Styling the Fight: Edgar Allan Poe

The Young Siward fight from Macbeth in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. [1] I originally wrote this as an exercise after reading some Poe for an assignment at Stonecoast. A few things struck me about Poe’s writing (aside from the gloomy subject matter)—he tends to over-description, piling on the adjectives, never settling for one where three may fit; for such a florid style, he is relatively spare with adverbs; his characters, even when they’re insane, are largely intelligent and deductive. [2] Poe also doesn’t shy away from simply asserting that something is terrifying or horrible.

If you enjoy this and you want to read some actual Poe, you might start with “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Cask of Amontillado.”

Can you imagine my horror to find myself split off from the main force, the clamors of battle ringing around me on all sides, reverberating off the thick stone walls in a bewildering cascade of echoes, masking their true origin?

Ahead of me, the already feeble flames in the sconces seemed to sputter and grow dim. Out of the inky blackness came a vast, inhuman sound, so gargantuan of proportion that I could barely comprehend it as speech.

“My name’s Macbeth!”

Macbeth! The devil himself could not pronounce a title more hateful to mine ear!

“No, nor more fearful,” the very walls seemed to shriek.

In my terror and confusion, I must have committed my secret fear to speech!

Then the tyrant himself lurched out of the shadows, a figure from a nightmare, mad eyes gleaming in deep sockets, almost hidden behind black hair which shrouded his face like a veil. Blood and gore drenched his armor, though whether any of it was his own, I could not ascertain. His shoulders spanned the corridor, the height of which was not sufficient for him to stand upright. In his hands he wielded a sword that gleamed in the flickering light, its keen edge hungry for the taste of flesh.

I knew in that moment that I would survive the encounter only as a tale, and I resolved that mine would be a tale of bravery. I consecrated my soul to heaven and prepared to meet my death.

What? No fight? No. Because it’s not necessary. Even though this is a “fight scene,” it’s cleaner to end things before the clash of swords since this is from Young Siward’s point of view, and he’s already completed his dramatic action. He gets lost, gets scared, meets Macbeth, realizes he’s doomed and resolves to die bravely. CUT TO: another part of the battle. Actual swordplay at that point would just be meaningless action. Much more on this idea next week.

Next: a brief return to Writing The Fight with a new entry, The Single-Move Fight


[1] Check out Styling the Fight for more on this idea, plus a link to the original text and a list of other entries in this series.

[2] Poe is often credited with having invented the detective genre with his story, “Murders on the Rue Morgue.”

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