August 2: Found haiku: Macbeth

In the last ten days I’ve seen five performances of “Macbeth” with four different casts. So many lines of the play have become earworms for me, especially those (and there are so many in this play) that use either sound or imagery (or both) to gorgeous effect. For instance (in no particular order):

•    If the assassination could trammel up the consequence, and catch, with its surcease, success …
•    Weary sennights nine times nine shall he dwindle, peak, and pine …
•    Tonight we hold a solemn supper, sir …
•    Stars, hold your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires …
•    There’s husbandry in heaven; their candles are all out.
•    It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood. Stones have been known to move and trees to speak …
•    By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Open, locks, whoever knocks.
•    Safe in a ditch he lies, with twenty trenched gashes in his head.

Some of the lines echoed in my head in the same way that some haiku does, which made me wonder if you could pummel iambic pentameter into haiku. I’m not sure how well these meet the technical definition of haiku (whatever that is), but they do seem to have something of the haiku spirit in them. And Shakespeare and Basho were (rough) contemporaries … so that must mean something.


the earth hath bubbles as the water has

the moon is down
I have not heard
the clock

the obscure bird
the livelong night

the shard-borne beetle
with his drowsy hums …
night’s yawning peal

light thickens …
the crow makes wing
to th’ rooky wood

untie the winds
and let them fight
against the churches

I have words      that would be howl’d out in the desert air

4 thoughts on “August 2: Found haiku: Macbeth

  1. I have read most of Shakespeare before my introduction to haiku…this makes me want to read them again..and i will,

    your haikus, or do i call them micropoetry, are so sharp, yet poetic – love it Melissa 🙂

    this blog is a treasure…can’t help saying it again and again,


  2. very cool – the first one – ‘the moon is down …’ sounds so ‘right’ for this format. I have been slowly reading some Shakespeare lately as well and read Macbeth last winter.


  3. What a wonderful experiment! Some of these work really well (I too like the moon one, but also the one that begins “light thickens”) and I’m not surprised. All language has rhythm, and iambic just means mostly iambic. And Shakespeare is just packed with imagery. I teach a Shakespeare course and the students who want to understand everything often get hung up on these little moments. I love it when that happens!

  4. Thanks, Devika, Elisabeth, David. I had a lot of fun with this, so I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    David — The actors in the performances I saw were all kids, mostly between the ages of 9 and 16, and it is amazing to see how well they understand what the language means and how it works — there were some absolutely beautiful renderings of these lines.

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