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Macbeth

Macbeth Translation Act 5, Scene 5

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MACBETH, SEYTON, and SOLDIERS enter, with a drummer and flag.

MACBETH

Hang out our banners on the outward walls. The cry is still “They come!” Our castle’s strength Will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie Till famine and the ague eat them up. Were they not forced with those that should be ours, We might have met them dareful, beard to beard, And beat them backward home.

MACBETH

Hang our flags on the outer walls. You all keep shouting, “They’re coming!” Our castle’s strength is enough to laugh off their siege. Let them sit out there until they’re killed off by hunger and disease. If so many of our own soldiers hadn't revolted and joined them, we would have met them in front of the castle, man to man, and beat them back to England.

Women crying offstage.

MACBETH

What is that noise?

MACBETH

What’s that noise?

SEYTON

It is the cry of women, my good lord.

SEYTON

It’s the sound of women crying, my good lord.

SEYTON exits.

MACBETH

I have almost forgot the taste of fears. The time has been my senses would have cooled To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir As life were in ’t. I have supped full with horrors. Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts Cannot once start me.

MACBETH

I’ve almost forgotten what fear feels like. There was a time when a shriek in the night would have filled me with dread, and a ghost story would have made the hairs on my skin rise up as if they were alive. But now I’ve feasted on true horrors, and horror is so familiar to my bloody thoughts that it can’t startle me.

SEYTON comes back in.

MACBETH

Wherefore was that cry?

MACBETH

What was the cause of that cry?

SEYTON

The queen, my lord, is dead.

SEYTON

The queen is dead, my lord.

MACBETH

She should have died hereafter. There would have been a time for such a word. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

MACBETH

She would have died eventually anyway. That news was bound to come at some point. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow—creeping at this slow pace, day after day, until the very end of time. And the days that have gone by are just another step for fools on the way to their deaths. Go out, go out, brief candle. Life is an illusion, a pitiful actor who struts and worries for his hour on the stage and then disappears forever. Life is a story told by an idiot, full of noise and emotion, without any meaning.

A MESSENGER enters.

MACBETH

Thou comest to useThy tongue; thy story quickly.

MACBETH

You’ve come to tell me something. Speak quickly.

MESSENGER

Gracious my lord, I should report that which I say I saw,But know not how to do ’t.

MESSENGER

My gracious lord, I want to tell you what I saw, but I don’t know how to say it.

MACBETH

Well, say, sir.

MACBETH

Well, just say it, sir.

MESSENGER

As I did stand my watch upon the hill,I looked toward Birnam, and anon methoughtThe wood began to move.

MESSENGER

As I stood on guard duty on the hill, I looked toward Birnam—and then I thought I saw the forest begin to move.

MACBETH

Liar and slave!

MACBETH

You liar and villain!

MESSENGER

Let me endure your wrath, if ’t be not so.Within this three mile may you see it coming;I say, a moving grove.

MESSENGER

I accept your punishment if it’s not true. You can see it coming about three miles away—it's a moving forest, I say.

MACBETH

If thou speak’st false, Upon the next tree shall thou hang alive Till famine cling thee. If thy speech be sooth, I care not if thou dost for me as much. I pull in resolution and begin To doubt th’ equivocation of the fiend That lies like truth. “Fear not, till Birnam wood Do come to Dunsinane”; and now a wood Comes toward Dunsinane. —Arm, arm, and out!— If this which he avouches does appear, There is nor flying hence nor tarrying here. I ‘gin to be aweary of the sun, And wish th’ estate o’ th’ world were now undone.— Ring the alarum-bell!—Blow, wind! Come, wrack! At least we’ll die with harness on our back.

MACBETH

If you’re lying, you’ll hang on the nearest tree until you die of hunger. If you’re speaking the truth, I wouldn’t care if you were to do the same to me. 

[To himself] My resolve is failing, and now I begin to doubt that the lies the witches told me only sounded like the truth. “Don’t worry until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.” And now a wood is coming to Dunsinane. 

[To SOLDIERS] Arm yourselves, arm yourselves, and go fight! 

[To himself] If what the messenger swears to me is actually true, then I can neither run away nor stay here. I’m beginning to grow weary of life. I wish the established order of the world would fall to chaos. 

[To SOLDIERS] Ring the alarms! Blow, wind! Come, ruin! At least we’ll die with our armor on our backs.

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.