Act 1, Scene 1, Twelfth Night, Translation: Shakespeare

Introducing a dynamic solution to demystify Shakespeare's intricate language: our interactive modern translation of Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1. Click any line in the original text, and its modern translation instantly illuminates, forging an immediate link between the two. By seamlessly blending the old with the new, we bring accessibility and clarity to Shakespeare's enduring masterpiece for present-day readers.

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Original Text

ACT I
SCENE I. DUKE ORSINO's palace.
Enter DUKE ORSINO, CURIO, and other Lords; Musicians attending
DUKE ORSINO
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.

Modern Translation

ACT I
SCENE I. Duke Orsino's palace.
(Duke Orsino, Curio, and other Lords enter with musicians.)
DUKE ORSINO
If music is the nourishment of love, play on;
Give me an overabundance of it, so that, overindulging,
The desire for it may become sick and die.
That melody again! it had a falling, dying sound:
Oh, it came over my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving fragrance! That's enough; no more:
It's not as sweet now as it was before.
Oh, spirit of love! How quick and fresh you are,
That, even though you have the capacity of the sea,
Nothing enters there,
No matter its value and level of importance,
But it decreases in worth and price,
Even in a minute: Imagination is so full of various forms
That it alone is wildly imaginative.

CURIO
Will you go hunt, my lord?
DUKE ORSINO
What, Curio?
CURIO
The hart.
DUKE ORSINO
Why, so I do, the noblest that I have:
O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,
Methought she purged the air of pestilence!
That instant was I turn'd into a hart;
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,
E'er since pursue me.
Enter VALENTINE
How now! what news from her?
VALENTINE
So please my lord, I might not be admitted;
But from her handmaid do return this answer:
The element itself, till seven years' heat,
Shall not behold her face at ample view;
But, like a cloistress, she will veiled walk
And water once a day her chamber round
With eye-offending brine: all this to season
A brother's dead love, which she would keep fresh
And lasting in her sad remembrance.
DUKE ORSINO
O, she that hath a heart of that fine frame
To pay this debt of love but to a brother,
How will she love, when the rich golden shaft
Hath kill'd the flock of all affections else
That live in her; when liver, brain and heart,
These sovereign thrones, are all supplied, and fill'd
Her sweet perfections with one self king!
Away before me to sweet beds of flowers:
Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.
Exeunt

CURIO
Will you go hunting, my lord?
DUKE ORSINO
What, Curio?
CURIO
After deer.
DUKE ORSINO
Why, yes, I'm doing that, pursuing the noblest one I have:
Oh, when my eyes first saw Olivia,
I thought she cleansed the air of disease!
In that instant, I turned into a male deer;
And my desires, like fierce and cruel hounds,
Have been pursuing me ever since.
Enter VALENTINE
How are things now? What news from her?
VALENTINE
My lord, I wasn't allowed to enter;
But I bring back this response from her maid:
She herself, until seven years of burning passion have passed,
Won't let anyone see her face clearly;
But like a nun, she'll walk veiled
And moisten her chamber once a day
With tears that hurt the eyes: all this to enhance
The memory of a brother's love who has died,
Which she wants to preserve as fresh
DUKE ORSINO
Oh, she who possesses a heart of such refined qualities
To repay this debt of love only to a brother,
How much more will she love when the powerful golden arrow
Has killed all other emotions
That exist within her; when liver, brain, and heart,
The thrones of her feelings, are all occupied and filled
By the one true ruler of her delightful qualities!
Step away from me to the sweet beds of flowers:
Thoughts of love flourish when sheltered by arbors.
They exit.

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