Macbeth: A Verse Translation
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This excerpt from Act One shows how carefully the ENJOY SHAKESPEARE translations recreate all of Shakespeare's effects. In these scenes, Shakespeare used rhyming chants, blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter), and bits of prose. This translation respects Shakespeare's choices and preserves the structure of each line.
from Act One
Scene One. An Open Place Outdoors
[Thunder and lightning. Enter three WITCHES]
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
Before the setting of the sun.
Where’s the place?
Out on the heath.
It’s there we meet Macbeth.
The gray cat calls!
I hear the toad.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
Hover in the fog and filthy air.
Scene Two. A Camp
[A trumpet call is heard. Enter DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, LENNOX, with ATTENDANTS, meeting a bleeding CAPTAIN]
DUNCAN (King of Scotland)
Who is this bloody man? Perhaps he can,
uses blank verse
To judge from his condition, give us news
On this revolt.
MALCOLM (Duncan’s Son)
This is the officer
Who, as all good and hardy soldiers do,
Fought off my captors—Hail, brave friend!
Share with the king your knowledge of the battle
Up to the time you left.
CAPTAIN (serving in Duncan’s army)
Like worn-out swimmers who discard their skills
And choke each other. Merciless Macdonald—
Well-suited for revolt and swarming with
The multiplying evils spawned by nature—
From Scotland’s Western Isles had received
Ax-wielding horseman and light infantry,
And fortune, like a rebel’s whore, smiled on
His hateful cause. But he was still too weak,
For brave Macbeth—a label much deserved—
Disdaining fortune’s smile, with brandished steel,
Now steaming from its bloody enterprise
Like valor’s favorite child…carved out a passage
Till he faced the villain…
And never shook his hand or bid farewell,
Till he had ripped a seam from chin to navel,
And stuck his head on top our battlements.
O valiant kinsman! Worthy gentleman!
From where the suns begins its northward climb
Shipwrecking storms and dreadful thunder come,
And from the spring that seemed to offer hope,
Despair wells up. So heed this, King of Scotland:
The moment justice, armed with valor, made
The light-armed Celts turn on their heels and run,
The King of Norway, seeing an advantage,
With polished arms and new supplies of men,
Began a fresh assault.
And did our generals panic, Macbeth and Banquo?
Yes....If sparrows scare hawks or rabbits lions.
If I speak truly, I can say they were
Like cannons loaded with a double charge,
First doubling, then redoubling strokes upon their foes—
If they desired to bathe in smoldering wounds,
Or make the field as famed as Calvary
I cannot tell—
But I am faint. My gashes cry for help.
These words you speak adorn your wounds so well
Both taste of honor.—Go and get him surgeons.
[Exit CAPTAIN, helped out by attendants]
Who’s coming now?
The worthy Thane of Ross.
LENNOX (a Nobleman of Scotland)
What haste shows through his eyes! As one might look
Who’s come to say strange things.
ROSS (a Nobleman of Scotland)
God save the King!
Where have you come from, worthy thane?
Great king, where Norway’s banners mock the sky
And fan our people cold.
There Norway’s King, with terrifying numbers,
Assisted by the most disloyal of traitors,
The Thane of Cawdor, began an ominous onslaught
Until the warrior goddess sent her man
In tested armor and with equal skill
To face him, spear to spear and arm to arm,
Curbing his reckless spirit. And, to conclude,
The victory went to us.
Now Sweno, Norway’s king, has asked for terms.
We won’t allow the burial of his men
Until he’s paid to us at Inchcolm Island
Ten thousand silver coins for public use.
The Thane of Cawdor won’t betray again
My deepest trust.—Immediate death for him,
And use his title when you greet Macbeth.
I’ll see it’s done.
What he has lost, noble Macbeth has won.
Scene Three. A Heath
[Thunder. Enter the three WITCHES]
Where have you been, sister?
Sister, where were you?
A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,
And munched, and munched, and munched—“They’re mine,” says I.
“Away, you witch!” the flab-fed floozy cries.
Aleppo’s where her husband’s gone, captain of the Tiger,
But in a sieve that’s how I’ll sail,
And be a rat without a tail,
And get him, get him, get him.
I’ll make you a breeze.
If you please.
And I one from the west.
While I myself control the rest,
And from the ports themselves they’ll blow
All the compass points they know
On the seaman’s charts.
He shall live a man who’s cursed,
His hanging tongue will truly thirst
For I will drain him dry as hay,
No sleep for him night or day.
Weary sixty nights times nine,
He will dwindle, waste, and pine.
No, his vessel won’t be lost,
But it will be tempest-tossed.
Look what I have.
Show me, show me.
Here’s a shipwrecked pilot’s thumb,
Floating homeward in the scum.
[A drum is heard]
A drum, a drum!
Macbeth has come.
[dancing in a circle] We weird sisters, hand in hand,
Race across the sea and land,
This is how we get about.
Three times yours, and three times mine,
And three again, to make it nine.
Peace, the spell’s all set.
[Enter MACBETH and BANQUO]
MACBETH (a General in King Duncan’s army)
A day this fair and foul I have not seen.
BANQUO (a General in King Duncan’s army)
How far is Forres from here?—What are these,
Too withered and too wild in their attire
To be inhabiting this earth and yet
They’re here?—[to the Witches] Are you alive? Or things with which
I can converse? You seem to understand me,
For all at once you placed a shriveled finger
Upon your skinny lips. You must be women,
And yet your beards do not let me conclude
That you are so.
Speak, if you can. What are you?
All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!
All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!
All hail, Macbeth! Who is the king to be!
Good sir, why did you flinch and seem to fear
These things that sound so good?—[to the Witches] I need the truth—
Are you imaginary, or just what
You seem to be? You greet my noble partner
By current rank and with such great predictions
Of noble titles gained and royal hopes,
That he’s entranced.—To me you do not speak.
If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Then speak to one who does not ask for favors
And does not fear your hate.
Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.
Not so well-off, yet better off.
You will spawn kings, yet not be one.
So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!
Your story is not clear yet. Tell me more.
My father’s death makes me the Thane of Glamis—
But Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor is alive,
A prosperous gentleman, and to be king
Lies far outside the limits of belief,
More so than even Cawdor. Give a source
For your strange information, or state why
You blocked our path across this barren heath
With such prophetic greetings?—Speak, I say.
[the WITCHES vanish]
The earth has bubbles, just as water does,
And that’s what these must be. Where did they go?
Into the air, and what seemed solid vanished
Like breath into the wind.—I wish they’d stayed!
Were these things we’re discussing really here?
Or did some root we ate make us insane
And take our reason prisoner?
Your children will be kings.
You will be king.
And how’d it go? The Thane of Cawdor too?
That is the tune and words I heard. Who’s this?
[Enter ROSS and ANGUS]
The king, Macbeth, has happily received
The news of your success, and when he sees
The risks you took in fighting the rebellion,
His admiration and astonishment
Compete for words.And silenced by all that,
Reviewing other news from that same day,
He knows you faced the brave Norwegian line,
Not fearing for yourself what they’d become—
Strange, deathly likenesses. As thick as hail
Came message after message, pouring praise
Around him, telling how your great defense
Preserved his kingdom.
ANGUS (a Nobleman of Scotland)
And so we are here
To give to you our royal master’s thanks,
Though not to pay you now, but summon you
To see him.
And as a promise of much greater honors,
He’s ordered me to call you Thane of Cawdor,
And hail you with that title, worthy thane,
For it is yours.
Can devils speak the truth?
The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why dress me up
In borrowed robes?
The former Thane still lives,
But now that life, which he deserves to lose,
Received a heavy sentence. Whether he
Conspired with Norway, backed the rebel up
With hidden reinforcements, or did both
To seek to wreck his country, I don’t know.
But treason’s verdict—death—confessed and proved,
Has toppled him.
[aside] Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor.
The greatest is to come. [to Ross and Angus]—Thanks for your pains.—
[privately to Banquo] Now don’t you hope your children will be kings,
When those who said they’d make me Thane of Cawdor
Promised no less to them.
Full trust in that
May well ignite your hopes of being king,
Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But it’s strange—
That oftentimes to lure us into harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Lure us with trivial facts, betraying us
When consequences matter most.—
Cousins, a word with you please.
[BANQUO, ROSS, and ANGUS step aside]
[aside] Two truths are told,
Both lucky prologues as the drama builds
On this imperial theme. [to the others]—I thank you, gentlemen.—
[aside] This supernatural effort to entice
Cannot be evil, can’t be good. If evil,
Why has it brought this promise of reward,
Commencing with a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor.
If good, why do I yield to this temptation
Whose hideous image stands my hair on end,
And makes my once-firm heart knock on my ribs
In this unnatural way? The fears at hand
Are less than any horror we imagine.
My thoughts, where murder’s still no more than fantasy,
Shake loose my fragile hold so much
That functioning is swamped by speculation.
And nothing is—except what isn’t yet.
Our partner seems entranced.
[aside] If chance says I’ll be king, then chance can crown me
Without my efforts.
He’s trying on new honors,
Which like new clothes, won’t stretch to our physique
Unless we put them on.
[aside] Then come what may,
For time keeps running through the roughest day.
Worthy Macbeth, we’ll leave when you are ready.
Indulge me just a bit. Forgotten things
Are stirring this dull brain. Kind gentlemen,
The pains you took are now recorded where
I’ll read them everyday—Now to the king.—
[to Banquo] Reflect on what’s occurred. When there’s been time
To weigh it in the interim, let our hearts
Speak freely to each other.
Till then, enough.—Come, friends.