Read Macbeth’s Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow soliloquy below with modern English translation & analysis

Spoken by Macbeth, Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5
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.

“Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow” Soliloquy Translation:
How the days stretched out – each one the same as the one before, and they would continue to do so, tediously, until the end of history. And every day we have lived has been the last day of some other fool’s life, each day a dot of candle-light showing him the way to his death-bed. Blow the short candle out: life was no more than a walking shadow – a poor actor – who goes through all the emotions in one hour on the stage and then bows out. It was a story told by an idiot, full of noise and passion, but meaningless.

 

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Read Macbeth in modern English >>

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  1. Esme
    Esme says:

    As an engineering major, and weak in English, I find it demeaning when some of you imply readers of this site are somehow stupid and/or lazy. The “didn’t pay attention in English class” argument is inarticulate and quite egotistical. I’ve been on this site for years and love the translations. They’ve helped alleviate stressful nights in high school and college numerous times. Considering that Macbeth was written over 400 years ago should be enough for you English majors to recognize that people unlike yourself aren’t necessarily stupid, but rather need extra help translating middle English to modern English.

    Reply
    • stephen james
      stephen james says:

      I agree. Of course the original is the purist and most beautiful, yet the attempts to explain it, translate it are looked down upon by Shakespeare and theater purists who come across as snobbish in their distain for new students who are still learning to translate for themselves.

      Reply
  2. kim DeCelles
    kim DeCelles says:

    It is wonderfully spoken as written. Whatever interpretation comes through, is personal to the reader and valid. There is much,e.g., the overwhelming feeling of despair, that is universally felt.

    Reply
  3. Xzigalia
    Xzigalia says:

    Why all the nastiness? We are all here because of our admiration for the Bard. If this translation brings his writings to another generation, level of literacy or any seeker, let it be, I say.

    Reply
  4. Ginny
    Ginny says:

    Shannon should be paying more attention in her GCSE classes. It would prevent her from writing ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’ and either: this sort of site, or these sorts of sites. She sounds pretty young, and I know I sound pretty old, and am. I’ll be 84 years old in November.

    Reply
    • Christine
      Christine says:

      “Should of” is a pet peeve of mine, Ginny! I thouht I was the only one. “Should of”, and “planning on”. I am constantly telling people, planning to, not on!

      Reply
  5. maddie
    maddie says:

    the translation is just saying the same thing in different words.its giving you the answer to what it means and not letting you think for yourself. the poem states what it is trying to tell you vary clearly, but for some who don’t understand it as well as others, it provides a good insight on what the poem is about.

    Reply
    • T
      T says:

      The vulgarity of the translation provides only the “insight” of vomit. Anyone who doesn’t understand the beauty and power of the original didn’t pay attention in English class and doesn’t need “insight” provided–he needs instruction in basic English comprehension.

      Reply
      • Shannon
        Shannon says:

        I completely disagree with your comment just because people dont necessarily understand parts of this speech doesnt mean that they should of paid more attention in English! I am taking my English GCSE at the moment at these sort of sites help me understand the text more clearly as I make up my own verdict on this wonderful play. Maybe you should be less narrow minded about the kind of people who may actually find this site even the slightest bit helpful.

        Reply
  6. Vee
    Vee says:

    Translations can often be very helpful. But in this case I agree with the earlier comment – it couldn’t be better said and doesn’t need any explanation.

    Reply
  7. Ricardo Dirani
    Ricardo Dirani says:

    How does this:
    “a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage”

    becomes this:
    “a poor actor – who goes through all the emotions in one hour on the stage”

    “struts and frets” wouldn’t imply something like going hesitantly, ungraciously?

    Reply
    • maddie
      maddie says:

      what i understand from it is that the actor is wasting his/her time and everyone else’s which results to nothing.

      Reply
    • Christine
      Christine says:

      Maybe I am over simplifying, I only have a BA in English literature, but I think he is personifying the concept of time,by saying it’s a player,and that player worries and rushes and works his way to get his story told, but in the end it is not of any substance. Time has no value, but the value we place on it.

      Reply
    • laura
      laura says:

      That is what Shakespeare is referring to. When he says a poor player on stage, he means an actor. Its a metaphor referring to how an actor goes on stage, and to him that moment is the most important of his life, but to the rest of the audience he is just another actor- another player. He practices and prepares so much for this moment where he “struts and frets” on stage for only an hour or so, and when its finally over, even though it might have been excellent, it meant nothing in the end.

      Reply
      • David Hinds
        David Hinds says:

        Well actually I like both version and I think that Laura’s understanding of the concept was pretty much one that I have also visited. I also believe that though many artist say oh that’s perfect it cannot be improved well it is and it isn’t that is to say that it is in our Human nature to repeatedly try to improve even perfection if we sit with it long enough even perfection can agitate and you go on to think but what if I did it this way or that way etc

        Reply
  8. les powell
    les powell says:

    The English language has lost much clarity and precision in four hundred years. Even the original text here is subject to a dramatic turn of meaning when one fine point is unclear. until reading this paraphrase, I assumed “syllable of recorded time” referred to the instant that MacBeth’s thought, with the utterance of the final syllable” time”, moved from future to past without consequence. I may be over complicating the intent, but the greater context just feels richer to me in this light. That may well be my own personal experience shading what I read, but that’s what great writing is supposed to encourage!

    Reply
  9. rena
    rena says:

    jesus H. Christ…..doesn’t this just sum up the dumbing down and shallowness of american culture? this butchery of macbeth would be laughable if it weren’t so sad because there is some puffed-up, self-important ass out there who thinks he’s actually accomplished something with this “translation.” truly, what an idiot.

    Reply
  10. Michael Harvey
    Michael Harvey says:

    By “modern English,” what does this writer mean?

    I can’t see what is either modern in the interpretation, or what is not modern in the original. Perhaps it is not modern to be more succinct, more clear of meaning, and more beautifully spoken.

    The paraphrase – not translation – suggests that “modern” might mean “confused, redundant, without understanding or clarity of thought,”

    This surely illustrates why the original continues to be passed through the generations, and the vulgar “translation” signifies nothing.

    Reply
    • Patrick Doherty
      Patrick Doherty says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The passage is complete and needs nothing. It couldn’t be better said nor does it need any explanation.

      Reply
      • Christine
        Christine says:

        I agree totally. These are words spoken by a man who has just seen his whole world come to an end. His schemes have gone wrong, his wife is dead, and she was the foundation of his soul. What he says is very much what a man in his circumstances would say.

        Reply

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  1. [...] 123, the ‘tomorrow’ soliloquy from Macbeth and Falstaff’s ‘honour’ soliloquy from Henry IV pt1 - William [...]

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