A line-by-line translation

Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 2, Scene 3

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A knock sounds offstage. A porter enters.

PORTER

Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key.

PORTER

What a lot of knocking! If a man were gatekeeper for the gates of hell, he’d sure have to turn the key to open that gate often.

A knock sounds offstage.

PORTER

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ th’ name of Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have napkins enoughabout you, here you’ll sweat for ’t.

PORTER

[Pretending he's the gatekeeper of hell] Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, in the name of the devil? Perhaps a farmer who hanged himself because he’d hoarded grain, hoping to charge high prices during a famine that never came. [Speaking to an imagined farmer] You’ve come at a good time. Make sure you have a lot of handkerchiefs, because you’re going to sweat a lot here in hell.

A knock sounds offstage.

PORTER

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.

PORTER

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s name? Indeed, it’s some slick schemer who vowed his support to two opposing sides. He committed treason in the name of God, but found in the end that you can’t lie to God about your actions. Oh, come in, schemer.

A knock sounds offstage.

PORTER

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither for stealing out of a French hose. Come in, tailor. Here you may roast your goose.

PORTER

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? Perhaps it’s an English tailor who skimped on the amount of fabric needed to make pants in the baggy French style. Come in, tailor. You can heat your pressing iron up in the fires of hell, since you’re done for.

A knock sounds offstage.

PORTER

Knock, knock! Never at quiet. What are you? But this place is too cold for hell. I’ll devil-porter it no further. I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.

PORTER

Knock, knock! Never stopping. Who are you? Well, this place is too cold to be hell. I’ll stop pretending to be the devil’s gatekeeper. I had wanted to let into hell someone from each of the professions who’d given in to temptation.

A knock sounds offstage.

PORTER

Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter.

PORTER

Coming! Coming! And please don’t forget to leave me a tip.

The PORTER opens the gate.

MACDUFF and LENNOX enter.

MACDUFF

Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,That you do lie so late?

MACDUFF

Friend, did you go to sleep so late that you had to lie in bed this morning?

PORTER

‘Faith sir, we were carousing till the second cock. Anddrink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.

PORTER

That’s the truth, sir. We drank and sang until three in the morning. And, sir, drinking results in three things.

MACDUFF

What three things does drink especially provoke?

MACDUFF

What three things does drinking result in?

PORTER

Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire,but it takes away the performance. Therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery. It makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takeshim off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

PORTER

Indeed, sir, drinking results in a red nose, sleep, and urine. It provokes desire, but also hinders it. Drinking arouses desire, but inhibits performance. Therefore, drink is like a traitor in relation to sex. It makes you feel good, but it blocks your abilities. It gets you up, but then lets you down. It eggs you on, but leaves you dismayed. It gives you an erection, but soon takes it away again. And, finally, it gives you erotic dreams, but they disappear, just leaving you with the need to pee.

MACDUFF

I believe drink gave thee the lie last night.

MACDUFF

I believe drinking did all that to you last night.

PORTER

That it did, sir, i’ th’ very throat on me; but I requited him for his lie, and, I think, being too strongfor him, though he took up my legs sometime, yet I madea shift to cast him.

PORTER

Yes it did, sir. Drinking told me I was a liar to my face. But I got my revenge on drinking. I was too strong for it. It may have weakened my legs a bit, and knocked me off balance, but I found a way to give it the slip: I threw up.

MACDUFF

Is thy master stirring?

MACDUFF

Is your master getting up?

MACBETH enters.

MACDUFF

Our knocking has awaked him. Here he comes.

MACDUFF

Our knocking woke him up. Here he comes.

LENNOX

Good morrow, noble sir.

LENNOX

Good morning, noble sir.

MACBETH

Good morrow, both.

MACBETH

Good morning to you both.

MACDUFF

Is the king stirring, worthy thane?

MACDUFF

Is the king awake, noble thane?

MACBETH

Not yet.

MACBETH

Not yet.

MACDUFF

He did command me to call timely on him.I have almost slipped the hour.

MACDUFF

He commanded me to call on him early this morning. I’m almost late.

MACBETH

I’ll bring you to him.

MACBETH

I’ll bring you to him.

MACDUFF

I know this is a joyful trouble to you,But yet ’tis one.

MACDUFF

I know that hosting the king is a labor of love, but that doesn’t make it any less work.

MACBETH

The labor we delight in physics pain.This is the door.

MACBETH

Work we enjoy removes the pain of the effort. This is the door.

MACDUFF

I’ll make so bold to call,For ’tis my limited service.

MACDUFF

I’ll wake him, because it is my duty.

MACDUFF exits.

LENNOX

Goes the king hence today?

LENNOX

Will the king move on from here today?

MACBETH

He does. He did appoint so.

MACBETH

Yes. He told us to have everything ready for his departure.

LENNOX

The night has been unruly. Where we lay, Our chimneys were blown down and, as they say, Lamentings heard i’ th’ air, strange screams of death, And prophesying with accents terrible Of dire combustion and confused events New hatched to the woeful time. The obscure bird Clamored the livelong night. Some say the Earth Was feverous and did shake.

LENNOX

The night was wild. Where we were sleeping, the wind blew down the chimneys. People are saying they heard cries of grief in the air, strange screams of death, and terrifying voices prophesying fire and chaos that will result in the beginning of a new and awful time. The owl—that omen of destruction—hooted all night long. Some people are saying that the earth shook from a fever.

MACBETH

‘Twas a rough night.

MACBETH

It was a rough night.

LENNOX

My young remembrance cannot parallelA fellow to it.

LENNOX

I’m young and can’t remember anything similar to it.

MACDUFF rushes in.

MACDUFF

O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee!

MACDUFF

Oh, horror, horror, horror! I don’t have the words to describe this or the heart to believe it!

MACBETH and LENNOX

What’s the matter?

MACBETH and LENNOX

What’s the matter?

MACDUFF

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece. Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lord’s anointed temple, and stole thence The life o’ th’ building!

MACDUFF

Chaos has taken over. A blasphemous murder has broken open God’s temple and stolen the life from it.

MACBETH

What is ’t you say? “The life?”

MACBETH

What are you saying? “The life?”

LENNOX

Mean you his majesty?

LENNOX

You mean the king?

MACDUFF

Approach the chamber, and destroy your sightWith a new Gorgon. Do not bid me speak.See, and then speak yourselves.

MACDUFF

Go look into the bedroom, and you will be appalled and frozen as if you’d seen a Gorgon. Don’t ask me to describe it. Go, see it and then describe it yourselves.

MACBETH and LENNOX exit.

MACDUFF

Awake, awake! Ring the alarum bell. Murder and treason! Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! Awake! Shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit, And look on death itself! Up, up, and see The great doom’s image! Malcolm! Banquo! As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites, To countenance this horror! Ring the bell.

MACDUFF

Get up, get up! Ring the alarm bell. Murder and treason! Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! Wake up! Shake off your sleep—that fake death—and look on death itself! Get up, get up, and see the exact image of doomsday! Malcolm! Banquo! Get up as if from your graves, and come here like ghosts  to see face this horror. Ring the bell.

A bell rings. LADY MACBETH enters.

LADY MACBETH

What’s the business,That such a hideous trumpet calls to parleyThe sleepers of the house? Speak, speak!

LADY MACBETH

What’s happened that makes the awful trumpet call everyone who’s sleeping in the house to come together? Tell me! Tell me!

MACDUFF

O gentle lady, ‘Tis not for you to hear what I can speak: The repetition, in a woman’s ear, Would murder as it fell.

MACDUFF

Oh, dear lady, the news I could tell you is not something you should hear. Telling it to a woman would kill you instantly.

BANQUO enters.

MACDUFF

O Banquo, Banquo,Our royal master’s murdered!

MACDUFF

Oh, Banquo, Banquo, our royal king has been murdered!

LADY MACBETH

Woe, alas!What, in our house?

LADY MACBETH

Oh no! What, in our own house?

BANQUO

Too cruel any where.Dear Duff, I prithee, contradict thyself,And say it is not so.

BANQUO

It is too awful no matter where it happened. Dear Macduff, I beg you, change your story and say it isn’t true.

MACBETH and LENNOX reenter, with ROSS.

MACBETH

Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessèd time, for from this instant There’s nothing serious in mortality. All is but toys. Renown and grace is dead. The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left this vault to brag of.

MACBETH

If I had died an hour before this happened I would have lived a blessed life. Because starting from this moment, there’s no reason to keep living. Everything is meaningless. All grace and distinction are dead. The wine of life has been poured away. In all the world, only the dregs remain.

MALCOLM and DONALBAIN enter.

DONALBAIN

What is amiss?

DONALBAIN

What’s wrong?

MACBETH

You are, and do not know ’t.The spring, the head, the fountain of your bloodIs stopped; the very source of it is stopped.

MACBETH

You are, but you don’t know it yet. The spring, the source, the very origin of your blood has been stopped.

MACDUFF

Your royal father’s murdered.

MACDUFF

Your royal father has been murdered.

MALCOLM

Oh, by whom?

MALCOLM

Oh, who did it?

LENNOX

Those of his chamber, as it seemed, had done ’t. Their hands and faces were all badged with blood. So were their daggers, which unwiped we found Upon their pillows. They stared, and were distracted. No man’s life was to be trusted with them.

LENNOX

Apparently, the servants who were watching his bedroom did it. Their hands and faces were covered in blood. So were their daggers, which we found still bloody on their pillows. They stared at us, confused. They shouldn’t have been trusted with any man’s life.

MACBETH

Oh, yet I do repent me of my fury, That I did kill them.

MACBETH

Even so, I regret my fury, which pushed me to kill them.

MACDUFF

Wherefore did you so?

MACDUFF

Why did you do that?

MACBETH

Who can be wise, amazed, temp’rate, and furious, Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man. Th’ expedition of my violent love Outrun the pauser, reason. Here lay Duncan, His silver skin laced with his golden blood, And his gashed stabs looked like a breach in nature For ruin’s wasteful entrance; there, the murderers, Steeped in the colors of their trade, their daggers Unmannerly breeched with gore. Who could refrain, That had a heart to love, and in that heart Courage to make ’s love known?

MACBETH

Can someone be wise, shocked, calm, furious, loyal, and neutral all at the same time? No man can. My love for Duncan resulted in a violent rage that made me kill them before I could pause to think. There was Duncan, his white skin all splattered with his precious blood, covered in gashes that looked like wounds to nature that let the rot in. And there next to him were the murderers, dripping with blood, their daggers covered in gore. Who could have stopped himself, who loved Duncan and had the courage to act on it?

LADY MACBETH

Help me hence, ho!

LADY MACBETH

Get me away from here, now! [She faints]

MACDUFF

Look to the lady.

MACDUFF

See to the lady’s health.

MALCOLM

[aside to DONALBAIN] Why do we hold our tongues, That most may claim this argument for ours?

MALCOLM

[To DONALBAIN so that only he can hear] Why aren’t we saying anything? The two of us have the greatest reason to express our horror and grief.

DONALBAIN

[aside to MALCOLM] What should be spoken here, where our fate,Hid in an auger-hole, may rush and seize us?Let’s away. Our tears are not yet brewed.

DONALBAIN

[To MALCOLM so that only he can hear] What should we say when we ourselves may be in immediate danger from some hidden place? We should run. We’re not yet ready to show our tears.

MALCOLM

[aside to DONALBAIN] Nor our strong sorrow Upon the foot of motion.

MALCOLM

[To DONALBAIN so that only he can hear] Nor is it yet time for us to take our grief and turn it into action.

BANQUO

Look to the lady.

BANQUO

See to the lady.

LADY MACBETH is carried out.

BANQUO

And when we have our naked frailties hid, That suffer in exposure, let us meet And question this most bloody piece of work, To know it further. Fears and scruples shake us. In the great hand of God I stand, and thence Against the undivulged pretense I fight Of treasonous malice.

BANQUO

When we’re properly dressed to be out of our rooms, let’s meet and discuss this bloody crime to see if we can figure out what happened. At the moment, fears and doubts shake us. I’m putting myself in the hands of God, and from there I’ll fight the treasonous plot behind this murder.

MACDUFF

And so do I.

MACDUFF

I will too.

ALL

So all.

ALL

We all will.

MACBETH

Let’s briefly put on manly readiness, And meet i’ th’ hall together.

MACBETH

Let’s get dressed quickly and regain our manly strength, and then meet together in the hall.

ALL

Well contented.

ALL

Agreed.

Everyone exits but MALCOLM and DONALBAIN.

MALCOLM

What will you do? Let’s not consort with them.To show an unfelt sorrow is an officeWhich the false man does easy. I’ll to England.

MALCOLM

What will you do? Let’s not meet with them. A liar has no trouble pretending to show sorrow he does not actually feel. I’m going to England.

DONALBAIN

To Ireland, I. Our separated fortune Shall keep us both the safer. Where we are, There’s daggers in men’s smiles. The near in blood, The nearer bloody.

DONALBAIN

And I’ll go to Ireland. We’ll be safer if we separate ourselves. No matter where we are, every smile might have a dagger hiding behind it. And those who are most closely related to us—and therefore closest in line to the throne—are the ones most likely to try to kill us.

MALCOLM

This murderous shaft that’s shot Hath not yet lighted, and our safest way Is to avoid the aim. Therefore, to horse, And let us not be dainty of leave-taking, But shift away. There’s warrant in that theft Which steals itself when there’s no mercy left.

MALCOLM

This murderous plot has only just begun, and we’ll be safest if we can avoid the scheme. Therefore, let’s get on our horses and not worry about being polite and saying goodbye. We should just disappear. We’re justified in sneaking off when there’s no mercy left for us to count on.

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.