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Macbeth: A Verse Translation

 

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Shakespeare Translation Project

Hamlet: A Verse Translation Cover

 

I am translating Shakespeare's major dramatic works into more modern English. These line-by-line translations preserve the complexity of the original and conform to the metrical conventions that Shakespeare favored when he wrote the play. My goal is to preserve as much as possible the metrical form, rhyme, and syntactical complexity of the original. I employ an entirely authentic iambic pentameter.

 

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I began the project after reading an article by linguist John McWhorter in the late 1990's. The article "The Real Shakespearean Tragedy" was later revised and reprinted in the January 2010 issue of American Theater Magazine. McWhorter demonstrates how easily we misunderstand Shakespeare and calls for serious translations that maintain the literary qualities of the original. The revised article praises Kent Richmond's Shakespeare Translation Project.

 

The Park Players of Detroit performed Kent Richmond's translation of Much Ado about Nothing on Nov. 9, 10, 11, 16, and 17, 2012.

 

 

  • Macbeth Excerpt
  • Titles

Excerpt from Macbeth

Act 2, Scene 2

 

(Macbeth and Lady Macbeth meet after Macbeth commits murder.)

 

Scene Two. Inside Macbeth’s Castle

 

[Enter LADY MACBETH]

 

LADY MACBETH

That which has made them drunk has made me bold.

What’s doused their flame has brought me fire.—What?—Nothing!

An owl just screeched, the bell for the condemned,

The harshest of good nights. He’s doing it.

The doors are open, and the stuffed attendants

Scoff at their job with snores. I’ve drugged their nightcaps,

So nature’s forces battle here to see

If they will live or die.

 

[MACBETH enters through the open door]

 

MACBETH

[from beyond the door] Who’s there?—What’s that?

 

LADY MACBETH

Oh, no! I am afraid they’ve woken up

And it’s not done. Attempt without the deed

Will wreck us.—Listen!—I laid out their daggers.

He couldn’t miss them.—Had he not resembled

My father as he slept, I would have done it.

My husband?

 

[Enter MACBETH, holding bloody daggers]

 

MACBETH

I’ve done the deed. Did you hear any noise?

 

LADY MACBETH

I heard the owl screech and the crickets cry.

You did not speak?

 

MACBETH

When?

 

LADY MACBETH

Now.

 

MACBETH

As I descended?

 

LADY MACBETH

Yes.

 

MACBETH

Wait!—The next room, who’s in it?

 

LADY MACBETH

Donalbain.

 

MACBETH

[Looking at his hands] This is a sorry sight.

 

LADY MACBETH

A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.

 

MACBETH

First one laughed in his sleep, and one cried, “Murder!”

Enough to wake each other. I froze and listened,

But then they said their prayers and settled down

And fell asleep.

 

LADY MACBETH

The two share the same room.

 

MACBETH

One cried, “God bless us!” The other said, “Amen.”

As if they’d seen me with these hangman’s hands.

Hearing their fear, I could not say “Amen,”

When they had said, “God bless us.”

 

LADY MACBETH

Don’t think too deeply.

 

MACBETH

But why could I not say the word “Amen?”

I need his blessing most, and yet “Amen”

Stuck in my throat.

 

LADY MACBETH

We must not think about

These deeds this way, or it will drive us mad.

 

MACBETH

It seemed I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!

Macbeth has murdered sleep,”—yes, innocent sleep,

Sleep that rewinds unraveled threads of care,

The death of each day’s life, hard work’s warm bath,

Salve for hurt minds, and nature’s biggest course,

Chief nourishment in life’s feast.

 

LADY MACBETH

What do you mean?

 

MACBETH

Still it cried, “Sleep no more!” to all the house.

“Glamis has murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor

Shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more!”

 

[scene continues]

 

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