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Musings of an Energy Nerd

The Third Annual Christmas Parody

Macbeth the Builder: a play in three acts

Act 1, scene 1. An empty lot near Scotland Drive.

Thunder and lightning. Enter three sisters, all RESNET-certified.

First rater:

When shall we three meet again,

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second rater:

When the drywall work is done,

When the zoning battle’s won.

Third rater:

The lawyers sure are having fun!

First rater:

What’s the sign?

Second rater:

A Christmas wreath.

Third rater:

We shall meet there with Macbeth.

First rater:

Where hast thou been, sister?

Second rater:

Smashing recessed cans.

First rater:

Look what I have.

Second rater:

Show me, show me.

First rater:

Here I have a thermostat,

With wi-fi, girls. This stat can chat.

Drum within

Third rater:

A drum, a drum! Macbeth doth come.

Enter Macbeth and Banquo


So foul and fair a day I have not seen.


Who are these workers,

So withered and so wild in their attire?


Speak, if you can: what are you?

First rater:

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, ranch home developer!

Second rater:

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Energy Star builder!

Third rater:

All hail, Macbeth! Thou shalt build a Passivhaus!


[To Macbeth]: Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear

Things that do sound so fair?

[To the three sisters:] Strange women,

You greet my friend with several great predictions

Of rising skills and energy performance,

Foreseeing that he’ll build much tighter homes:

Point six air changes at 50 Pascals!

Could this be true? Forsooth, his homes are junk.

He seems befuddled now. Foretell some more:

If you can look into the seeds of time,

And say which grain will grow and which will not,

Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear

Your favors nor your hate.

First rater:

Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.

Second rater:

Not so happy, yet much happier.

Third rater:

Thou shalt swing a hammer, but get no credit or awards.

First rater:

Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!


Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more:

For sure, I know that I can frame a ranch,

But Energy Star? I’d have to study up,

And I don’t think my house could ever pass.

And then, you say, I’ll build a Passivhaus!

To think my building skills would reach that far

Stands not within the prospect of belief.

Energy raters vanish


Whither are they vanished?


Into the air. Would they had stayed!


Were such things here as we do speak about?


You shall swing a hammer.


And you shall build a Passivhaus.

Enter Ross and Angus


I bring glad tidings from the EPA:

Sam Rashkin has decreed, Macbeth, today

A special honor that he just dreamed up.

You build a lot of houses, and we need

To get production builders on our team.

So Sam decided, sight unseen, to grant

A label for your latest model home:

“Energy Star,” it says. Just slap it on.


What, can the devil speak true?


Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?


Although the label is an honorary one,

Sam Rashkin hopes that you will be inspired

To get a Star for all your future homes.


An Energy Star label! Can Passivhaus be far behind?

[To Banquo] It sounds like you will swing a hammer soon,

Since Rashkin gave the label for my home.


So far, it’s just a label. But ’tis strange.


[Aside] Two truths are told,

As happy prologues to the swelling act

Of the Passivhaus theme. This supernatural soliciting

Cannot be ill, cannot be good. I have a label.

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion,

To use the product that gets stuck in hair,

And empties out my checkbook with one bill,

The two-component stuff? Seal up my house?

If Passivhaus is what I seek, then how?

The only way I know is with spray foam.

This thought — to use spray foam on every surface now —

Is sure to work, but scares me half to death.


Look, how our partner’s rapt.


[Aside] Come what come may,

Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.


Scene 2. Macbeth’s house

Enter Lady Macbeth, reading a letter

Lady Macbeth:

“They met me with predictions — very strange —

and some of them came true. And when I tried

to question them further, they made themselves air,

into which they vanished. While I stood rapt

in the wonder of it, came missives from Rashkin, who

granted me a label, just the way the sisters predicted.”

Thou art an Energy Star builder, and shall be

What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature;

It is too full of the milk of human kindness

To catch the nearest way.

Enter a Messenger

What are your tidings?


The zoning board meets tonight.

Lady Macbeth:

The zoning board! Tonight!

So close it is to Christmas, yet they meet?

We must complete the house on Scotland Drive!


The old fait accompli?

Lady Macbeth:

Indeed, ’twere best we finished up real fast.

For after three more meetings by the board,

Our goose could well be cooked. Call Mac!

Exit Messenger

We’re running out of time. Macbeth

Must build a Passivhaus, and build it soon.

I don’t care how! Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty!

Enter Macbeth

Great builder! O, my Labeled One!

Thy letters have transported me beyond

This ignorant present, and I feel now

The future in the instant.


Is’t true? The zoning board meets tonight?

Lady Macbeth:

Yes. What shall we do?


Build twice as fast. The old fait accompli.

Lady Macbeth:

Seal up that house just like a Zip-Lock bag!

And don’t look back! Use any trick you can!

The Passivhaus prediction shall be ours.

Leave all the rest to me.


Scene 3. Macbeth’s house.

Enter Macbeth


If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well

It were done quickly: if polyurethane

Can plug up all my errors, and deliver

A blower-door result of oh-point-six

Then calling in the closed-cell spray-foam truck

Might be the be-all and the end-all here.

Enter Lady Macbeth

How now! what news?

Lady Macbeth:

Joe, the spray foam guy, says he can come tonight.


Joe, that untrained guy who’s cheap?

Lady Macbeth:

They say he’s cheap, but good.


We will proceed no further in this business:

I’ve gotten to this point without spray foam,

Another method must be found to get

The Passivhaus certificate I seek.

Lady Macbeth:

The house on Scotland Drive is full of holes.

You know there is no way to seal it up

Without spray foam. Art thou afraid

To follow through with tools that match your dreams?

And will you live a coward in your own esteem?


If we should fail?

Lady Macbeth:

We fail!

But screw your courage to the sticking-place,

And we’ll not fail. Step one: use lots of foam;

Step two: call up the drywall crew, and quick,

And cover up the foam so no one knows.

For green construction, I have heard it said,

The walls should all be filled with wool or hemp —

I think. Or not… I’m not quite sure just what

The greenie crowd expects.


I am settled. I will undertake

This dastardly and unexpected deed.

Away, and mock the time with fairest show:

False face must hide what the false heart doth know.


Act 2, scene 1. Macbeth’s house.


Is this a spray wand which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

And on thy handle I see gobs of foam,

Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:

It is the sticky business which informs

Thus to mine eyes.

A bell rings

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.

Hear it not, greenies; for it is a knell

That summons me to spray my building shell.


Scene 2. Macbeth’s house.

Enter Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth:

Alack, I am afraid that he backed out,

And ’tis not done. The attempt and not the deed

Confounds us.

Enter Macbeth

My husband!


I have done the deed.

[Looking at his foam-covered hands]

This is a sorry sight.

Lady Macbeth:

A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.


We sprayed the ceilings, walls, and everything.

There’s foam on all our clothes, and on our hands,

And on the floor, and also on the tub.

Lady Macbeth:

Consider it not so deeply.


I fear the tub is ruined.

Lady Macbeth:

These deeds must not be thought

After these ways; so, it will make us mad.


Methought I heard a voice cry “Soak no more!

Macbeth has wrecked the tub.” A bubble bath,

Tub that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast…

Lady Macbeth:

What the hell are you talking about?


The voice cried “Soak no more!” to all the house:

“Macbeth has wrecked the tub. Macbeth will soak no more.”

Lady Macbeth:

Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy fool,

You do unbend your noble strength to think

So brainsickly of things. Go get some water,

And wash this filthy witness from your hand.


I am afraid to think what I have done.

Lady Macbeth:

Infirm of purpose!


Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash cured foam

Clean from my hand?

Lady Macbeth:

My hands are of your color; but I shame

To wear a heart so white.

A little water clears us of this deed:

How easy is it, then!


Scene 3. The house on Scotland Drive.

Enter Lennox and Macbeth


The night has been unruly: where we lay,

Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,

Lamentings heard in the air; strange screams of death.


’Twas a rough night.

Enter Macduff


O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart

Cannot conceive nor name thee!

The master bath has been destroyed

With gobs and gobs of overspray.


What is it you say? The tub?


Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight

With a new horror: do not bid me speak;

See, and then speak yourselves.


Scene 4. Outside Macbeth’s house.

Enter Ross and an Old Man

Old Man:

Threescore and ten I can remember well:

Within the volume of which time I have seen

Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night

Hath trifled former knowings.

Here comes the good Macduff.

Enter Macduff


Is it known who did this more-than-messy deed?


’Twas Joe, the spray foam guy.

’Tis strange indeed he worked on Christmas Eve.


Today the blower-door contractor came,

And said the house tests out at oh-point-six.

It’s tight enough, it seems, for Passivhaus.


Some say that certification is assured.


Well, Macbeth, you’ve got your labels now:

Builder, Energy Star, and Passivhaus.

As the weird women promised, and, I fear,

Thou playedst most foully for it.


Adieu! Lest our old robes sit easier than our new!


Act 3, scene 1. A vacant lot.

Thunder. Enter the three energy raters.

First rater:

Thrice the mastic has been spread.

Second rater:

Thrice, and once the builder whined.

Third rater:

The GC cries, “ ’Tis time, ’tis time.”

All three sisters:

Double, double, toil and trouble;

Caulk shall seal, and spray foam bubble.

Enter Macbeth


How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!

I conjure you, by that which you profess,

To answer certain questions.

First rater:


Second rater:


Third rater:

We’ll answer.


What dangers do I face in days to come?

First rater:

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware of lingering odors!


Whate’er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks;

But still I have more questions…


Second rater:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Global climate change shall cause to melt

All ice in Glacier National Park.


That will never be. The unproved tale

That CO2 will warm the planet up

Is nothing but a rumor and a myth.


Scene 2. An open field.

Enter Macduff and Malcolm


Bake, bake, poor country! The land is drying up,

And temperatures are rising all the time.


I think our country sinks beneath the smoke;

It sweats, it bakes; and every summer day

Brings record highs anew.


Where stands ours country now?


Alas, poor country!

Almost afraid to cure itself. It cannot

Be call’d our mother, but our grave; where everyone

Burns fossil fuel, all heedless of the times.

Where droughts and floods are plaguing east and west,

And every summer’s hotter than the last.


Scene 3. Macbeth’s house, at night.

Enter a Doctor and a Waiting-Gentlewoman


‘Tis strange indeed that you still house-calls make.


Should we observe her now?

Enter Lady Macbeth, with a candle


Lo you, here she comes! This is her very guise;

and, upon my life, fast asleep. Observe her; stand close.


You see, her eyes are open.


Ay, but their sense is shut.


Look, how she rubs her hands.

Lady Macbeth:

Out, damned spot! Out, I say!

Will nothing clean cured foam from tender skin?


Do you mark that?

Lady Macbeth:

What, will these hands ne’er be clean?

Here’s the smell of foam still:

All the perfumes of Arabia

Will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!


This disease is beyond my practice.

Lady Macbeth:

Wash your hands; look not so pale.

I tell you yet again, the Passivhaus certificate is ours.


Even so?

Lady Macbeth:

To bed, to bed! What’s done cannot be undone.

To bed, to bed, to bed!



More needs she the divine than the physician.

God, God forgive us all!


Good night, good doctor.


Scene 4. Outdoors.

Enter Macbeth


Till all the ice in Glacier National Park

Melts into water, I will have no fear.

Enter a nervous servant

The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!

Where got’st thou that goose look?


There is a smell…




A smell, sir. Very much like rotten fish.


Thou lily-livered boy! What smell, you fool?


The spray foam in the house. It stinks.


Begone! Take thy face hence!

Exit Servant

I have lived long enough: my way of life

Is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf;

And that which should accompany old age,

The Ranch Home Builder of the Year Award,

I must not look to have; but, in its stead,

On both my hands, cured foam that can’t be cleaned,

And ling’ring odors, just like rotten fish.

But still I have no fear of death or dark,

As long as ice remains in Glacier Park.


Scene 5. Macbeth’s house.

Enter Macbeth and Seyton. A cry of women within.


What is that noise?


It is the cry of women, I’m afraid.

My lord, the Passivhaus Institut

Has rescinded certification on your house.


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps at this petty pace from day to day

Until the last punch list is all complete.

And all my building permits and my plans

Have barely brought me profit after all.

The backhoes are all quiet now, and I

Am but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

Enter a Messenger


Gracious my lord,

I should report that which I say I saw,

But know not how to do it.


Well, say, sir.


As I was watching CNN today,

I heard reports about the heat out West.

Montana’s weather has been hot for months,

And now the ice in Glacier Park is gone.


Liar and slave!


Let me endure your wrath, if it be not so:

The ice is gone, the glaciers are no more.


Ring the alarum-bell! Blow, wind! come, wrack!

We’ll die with fall-protection harness on our back.


Scene 6. Outdoors.

Enter Macbeth


Why should I play the Roman fool, and die

On mine own sword?

Enter Macduff

Of all men else I have avoided thee:

You’re on the zoning board — is that not right?


This letter’s from the board: you house has been condemned.




“Fait accompli” won’t fly here anymore.

Your setback violations shall not stand.

The demolition crew will come at noon.


They won’t! I will not yield!


You will, Macbeth. The lawyers say you’re doomed.

Macbeth will build no more. Let others learn

From your absurd mistakes: build green, my friends,

But not in sloppy haste. ’Twas speed and greed

That brought to disrepute, at end of life,

A foolish builder and his wicked wife.


2010 Christmas parody: Christmas Carols from the Energy Nerd

2009 Christmas parody: ’Twas the Night Before Christmas


  1. Mojave Disaster, 3B | | #1

    Iambic pentameter, even.
    Iambic pentameter, even. Impressive! And a little disturbing.

  2. Gavin Farrell | | #2

    Well done.
    This is possibly one of the greatest things I've ever read. Thanks for the laughs!

  3. Dan Kolbert | | #3

    Glad the PV was working enough for you to upload this.

  4. User avater
    James Morgan | | #4

    Stage production pending? Broadway beckons.
    I've waited to read this gem until the quiet of a Sunday morning when I could truly savor and enjoy it. Bravo Martin! Truly thou art a great wit and a poet indeed!

  5. User avater
    Michael Chandler | | #5

    "Double, double, toil and trouble;
    Caulk shall seal, and spray foam bubble"

    Big smile here! A master work indeed!

  6. Michael Anschel | | #6

    This may be your finest work to date! Absolutely loved it.

  7. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    Merry Christmas, all!
    Thanks for the feedback -- glad you enjoyed it. A happy holiday season to all.

  8. Douglas Horgan | | #8

    Holy Cow!
    That was truly amazing! Happy holidays Martin!

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