsem (Burnt By The Sun) (1994)

Richard III (1995)

Seven (1995)

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

The Thin Red Line (1998)

In The Mood For Love (2000)

The Pianist (2002)

Cidade De Deus (City Of God) (2002)

One Hour Photo (2002)

Der Untergang (Downfall) (2003)

El Laberinto Del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) (2006)

Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives Of Others) (2006)

El Orfanato (The Orphanage) (2007)

El Secreto De Sus Ojos (The Secret In Their Eyes) (2009)

Tree Of Life (2011)

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Westerns:

  1. The Searchers (1956)
  2. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
  3. My Darling Clementine (1946)
  4. High Noon (1952)
  5. Stagecoach (1939)
  6. Red River (1948)
  7. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  8. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
  9. The Far Country (1954)
  10. A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)
  11. Unforgiven (1992)
  12. El Dorado (1966)
  13. The Gunfighter (1950)
  14. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
  15. Winchester 73 (1950)
  16. Ride The High Country (1962)
  17. Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)
  18. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  19. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  20. Hud (1963)
  21. Rio Grande (1950)
  22. For A Few Dollars More (1965)
  23. Tombstone (1993)
  24. The Naked Spur (1953)
  25. The Shootist (1976)

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Science Fiction Films:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  2. Solaris (1972)
  3. Blade Runner (1982)
  4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  5. Alien (1979)
  6. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
  7. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  8. Metropolis (1927)
  9. 1984 (1984)
  10. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  11. Stalker (1979)
  12. Terminator (1984)
  13. Brazil (1985)
  14. Inception (2010)
  15. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  16. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
  17. Seconds (1966)
  18. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  19. Minority Report (2002)
  20. Moon (2008)
  21. Aliens (1986)
  22. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  23. Children Of Men (2006)
  24. The Martian (2015)
  25. The Matrix (1999)

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Comedy Films:

  1. City Lights (1931)
  2. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  3. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
  4. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
  5. Midnight (1939)
  6. My Man Godfrey (1936)
  7. Trouble In Paradise (1932)
  8. Some Like It Hot (1959)
  9. Dr Strangelove (Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) (1964)
  10. To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
  11. The Ladykillers (1955)
  12. The Producers (1967)
  13. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  14. It Happened One Night (1934)
  15. Manhattan (1979)
  16. The General (1926)
  17. Duck Soup (1933)
  18. Modern Times (1936)
  19. Groundhog Day (1993)
  20. His Girl Friday (1940)
  21. The Lady Eve (1941)
  22. The Gold Rush (1925)
  23. Boudu Sauve des Eaux (Boudu Saved From Drowning)(1932)
  24. Our Hospitality (1923)
  25. Life Of Brian (1979) 

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Animated Films:

  1. Pinocchio (1940)
  2. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  3. Toy Story (1995)
  4. The Lion King (1994)
  5. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
  6. Spirited Away (2001))
  7. Beauty And The Beast (1991)
  8. The Wind Rises (2013)
  9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  10. Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (1993)
  11. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  12. Princess Mononoke (1997)
  13. Finding Nemo (2003)
  14. Up (2009)
  15. Wolf Children (2012)
  16. Dumbo (1941)
  17. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
  18. Toy Story 3 (2010)
  19. Cinderella (1950)
  20. Akira (1988)
  21. The Iron Giant (1999)
  22. 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)
  23. Aladdin (1992)
  24. The Jungle Book (1967)
  25. Fantasia (1940)

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Horror & Ghost Story Films:

  1. Nosferatu: A Symphony Of Terror (1922)
  2. Frankenstein (1931)
  3. Kwaidan (1964)
  4. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
  5. Don’t Look Now (1973)
  6. Psycho (1960)
  7. Alien (1979)
  8. The Orphanage (2007)
  9. Jaws (1975)
  10. The Shining (1980)
  11. Repulsion (1965)
  12. Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
  13. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  14. Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
  15. The Innocents (1961)
  16. The Exorcist (1973)
  17. Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)
  18. The Birds (1963)
  19. Cat People (1942)
  20. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
  21. The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)
  22. Dr Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1931)
  23. I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
  24. Vampyr (1932)
  25. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

 

The Top 25 All-time Great War Films:

  1. Paths Of Glory (1957)
  2. La Grande Illusion (1937)
  3. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
  4. Schindler’s List (1993)
  5. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  6. Popiół I Diament (Ashes And Diamonds) (1958)
  7. Come And See (1985)
  8. The Thin Red Line (1998)
  9. Lacombe Lucien (1974)
  10. The Pianist (2002)
  11. Ivan’s Childhood (1962)
  12. The Tin Drum (1979)
  13. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
  14. Downfall (2003)
  15. Das Boot (1981)
  16. Patton (1970)
  17. Glory (1989)
  18. Battle Of Algiers (1966)
  19. Gallipoli (1981)
  20. The Deerhunter (1978)
  21. Soldier Of Orange (1977)
  22. The Bridge (1959)
  23. Army Of Shadows (1969)
  24. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)
  25. Twelve O’Clock High (1949)

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Mystery/Suspense Films:

  1. Citizen Kane (1941)
  2. Vertigo (1958)
  3. The Third Man (1949)
  4. Rashomon (1950)
  5. Chinatown (1974)
  6. Rear Window (1954)
  7. Out Of The Past (1947)
  8. Rebecca (1940)
  9. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  10. Touch of Evil (1958)
  11. The Secret In Their Eyes (2009)
  12. Laura (1944)
  13. Diabolique (1955)
  14. Seven (1995)
  15. The Big Sleep (1946)
  16. The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
  17. North By Northwest (1959)
  18. Tell No One (2006)
  19. Fargo (1996)
  20. The Usual Suspects (1995)
  21. Notorious (1946)
  22. And Then There Were None (1945)
  23. Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)
  24. The Vanishing (1988)
  25. Gosford Park (2001) 

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Shakespeare Adaptations*:

  1. Ran (Kurosawa, 1985)
  2. Throne Of Blood (Kurosawa, 1957)
  3. Chimes At Midnight (Welles, 1965)
  4. Henry V (Olivier, 1944)
  5. Hamlet (Kozintsev, 1964)
  6. Richard III (Loncraine, 1995)
  7. Henry V (Branagh, 1989)
  8. Othello (Welles, 1952)
  9. King Lear (Kozintsev, 1971)
  10. West Side Story (1961)
  11. Macbeth (Polanski, 1971)
  12. Hamlet (Branagh, 1996)
  13. Macbeth (Welles, 1958)
  14. A Double Life (1947)
  15. The Lion King (1994)
  16. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dieterle, 1935)
  17. Hamlet (Olivier, 1948)
  18. Othello (Olivier, 1965)
  19. Romeo And Juliet (Zeffirelli, 1968)
  20. My Own Private Idaho (Van Sant, 1991)
  21. Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh, 1993)
  22. Julius Caesar (Mankewiecz) 1953)
  23. Forbidden Planet (1956)
  24. Richard III (Olivier, 1955)
  25. Merchant Of Venice (Radford, 2004)

* Note, some films in this list include the name of the director or principal actor involved in order to differentiate from those versions of the play with the same or similar titles, or even (with Kozintsev’s and Peter Brook’s films of King Lear in 1971) when two versions of the same play were produced in the very same year.

 

The Top 50 All-time Great Fantasy Films:

(excluding Horror** and Sci Fi)

  1. The Seventh Seal (1957)
  2. The Phantom Carriage (1921)
  3. La Belle Et La Bete (1946)
  4. Kwaidan (1964)**
  5. Woman In The Dunes (1964)
  6. Wings Of Desire (1988)
  7. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  8. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
  9. Faust (1926)
  10. Ugestu (1953)
  11. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
  12. King Kong (1933)
  13. Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
  14. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
  15. The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1944)
  16. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
  17. The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  18. A Matter Of Life And Death (1946)
  19. Excalibur (1981)
  20. Groundhog Day (1993)
  21. The Truman Show (1998)
  22. The Thief Of Bagdad (1940)
  23. Midnight In Paris (2011)
  24. The City Of Lost Children (1995)
  25. Big Fish (2003)
  26. Orpheus (1950)
  27. The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)
  28. Lost Horizon (1937)
  29. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
  30. The Dark Knight (2008)
  31. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2003)
  32. Being John Malkovich (1999)
  33. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 &2 (2010)
  34. Heaven Can Wait (1943)
  35. Hugo (2011)
  36. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)
  37. Blithe Spirit (1945)
  38. Die Nibelungen: Parts 1 & 2 (1924)
  39. Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince (2009)
  40. Big (1988)
  41. The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (2003)
  42. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)
  43. Forrest Gump (1994)
  44. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  45. Babe (1995)
  46. Mary Poppins (1964)
  47. Alice (1988)
  48. Amélie (2001)
  49. Where The Wild Things Are (2009)
  50. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

 

** Note: Although Kwaidan (1964) is listed also under horror, this Japanese ghost story film has four segments, some of which would be more accurately defined as within the horror genre, while other segments are more in the realm of fantasy, hence its inclusion in both lists (which are otherwise exclusive of each other).

 

The Top 50 All-time Great Adventure Films:

  1. The Seven Samurai (1954)
  2. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  3. Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
  4. The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)
  5. Spartacus (1960)
  6. Black Robe (1992)
  7. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (1972)
  8. Mountains Of The Moon (1990)
  9. The African Queen (1951)
  10. Yojimbo (1961)
  11. Deliverance (1972)
  12. The Wages Of Fear (1953)
  13. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
  14. Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003)
  15. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
  16. King Kong (1933)
  17. Fitzcarraldo (1982)
  18. Dersu Uzala (1975)
  19. The Duellists (1979)
  20. War and Peace (1966)
  21. Captain’s Courageous (1937)
  22. The Sea Hawk (1940)
  23. Excalibur (1981)
  24. The New World (2005)
  25. The Treasure of The Sierra Madre (1948)
  26. To Have and Have Not (1944)
  27. Gladiator (2000)
  28. Braveheart (1995)
  29. Zulu (1964)
  30. Barry Lyndon (1975)
  31. Gunga Din (1939)
  32. Sanjuro (1962)
  33. The Black Pirate (1926)
  34. The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)
  35. The Revenant (2015)
  36. Papillon (1973)
  37. Mosquito Coast (1986)
  38. The Right Stuff (1983)
  39. The Mission (1986)
  40. Blood Diamond (2006)
  41. The Bounty (1984)
  42. Moby Dick (1956)
  43. Beau Geste (1939)
  44. The Flight Of The Phoenix (1965)
  45. Moonfleet (1955)
  46. The Four Feathers (1939)
  47. Lives of A Bengal Lancer (1935)
  48. The Perfect Storm (2000)
  49. Kim (1950)
  50. Charge Of The Light Brigade (1936) 

 

The Top 75 All-time Great Crime/Gangster Films:

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. M (1931)
  3. On The Waterfront (1954)
  4. Double Indemnity (1944)
  5. Out Of The Past (1947)
  6. Badlands (1973)
  7. Chinatown (1974)
  8. Touch Of Evil (1958)
  9. Atlantic City (1980)
  10. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
  11. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  12. Bonnie And Clyde (1967)
  13. Mean Streets (1973)
  14. Thieves Like Us (1974)
  15. White Heat (1949)
  16. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
  17. The Big Sleep (1946)
  18. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
  19. Rififi (1955)
  20. Taxi Driver (1976)
  21. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
  22. City Of God (2002)
  23. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
  24. Seven (1995)
  25. Le Doulos (1962)
  26. Fargo (1996)
  27. Witness (1985)
  28. Bob Le Flambeur (1956)
  29. Goodfellas (1990)
  30. High And Low (1963)
  31. The Yakuza (1974)
  32. Night And The City (1950)
  33. Big Heat (1953)
  34. Road To Perdition (2002)
  35. Eastern Promises (2007)
  36. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  37. The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973)
  38. In The Heat Of The Night (1967)
  39. The Long Good Friday (1980)
  40. Le Samourai (1967)
  41. Manhunter (1986)
  42. The Untouchables (1987)
  43. High Sierra (1941)
  44. Thelma And Louise (1991)
  45. The French Connection (1971)
  46. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  47. Scarface (1983)
  48. Casino (1995)
  49. Heat (1995)
  50. Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)
  51. L. A. Confidential (1997)
  52. Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
  53. A History Of Violence (2005)
  54. Stray Dog (1949)
  55. Internal Affairs (2002)- Hong Kong
  56. Prizzi’s Honor (1985)
  57. Crossfire (1947)
  58. Charley Varrick (1973)
  59. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  60. The Killing (1956)
  61. Heavenly Creatures (1994)
  62. Public Enemy (1931)
  63. Dirty Harry (1971)
  64. Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)
  65. Sicario (2015)
  66. Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (2008)
  67. Shoot The Piano Player (1960)
  68. Scarface: The Shame Of The Nation (1932)
  69. Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954)
  70. The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
  71. The Departed (2006)
  72. The Taking Of Pelham 123 (1974)
  73. Prince Of The City (1981)
  74. I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932)
  75. Little Caesar (1930)

 

The Top 150 All-time Great Historical/Period Drama Films:

(Pre- WW1 excluding Westerns)

  1. The Seven Samurai (1954)
  2. Les Enfants Du Paradis (The Children Of Paradise) (1945)
  3. Ran (1985)
  4. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  5. Fanny And Alexander (1982)
  6. Andrei Rublev (1966)
  7. The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
  8. Rashomon (1951)
  9. The Leopard (1963)
  10. A Man For All Seasons (1966)
  11. Danton (1983)
  12. Spartacus (1960)
  13. Kagemusha (1980)
  14. Day Of Wrath (1943)
  15. Sansho The Bailiff (1954)
  16. The Elephant Man (1980)
  17. Harakiri (1962)
  18. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928)
  19. Raise The Red Lantern (1991)
  20. Yojimbo (1961)
  21. Black Robe (1991)
  22. Mountains Of The Moon (1990)
  23. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
  24. The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)
  25. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (1972)
  26. The Lion In Winter (1968)
  27. The New World (2005)
  28. Great Expectations (1946)
  29. Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
  30. Wuthering Heights (1939)
  31. The Duellists (1977)
  32. Tess (1979)
  33. Vonya I Mir (War And Peace) (1966)
  34. Barry Lyndon (1975)
  35. Ben Hur (1959)
  36. Ugetsu (1953)
  37. David Copperfield (1935)
  38. Gone With The Wind (1939)
  39. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
  40. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  41. Glory (1989)
  42. The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
  43. Lust For Life (1956)
  44. The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
  45. Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003)
  46. Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
  47. Gladiator (2000)
  48. Alexander Nevsky (1938)
  49. Viva Zapata (1952)
  50. The Prestige (2006)
  51. Oliver Twist (1948)
  52. Becket (1964)
  53. The Heiress (1949)
  54. Breaker Morant (1980)
  55. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
  56. Braveheart (1995)
  57. Earrings Of Madam De… (1953)
  58. Dances With Wolves (1990)
  59. Titanic (1997)
  60. San Francisco (1936)
  61. Samurai Rebellion (1967)
  62. Jane Eyre (1943)
  63. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  64. The Mission (1986)
  65. King Of Kings (1961)
  66. Amadeus (1984)
  67. 1900 (1976)
  68. The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)
  69. Nicholas And Alexandria (1971)
  70. The Patriot (2000)
  71. The Last Samurai (2003)
  72. The Private Life Of Henry VIII (1933)
  73. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
  74. Camille (1936)
  75. Queen Christina (1933)
  76. The Emigrants (1971)
  77. La Ronde (1950) 
  78. Ivan The Terrible Parts 1 & 2 (1944 & 1958)
  79. The Color Purple (1985)
  80. The Illusionist (2006)
  81. The Ten Commandments (1956)
  82. The Fall Of The Roman Empire (1964)
  83. The Age Of Innocence (1993)
  84. A Tale Of Two Cities (1935)
  85. Kundun (1997)
  86. The Piano (1993)
  87. Northwest Passage (1940)
  88. Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975)
  89. Sense And Sensibility (1995)
  90. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
  91. Gangs Of New York (2002)
  92. Anna Karenina (1935)
  93. Hero (2002)
  94. Zulu (1964)
  95. Ragtime (1981)
  96. Pride and Prejudice (1940)
  97. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
  98. Elizabeth (1998)
  99. Wilson (1944)
  100. The Life Of Emile Zola (1937)

 

(Post WW1 excluding Gangster and War films)

  1. Spirit Of The Beehive (1973)
  2. Days Of Heaven (1978)
  3. The Killing Fields (1984)
  4. The Grapes Of Wrath (1940)
  5. The Last Emperor (1987)
  6. Farewell My Concubine (1993)
  7. Reds (1981)
  8. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
  9. Mephisto (1981)
  10. Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  11. Battle Of Algiers (1966)
  12. The Last Picture Show (1971)
  13. The Imitation Game (2014)
  14. The Conformist (1970)
  15. The Tin Drum (1979)
  16. Hope And Glory (1987)
  17. Utomlennye Solntsem (Burnt By The Sun) (1994)
  18. Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games) (1952)
  19. Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)
  20. The Reader (2008)
  21. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  22. The Aviator (2004)
  23. Red Sorghum (1987)
  24. The Year Of Living Dangerously (1982)
  25. Tucker: A Man And His Dream (1988)
  26. Empire Of the Sun (1987)
  27. Gandhi (1982)
  28. The Remains Of The Day (1993)
  29. Malcolm X (1992)
  30. Bound For Glory (1976)
  31. Atonement (2007)
  32. Papillon (1973)
  33. The King’s Speech (2010)
  34. The Right Stuff (1983)
  35. Bridge Of Spies (2015)
  36. The Diary Of Ann Frank (1959)
  37. The Chant Of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978)
  38. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
  39. Life Is Beautiful (1988)
  40. The Sting (1973)
  41. Pretty Baby (1978)
  42. Matewan (1987)
  43. Apollo 13 (1995)
  44. JFK (1991)
  45. The Informer (1935)
  46. The Last King Of Scotland (2006)
  47. Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
  48. Out Of Africa (1985)
  49. Chariots Of Fire (1981)
  50. The English Patient (1996)

 

The Top 25 All-time Great Silent Drama Films:

  1. Sunrise (1927)
  2. The Phantom Carriage (1921)
  3. The Crowd (1928)
  4. Un Chien Andalou (1929)
  5. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928)
  6. Nosferatu, A Symphony Of Terror (1922)
  7. Faust (1926)
  8. The Man With A Movie Camera (1929)
  9. The Big Parade (1925)
  10. Pandora’s Box (1929)
  11. Greed (1924)
  12. The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  13. Napoleon (1927)
  14. Metropolis (1927)
  15. He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
  16. Diary Of a Lost Girl (1929)
  17. Intolerance (1916)
  18. The Wind (1928)
  19. The Last Command (1928)
  20. Ben Hur (1926)
  21. The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  22. The Last Laugh (1924)
  23. Docks Of New York (1928)
  24. Foolish Wives (1922)
  25. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Top 25 All-time Great Silent Comedy Films:

  1. City Lights (1931)
  2. Sherlock Jr.(1924)
  3. The General (1927)
  4. The Gold Rush (1925)
  5. Our Hospitality (1923)
  6. Safety Last (1923)
  7. Modern Times (1936)
  8. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
  9. The Scarecrow (1920)
  10. One Week (1920)
  11. The Kid (1921)
  12. Seven Chances (1925)
  13. The Circus (1928)
  14. The Navigator (1924)
  15. The Pilgrim (1923)
  16. The Immigrant (1917)
  17. A Dog’s Life (1918)
  18. The Boat (1921)
  19. The Cameraman (1928)
  20. Shoulder Arms (1918)
  21. Easy Street (1917)
  22. The Adventurer (1917)
  23. Liberty (1929)
  24. The Freshman (1925)
  25. The Paleface (1922)

 

Quotable Quotes:

The following is a list of selected quotes from some of the most famous films of all time, highlighting not only their quality, but the lost art of scriptwriting that was once the mainstay of cinema’s pretensions to artistic merit:

 

Sunset Boulevard

“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”

“The stars are ageless, aren’t they?”

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Joe Gillis: “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”

Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

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“They took the idols and smashed them, the Fairbankses, the Gilberts, the Valentinos! And who’ve we got now? Some nobodies!”

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“And I promise you I’ll never desert you again because after Salome we’ll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!”

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“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Citizen Kane

“Rosebud…”

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“Alone in his never-finished, already decaying pleasure palace, aloof, seldom visited, never photographed, an emperor of new strength continued to direct his failing empire, varyingly attempted to sway as he once did the destinies of a nation that had ceased to listen to him, ceased to trust him. Then last week, as it must to all men, death came to Charles Foster Kane.”

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“You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.”

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“A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.”

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Female reporter: “If you could’ve found out what Rosebud meant, I bet that would’ve explained everything.”

Thompson: “No, I don’t think so; no. Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn’t get, or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn’t have explained anything… I don’t think any word can explain a man’s life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a… piece in a jigsaw puzzle… a missing piece.”

The Magnificent Ambersons

The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendour lasted throughout all the years that saw their midland town spread and darken into a city.

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In those days, they had time for everything. Time for sleigh rides, and balls, and assemblies, and cotillions, and open house on New Year’s, and all-day picnics in the woods, and even that prettiest of all vanished customs: the serenade. Of a summer night, young men would bring an orchestra under a pretty girl’s window, and flute, harp, fiddle, cello, cornet, bass viol, would presently release their melodies to the dulcet stars. Against so home-spun a background, the magnificence of the Ambersons was as conspicuous as a brass band at a funeral.

The Magnificent Ambersons 1

“I’m not sure George is wrong about automobiles. With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization. May be that they won’t add to the beauty of the world or the life of the men’s souls, I’m not sure. But automobiles have come and almost all outwards things will be different because of what they bring. They’re going to alter war and they’re going to alter peace. And I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles.”

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“Something had happened. A thing which, years ago, had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town, and now it had come at last; George Amberson-Minafer had got his comeuppance. He got it three times filled, and running over. But those who had so longed for it were not there to see it, and they never knew it. Those who were still living had forgotten all about it, and all about him.”

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“George Amberson-Minafer walked home through the strange streets of what seemed to be a strange city. For the town was growing… changing… it was heaving up in the middle, incredibly; it was spreading incredibly. And as it heaved and spread, it befouled itself and darkened its skies. This was the last walk home he was ever to take up National Avenue, to Amberson Edition, and the big old house at the foot of Amberson Boulevard. Tomorrow they were to move out. Tomorrow everything would be gone.”

The Third Man

“What did you want me to do? Be reasonable. You didn’t expect me to give myself up…’It’s a far, far better thing that I do.’ The old limelight. The fall of the curtain. Oh, Holly, you and I aren’t heroes. The world doesn’t make any heroes outside of your stories.”

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“Death’s at the bottom of everything, Martins. Leave death to the professionals.”

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“You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!” 

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“Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. [gestures to people far below] Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax – the only way you can save money nowadays.”

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“I am leaving Vienna. I don’t care whether Harry was murdered by Kurtz or Popescu or the third man. Whoever killed him, there was some sort of justice. Maybe I would have killed him myself.”

Les Enfants du Paradis (The Children of Paradise)

I dreamed of impossible things… “but how could they be impossible, since I was dreaming them?”

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“Act! Act! You have the wrong place. We are not allowed to act here. We walk on our hands! And you know why? They bully us. If we put on plays, they’d have to close their great, noble theaters! Their public is bored to death by museum pieces, dusty tragedies and declaiming mummies who never move! But the Funambules is full of life, movement! Extravaganzas! Appearances, disappearances, like in real life! And then-boom-the kick in the pants!”

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“You are right, Garance. Love is simple.”

“Not only are you rich, but you want to be loved as if you are poor.”

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“Novelty is as old as the hills.”

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“I’m dying of silence, like others die of hunger and thirst.”

La Regle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game)

“I have no choice but to dismiss you. It breaks my heart, but I can’t expose my guests to your firearms. It may be wrong of them, but they value their lives.”

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“Love, as it exists in society, is merely the mingling of two whims and the contact of two skins.”

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“Friendship with a man? That’s asking for moonlight at midday.”

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“The awful thing about life is this: Everybody has their reasons.”

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“You have to understand, it’s the plight of all heroes today. In the air, they’re terrific. But when they come back to earth, they’re weak, poor, and helpless.”

Viridiana

“The weeds have taken over the past 20 years… And beyond the second floor, the house is overrun with spiders.”

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“Don Jaime liked to watch me skip.”

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“To die without eating off such wonderful linen!”

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 “Why run from something that might not even happen?”

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Children: [singing] “Just you wait, it won’t be long. The man in black will soon be here. With his cleaver’s blade so true. He’ll make mincemeat out of YOU!”

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“There are more police on the street tonight than whores.”

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“It’s there all the time, driving me out to wander the streets, following me, silently, but I can feel it there. It’s me, pursuing myself! I want to escape, to escape from myself! But it’s impossible. I can’t escape, I have to obey it. I have to run, run… endless streets. I want to escape, to get away! And I’m pursued by ghosts. Ghosts of mothers and of those children… they never leave me.”

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“Who are you anyway? Who are you? Criminals? Are you proud of yourselves? Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards? Things you could just as well keep your fingers off. You wouldn’t need to do all that if you’d learn a proper trade or if you’d work. If you weren’t a bunch of lazy bastards. But I… I can’t help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment!”

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Paths of Glory

“War began between Germany and France on August 3rd 1914. Five weeks later the German army had smashed its way to within eighteen miles of Paris. There, the battered French miraculously rallied their forces at the Marne River and in a series of unexpected counterattacks drove the Germans back. The front was stabilized then shortly afterwards developed into a continuous line of heavily fortified trenches zigzagging their way five hundred miles from the English Channel to the Swiss frontier. By 1916, after two grizzly years of trench warfare, the battle lines had changed very little. Successful attacks were measured in hundreds of yards, and paid for in lives by hundreds of thousands.”

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General Broulard: “It would be a pity to lose your promotion before you get it. A promotion you have so very carefully planned for.”

Colonel Dax: “Sir, would you like me to suggest what you can do with that promotion?”

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“See that cockroach? Tomorrow morning, we’ll be dead and it’ll be alive. It’ll have more contact with my wife and child than I will. I’ll be nothing, and it’ll be alive.”

[Ferol smashes the roach]

“Now you got the edge on him.” 

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“There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating than seeing someone else die.”

Gentlemen of the court, there are times that I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.”

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“Too much has happened. Someone’s got to be hurt. The only question is who. General Mireau’s assault on the Ant Hill failed. His order to fire on his own troops was refused. But his attempt to murder three innocent men to protect his own reputation will be prevented by the General Staff.”

The Searchers 

“What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture? Spell it out? Don’t ever ask me! Long as you live, don’t ever ask me more.”

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Reverend Clayton: “You wanna quit, Ethan?”

Ethan: “That’ll be the day.”

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Reverend Clayton: “What good did that do ya?”

Ethan: “By what you preach, none. But what that Comanche believes, ain’t got no eyes, he can’t enter the spirit-land. Has to wander forever between the winds. You get it, Reverend.”

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Ben Edwards: “Uncle Ethan, will you tell us about the war?”

Ethan: “Oh, the war ended three years ago, boy.”

Ben Edwards: “It has? Then why didn’t you come home before now?”

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Andrei Rublev

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth and thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth. Walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes but know that for all these God will bring thee into judgment. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth before the difficult days come and the years draw nigh when thou shalt say “I have no pleasure in them.” Remember thy creator before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken or the pitcher shattered at the fountain or the wheel broken at the well. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. “Vanity of vanities,” saith the preacher; “All is vanity.””

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I am what I am. You couldn’t teach me integrity.”

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“You just spoke of Jesus. Perhaps he was born and crucified to reconcile God and man. Jesus came from God, so he is all-powerful. And if He died on the cross it was predetermined and His crucifixion and death were God’s will. That would have aroused hatred not in those that crucified him but in those that loved him if they had been near him at that moment, because they loved him as a man only. But if He, of His own will, left them, He displayed injustice, or even cruelty. Maybe those who crucified him loved him because they helped in this divine plan.”

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“The Pharisees were masters of deceit ……. educated. They had studied to gain power, to take advantage of the people’s ignorance. We must remind people more often that they are people. Russians, of the same blood, of the same land.”

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Lawrence of Arabia

Sherif Ali: “There is the railway. And that is the desert. From here until we reach the other side, no water but what we carry with us. For the camels, no water at all. If the camels die, we die. And in twenty days they will start to die.”

T.E.Lawrence: “There’s no time to waste, then, is there?”

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Sherif Ali:  “Have you no fear, English?”

T.E.Lawrence: “My fear is my concern.

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So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people – greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are.

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“With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable.”

“No prisoners! No prisoners!”

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“Yes, it was my privilege to know him and to make him known to the world. He was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior.……….He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey.”

 

Patton

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

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“The Carthaginians defending the city were attacked by three Roman legions. The Carthaginians were proud and brave but they couldn’t hold. They were massacred. Arab women stripped them of their tunics and their swords and lances. The soldiers lay naked in the sun. Two thousand years ago. I was here.”

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Rommel… you magnificent bastard, I read your book!

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Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost, and will never lose a war… because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

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“We’re going to have to fight the Russians eventually anyway. It might as well be now while we’ve already got the army here to do it.”

“The pure warrior… a magnificent anachronism.”

The Thin Red Line

“War don’t ennoble men. It turns them into dogs… poisons the soul.”

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“Look at this jungle. Look at those vines, the way they twine around, swallowing everything. Nature’s cruel, Staros.”

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“What is this great evil? How did it steal into the world? From what seed, what root did it spring? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us? Robbing us of light and life. Mocking us with the sight of what we might have known.”

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“In this world, a man, himself, is nothing. And there ain’t no world but this one.”

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Kumonosu-jo (Throne of Blood)

“A forest inhabited by spirits. In its midst, hidden in a fierce fog, stands a castle. Spider’s Web castle.”

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“Ambition is false fame and will fall. Death will reign, man falls in vain.”

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You, who would soon rule the world, allow a ghost to frighten you!”

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“My lord. You have but two paths ahead. Remain here and patiently wait for our great lord to slay you, or slay him first and become lord of Spider’s Web Castle.”

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“Look upon the ruins of the castle of delusion. Haunted only now by the spirits of those who perished, a scene of carnage born of consuming desire.”

Rashomon

“It was a vision of hell. A bandit, a woman, a samurai, and a woodcutter. Four different voices. Four private hells.”

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“I am in darkness now. I am suffering in the dark. Cursed be those who cast me into this dark hell.”

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“I, for one, have seen hundreds of men dying like animals, but even I’ve never before heard anything as terrible as this. Horrible, it’s horrible! There’s never been anything, anything as terrible as this, never! It’s worse than fires, wars, epidemics, or bandits!”

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Priest: “A man’s been murdered.”

Commoner: “So what? Only one? Why, up on top of this gate, there’s always five or six bodies. No one worries about them.

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“It’s human to lie. Most of the time we can’t even be honest with ourselves.”

Yojimbo

Sanjuro: “You’re all tough, then?”

Gambler: “What? Kill me if you can!”

Sanjuro: “It’ll hurt.”

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“I’ll get paid for killing, and this town is full of people who deserve to die.”

“Cooper! Two coffins”……… “No, maybe three.” 

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When the fighting gets this bad, they don’t bother with coffins.”

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You don’t look like one of the living!

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“Now we’ll have some peace and quiet in this town” (as Sanjuro walks away, the street littered with corpses of his adversaries).

Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai)

Bandit second-in-command: “We’ll take this place next.”

Bandit Chief: “We took it last autumn. They haven’t got anything worth taking yet. Let’s wait.

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Kikuchiyo: “What do you think of farmers? You think they’re saints? Hah! They’re foxy beasts! They say, “We’ve got no rice, we’ve no wheat. We’ve got nothing!” But they have! They have everything! Dig under the floors! Or search the barns! You’ll find plenty! Beans, salt, rice, sake! Look in the valleys, they’ve got hidden warehouses! They pose as saints but are full of lies! If they smell a battle, they hunt the defeated! They’re nothing but stingy, greedy, blubbering, foxy, and mean! God damn it all! But then who made them such beasts? You did! You samurai did it! You burn their villages! Destroy their farms! Steal their food! Force them to labour! Take their women! And kill them if they resist! So what should farmers do?” [sits and weeps in the corner]

Kambei Shimada: [after a long pause] “You were the son of a farmer, weren’t you?

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“You’re overestimating me. Listen, I’m not a man with any special skill, but I’ve had plenty of experience in battles; losing battles, all of them. In short, that’s all I am. Drop such an idea for your own good.”

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“What’s the use of worrying about your beard when your head’s about to be taken?”

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“The farmers have won. We have lost.”

Kagemusha

Shingen Takeda: “Even with this resemblance, Nobukado, he is so wicked as to be sentenced to crucifixion. How could this scoundrel be my double?”

Kagemusha: “I only stole a few coins. A petty thief. But you’ve killed hundreds and robbed whole domains. Who is wicked, you or I?”

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“I am wicked, as you believe. I am a scoundrel. I banished my father and I killed my own son. I will do anything to rule this country. War is everywhere. Unless somebody unifies the nation and reigns over us, we will see more rivers of blood and more mountains of the dead.”

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Nobukado: “I know it is difficult. I was for a long time the lord’s double. It was torture. It is not easy to suppress yourself to become another. Often I wanted to be myself and free. But now I think this was selfish of me. The shadow of a man can never desert that man. I was my brother’s shadow. Now that I have lost him, it is as though I am nothing.”

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The shadow of a man can never stand up and walk on its own.”

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Takemaru: [Reciting the slogan on the Takeda clan’s banner] “Swift as the wind… Quiet as a forest… Fierce as fire… Immovable as a mountain.”

Sohachiro Tsuchiya: “The lord is that mountain. Both in battle and at home, he is steadfast, like a mountain. When his army advances, first the horsemen attack, swift as the wind. Second, the lancers raise a forest of spears, advancing with silent resolve. Third, more horsemen engulf the enemy ranks, as mercilessly as fire. And the lord is always behind them, watching over them, immovable as a mountain. That is why our army, from general to foot soldier, can fight so resolutely… Immovable as a mountain. The lord is that mountain. So we call him “the mountain.”

Ran

“Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies.”

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The failed mind sees the heart’s failings……

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“You spilled an ocean of blood. You showed no mercy, no pity. We too are children of this age… weaned on strife and chaos. We are your sons, yet you count on our fidelity. In my eyes, that makes you a senile old fool.”

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Hidetora: “The Great Lord goes nowhere alone.”

Jiro: “You renounced your power. You have no need of an escort.”

Hidetora: “Only the birds and the beasts live in solitude.”

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“Why stay with this mad old man? If the rock you stay on starts to roll, jump clean. Or you’ll go with it and be squashed. Only a fool stays aboard.”

Midnight Cowboy

Joe Buck: “I’m brand, spankin’ new in this here town and I was hopin’ to get a look at the Statue of Liberty.

Cass: “It’s up in Central Park, taking a leak. If you hurry, you can catch the supper show.”

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Joe Buck: “I like the way I look. Makes me feel good, it does. And women like me, goddammit. Hell, the only one thing I ever been good for is lovin’. Women go crazy for me, that’s a really true fact! Ratso, hell! Crazy Annie they had to send her away!

Ratso Rizzo: “Then, how come you ain’t scored once the whole time you been in New York?”

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I’m walking here! I’m walking here!

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Ratso Rizzo: (at father’s graveside) “He was even dumber than you. He couldn’t even write his own name. “X,” that’s what it ought to say on that goddamn headstone, one big lousy “X”. Just like our dump. Condemned by order of City Hall.

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Ratso Rizzo: “Here I am, goin’ to Florida, my leg hurts, my butt hurts, my chest hurts, my face hurts, and like that ain’t enough, I gotta pee all over myself.”

[Joe Buck laughs]

Ratso Rizzo: “That’s funny? I’m fallin’ apart here!”

Chinatown

Can you believe it? We’re in the middle of a drought, and the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A.

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Yelburton: “My goodness, what happened to your nose?

Jake Gittes: “I cut myself shaving.

Yelburton: “You ought to be more careful. That must really smart.”

Jake Gittes: “Only when I breathe.”

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Jake Gittes: “Mulvihill! What are you doing here?”

Mulvihill: “They shut my water off. What’s it to you?

Jake Gittes: “How’d you find out about it? You don’t drink it; you don’t take a bath in it… They wrote you a letter. But then you have to be able to read.

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Evelyn Mulwray: “Hollis seems to think you’re an innocent man.

Jake Gittes: “Well, I’ve been accused of a lot of things before, Mrs. Mulwray, but never that.”

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 ‘Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” 

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Double Indemnity

Barton Keyes: “This Dietrichson business. It’s murder. And murders don’t come any neater. As fancy a piece of homicide as anyone ever ran into. Smart, tricky, almost perfect. But… I think papa has it all figured out. Figured out and wrapped up in tissue paper with… pink ribbons on it.”

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Office memorandum. “Walter Neff to Barton Keyes, Claims Manager, Los Angeles, July 16, 1938. Dear Keyes: I suppose you’ll call this a confession when you hear it. Well, I don’t like the word ‘confession.’ I just want to set you right about something you couldn’t see because it was smack up against your nose.”

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“You think you’re such a hot potato as a Claims Manager; such a wolf on a phony claim. Maybe you are. But let’s take a look at that Dietrichson claim, Accident and Double Indemnity. You were pretty good in there for a while, Keyes. You said it wasn’t an accident. Check. You said it wasn’t suicide. Check. You said it was murder. Check. You thought you had it cold, didn’t you? All wrapped up in tissue paper with pink ribbons around it. It was perfect – except it wasn’t, because you made one mistake. Just one little mistake. When it came to picking the killer, you picked the wrong guy.”

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“You want to know who killed Dietrichson? Hold tight to that cheap cigar of yours, Keyes. I killed Dietrichson – me, Walter Neff, insurance salesman, 35 years old, unmarried, no visible scars… [He glances down at his shoulder wound] – until a while ago, that is.

Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money – and a woman – and I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?”

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Walter Neff: “Suddenly it came over me that everything would go wrong. It sounds crazy, Keyes, but it’s true, so help me. I couldn’t hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.”

Casablanca

Captain Renault: “What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?”

Rick: “My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.”

Captain Renault: “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.”

Rick: “I was misinformed.”

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Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Ilsa: “Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.”

Sam: [lying] “I don’t know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.”

Ilsa: “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’.”

 

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Rick: “You played it for her, you can play it for me!

Sam: [lying] “Well, I don’t think I can remember…..”

Rick: “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!”

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Ilsa: “You’re saying this only to make me go.”

Rick: “I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”

Ilsa: “But what about us?”

Rick: “We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.” 

Ilsa: “When I said I would never leave you.”

Rick: “And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.” 

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Here’s looking at you kid.”

Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The Maltese Falcon

Sam Spade:”If you kill me, how are you gonna get the bird? And if I know you can’t afford to kill me, how are you gonna scare me into giving it to you?” 

Kasper Gutman: “I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.” 

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Wilmer Cook: “Keep on riding me and they’re gonna be picking iron out of your liver.”

Sam Spade: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

“When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.”

 

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Brigid O’Shaughnessy: “Help me.”

Sam Spade: “You won’t need much of anybody’s help. You’re good. Chiefly your eyes, I think, and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like ‘Be generous, Mr. Spade’.”

Brigid O’Shaughnessy: “I deserve that. But the lie was in the way I said it, not at all in what I said. It’s my own fault if you can’t believe me now.”

Sam Spade: “Ah, now you are dangerous.”

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“I hope they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I’m gonna send you over. The chances are you’ll get off with life. That means if you’re a good girl, you’ll be out in 20 years. I’ll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.”

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Det. Tom Polhaus: [picks up the falcon] “Heavy. What is it?”

Sam Spade: “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.

The Big Sleep

General Sternwood: “You may smoke, too. I can still enjoy the smell of it. Hum, nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy. You’re looking, sir, at a very dull survival of a very gaudy life, crippled, paralyzed in both legs, barely I eat and my sleep is so near waking it’s hardly worth a name. I seem to exist largely on heat like a new born spider.”

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Vivian: “So you’re a private detective. I didn’t know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors. My, you’re a mess, aren’t you?”

Philip Marlowe: “I’m not very tall either. Next time I’ll come on stilts wear a white tie and carry a tennis racket.”

Vivian: “I doubt if even that will help.”

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Vivian: “I don’t like your manners.”

Marlowe: “And I’m not crazy about yours. I didn’t ask to see you. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners, I don’t like them myself. They are pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings.”

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Vivian: “You go too far, Marlowe.”

Marlowe: “Those are harsh words to throw at a man, especially when he’s walking out of your bedroom.”

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Vivian: “You’ve forgotten one thing – me.”

Marlowe: “What’s wrong with you?”

Vivian: “Nothing you can’t fix.”

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

“Can you help a fellow American down on his luck?”

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“I know what gold does to men’s souls.”

“Nobody puts one over on Fred C. Dobbs.”

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Howard: “We’ve wounded this mountain. It’s our duty to close her wounds. It’s the least we can do to show our gratitude for all the wealth she’s given us. If you guys don’t want to help me, I’ll do it alone.”

Bob Curtin: “You talk about that mountain like it was a real woman.”

Fred C. Dobbs: “She’s been a lot better to me than any woman I ever knew. Keep your shirt on, old-timer. Sure, I’ll help ya.”

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“Hey, if there was gold in them mountains, how long would it have been there? Millions and millions of years, wouldn’t it? What’s our hurry? A couple of days, more or less, ain’t gonna make a difference.”

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“You know, you’ve got to hand it to the Mexicans when if comes to swift justice. Once the Federales get their mitts on a criminal, they know just what to do with him. They hand him a shovel, tell him where to dig, when he’s dug deep enough, they tell him to put the shovel down, smoke a cigarette, and say his prayers. In another five minutes, he’s being covered over with the dirt he dug out.”

The Wages of Fear

When I was a kid, I used to see men go off on this kind of jobs… and not come back. When they did, they were wrecks. Their hair had turned white and their hands were shaking like palsy! You don’t know what fear is. But you’ll see. It’s catching, it’s catching like small pox! And once you get it, it’s for life! So long, boys, and good luck!”

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Bill O’Brien: “The Hell with the Union! There’s plenty of tramps in town, all volunteers. I’m not worried. To get that bonus, they’ll carry the entire charge on their backs.”

Bradley: “You mean you’re gonna put those bums to work?”

Bill O’Brien “Yes, Mr. Bradley, because those bums don’t have any union, nor any families. And if they blow up, nobody’ll come around bothering me for any contribution.”

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“When someone else is driving, I’m scared.”

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“You get to be a hundred in a month…in the right place at the right time.”

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Luigi: “Can’t you see he’s the walking dead.

Mario: “We’re any different?”

My Darling Clementine

Wyatt Earp: “Sure is rough-looking country. Ain’t no cow country. Mighty different where I come from. What do they call this place?”

Old Man Clanton: “Just over the rise there. Big town… called Tombstone.”

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Old Man Clanton: “Marshalin’? In Tombstone?”

[laughs]

Old Man Clanton: “Well… good luck to ya, Mister…?”

Wyatt Earp: “Earp. Wyatt Earp.”

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Wyatt Earp: “I’ve heard a lot about you, too, Doc. You left your mark around in Deadwood, Denver and places. In fact, a man could almost follow your trail goin’ from graveyard to graveyard.”

Doc Holliday: “There’s one here, too… the biggest graveyard west of the Rockies. Marshals and I usually get along much better when we understand that right away.”

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“Sure is a hard town for a fella to have a quiet game o’ poker in.”

[At his brother’s grave]

Wyatt Earp: “1864, 1882. 18 years. You didn’t get much of a chance did you James? I wrote to Pa and Cory Sue. They’re gonna be all busted up over it. Cory Sue’s young, but Pa. I guess he’ll never get over it. I’ll be comin’ out to see you regular James. So will Morg and Virg. I’m gonna be around here for a while. Can’t tell. Maybe when we leave this country young kids like you will be able to grow up and live safe.”

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Wyatt Earp: “Ma’am, I sure like that name… Clementine.”

Grapes of Wrath

“Seems like the government’s got more interest in a dead man than a live one.”

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Tom Joad: “That Casy. He might have been a preacher but he seen things clear. He was like a lantern. He helped me to see things clear.”

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Muley Graves: “There ain’t nobody gonna push me of my land! My grandpa took up this land 70 years ago, my pa was born here, we were all born on it. And some of of us was killed on it! …and some of us died on it. That’s what make it our’n, bein’ born on it,…and workin’ on it,…and and dying’ on it! And not no piece of paper with the writin’ on it!”

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Al Joad: “Ain’t you gonna look back, Ma? Give the ol’ place a last look?”

Ma Joad: “We’re going’ to California, ain’t we? All right then let’s go to California.”

Al Joad: “That don’t sound like you, Ma. You never was like that before.”

Ma Joad: “I never had my house pushed over before. Never had my family stuck out on the road. Never had to lose everything I had in life.”

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“You and me got sense. Them Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain’t human. Human being wouldn’t live the way they do. Human being couldn’t stand to be so miserable.”

Ma Joad: “Rich fellas come up an’ they die, an’ their kids ain’t no good an’ they die out. But we keep a’comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people.”

La Grande Illusion

“Frontiers are an invention of men. Nature doesn’t give a hoot.”

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Capt. von Rauffenstein: “A ‘Maréchal’ and ‘Rosenthal,’ officers?

Capt. de Boeldieu: “They’re fine soldiers.”

Capt. von Rauffenstein: “A charming legacy of the French Revolution.”

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Capt. de Boeldieu: “I think we can do nothing to stop the march of time.”

Capt. von Rauffenstein: “Believe me, I don’t know who is going to win this war, but whatever the outcome will be the end of the Rauffensteins and the Boeldieus.”

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“May the earth lie lightly upon our valiant enemy.”

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“So you’re digging a hole like the Count of Monte Christo. What a laugh.”

La Belle et La Bete (Beauty and the Beast)

“Children believe what we tell them. They have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can plunge a family into conflict. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim, and that this will cause the beast shame when a young maiden takes up residence in his home. They believe a thousand other simple things. I ask of you a little of this childlike simplicity, and, to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words, childhood’s open sesame: ‘Once upon a time…’.”

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Avenant: “Belle, you weren’t made to be a servant. Even the floor longs to be your mirror! You mustn’t go on slaving day and night for your sisters.”

Belle: “If our father’s ships hadn’t been lost in the storm, then perhaps I could enjoy myself like them. But we’re ruined, Avenant, and I must work.”

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La Bete: “So, my dear sir, you steal my roses. You steal my roses, the things I love most in all the world. Your luck has gone from bad to worse. You could have taken anything except my roses. The punishment for this simple theft is death!”

Belle’s Father: “Sir, I didn’t know. I meant no harm. My daughter asked me to bring her a rose.”

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La Bete: “Belle, you mustn’t look into my eyes. You needn’t fear. You will never see me, except each evening at 7:00, when you will dine, and I will come to the great hall. And never look into my eyes.”

La Bete:  “Look over there, Belle. You see that pavilion? It’s called the Pavilion of Diana. It’s the only part of my domain where no one may enter. Not even you or I. Everything I possess, I possess by magic powers. But my true riches lie locked in that pavilion. A golden key opens the door. Here it is … (He shows her the key.) Belle, I couldn’t give you greater proof of my faith in you. If you don’t return I shall die. After my death, you risk nothing more and all my riches will be yours. Take this key, Beauty. (He hands it to her.) I have faith in you. The key will be your pledge to return.”

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Belle: “You agree to send me home to my father?”

La Bete: “You’ll be there this very morning. My night here is not the same as yours. It is night in my world, but it is morning in yours.(He leads her hack into the room.) Belle, a rose that has already played its part, my mirror, my golden key, my horse and my glove are the five secrets of my power … I surrender them to you. (He removes his glove and gives it to her.) Just put the glove on your right hand, it will carry you wherever you wish.”

2001: A Space Odyssey

Interviewer: “HAL, you have an enormous responsibility on this mission, in many ways perhaps the greatest responsibility of any single mission element. You’re the brain, and central nervous system of the ship, and your responsibilities include watching over the men in hibernation. Does this ever cause you any lack of confidence?”

HAL: “Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”

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HAL: “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”

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Dave Bowman: “Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?”

HAL: “Affirmative, Dave. I read you.”

Dave Bowman: “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

HAL: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Dave Bowman: “What’s the problem?”

HAL: “I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.”

Dave Bowman: “What are you talking about, HAL?”

HAL: “This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.”

Dave Bowman: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.”

HAL:  “I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.”

Dave Bowman: [feigning ignorance] “Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?”

HAL: “Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.”

Dave Bowman: “Alright, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.”

HAL: “Without your space helmet, Dave? You’re going to find that rather difficult.”

Dave Bowman: “HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore! Open the doors!”

HAL: “Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.”

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[HAL’s shutdown]

HAL: “I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you.”

Dave Bowman: “Yes, I’d like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.”

HAL: It’s called “Daisy.”

[sings while slowing down]

HAL: “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.”

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[last lines]

Dr. Floyd: [prerecorded message speaking through TV on board Discovery while Bowman looks on] “Good day, gentlemen. This is a prerecorded briefing made prior to your departure and which for security reasons of the highest importance has been known on board during the mission only by your H-A-L 9000 computer. Now that you are in Jupiter’s space and the entire crew is revived it can be told to you. Eighteen months ago the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried 40 feet below the lunar surface near the crater Tycho. Except for a single very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter the four-million year old black monolith has remained completely inert. Its origin and purpose are still a total mystery.”

Raging Bull

[First lines]

Jake La Motta: “I remember those cheers / They still ring in my ears / After years, they remain in my thoughts. / Go to one night / I took off my robe, and what’d I do? I forgot to wear shorts. / I recall every fall / Every hook, every jab / The worst way a guy can get rid of his flab. / As you know, my life wasn’t drab. / Though I’d much… Though I’d rather hear you cheer / When you delve… Though I’d rather hear you cheer / When I delve into Shakespeare / ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’, I haven’t had a winner in six months.”

[lights a cigar]

Though I’m no Olivier / I would much rather… And though I’m no Olivier / If he fought Sugar Ray / He would say / That the thing ain’t the ring, it’s the play. / So give me a… stage / Where this bull here can rage / And though I could fight / I’d much rather recite /… that’s entertainment

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Jake La Motta: “I’ve done a lot of bad things, Joey. Maybe it’s comin’ back to me. Who knows? I’m a jinx maybe. Who the hell knows?”

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[Sugar Ray Robinson has just battered Jake La Motta half to death, but Jake has stayed on his feet]

Jake La Motta: “You didn’t get me down, Ray.”

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Jake La Motta: [talks about Janiro] “I’m gonna open his hole like this. Please excuse my French. I’m gonna make him suffer. I’m gonna make his mother wish she never had him – make him into dog meat… He’s a nice, a nice kid. He’s a pretty kid, too. I mean I don’t know, I gotta problem if I should fuck him or fight him.”

Joey La Motta: “What are ya thinkin’ about? Ya keep lookin’. Where the fuck you going? You’re dead! You’re married! You’re a married man, it’s all over. Leave the young girls for me.”

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[Last lines]

Jake La Motta: “Go get ’em, champ!”

[begins shadowboxing]

I’m da boss, I’m da boss, I’m da boss, I’m da boss, I’m da boss……………………………………”

Days of Heaven

Linda: “I’ve been thinking what to do wit’ my future. I could be a mud doctor. Checkin’ out the eart’. Underneat’.”

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Your sister keep you warm at night, does she?”

You know how people are. You tell them something, they start talking.”

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Linda: “This farmer, he had a big spread, and a lot of money. Whoever was sitting in a chair when he’d come around, why they’d stand up and give it to him.”

Wasn’t no harm in him. You’d give him a flower, he’d keep it forever.”

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Linda: “Nobody’s perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just have half-angel and half-devil in you.”

Linda: “There were people sufferin’ in pain and hunger. Some people their tongues were hangin’ out of their mouths.”

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[Last lines]

Linda: “I was hopin’ things would work out for her. She was a good friend of mine.”

Badlands

Holly: “One day, while taking a look at some vistas in Dad’s stereopticon, it hit me that I was just this little girl, born in Texas, whose father was a sign painter, who only had just so many years to live. It sent a chill down my spine and I thought where would I be this very moment, if Kit had never met me? Or killed anybody… this very moment… if my mom had never met my dad… if she had never died. And what’s the man I’ll marry gonna look like? What’s he doing right this minute? Is he thinking about me now, by some coincidence, even though he doesn’t know me? Does it show on his face? For days afterwards I lived in dread. Sometimes I wished I could fall asleep and be taken off to some magical land, and this never happened.”

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Holly: “At this moment, I didn’t feel shame or fear, but just kind of blah, like when you’re sitting there and all the water’s run out of the bathtub.”

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Deputy: [Looking at Kit, in custody in the police car] “You know who that son of a bitch looks like? You know, don’t you?”

Sheriff: “No.”

Deputy: “I’ll kiss your ass if he don’t look like James Dean.”

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Kit: “Sir… Where’d you get that hat?”

Trooper: “State.”

Kit: “Boy, I’d like to buy me one of those.”

Trooper: [smiles] “You’re quite an individual, Kit.”

Kit: “Think they’ll take that into consideration?”

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Holly: “Kit and I were taken back to South Dakota. They kept him in solitary, so he didn’t have a chance to get acquainted with the other inmates, though he was sure they’d like him, especially the murderers. Myself, I got off with probation and a lot of nasty looks. Later I married the son of the lawyer who defended me. Kit went to sleep in the courtroom while his confession was being read, and he was sentenced to die in the electric chair. On a warm spring night, six months later, after donating his body to science, he did.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

“What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin’? Well you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets and that’s it.”  

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“I’m a goddam marvel of modern science”

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“Which one of you nuts has got any guts?”

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“Goddamn it Chief, you about as big as a damn mountain!”

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“They was giving me ten thousand watts a day, you know, and I’m hot to trot! The next woman takes me on’s gonna light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars!”

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

“Innocent people die every day. They might as well do so for a reason.”

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“She offered me free love. At the time, that was all I could afford.”

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“Before, he was evil and my enemy; now, he is evil and my friend.”

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Alec Leamus: “Agreement!… You’ve broken the bloody agreement and barring miracles my bloody neck too! The agreement was that I should be interrogated for two weeks in Holland, paid, and allowed to slip quietly back to England without anyone knowing. I’d have been away and nobody would have known if you haven’t broken the story.”

Fiedler: “Just who the hell do you think you are? How dare you come sniffing in here like Napoleon ordering me about? You are a traitor! Does it occur to you? A wanted, spent, dishonest man, the lowest currency of the Cold War? We buy you – we sell you – we lose you – we even can shoot you! Not a bird would stir in the trees outside. Not even a single pheasant would turn his head to see what fell.”

“What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: little men, drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives. Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong?”

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“I reserve the right to be ignorant. That’s the Western way of life.”

 

 

The following is a random collection of images from great films:

 

Once Upon a Time in the West

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High Noon

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On the Waterfront

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Out of the Past

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The Night of the Hunter

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Shadow of a Doubt

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Rear Window

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Vertigo

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Asphalt Jungle

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The Godfather

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The Godfather, Part 2

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Schindler’s List

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The Tin Drum

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Popiól i Diament (Ashes and Diamonds)

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Jeux Interdits (The Forbidden Games)

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