Lady Mary survives the reign of a usurper King and his mad wife and helps the rightful heir of Scotland regain his throne. Mary is the daughter of the Thane of Cawdor and she lives under the care of Lady Macbeth at Castle Inverness in Scotland while her father is away at war. Lady Macbeth controls all aspects of Mary's life, not allowing the girl to do anything but wander the castle, looking pretty and innocent. Mary spends her days praying for the well-fare of her family and for her betrothed, Asleif, the squire for the Thane of Cawdor. She worries about her father and Asleif as there they are engaged in a war with Norway but she feels she can trust that the capable Lord Macbeth, the King's War Commander, will lead the Scottish army to success. This story is told mostly from the point of view of Lady Mary, however also includes snippets from the points of view of Ildred, Seyton and Fleance. Ildred is the youngest daughter out of a gaggle of daughters that was given to Lady Macbeth as a companion. Ildred is jealous that Mary seems to have it all – beauty, poise and innocent optimism – while she is ugly, forgotten and lonely. Seyton is the fourth son of his family and will not inherit anything from his father. He is Lord Macbeth's squire and he dreams of earning a place for himself by fighting bravely in the war or marrying a noblewoman with lands and title to give him. Finally, Fleance is the son of King Duncan's Captain, Banquo. He is eager to fight in the war alongside his father and bring victory to Scotland.
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The story begins with, Mary hearing a story of how the kitchen maid, Swin, is planning on finding the three old hags of the moor to ask them to put a curse on someone for her. Curious and worried about what Swin is up to, Mary follows the kitchen maid out onto the moors where she meets with three old crones who turn out to be witches. In her fright, she runs away and hides in the moors. She hears the three witches tell Lord Macbeth and Banquo their prophecy as they return from the war. The witches tell Banquo that his sons will be kings and they tell Macbeth that he will first become the Thane of Cawdor then he will also become King. Macbeth and Banquo think they witches are just crazy old women but when Macbeth returns to receive accolades from the King, he is given the title of Thane of Cawdor as the original Thane of Cawdor was found to be a traitor to the King.
Lady Mary feels like she cannot return to Castle Inverness because now she will be viewed as a traitor because her father is a traitor. Everyone from her father's side of the family has been killed – including Asleif, her betrothed. At the banquet thrown to celebrate the King's success and Macbeth's new title, King Duncan announces that the heir to his throne will not be Macbeth or Banquo but rather his own son, Malcolm. Lady Mary is glad that no one seems to have noticed her or suggested that she should also be hanged for being a noblewoman of Cawdor. Much to her dismay, however, she becomes the next noblewoman available for marriage, attracting the attention of the men in King Duncan's retinue. Ildred is jealous that even when Lady Mary has the stigma of being the daughter of a traitor, she still has more eligible suitors than her.
After the banquet, Lady Mary having no place to sleep because her rooms are taken by more important noblemen, ends up having to find a place to sleep in the barn. On her way there, she overhears some suspicious conversation between Lady Macbeth and her husband but, being afraid to be caught in the hallways at night, leaves before she can hear the full extent of their sinister plans. On the way to the barn, she also meets Seyton who gently sends her his condolences. Finally, at the barn, Mary realizes that she could be in danger since the men are rowdy and in a celebratory mood – who knows what they might do if they found a young girl, noblewoman or not. One of the men, Fleance, tries to be friendly to Mary by showing her where she might find a safe place to sleep but Mary is horrified that Fleance had taken a pin from her dead betrothed, Asleif, as a war bounty.
That same night, Seyton, regretting having left Mary on her own in the barn, overhears Macbeth acting crazed and talking to himself while a vision of a dagger hung in the air before him. Seyton feels like he is witnessing something he shouldn't see, so he runs away and continues searching for Lady Mary. The next morning, it is announced that King Duncan has been murdered in his bed. Macbeth, in a rage, kills the so-called murderers – the two servants who were attending King Duncan that night. Lord Macduff, who is loyal to King Duncan, is aghast that Macbeth killed the servants before they were able to question them to find out who hired them to do such a deed but Macbeth convinces him and the other noblemen that he was doing it out of the intense emotion he felt at finding out they killed the King. Out in the halls, Lady Mary overhears King Duncan's two sons, Donalbain and Malcom, discuss the possibility of Macbeth being the murderer and plan their escape to England and Ireland before they are labeled murderers, themselves. Their escape only convince the noblemen that they are, in fact, guilty of killing their own father. As the next in line for the throne, Macbeth is given the title of King.
Meanwhile, Ildred notices that Lady Macbeth, overcome by the tragedy, is beginning to see blood everywhere and behaving in a crazed manner. Tensions in the castle are rising, and hatred and mistrust against Lady Mary and her traitorous lineage result in Mary being demoted to doing simple servant duties. Ildred bosses Lady Mary around, asking her to fetch things for Lady Macbeth. On one of her errands, Lady Mary encounters Seyton, again, who assures Lady Mary that he will try to put in a good word with King Macbeth that Lady Mary is innocent of any traitorous acts.
Lady Mary gets a chance to visit her old home, castle Cawdor. When she arrives at where the castle should be, however, it is not there! Instead, the three old crones are there. A man who looks like her father appears to rescue her but it turns out to be Fleance, who had followed her to make sure she was okay. Fleance turns out to be very kind to Lady Mary, and it is revealed that Fleance has fallen in love with Mary.
Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth has moved the entire household to Forres palace, which is where the king traditionally holds court. The night they hold the banquet to celebrate Macbeth becoming king, Banquo tells Fleance that they have to run away and join Malcolm and Donalbain. Banqyo believes that Macbeth killed the King and plans on killing him and Fleance next to ensure his throne is not threatened, since after Macbeth, they are in line for the throne. Though Fleance doesn't want to leave Mary, he runs away with his father. On the road, they are attacked by Seyton and Macbeth's men, who kill Banquo and almost kill Fleance, too. Fleance manages to escape into the woods, where he vows to get revenge for his father's death by joining up with Malcolm in England. In England, Fleance meets with Malcom, who tells him that the English king has loaned him troops to fight against Macbeth.
At the same banquet, Macbeth appears to be preoccupied and Lady Mary has a vision of Banquo's ghost, haunting their new King. King Macbeth puts soldiers and guards all over palace Forres as if he were expecting a siege. Lady Mary receives word that Seyton has asked for her hand, as he wants to inherit Mary's lands and title. King Macbeth is enraged that Macduff, who was supposed to be Macbeth's loyal man, has gone off to England to join the traitorous Malcom. Macbeth is beginning to show signs of paranoia – he moves his whole household to Dunsinane which he feels is safer than Forres since it is far from the English border and hidden away in the woods. Macbeth also sends Seyton to kill Lady Macduff and her children as revenge for Macduff's betrayal. Mary follows Seyton into the moors to try to stop him, but Seyton traps her inside a knothole of a tree so that she won't bother him until he comes back from his mission. Mary manages to escape and tries to warn Lady Macduff and her children. She is too late, however, and can only save herself. Seyton discovers what Mary tried to do and also finds out that Mary loves Fleance and not him. He vows that he will make sure Mary's lands and titles pass to him as they will get married that very night.
Meanwhile, on the border of Dunsinane woods, Fleance, Malcom and lords loyal to the rightful heir have gathered to attack Macbeth. Fleance tells Malcolm that he can find a way to creep into the castle and open up the gates from within. He pretends to be a silly stable boy and meets Seyton and Mary who are on their way back from the bloody mission of murdering Lady Macduff and her children. Seyton reveals that Macbeth thinks he is invincible because of the prophecy that Dunsinane will not fall until Birnam Wood moves. Lady Mary recognizes Fleance and smuggles him to safety inside Dunsinane castle's cellars. Lady Mary tells Fleance that the old crones had prophesied that Macbeth also cannot be killed by a man born of a woman. She promises she will find a way to help Fleance accomplish his mission.
Meanwhile, Queen Macbeth is severely ill. One day, Queen Macbeth kills herself. That same day, Seyton spies the trees of Birnam Wood moving towards the castle. Seyton also catches Mary and Fleance in the act of opening the gates – Fleance fights Seyton, and Mary escapes. During her escape, she hears Macduff fighting Macbeth and witnesses Macbeth's death. Meanwhile, Fleance shuts Seyton up in a coffin bearing the corpse of Queen Macbeth. Seyton will die a slow death, as revenge for killing Fleance's father.
The story ends with Mary marrying Fleance and the rightful heir, Malcolm regaining his title as King of Scotland.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like how Caroline B. Cooney told the story of Shakespeare's Macbeth from the point of view of some minor characters in the play. I thought it was particularly interesting to hear the story from Fleance and Seyton's points of view and I thought it was clever how the author orchestrated the familiar events of the play such that Fleance and Seyton had more of a role in the story than they appear to have in the original play.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Mary, having found out that Seyton has been tasked to kill Lady Macduff and her children, tries to stop Seyton from doing this terrible deed but ends up getting essentially stuffed inside a hollow tree. Lady Mary escapes only because lightning strikes the hollow tree, cracking it apart. I thought this was a very eerie scene, and in tune with the mysterious supernatural events that happen on the Scottish moors.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Mary changed from an innocent, dutiful and quiet girl to an independent, brave and courageous young woman by the end of the story. I like that Mary had the guts to defy Seyton, who turned out to be a power-hungry man who isn't afraid to use violence to get what he wants.