A line-by-line translation

Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 4, Scene 2

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

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

My dearest cousin, I beg you, control yourself. Your husband is noble, wise, and judicious, and understands the current political unrest. I don’t dare say anything more than this, but it is a bad time when people are denounced as traitors and have no idea why; when we believe rumors out of fear, but aren’t even sure what we’re afraid of. It’s like floating in a wild ocean storm, being tossed all around and getting nowhere. I must leave now, but it won’t be long before I return. When things are at their worst they must eventually end, or else improve to be like how they were before. My good cousin, I give my blessing to you.

LADY MACDUFF

Fathered he is, and yet he’s fatherless.

LADY MACDUFF

My son has a father, and yet he’s fatherless.

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

If I stay longer, I’ll disgrace myself and embarrass you by crying. I must leave now.

ROSS exits.

LADY MACDUFF

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

LADY MACDUFF

Little sir, your father’s dead. What will you do now? How will you live?

SON

As birds do, Mother.

SON

I’ll live as birds do, Mother.

LADY MACDUFF

What, with worms and flies?

LADY MACDUFF

What? You’ll eat worms and flies?

SON

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

SON

I’ll live on whatever I get, like birds do.

LADY MACDUFF

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

LADY MACDUFF

Oh, you pitiful bird! You wouldn’t know to fear any traps or snares set out by hunters.

SON

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

SON

Why should I fear them, Mother? Hunters do not try to catch pitiful birds. No matter what you say, my father is not dead.

LADY MACDUFF

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

LADY MACDUFF

Yes, he’s dead. What will you do for a father?

SON

Nay, how will you do for a husband?

SON

No, what will you do for a husband?

LADY MACDUFF

Why, I can buy me twenty at any market.

LADY MACDUFF

Well, I can buy myself twenty husbands at any market.

SON

Then you’ll buy ‘em to sell again.

SON

If so, you’d be buying them to sell again.

LADY MACDUFF

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

LADY MACDUFF

You talk with all of your wit; and yet your wit is still that of a child.

SON

Was my father a traitor, Mother?

SON

Was my father a traitor, Mother?

LADY MACDUFF

Ay, that he was.

LADY MACDUFF

Yes, he was.

SON

What is a traitor?

SON

What is a traitor?

LADY MACDUFF

Why, one that swears and lies.

LADY MACDUFF

Someone who makes a promise and breaks it.

SON

And be all traitors that do so?

SON

And is everyone who does that a traitor?

LADY MACDUFF

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

LADY MACDUFF

Everyone who does so is a traitor and should be hanged.

SON

And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?

SON

And should everyone be hanged who makes and breaks promises?

LADY MACDUFF

Every one.

LADY MACDUFF

Everyone.

SON

Who must hang them?

SON

Who should hang them?

LADY MACDUFF

Why, the honest men.

LADY MACDUFF

The honest men.

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

Then the liars are fools, for there are enough liars in the world to defeat and hang the honest men.

LADY MACDUFF

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

LADY MACDUFF

[Laughing] Heaven help you, my poor little monkey! [Sad again] But what will you do for a father?

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

If he were dead, you’d be weeping for him. If you aren’t weeping, it’s a good sign that I’ll soon have a new father.

LADY MACDUFF

Poor prattler, how thou talk’st!

LADY MACDUFF

My poor little chatterer, how you talk!

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

Bless you, fair lady! You don’t know me, but I know very well about your high social rank. I suspect something dangerous approaches you. If you’ll take a simple man’s advice, get out of here. Go away with your children. I think I am being too blunt to frighten you this way, but the cruelty that is already close to you will do much worse! Heaven help you! I don't dare to stay any longer.

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

Where should I run? I haven’t done anything wrong. But I remember now that I’m here on earth, where doing evil is often praised, and doing good is sometimes a foolish mistake. So why do I make this womanish defense that I’ve done no harm?

The MURDERERS enter.

LADY MACDUFF

What are these faces?

LADY MACDUFF

Why do you make such angry faces?

FIRST MURDERER

Where is your husband?

FIRST MURDERER

Where is your husband?

LADY MACDUFF

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

LADY MACDUFF

I hope he’s not anywhere so disgraceful that men like you could find him.

FIRST MURDERER

He’s a traitor.

FIRST MURDERER

He’s a traitor.

SON

Thou liest, thou shag-ear’d villain!

SON

You lie, you long-eared villain!

FIRST MURDERER

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

FIRST MURDERER

[Stabbing him] What’s that, pipsqueak? Young son of a traitor!

SON

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

SON

He has killed me, Mother. Run away, I beg you!

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

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 1179 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 26,005 quotes covering 1179 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.