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The Vagabond



At the Copley, Macbeth was roaring his last speech to Macduff. His bosom heaved, and his voice thundered out over the audience, rolling majestically up even to the furthermost balcony. His bushy red eyebrows beetled noticeably. Everything had gone against him. His wife had died pitiably. Ten thousand English soldiers had brought Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane. And he was fighting a man not born of a woman. But, despite the witches' warning which must have been ringing in his ears, Macbeth bellowed his own obituary: "Lay on, Macduff; and damn'd be him that first cries Hold, enough!'"

Macduff laid on; swords clashed; and Macbeth got his in the second round. He died beautifully at the edge of the stage, heaving his final gasp practically in Vag's face. A moment later, Vag and the school kids all tried to get out of the same exit at the same time. The youngsters and their brazen school girl dates--those feline hellions with their startling curves, who had hissed vengefully at the dagger scene and necked vigorously throughout the banquet scene--now had little regard for a rheumatic oldster like Vag. Push as he might, he got nowhere until suddenly on his left he found a stairway leading down. So down he went.

It didn't take an experienced trouper like Vag long to realize that he had strayed into the subterranean dressing rooms. Perturbed, he tried to retreat up the stairway, but a bevy of Arlington Amazons charged down on him and bore him along like a chip on some jabbering, be-furred tidal wave. Gadzooks, to be drowned in maidens and biushes! Right up to a door they pushed him. In self defense, Vag opened the door, slithered inside, and banged it behind him.

His face lathered in cold cream, his body clad only in a brief pair of shorts, a cheerful-looking young man sat on a stool before the mirror, surrounded by a make-up kit and tufts of false hair. He was busy pulling off long red eyebrows. Beside him lay a tinny helmet from which horns protruded. Standing up against the wall was a long sword, rather battered. The young man eyed Vag with an amused air.

"Hello, how did you like it?" he asked in a quiet, almost timid voice.

"The play, you mean? Oh, fine," Vag mumbled. "Sorry to burst in on you like this--Say, who are you, anyhow?"

"I take the part of Macbeth. Who are you?"

"What! Oh, I'm just Vag." O, treachery! Fly, Vag, fly, fly, fly. Avaunt ye. Tis he--cruel murderer of innocent men and children. But was this perfectly normal, mild young man the bloody tyrant who had dinned Shakespeare's powerful, tragic lines into the ears of the sceptical and untutored younger generation for the last three hours? who had boomed it and shouted it over their wisecracks and embarrassed titterings until he finally wooed their interest by pure lung power? Once wooed, Shakespeare's own magic had a chance to function, and had won the evening. But how could this be that Macbeth?

"You mean you're really Macbeth?" Vag queried with new interest.

"I'm no Victor Moore, if that's what you mean. Excuse me if I go ahead with my dressing," said this Federal Theatre Macbeth, pulling on a pair of Harvardesque flannels. "My high school public awaits me yonder, precious hussies. And I've got a date tonight, too."

"Aha, Lady Macbeth, maybe?" Vag joshed.

"No, I believe she's a junior at Wellesley this time." Macbeth, now looking very 20th century, grinned as he buttoned up his reversible. Then he opened the door and faced the Arlington Amazons as bravely as he had met Macduff.

Along in the dressing-room, Vag picked up the be-horned helmet and put it on his head. Then he walked over to the mirror and adjusted a bushy moustache under his nose. As an afterthought he added red eyebrows, which, he noted, beetled just right. Macbeth stared at himself a moment and then began to roar out the soliloquy.

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