The other day, my daughter had to take some lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth and translate them into English that people these days would understand.
"Mom," she said staring at the words, "I have no idea what this is about."
I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading. Here's what it said:
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly. If th’assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success: that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all, here,
But here upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return
To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice
Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips. He’s here in double trust:
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against
The deep damnation of his taking-off,
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself
And falls on th’other.
"Whoa," I said. "'Tis mighty long-winded!"
"What's he saying?" my daughter asked.
"I think some dude is thinking about killing someone. But he's thinking there might be consequences. And maybe he's thinking it would be a bad example to others. And maybe he thinks it would come back and bite him in the butt."
"That makes sense. Why couldn't Shakespeare say it the way you did?"
"Because people back then wouldn't have understood a word I just said."
What about you? Do you remember reading Shakespeare in school? Could you understand what he was talking about?