Romeo and Juliet:
A Verse Translation
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This excerpt from Act Two shows how carefully the Enjoy Shakespeare translations recreate all of Shakespeare's effects.
Shakespeare usually wrote in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). But in this scene, he mostly employed rhyming couplets. This translation recreates those couplets, rhyming wherever Shakespeare rhymed.
from Act Two
Scene Three. Friar Lawrence’s Cell
[Enter FRIAR LAWRENCE with a basket]
The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Slicing the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And mottled darkness like a drunkard reels
From daylight’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels.
Before the sun can raise its burning eye,
To cheer the day and drink the night’s dew dry,
I must fill up this wicker crate of ours
With toxic weeds and precious-nectared flowers.
The earth, our natural mother, is a tomb;
What is her burying ground serves as her womb;
And from her womb come children of all kinds,
speak in couplets
in this scene,
a total of
47 pairs of
All sucking from her natural breast one finds,
Many with many powers excellent,
Not one without one, yet all different.
Each plant and herb and stone, innate in it,
There lies some rich medicinal benefit.
For on this earth the vilest things that live
Add to the earth some special good they give;
And every good when stretched past proper use,
Rejects its nature, stumbling on abuse.
A virtue turns to vice, when misapplied;
Acts born of vice are sometimes dignified.
Within the infant bud of this small flower
Resides a poison and a healing power:
If it is sniffed, one sense is overjoyed;
If tasted, then all senses are destroyed.
These two opposing kings contest this place
In man as well as herbs—brute will and grace;
And anywhere the worst comes out on top,
The canker worm will soon wipe out the crop.
Good morning, father!
What early tongue’s so sweetly greeting me?
Young man, it indicates a troubled head
To say goodbye this early to your bed.
Unease stands watch in every old man’s eye,
And where it beds down sleep will never lie;
But where an unbruised youth with unstuffed brain
Plops down his limbs, there golden sleep will reign.
And since you’re up so early, I attest
Some turbulence in you disturbed your rest;
If that’s not so, then now I’ve guessed it right:
Our Romeo has not been in bed tonight.
The last is true. A sweeter peace was mine.
God pardon sin! Were you with Rosaline?
With Rosaline, my holy father? No.
I have forgot that name, and all its woe.
That’s good my son. But then where have you been?
I’ll tell you—you won’t need to ask again.
I have been feasting with my enemy,
Where one, all of a sudden, wounded me
Whom I have wounded too. What we endure,
Your holy medicine will surely cure.
I bear no hatred, blessed man—Oh, no—
For my petition likewise aids my foe.
Speak plainly, son, without circumlocution—
Puzzling confession, puzzling absolution.
The plain truth is my dear heart’s love is set
On the fair daughter of rich Capulet.
As mine is set on hers, hers is on mine,
And all is joined, save what you must combine
By holy marriage. When, and where, and how
We met and courted, and exchanged our vow,
I’ll tell you as we go, but this I pray,
That you’ll consent to marry us today.
Holy Saint Francis! What a change is here!
Is Rosaline, whom you just loved so dear,
So quickly cast aside? Young men’s love lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.
Jesu Maria, think of all the brine
That rinsed your sallow cheeks for Rosaline!
How much salt water thrown away in waste,
To marinate a love it did not taste!
The sun has not yet cleared away your sighs,
Your frown still glares into my ancient eyes.
Look there, right on your face I see the streaks
Of some old tears still not washed off your cheeks.
If you are you, and your grief’s genuine
You and your grief were meant for Rosaline.
Could you have changed? Repeat this maxim then:
Women may fall, when there’s no strength in men.
For loving Rosaline, a reprimand.
For doting, not for loving—understand.
And told to bury love.
Not in a tomb,
To toss out one, so others will have room.
Don’t scold me, please. The one I love, you see,
Gives love for love and also favors me,
Not like the other one.
She knew too well
You cite your love by rote, yet cannot spell.
But come, my wavering one, let’s work on this.
There is one reason why I should assist,
For this alliance may turn out to be
A means to change discord to harmony.
Then let us hurry. There’s no time to waste.
Wisely, and slow. I’ve stumbled when I’ve raced.