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Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 1, Scene 7

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The sound of oboes playing. Torches light the stage. A butler enters, as do a number of servants carrying utensils and dishes of food. Then MACBETH enters.

MACBETH

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly. If the assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success; that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here, But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases We still have judgment here, that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague th’ inventor: this even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice To our own lips. He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against The deep damnation of his taking-off; And pity, like a naked newborn babe, Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself And falls on th’ other.

MACBETH

If this will really all be over once it’s done, then it would be best to get it over with quickly. If the assassination of the king could be like a net—catching up all the consequences of the act within it—then the act would be the be-all and end-all of the whole affair. Then, at this point, I would do it and risk the afterlife. But for such crimes there are still consequences in this world. Violent acts only teach others to commit violence—and the violence of our students will come back to plague us teachers. Justice, being even-handed, forces the cup we poisoned and gave to others back to our own lips. The king trusts me twice over: first, I am his kinsman and his subject. Second, I am his host, and should be closing the door to any murderer rather than trying to murder him myself. Besides, Duncan has been such a humble leader—so honest and free from corruption—that his virtues will make angels sing for him and cry out like trumpets against his murder. Pity, like an innocent newborn baby, will ride the wind like a winged angel, or on invisible horses through the air, to spread news of the horrible deed across the land, so that a flood of tears will fall from the sky. I have no reason to spur myself to act on my desires other than ambition, which makes people leap into action and into tragedy.

LADY MACBETH enters.

MACBETH

How now! What news?

MACBETH

What’s the news?

LADY MACBETH

He has almost supped. Why have you left the chamber?

LADY MACBETH

He’s almost finished eating dinner. Why have you left the dining room?

MACBETH

Hath he asked for me?

MACBETH

Has he asked for me?

LADY MACBETH

Know you not he has?

LADY MACBETH

Don’t you know that he has?

MACBETH

We will proceed no further in this business. He hath honored me of late, and I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people, Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon.

MACBETH

We’ll go no further with this plan. He has recently honored me, and I have earned the good opinions of all sorts of people. I should be basking in my new honor and position, not throwing it aside so quickly.

LADY MACBETH

Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? From this time Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valor As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would, ” Like the poor cat i’ th’ adage?

LADY MACBETH

Were you drunk when you were so hopeful earlier? Did you then go to sleep, and wake up sick and pale in fear of what we planned before? From this point on I will see your love in a new way. Are you afraid to act on your desires? Will you take the thing you want more than anything else? Or will you live as a coward in your own mind, always saying “I can’t” after you say “I want to?” You’re like the poor cat in the old story, who wants to eat fish but refuses to get its feet wet.

MACBETH

Prithee, peace:I dare do all that may become a man;Who dares do more is none.

MACBETH

I beg you, no more! I dare to do only what’s appropriate for a man to do. Anyone who dares to do more is not a real man at all.

LADY MACBETH

What beast was ’t, then, That made you break this enterprise to me? When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place Did then adhere, and yet you would make both. They have made themselves, and that their fitness now Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.

LADY MACBETH

Then what kind of beast were you when you first told me about all this? When you dared to do it, that’s when you were a man. And to actually do it in order to become king, then you’ll be that much more of a man. The time and place weren’t right before—but you would have done it anyway. Now the time and place are perfect, but it's as if their very perfectness unnerves you. I have breastfed a baby, and I know how sweet it is to love a nursing baby. But even as the baby was smiling up at me, I would have yanked my nipple from its mouth and dashed out its brains if I had sworn to do it in the same way you have sworn to do this.

MACBETH

If we should fail?

MACBETH

But what if we fail?

LADY MACBETH

We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we’ll not fail. When Duncan is asleep— Whereto the rather shall his day’s hard journey Soundly invite him—his two chamberlains Will I with wine and wassail so convince That memory, the warder of the brain, Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep Their drenchèd natures lie as in a death, What cannot you and I perform upon The unguarded Duncan? What not put upon His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt Of our great quell?

LADY MACBETH

We, fail? Just get a hold of your courage, and we won’t fail. When Duncan is asleep—and he surely will be soon, after this day’s hard journey—I’ll get his two servingmen so drunk on wine and ale that their memory will disappear in the fumes of alcohol. As they lie in their piggish sleep, so drunk they might as well be dead, you and I will be able to do what we please. What will stop us from doing what we want to the unguarded Duncan? And what will stop us from blaming the murder on his drunken servants?

MACBETH

Bring forth men-children only, For thy undaunted mettle should compose Nothing but males. Will it not be received, When we have marked with blood those sleepy two Of his own chamber and used their very daggers, That they have done ’t?

MACBETH

May you only give birth to boys, because your fearless spirit could only create males. Are you sure that smearing the two drunken servants with blood, and using their daggers to do the deed, will really make people believe that they were the ones who did it?

LADY MACBETH

Who dares receive it other,As we shall make our griefs and clamor roarUpon his death?

LADY MACBETH

Who would possibly think that it could be anyone else? The two of us will wail with grief when we learn of his death.

MACBETH

I am settled, and bend up Each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show. False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

MACBETH

I am convinced, and now I will use all my strength to achieve this great and terrible thing. Go now, and deceive everyone with a show of friendliness. You must hide your treacherous heart behind a false face.

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.