Shakespeare can be confusing, right? That’s why we’ve given everyone free access to our Modern English Translation of Macbeth. If you’re using this for essays and exams, make sure to quote from the original Shakespearean language (on the left) and only use the modern translation to help you understand what’s going on!
Act 1, Scene 2
Alarum within. Enter KING
DUNCAN, MALCOLM,DONALBAIN, LENNOX, with attendants, meeting a bleeding CAPTAIN
What bloody man is that? He can report,
As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
The newest state.
This is the sergeant
Who like a good and hardy soldier fought
‘Gainst my captivity. Hail, brave friend!
Say to the king the knowledge of the broil
As thou didst leave it.
Doubtful it stood,
As two spent swimmers that do cling together
The merciless Macdonwald—
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villanies of nature
Do swarm upon him—from the Western Isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied,
And fortune, on his damnèd quarrel smiling,
Showed like a rebel’s whore. But all’s too weak,
For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valor’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements.
O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!
As whence the sun ‘gins his reflection
Shipwracking storms and direful thunders break,
So from that spring whence comfort seemed to come
Discomfort swells. Mark, King of Scotland, mark:
No sooner justice had, with valor armed,
Compelled these skipping kerns to trust their heels,
But the Norweyan lord, surveying vantage,
With furbished arms and new supplies of men,
Began a fresh assault.
Dismayed not this our captains, Macbeth and
Yes, as sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.
If I say sooth, I must report they were
As cannons overcharged with double cracks,
So they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe.
Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorize another Golgotha,
I cannot tell—
But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.
So well thy words become thee as thy wounds;
They smack of honor both. Go get him surgeons.
Exit CAPTAIN with attendants
Enter ROSS and ANGUS
Who comes here?
The worthy thane of Ross.
What a haste looks through his eyes! So should he
That seems to speak things strange
God save the king.
Whence cam’st thou, worthy thane?
From Fife, great king,
Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky
And fan our people cold.
Norway himself, with terrible numbers,
Assisted by that most disloyal traitor,
The thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict,
Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapped in proof,
Confronted him with self-comparisons,
Point against point, rebellious arm ‘gainst arm,
Curbing his lavish spirit; and to conclude,
The victory fell on us.
Sweno, the Norways’ king, craves composition.
Nor would we deign him burial of his men
Till he disbursed at Saint Colme’s Inch
Ten thousand dollars to our general use.
No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceive
Our bosom interest: go pronounce his present death,
And with his former title greet Macbeth.
I’ll see it done.
What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won.
Act 1, Scene 2
Alarm sounds. Enter KING DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, LENNOX, with servants, meeting a bleeding CAPTAIN
What man is that, all covered in blood? He can report back to us about the latest state of the war, as it looks from his suffering like he has just walked out of battle.
This is the sergeant, he fought against me being captured – like the good and tough soldier that he is. Hello, brave friend! Tell the king your knowledge of the fight, and how it was going at the point where you left.
It seemed doubtful that we were going to win, the cruel Macdonwald – who is rightly called a rebel because he is completely swarmed by evil and villainous personality traits – supplied himself with Celtic soldiers from the Western islands (from Ireland to the outer Hebrides), and he was extremely lucky – Lady Fortune smiled on his damned argument, and showed up like a rebel’s prostitute. But this was no trouble at all for brave Macbeth – he deserves so much to be called ‘brave’ – he didn’t care that luck wasn’t on his side, he held his sword up high as it smoked with blood from those he had just executed, and like the servant of bravery he walked through the crowd of enemies, cutting out a passage through them until he came face to face with their leader, Macdonwald. He didn’t shake hands with him or say goodbye, he just cut him in half from the stomach to the jaw, chopped his head off and stuck it on the battlements of our castle.
Oh, what a brave cousin Macbeth is! He’s a true gentleman!
Sometimes, the sun begins to shine in Springtime, but then shipwrecking storms and awful thunders come to ruin its calmness. In the same way, we all felt comforted for a minute by Macbeth’s defeat of the traitor, but that was too soon replaced by uneasiness. Look, King of Scotland, pay attention to this: As soon as justice, armed with bravery, had sent these stupid Celtic soldiers running back to their homelands, the Norwegian king Sweno (the foreign leader who invaded Scotland and started the whole war) began a new attack with fresh weapons and more supplies of soldiers.
Weren’t our captains Macbeth and Banquo worried by this?
(sarcastically) I guess so, as much as a sparrow would worry an eagle, or a lion would be scared of a hare. If I speak truly, I must say that they were like double-fused overcharged cannons, they became twice as powerful as they even had been before, attacking the enemy with twice as much force. I can’t tell whether they were trying to bathe themselves in the blood from stinking wounds, or martyr themselves like Jesus Christ in Golgotha (the hill where he was crucified). But I’m very weak – my own wounds need to be healed.
Both your words and your wounds suit you so well; they both show your honour. (to the servants) Go and find him doctors, to treat his gashes.
Exit CAPTAIN with servants
Enter ROSS and ANGUS
The respectable lord of Ross.
How panicked he looks! He looks like someone who’s about to tell us a strange tale.
God save the king.
Where did you just come from, worthy lord?
I just got here from Fife, great king,
Where the Norwegian banners fly up to the sky
And our people are cold from the way that they fan us. Sweno himself, with terrible numbers of soldiers, and helped by that most disloyal traitor, Macdonwald the lord of Cawdor, began a depressing battle, until the point where Bellona’s bridegroom (Macbeth, the husband of the goddess of war), covered in strong armour,
confronted him with an equally fierce attack,
matching blow against blow, rebellious arm ‘gainst arm, breaking Sweno’s arrogant spirit; in the end, we won the battle.
Now Sweno, the Norwegian king, wants to make a treaty to end the war. We also told him that he couldn’t bury his men until he gave us ten thousand dollars and retreated to Saint Colme’s Inch.
As for Macdonwald, he’s going to deceive us no longer. Go tell everyone that he’s dead, and give Macbeth his old title and lands (make Macbeth into the new ‘thane of Cawdor’).
I’ll make sure that it’s done.
What Macdonald has lost, noble Macbeth has won.
All characters leave the stage.