Twelfth Night Book Cover

The Tempest: A Verse Translation

ISBN-13 9780983637967
156 pages
Full Measure Press

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The Tempest: A Verse Translation


This excerpt from Act One, Scene Two is entirely in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). It shows how carefully the ENJOY SHAKESPEARE translations recreates the line structure of Shakespeare's plays.

Scene Two. On Prospero’s Island


MIRANDA (daughter of Prospero)

If through your magic, dearest father, you’ve

Made the wild waters roar, now let them rest.

The sky looks set to pour down stinking tar,

But then the sea, climbing the cheeks of heaven,

Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered

With those that I saw suffer! A splendid vessel,

Which no doubt had some noble creature in her,

Dashed all to pieces! O, their cries knocked hard

Against my heart itself! Poor souls, they perished.

Had I the power of a god, I would

Have sunk the sea beneath the earth before

It could have swallowed up the good ship and

The souls that were her cargo.

PROSPERO (former Duke of Milan and magician)

                                                           Calm yourself.

Be shocked no more. And tell your feeling heart

There’s no harm done.


                                         O, woe the day!


                                                                     No harm.

There’s nothing here I did not do for you,

For you, my dear one, you, my daughter, who

Are ignorant of who you are, of where

I’m from, and that I had a rank much higher

Than Prospero, master of this shack and just

As low a father.


                              Wanting to know more

Has never entered in my thoughts.


                                                                     It’s time

That I inform you further. Help me to

Slip out of this magicians’s robe.

[Lays down his robe]

                                                                So there

You lay, my power.—[to Miranda] Wipe your eyes. Cheer up.

The dreadful wreck presented here, which touched

The very essence of compassion in you,

Was managed with such foresight through my art,

So carefully arranged, that not one soul—

No, nothing so much as a strand of hair—

Was lost to any creature you heard cry

Aboard the vessel you saw sink. Sit down.

You must learn more about this.


                                                                 Often you’ve

Begun to tell me what I am but stopped,

Concluding every fruitless inquisition

With “Wait. Not yet.”


                                         The hour now has come,

The perfect time to open up your ears.

Obey, and be attentive. Can you remember

Our life before we settled in this hut?

I do not think you can, for you were not

Quite three years old.


                                            Certainly, sir, I can.


Remember what? A different house, a person?

Can you describe for me an image that

Your memory still holds?


                                                    It’s far away,

More like a dream than something that assures

Me that my memory is true. Did four,

Perhaps five, women once take care of me?


They did, and more, Miranda. But how is it

That this lives in your mind? What else is there

In the dark reaches and abyss of time?

If you remember anything from then,

You might recall our journey.


                                                            But I don’t.


Twelve years back, Miranda, twelve years back,

Your father was the Duke of Mílan* and

A powerful prince.

* [translator’s note] Today the English word for the Italian city Milan has the emphasis on the final syllable, but Shakespeare wants the word stressed on the first. Throughout the play, I add a stress mark to remind readers of the pronunciation needed for the verse to scan properly.


                              Sir, are you not my father?


Your mother was the paragon of virtue

And said you were my daughter. And your father

Was Duke of Mílan, you his only child,

A princess no less nobly born.


                                                            O, heavens!

What foul play could it be that sent us here?

Or blessing, I suppose?


                                             Both, both, my girl.

Through foul play, as you said, we were cast out

But blessed enough to reach here.


                                                                  O, my heart bleeds

To think of all the grief I’ve caused for you

Of which I have no memory. Please, go on.


My brother and your uncle, named Antonio—

Please try to comprehend a brother who’s

This treacherous—one whom next to you I loved

Most in this world, the one I put in charge

Of managing the state, which at that time

With all its provinces was at the top

And Prospero its main duke, his excellence

Renowned, his scholarship in art and science

Unparalleled. My time consumed by that,

I handed off the government to my brother

And grew a stranger to it, swept away,

Engrossed in studying magic. Your false uncle—

Are you still listening?


                                           Quite closely, sir.


Having grown skilled in how to grant petitions,

How to deny them, who to sponsor, who

To put a leash on, he promoted or

Replaced—that’s right—or altered my appointments,

And holding keys to officer and office,

He set the tune that all hearts in the state would play

To one his ear preferred and now became

The ivy that concealed my princely trunk

And sucked the nutrients from me. You’re not listening.


Good sir, I am!


                         Please, try to follow this.

My steering clear of worldly aims, with full devotion

To solitude and betterment of mind,

Though gaining more—seclusion has its price—

Than popularly thought,1 in my false brother

This stirred an evil nature, and my trust,

Like a good parent, was rewarded with

A falsehood, in proportion just as great

As my trust was, that is, without a limit,

Faith unconstrained. Advancing in this way,

Both from my income and the power that

A lord can bring to bear—like someone who

Has told so many lies against the truth

That his own memory’s now a sinner that

Will vouch for all he says—he soon believed

He was indeed the Duke, not just a proxy

Who in my absence wore the public face

Of royalty and privilege. His ambition growing—

You hearing this?


                                Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.


To raise the screen between the part he played

And he for whom he played it, Mílan he

Must rule. For me, poor man, my library was

A dukedom large enough, but he thinks I’m

Unfit for earthly business. Thirsting for

Some clout, he’s now “cooperating” with

The King of Naples, sends him annual payments,

Pays homage, has our crown defer to his,

And has our dukedom, once unbowed—poor Mílan—

Contort in a disgraceful curtsy.


                                                             O heavens!


Look at those terms, the outcome, then tell me

If this can be a brother.


                                             It’s a sin

To think such thoughts about my grandmother.

Good wombs can bear bad sons.


                                                                 Here are the terms:

This King of Naples, being an enemy

To me longstanding, hears my brother’s offer,

Which was, that in return for terms agreed to,

Of homage, tribute—I don’t know how much—

He’d clear at once down to the roots from all

The dukedom me and mine, and hand fair Mílan

And all its honors to my brother. Soon

A treacherous band, one midnight, picked by Fate

To fill this purpose, entered Mílan’s gates—

Antonio opened them—and in dead darkness,

These agents, just as planned, swept in and took

Us both, with you in tears.


                                                    Such heartlessness!

I, who cannot remember crying then,

Cry over it again. My eyes will be

Wrung dry by this occasion.


                                               There’s still more,

And then I’ll tell you of the present business

That’s now upon us, without which this story

Would have no relevance.


                                                    Why didn’t they

Just slay us at that time?


                                                  Good question, lass!

My tale provokes it. Dear, they did not dare—

So dear the people’s love for me had grown—

To put a mark that bloody on this business.

In short, they painted over their foul deeds

With pretty colors, rushed us on a boat,

Took us out several miles, and put together

A rotten carcass of a tub—no riggings,

No tackle, sails, or mast; the rats themselves

Instinctively had left it. There they launched us,

To cry out to a sea that roared right back,

To sigh to winds that sighed back love and pity

Yet served to do us harm.


                                                    O my, what trouble

I brought you then!


                                        O no, an angel who

Protected me! Your smile infused me with

A fortitude from heaven, which when I

Adorned the sea with drops of salty tears,

When I groaned from the strain, it raised in me

The stomach to endure, to push against

Whatever might ensue.2


How did we come ashore?


By Providence divine.

We had some food and some fresh water that

A noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo,

Gave out of charity, who having been assigned

To supervise this plan, supplied us with

Rich garments, linens, gear, necessities,

Quite useful things. The gentleman he is,

Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me

With works from my collection that I prize

More than my dukedom.


                                                 I would like someday

To see this man!


It’s time for me to rise.

[He puts on his robe]

Sit there and hear the last of our sea sorrows.

Here on this island we arrived, and here

Have I, your schoolmaster, brought you more gain

Than princes will receive, who spend their hours

On frivolous things with tutors less attentive.


Thank heavens for it! Now, please tell me, sir,

For it’s still pounding in my mind, why you

Have caused this storm at sea?


                                                             I’ll say this much:

Through some strange chance, that generous goddess, Fortune,

Now my dear friend, has brought my enemies

Here to this shore; and through my premonition

I’ve found the zenith of my fate rides on

A star quite favorable, an influence

I should pursue and not neglect, for soon

My fortune will descend. No further questions.

You’ll want to sleep—a drowsiness that’s good,

So yield to it. I know you cannot help it.

[MIRANDA sleeps]

[to Ariel] Come to me, servant, come. I’m ready now.

Approach, my Ariel. Come.

[Enter ARIEL]

the scene continues...

© 2014 by Kent Richmond

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