A line-by-line translation

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

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SEYTON

The queen, my lord, is dead.

SEYTON

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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

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A MESSENGER enters.

MACBETH

Thou comest to useThy tongue; thy story quickly.

MACBETH

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MESSENGER

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

MESSENGER

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MACBETH

Well, say, sir.

MACBETH

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MESSENGER

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

MESSENGER

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MACBETH

Liar and slave!

MACBETH

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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

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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

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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.