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I was told Shakespeare said "life is a tale told by a fool full of noise and fury...

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milzy | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 7, 2009 at 5:14 AM via web

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I was told Shakespeare said "life is a tale told by a fool full of noise and fury signifying nothing." Is this true ?

The reason I ask is that i would love it as a tattoo, and in Latin.

I've tried to get it translated into Latin but have had so many different translations I dont know which is correct. Is there any way at all you could help me??

Many many thanks

Milzy

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sagesource | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 7, 2009 at 5:36 AM (Answer #1)

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I can't help with the Latin itself -- this question would best be answered by someone at the Classics department of a local university. However, your quotation is a bit off, and it's best to get that cleaned up before you proceed to the stage of translation. The original is from Act V, Scene 5 of Macbeth, when Macbeth is under siege in his castle and facing ruin, and has just been told of the suicide of his wife:

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.

I very much doubt that this quotation is representative of Shakespeare's own view of life. It is the medium Shakespeare uses to express Macbeth's nihilism at the end of his career, when he finds out that all the promises made to him by the witches, the agents of the Devil, were only meant to deceive him. Macbeth never realizes that it is his own faults and errors that were to blame for his downfall (strictly speaking, even the predictions of the witches were true, though they were worded in ways that invited misunderstanding). He turns on life and damns it as meaningless because he is not brave or perceptive enough to see and accept responsibility for his own faults.

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