Read Shakespeare’s ‘How oft when men are at the point of death’ soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet below with modern English translation and analysis.
‘How Oft When Men Are At The Point Of Death’, Spoken by Romeo, Act 5 Scene 3
How oft when men are at the point of death
Have they been merry! which their keepers call
A lightning before death: O, how may I
Call this a lightning? O my love! my wife!
Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquer’d; beauty’s ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death’s pale flag is not advanced there.
Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet?
O, what more favour can I do to thee,
Than with that hand that cut thy youth in twain
To sunder his that was thine enemy?
Forgive me, cousin! Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believe
That unsubstantial death is amorous,
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
For fear of that, I still will stay with thee;
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again: here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here’s to my love!
‘How Oft When Men Are At The Point Of Death’ Soliloquy Translation
Looking at her he had a sudden feeling of happiness. He. Couldn’t believe what little effect death had had on her beauty. Death hadn’t defeated her – her lips and cheeks were still rosy.
He looked around the fearful place Tybalt lay on bier a few feet away. ‘Tybalt,’ he said, ‘Is that you in your shroud? Oh what greater favour can I do you than kill myself, the man who was your enemy? Forgive me, cousin.’
Why was she still so beautiful? Was it because Death was in love with her and was keeping her in that dark place as his mistress? If that was so he would stay there with her and never leave. He would join the worms that were her chamber-maids. This was where he would live forever.
But it was time. ‘Eyes look your last,’ he said. ‘Arms take your last embrace.’ He took her in his arms and raised her up. He kissed her. He lowered her again and took out the poison. It was time. ‘Here’s to my love!’
Oh if only to flow as sincerely glib as he!