A line-by-line translation

Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 1, Scene 2

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A trumpet and the sounds of fighting offstage. KING DUNCAN enters with his sons MALCOLM and DONALBAIN, along with the Duke of LENNOX and a number of attendants. They meet a wounded CAPTAIN.

DUNCAN

What bloody man is that? He can report,As seemeth by his plight, of the revoltThe newest state.

DUNCAN

Who’s this bloody man? From the looks of him, it seems likely he can give us the latest news about the revolt.

MALCOLM

This is the sergeant Who like a good and hardy soldier fought ‘Gainst my captivity. Hail, brave friend! Say to the king the knowledge of the broil As thou didst leave it.

MALCOLM

This is the sergeant, a good and tough soldier who fought to stop me from getting captured. 

[To CAPTAIN] Greetings, brave friend! Tell the king about your knowledge of the battle from how you left it.

CAPTAIN

Doubtful it stood, As two spent swimmers that do cling together And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald— Worthy to be a rebel, for to that The multiplying villanies of nature Do swarm upon him— from the Western Isles Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied, And fortune, on his damnèd quarrel smiling, Showed like a rebel’s whore. But all’s too weak, For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name— Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valor’s minion carved out his passage Till he faced the slave; Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops, And fixed his head upon our battlements.

CAPTAIN

The outcome was in doubt. The two armies were like two tired swimmers clinging to each other, making it impossible for either to stay afloat. The armies of the merciless Macdonwald—who has so many villainous qualities that he’s a natural rebel—were reinforced by foot soldiers and warriors with axes from Ireland and the Hebrides. Luck was smiling on his damned rebellion as if she were his whore. But that wasn’t enough because brave Macbeth—he deserves that description—defied Lady Luck with his sword, which smoked with blood, and carved through Macdonwald’s army until he faced the rogue. Not pausing to shake hands or say goodbye, Macbeth split Macdonwald from belly to jaw and stuck his head on the walls of our castle.

DUNCAN

O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!

DUNCAN

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CAPTAIN

As whence the sun ‘gins his reflection Shipwracking storms and direful thunders break, So from that spring whence comfort seemed to come Discomfort swells. Mark, King of Scotland, mark: No sooner justice had, with valor armed, Compelled these skipping kerns to trust their heels, But the Norweyan lord, surveying vantage, With furbished arms and new supplies of men, Began a fresh assault.

CAPTAIN

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DUNCAN

Dismayed not this our captains, Macbeth and Banquo?

DUNCAN

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CAPTAIN

Yes, as sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion. If I say sooth, I must report they were As cannons overcharged with double cracks, So they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe. Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds, Or memorize another Golgotha, I cannot tell— But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.

CAPTAIN

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DUNCAN

So well thy words become thee as thy wounds;They smack of honor both. Go get him surgeons.

DUNCAN

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Attendants help the CAPTAIN to exit.

ROSS and ANGUS enter.

DUNCAN

Who comes here?

DUNCAN

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MALCOLM

The worthy thane of Ross.

MALCOLM

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LENNOX

What a haste looks through his eyes! So should he lookThat seems to speak things strange.

LENNOX

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ROSS

God save the king.

ROSS

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DUNCAN

Whence cam’st thou, worthy thane?

DUNCAN

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ROSS

From Fife, great king, Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky And fan our people cold. Norway himself, with terrible numbers, Assisted by that most disloyal traitor, The thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict, Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapped in proof, Confronted him with self-comparisons, Point against point, rebellious arm ‘gainst arm, Curbing his lavish spirit; and to conclude, The victory fell on us.

ROSS

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DUNCAN

Great happiness!

DUNCAN

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ROSS

That now Sweno, the Norways’ king, craves composition. Nor would we deign him burial of his men Till he disbursed at Saint Colme’s Inch Ten thousand dollars to our general use.

ROSS

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DUNCAN

No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceiveOur bosom interest: go pronounce his present death, And with his former title greet Macbeth.

DUNCAN

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ROSS

I’ll see it done.

ROSS

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DUNCAN

What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won.

DUNCAN

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They all exit.

Macbeth
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Ben florman
About the Translator: Ben Florman

Ben is a co-founder of LitCharts. He holds a BA in English Literature from Harvard University, where as an undergraduate he won the Winthrop Sargent prize for best undergraduate paper on a topic related to Shakespeare.