A line-by-line translation

Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 3, Scene 2

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

LADY MACBETH and a SERVANT enter.

LADY MACBETH

Is Banquo gone from court?

LADY MACBETH

Has Banquo left the castle?

SERVANT

Ay, madam, but returns again tonight.

SERVANT

Yes, madam, but he’ll return tonight.

LADY MACBETH

Say to the king I would attend his leisureFor a few words.

LADY MACBETH

Tell the king that I’d like to speak with him when he has a moment.

SERVANT

Madam, I will.

SERVANT

I will, madam.

The SERVANT exits.

LADY MACBETH

Naught’s had, all’s spent, Where our desire is got without content. ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.

LADY MACBETH

When you get what you want but have no peace of mind, then you’ve gotten nothing, and spent everything. It’s better to be the person who was murdered than to be the murderer and have to live with doubt and anxiety.

MACBETH enters.

LADY MACBETH

How now, my lord! Why do you keep alone, Of sorriest fancies your companions making, Using those thoughts which should indeed have died With them they think on? Things without all remedy Should be without regard. What’s done is done.

LADY MACBETH

How are you, my lord? Why do you keep to yourself, with only your sad thoughts for company? Those sad thoughts should have died along with the men you're thinking about. You should not think about things you can’t change. What’s done is done.

MACBETH

We have scorched the snake, not killed it. She’ll close and be herself whilst our poor malice Remains in danger of her former tooth. But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer, Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep In the affliction of these terrible dreams That shake us nightly. Better be with the dead, Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace, Than on the torture of the mind to lie In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave. After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well. Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison, Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing Can touch him further.

MACBETH

We have merely slashed the snake, not killed it. The snake will heal and we’ll once more be threatened by its fangs. But let the universe fall apart, and heaven and earth collapse, before I eat my meals in fear or spend my nights troubled by the nightmares I've been having. It's better to be dead—like the one whom we sent to eternal peace in order to gain our own peace of mind—than be tortured by nightmares and anxiety. Duncan is in his grave, no longer troubled by life, and sleeping well. Our treason has put him beyond reach of any other pain or hurt, whether from steel, poison, rebellion, invasion, or anything else.

LADY MACBETH

Come on, gentle my lord, Sleek o’er your rugged looks. Be bright and jovialAmong your guests tonight.

LADY MACBETH

Come on, my noble lord. Hide your troubled thoughts behind a happy face. Be friendly and cheerful with your guests tonight.

MACBETH

So shall I, love, And so, I pray, be you. Let your remembrance Apply to Banquo; present him eminence, Both with eye and tongue: unsafe the while that we Must lave our honors in these flattering streams, And make our faces vizards to our hearts, Disguising what they are.

MACBETH

I will, my love. And I hope you’ll do the same. Pay particular attention to Banquo. Speak to him and look at him so that he feels proud and important. We’re unsafe as long as we have to flatter him, hiding our true feelings behind a friendly face.

LADY MACBETH

You must leave this.

LADY MACBETH

You must stop thinking like this.

MACBETH

Oh, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!Thou know’st that Banquo, and his Fleance, lives.

MACBETH

Oh! My mind is full of scorpions, dear wife! You know that Banquo and his son Fleance are still alive.

LADY MACBETH

But in them nature’s copy’s not eterne.

LADY MACBETH

But they won’t live forever.

MACBETH

There’s comfort yet; they are assailable. Then be thou jocund. Ere the bat hath flown His cloistered flight, ere to black Hecate’s summons The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums Hath rung night’s yawning peal, there shall be done A deed of dreadful note.

MACBETH

That’s a comfort. They can be killed. So be joyful. Before the bat flies in the darkness, and before the beetle obeys the summons of Hecate—and with his droning hum announces the arrival of night—a dreadful deed will be done.

LADY MACBETH

What’s to be done?

LADY MACBETH

What will be done?

MACBETH

Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, Till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night, Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day And with thy bloody and invisible hand Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond Which keeps me pale. Light thickens, and the crow Makes wing to th’ rooky wood. Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; Whiles night’s black agents to their preys do rouse. Thou marvel’st at my words: but hold thee still. Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill. So, prithee, go with me.

MACBETH

My dearest one, you’re better off not knowing about it until you can celebrate the finished deed. Come, night, and blindfold the kindhearted day. Then with your bloody and invisible hand, destroy Banquo’s hold on life—which keeps me fearful. The sky darkens, and the crow flies home to roost in the forest. The gentle creatures of the day fall asleep, while night’s predators wake to hunt for prey. 

[To LADY MACBETH] You are shocked by my words, but you shouldn’t be. Things accomplished through bad deeds can only grow stronger through more bad deeds. So, please, come with me.

They exit.

Macbeth
Join LitCharts A+ and get the entire Macbeth Translation as a printable PDF.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
  • Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
  • Downloads of 1173 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 25,867 quotes covering 1173 books
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms
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.