A line-by-line translation

Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 4, Scene 2

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LADY MACDUFF, her SON, and ROSS enter.

LADY MACDUFF

What had he done to make him fly the land?

LADY MACDUFF

What did he do that made him flee Scotland?

ROSS

You must have patience, madam.

ROSS

You must have patience, madam.

LADY MACDUFF

He had none.His flight was madness. When our actions do not,Our fears do make us traitors.

LADY MACDUFF

He had no patience. To run away was insane. Even if we're not actually traitors, our fears of being accused of treason can make us seem like traitors.

ROSS

You know not Whether it was his wisdom or his fear.

ROSS

You don’t know whether it was wisdom or fear that made him flee.

LADY MACDUFF

Wisdom! To leave his wife, to leave his babes, His mansion and his titles in a place From whence himself does fly? He loves us not; He wants the natural touch. For the poor wren, The most diminutive of birds, will fight, Her young ones in her nest, against the owl. All is the fear and nothing is the love, As little is the wisdom, where the flight So runs against all reason.

LADY MACDUFF

Wisdom? Was it wise to leave his wife, his children, his house, and his titles in a place from which he himself flees? He doesn’t love us. He lacks the natural feelings of a husband and father. Even the fragile wren—the smallest of birds—will fight an owl to protect her young ones in the nest. Macduff’s running away has everything to do with fear and nothing to do with love. And since running away is contrary to all reason, it also must have nothing to do with wisdom.

ROSS

My dearest coz, I pray you school yourself. But for your husband, He is noble, wise, judicious, and best knows The fits o’ th’ season. I dare not speak much further; But cruel are the times when we are traitors And do not know ourselves; when we hold rumor From what we fear, yet know not what we fear, But float upon a wild and violent sea Each way and none. I take my leave of you. Shall not be long but I’ll be here again. Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward To what they were before.—My pretty cousin, Blessing upon you.

ROSS

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LADY MACDUFF

Fathered he is, and yet he’s fatherless.

LADY MACDUFF

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ROSS

I am so much a fool, should I stay longerIt would be my disgrace and your discomfort. I take my leave at once.

ROSS

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ROSS exits.

LADY MACDUFF

Sirrah, your father’s dead.And what will you do now? How will you live?

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

As birds do, Mother.

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

What, with worms and flies?

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

With what I get, I mean, and so do they.

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Poor bird! Thou ’dst never fear the net nor lime,The pitfall nor the gin.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

Why should I, mother? Poor birds they are not set for.My father is not dead, for all your saying.

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Yes, he is dead. How wilt thou do for a father?

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

Nay, how will you do for a husband?

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Why, I can buy me twenty at any market.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

Then you’ll buy ‘em to sell again.

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Thou speak’st with all thy wit; and yet, i’ faith,With wit enough for thee.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

Was my father a traitor, Mother?

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Ay, that he was.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

What is a traitor?

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Why, one that swears and lies.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

And be all traitors that do so?

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Every one that does so is a traitor and must be hanged.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Every one.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

Who must hang them?

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Why, the honest men.

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

Then the liars and swearers are fools, for there are liars and swearers enough to beat the honest men and hang up them.

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Now, God help thee, poor monkey! But how wilt thou do for a father?

LADY MACDUFF

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SON

If he were dead, you’d weep for him. If you would not, it were a good sign that I should quickly have a new father.

SON

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LADY MACDUFF

Poor prattler, how thou talk’st!

LADY MACDUFF

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A MESSENGER enters.

MESSENGER

Bless you, fair dame! I am not to you known, Though in your state of honor I am perfect. I doubt some danger does approach you nearly. If you will take a homely man’s advice, Be not found here. Hence with your little ones. To fright you thus methinks I am too savage; To do worse to you were fell cruelty, Which is too nigh your person. Heaven preserve you! I dare abide no longer.

MESSENGER

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The MESSENGER exits.

LADY MACDUFF

Whither should I fly? I have done no harm. But I remember now I am in this earthly world, where to do harm Is often laudable, to do good sometime Accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas, Do I put up that womanly defense, To say I have done no harm?

LADY MACDUFF

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The MURDERERS enter.

LADY MACDUFF

What are these faces?

LADY MACDUFF

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FIRST MURDERER

Where is your husband?

FIRST MURDERER

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LADY MACDUFF

I hope, in no place so unsanctifiedWhere such as thou mayst find him.

LADY MACDUFF

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FIRST MURDERER

He’s a traitor.

FIRST MURDERER

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SON

Thou liest, thou shag-ear’d villain!

SON

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FIRST MURDERER

[stabbing him] What, you egg?Young fry of treachery!

FIRST MURDERER

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SON

He has killed me, mother.Run away, I pray you!

SON

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The SON dies. LADY MACDUFF exits, crying “Murder!” The MURDERERS exit, following her.

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.