Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Setebos by Ted Hughes begins with the lines 'Who could play Miranda, only you/ Ferdinand only me.'  Hughes uses the characters and themes of Shakespeare's The Tempest as well as the conscious stagecraft that is so important to that particular narrative. The following is a fictional response to that poem but my response uses some of the key ideas in Macbeth.

It was not Sycorax who you heard

in the wings

but the three witches on the heath

plotting in thunder and lightning and wind.

I was not, could not, play Miranda

for my innocence was lost well before

Caliban's touch.

It was the gall in my breasts

and the croak of the raven

that played the music, not Ariel's song.

And you, always the onstage hero

to those who could not know

The man who vanquished


and yet followed the darkness of Tarquin's path.

I waited, and waited, knowing

that the scorpions in your mind

were simply the serpents in mine

The blood on your hands never


always mine

and the milk of human kindness

in your public soliloquies.

You cry at Sycorax, at Setebos,

at Caliban.

Yet you forgive the forest that moved at Dunsinane,

the man of no woman born

the lament of young Malcolm

whilst I remain

just behind the curtains

seeing your ghosts

desperately hoping the brief candle

will protect me from the coming of the


You grieve for tomorrow

and call for your harness

and your sword

but not your wife.

Hereafter may have seemed an option for you

but the blood

was enough

for me.

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