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Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 1, Scene 3

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The sound of thunder. The three WITCHES enter.

FIRST WITCH

Where hast thou been, sister?

FIRST WITCH

Where have you been, sister?

SECOND WITCH

Killing swine.

SECOND WITCH

Killing pigs.

THIRD WITCH

Sister, where thou?

THIRD WITCH

Where were you, sister?

FIRST WITCH

A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap, And munched, and munched, and munched. “Give me,” quoth I. “Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed runnion cries. Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ th’ Tiger; But in a sieve I’ll thither sail, And like a rat without a tail, I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.

FIRST WITCH

A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap and munched, and munched, and munched them. “Give me one,” I said. “Get out of here, witch!” the fat-bottomed, scabby woman cried. Her husband has gone to Aleppo as captain of a sailing ship called The Tiger. I’m going to sail there in a strainer, and them—like a rat without a tail—I’ll do this to him, and this, and that.

SECOND WITCH

I’ll give thee a wind.

SECOND WITCH

I’ll make a wind for you to sail there.

FIRST WITCH

Thou ‘rt kind.

FIRST WITCH

That’s very kind.

THIRD WITCH

And I another.

THIRD WITCH

And I’ll give you another wind.

FIRST WITCH

I myself have all the other, And the very ports they blow, All the quarters that they know I’ th’ shipman’s card. I’ll drain him dry as hay. Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his penthouse lid. He shall live a man forbid. Weary sev’nnights nine times nine Shall he dwindle, peak and pine. Though his bark cannot be lost, Yet it shall be tempest-tossed. Look what I have.

FIRST WITCH

I’m already master of all the other winds, the locations from which they originate, and every direction on the compass that they can blow. I’ll drain him until he’s dry as hay, and won’t let him sleep during night or day. He’ll live as a cursed man. For eighty-one wearying weeks he’ll slowly become sickly, and waste away from grief. Although I can’t destroy his ship, I can still buffet it with storms by controlling the winds. Look what I’ve got.

SECOND WITCH

Show me, show me.

SECOND WITCH

Show me, show me.

FIRST WITCH

Here I have a pilot’s thumb,Wrecked as homeward he did come.

FIRST WITCH

Here I hold the thumb of a captain who was shipwrecked while returning home.

A drum sounds offstage.

THIRD WITCH

A drum, a drum!Macbeth doth come.

THIRD WITCH

A drum, a drum! Macbeth comes.

ALL

[dancing together in a circle] The weird sisters, hand in hand, Posters of the sea and land, Thus do go about, about, Thrice to thine and thrice to mine And thrice again, to make up nine. Peace! The charm’s wound up.

ALL

[Dancing together in a circle] The weird sisters, hand in hand, swift travelers over the sea and land, dance around and around! Three times your way, then three times mine, and three times again, to add up to nine. Quiet! The spell is ready.

MACBETH and BANQUO enter.

MACBETH

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

MACBETH

I’ve never seen a day that was so good—because of our great victory—and yet with such bad weather.

BANQUO

How far is ’t called to Forres? —What are these So withered and so wild in their attire, That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ Earth, And yet are on ’t? —Live you? Or are you aught That man may question? You seem to understand me, By each at once her choppy finger laying Upon her skinny lips. You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so.

BANQUO

How far is it to Forres, King Duncan’s palace? [He sees the WITCHES] What are these creatures? They’re so wrinkled and wildly dressed. They don’t look like residents of the earth, and yet here they are on it. 

[To the WITCHES] Are you alive? Are you something that a man can question? You seem to understand me, since each of you has placed a chapped finger to her skinny lips. You look like women, but your beards won’t let me believe that you actually are.

MACBETH

Speak, if you can: what are you?

MACBETH

Speak, if you can. What are you?

FIRST WITCH

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

FIRST WITCH

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to you, Thane of Glamis!

SECOND WITCH

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

SECOND WITCH

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to you, Thane of Cawdor!

THIRD WITCH

All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!

THIRD WITCH

All hail, Macbeth, who will be king in the future!

BANQUO

Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear Things that do sound so fair [to the WITCHES] I’ th’ name of truth, are ye fantastical, or that indeed Which outwardly ye show? ? My noble partner You greet with present grace and great predictionOf noble having and of royal hope, That he seems rapt withal. To me you speak not. If you can look into the seeds of timeAnd say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak, then, to me, who neither beg nor fear Your favors nor your hate.

BANQUO

[To MACBETH] Good sir, why do you flinch and seem afraid of these words that predict such good things for you? 

[To the WITCHES] Be truthful, are you some kind of illusion—or are you, in fact, what you appear to be? You’ve greeted my noble friend by his current title, and predict a future of additional noble titles and the promise of becoming king—all of which has left him astonished. Yet you don’t speak at all to me. If you can look into the future and say what will happen, then speak to me. I neither want your favors nor fear your hatred.

FIRST WITCH

Hail!

FIRST WITCH

Hail!

SECOND WITCH

Hail!

SECOND WITCH

Hail!

THIRD WITCH

Hail!

THIRD WITCH

Hail!

FIRST WITCH

Lesser than Macbeth and greater.

FIRST WITCH

You are lesser than Macbeth but also greater.

SECOND WITCH

Not so happy, yet much happier.

SECOND WITCH

You will not be so fortunate as Macbeth, and yet much more fortunate.

THIRD WITCH

Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!

THIRD WITCH

Your descendants will be kings, though you will not be king. So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!

FIRST WITCH

Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!

FIRST WITCH

Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!

MACBETH

Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more. By Sinel’s death I know I am thane of Glamis. But how of Cawdor? The thane of Cawdor lives, A prosperous gentleman, and to be king Stands not within the prospect of belief, No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence You owe this strange intelligence, or why Upon this blasted heath you stop our way With such prophetic greeting. Speak, I charge you.

MACBETH

Wait! You have not told me everything. Tell me more. I know I am the Thane of Glamis, because the title became mine when my father Sinel died. But how can I be the Thane of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor is alive—and he is a rich, strong man too. And for me to become king is beyond belief—just as it’s crazy for me to be Thane of Cawdor. Tell me where you got this unnatural information. And why did you come to us on this bleak and empty field with such a prophecy?  I command you to speak.

The WITCHES vanish.

BANQUO

The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,And these are of them. Whither are they vanished?

BANQUO

The earth has bubbles, just like as water does. These beings must come from such a bubble. Where did they vanish?

MACBETH

Into the air, and what seemed corporalMelted, as breath into the wind. Would they had stayed.

MACBETH

Into the air. They seemed solid, but then just melted like breath into the wind. I wish that they would have stayed!

BANQUO

Were such things here as we do speak about? Or have we eaten on the insane rootThat takes the reason prisoner?

BANQUO

Were these creatures that we're discussing ever even here? Or have we both eaten some root that's given us hallucinations?

MACBETH

Your children shall be kings.

MACBETH

Your children will be kings.

BANQUO

You shall be king.

BANQUO

You will be king.

MACBETH

And thane of Cawdor too: went it not so?

MACBETH

And Thane of Cawdor too. Is that what they said?

BANQUO

To the selfsame tune and words. Who’s here?

BANQUO

Those were their exact words. Who’s coming here?

ROSS and ANGUS enter.

ROSS

The king hath happily received, Macbeth, The news of thy success, and when he reads Thy personal venture in the rebels’ fight, His wonders and his praises do contend Which should be thine or his. Silenced with that, In viewing o’er the rest o’ the selfsame day, He finds thee in the stout Norweyan ranks, Nothing afeard of what thyself didst make, Strange images of death. As thick as tale Can post with post, and every one did bear Thy praises in his kingdom’s great defense, And poured them down before him.

ROSS

Macbeth, the king was happy to learn of your success. And when he heard the story of your personal heroism in the battle against the rebels, he couldn't decide whether to praise you or just be silently amazed. He was also at a loss for words to find out that on the same day you fought the rebels, you also fought against the army of Norway—and that you weren’t at all afraid of death, even as you killed those around you. A stream of messengers brought news of this to the king, and they gushed with praise for how you defended his country.

ANGUS

We are sentTo give thee from our royal master thanks,Only to herald thee into his sight,Not pay thee.

ANGUS

We’ve been sent to give you the king’s thanks and to escort you to him, although we don’t have your reward.

ROSS

And, for an earnest of a greater honor, He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor: In which addition, hail, most worthy thane, For it is thine.

ROSS

But— to give you a hint of the honors coming your way—the king told me to call you the Thane of Cawdor. Hail, most worthy thane, for that title is now yours.

BANQUO

What, can the devil speak true?

BANQUO

What? Can the devil speak the truth?

MACBETH

The thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress me In borrowed robes?

MACBETH

The Thane of Cawdor is still alive. How can you pretend that his title is now mine?

ANGUS

Who was the thane lives yet, But under heavy judgment bears that life Which he deserves to lose. Whether he was combined With those of Norway, or did line the rebel With hidden help and vantage, or that with both He labored in his country’s wrack, I know not; But treasons capital, confessed and proved, Have overthrown him.

ANGUS

The former Thane of Cawdor is still alive, but he’s held under a death sentence—and he deserves to die. I don’t know whether he fought alongside the Norwegians or if he secretly helped the rebels, or if he worked with both of our enemies to destroy or country. But his capital treason has been proven, and he has confessed to it, so he has lost his former title.

MACBETH

[aside] Glamis, and thane of Cawdor! The greatest is behind. [to ROSS and ANGUS] Thanks for your pains. [aside to BANQUO] Do you not hope your children shall be kings, When those that gave the thane of Cawdor to me Promised no less to them?

MACBETH

[To himself] Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor! With the biggest part of their prophecy yet to come. 

[To ROSS and ANGUS] Thanks for your efforts to bring this news.

[To BANQUO so that only he can hear] Are you starting to believe your children might be kings, since the witches who said I would be Thane of Cawdor promised they would be?

BANQUO

That, trusted home, Might yet enkindle you unto the crown, Besides the thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange. And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray ’s In deepest consequence. [to ROSS and ANGUS] Cousins, a word, I pray you.

BANQUO

If you trust them, then it seems you might eventually become king, not just Thane of Cawdor.  But all of this is strange.  Often, to lead us to harm, the agents of darkness will first tell us some bit of truth. They win us over by telling us the truth about unimportant things, only to betray us when the consequences will be most terrible. 

[To ROSS and ANGUS] Gentlemen, speak with me a moment, please.

ROSS, ANGUS, and BANQUO move off to one side.

MACBETH

[aside] Two truths are told, As happy prologues to the swelling act Of the imperial theme. [to ROSS and ANGUS] I thank you,gentlemen. [aside] This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature? Present fears Are less than horrible imaginings. My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man That function is smothered in surmise, And nothing is but what is not.

MACBETH

[To himself] Two of the  prophecies have come true, making it seem like this will end with my rise to the throne. 

[To ROSS and ANGUS] Thank you, gentlemen. 

[To himself] This supernatural temptation doesn’t seem like it’s a bad thing, but it can’t be good either. If it’s bad, why did it promise me a success that turned out to be true? I am the Thane of Cawdor. But if this is a good thing, why do I find myself thinking about something that is so horrid that it makes my hair stand on end, and my heart pound unnaturally within my chest? The things I should fear are less frightening to me than the horrible things I’m imagining. Although my thoughts of murder are just a fantasy, they shake my very sense of self. My ability to act is blocked by my swirling thoughts, and all that matters to me are things that don’t exist.

BANQUO

Look how our partner’s rapt.

BANQUO

Look how our friend is daydreaming.

MACBETH

[aside] If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown meWithout my stir.

MACBETH

[To himself] If fate wants me to be king, well, maybe fate will give me the throne without me having to do anything at all.

BANQUO

New honors come upon him, Like our strange garments, cleave not to their moldBut with the aid of use.

BANQUO

Like brand new clothes, Macbeth’s new titles don’t fit well until they’ve been worn for a while.

MACBETH

[aside] Come what come may,Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.

MACBETH

[To himself] No matter what happens, time continues on.

BANQUO

Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure.

BANQUO

Good Macbeth, we’re waiting for you, whenever you’re ready to go.

MACBETH

Give me your favor. My dull brain was wrought With things forgotten. Kind gentlemen, your pains Are registered where every day I turn The leaf to read them. Let us toward the king. [aside to BANQUO] Think upon what hath chanced, and, atmore time, The interim having weighed it, let us speak Our free hearts each to other.

MACBETH

Pardon me. I was occupied by forgotten thoughts. Kind gentlemen, I won’t forget your efforts today, and will remember them every day. Let’s go to the king. 

[To BANQUO so that only he can hear] Think about what just happened, and let’s discuss it freely with one another when we’ve both had more time to consider its implications.

BANQUO

Very gladly.

BANQUO

Gladly.

MACBETH

Till then, enough. [to ROSS and ANGUS] Come, friends.

MACBETH

Until then, we'll keep quiet about it. 

[To ROSS and ANGUS] Let’s go, my friends.

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.