This is a quote from "the Tempest" by Prospero:

This misshapen knave, His mother was a witch, and one so strong That could control the moon, make flows and ebbs, And deal in her command without her power.

And it translates to (according to this source):

This ugly monster had a mother who was a witch so powerful that she could control the moon and the tides.

To me that translation is pretty much correct but it explains the meaning of the original sentence until the "make flows and ebbs" part. What does the next part of the original sentence mean?

  • 1
    I'm not certain, but I get the feeling that the "her" in the last sentence is the moon itself - so that last sentence could be saying "The witch is able to deal with everything that the moon commands without the moon being able to do anything about it." In which case the translation is correct, as that last sentence is just re-emphasising the part about moon and tides.
    – Showsni
    Jun 11, 2019 at 12:08
  • I've edited to remove "Should a translation be done with full fidelity". That question is too broad, and off topic for English learning.
    – James K
    Jun 11, 2019 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


"Ebbs and flow is an idiom which means : "to decrease and then increase, as with tides"

One of the main reasons of translation is usually to make the text easily understandable by the reader, hence they used the explanation rather than the exact phrase.


"Ebbs and flows" are the tides, which were known to follow the moon.

The last part "And deal in her command without her power" is cryptic to a modern reader. An analysis suggests that "her" refers to the moon (not the witch) and it means that the witch could control the tides, even without the authority from the moon.

However few modern speakers will be able to understand it as written and will depend on a narrative. There is no reason to use a translation into modern English if a good translation into your native language exists.

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