A line-by-line translation

Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 1, Scene 5

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LADY MACBETH enters, reading a letter.

LADY MACBETH

[reading] “They met me in the day of success, and I have learned by the perfectest report they have more in them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further, they made themselves air, into which they vanished. Whiles I stood rapt in the wonder of it came missives from the king, who all-hailed me ‘Thane of Cawdor,’ by which title, before, these weird sisters saluted me, and referred me to the coming on of time with ‘Hail, king that shalt be!’ This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou might’st not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell.” Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly, That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false, And yet wouldst wrongly win. Thou’ld’st have, great Glamis, That which cries, “Thus thou must do,” if thou have it, And that which rather thou dost fear to do, Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear And chastise with the valor of my tongue All that impedes thee from the golden round, Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem To have thee crowned withal.

LADY MACBETH

[Reading] “The witches met me on my day of victory, and I have since learned for certain that they have supernatural knowledge. When I tried frantically to question them further, they vanished into the air. While I stood amazed at the strangeness of all of this, messengers from the king arrived and greeted me as “Thane of Cawdor,” which is exactly what the weird sisters had called me before then hailing me as 'the future king!’ My dearest partner in greatness, I wanted to tell you this news, so that you would not be ignorant of the greatness promised to us and therefore be unable to celebrate. Keep it close to your heart, and farewell.” [She puts down the letter] You are Thane of Glamis, and Cawdor, and you will be the king just as you were promised. Yet I worry about your character. You are too full of the milk of human kindness to take the shortest route to power. You want to be powerful, and you don’t lack ambition—but you don’t have the nastiness required to truly go for it. You hope to become great by acting with virtue and goodness. You don’t want to lie or cheat, yet you want to win what Great Thane of Glamis, you want to have something, but you’re too frightened to do it. Get yourself home, so I can whisper in your ear and criticize you so that you cease to be affected by everything that’s keeping you from taking the crown—which fate and magic both seem to want you to have.

A SERVANT enters.

LADY MACBETH

What is your tidings?

LADY MACBETH

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SERVANT

The king comes here tonight.

SERVANT

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LADY MACBETH

Thou ‘rt mad to say it. Is not thy master with him, who, were ’t so,Would have informed for preparation?

LADY MACBETH

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SERVANT

So please you, it is true: our thane is coming. One of my fellows had the speed of him, Who, almost dead for breath, had scarcely more Than would make up his message.

SERVANT

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LADY MACBETH

Give him tending.He brings great news.

LADY MACBETH

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The SERVANT exits.

LADY MACBETH

The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. 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. Make thick my blood. Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature’s mischief. Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark To cry “Hold, hold!”

LADY MACBETH

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MACBETH enters.

LADY MACBETH

Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor, Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter, Thy letters have transported me beyond This ignorant present, and I feel now The future in the instant.

LADY MACBETH

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MACBETH

My dearest love, Duncan comes here tonight.

MACBETH

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LADY MACBETH

And when goes hence?

LADY MACBETH

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MACBETH

Tomorrow, as he purposes.

MACBETH

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LADY MACBETH

O, never Shall sun that morrow see! Your face, my thane, is as a book where men May read strange matters. To beguile the time, Look like the time. Bear welcome in your eye, Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under ’t. He that’s coming Must be provided for; and you shall put This night’s great business into my dispatch, Which shall to all our nights and days to come Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.

LADY MACBETH

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MACBETH

We will speak further.

MACBETH

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LADY MACBETH

Only look up clear.To alter favor ever is to fear. Leave all the rest to me.

LADY MACBETH

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They 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.