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sound, that I must ask my child forgiveness.'

'No more of that,' said Prospero: 'let us not remember our troubles
past, since they so happily have ended.' And then Prospero embraced his
brother, and again assured him of his forgiveness; and said that a wise
overruling Providence had permitted that he should be driven from his
poor dukedom of Milan, that his daughter might inherit the crown of
Naples, for that by their meeting in this desert island, it had
happened that the king's son had loved Miranda.

These kind words which Prospero spoke, meaning to comfort his brother,
so filled Antonio with shame and remorse, that he wept and was unable
to speak; and the kind old Gonzalo wept to see this joyful
reconciliation, and prayed for blessings on the young couple.

Prospero now told them that their ship was safe in the harbour, and the
sailors all on board her, and that he and his daughter would accompany
them home the next morning. 'In the meantime,' says he, 'partake of
such refreshments as my poor cave affords; and for your evening's
entertainment I will relate the history of my life from my first
landing in this desert island.' He then called for Caliban to prepare
some food, and set the cave in order; and the company were astonished
at the uncouth form and savage appearance of this ugly monster, who
(Prospero said) was the only attendant he had to wait upon him.

Before Prospero left the island, he dismissed Ariel from his service,
to the great joy of that lively little spirit; who, though he had been
a faithful servant to his master, was always longing to enjoy his free
liberty, to wander uncontrolled in the air, like a wild bird, under
green trees, among pleasant fruits, and sweet-smelling flowers. 'My
quaint Ariel,' said Prospero to the little sprite when he made him
free, 'I shall miss you; yet you shall have your freedom.' 'Thank you,
my dear master,' said Ariel; 'but give me leave to attend your ship
home with prosperous gales, before you bid farewell to the assistance
of your faithful spirit; and then, master, when I am free, how merrily
I shall live!' Here Ariel sung this pretty song:

Where the bee sucks there suck I;
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I crouch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.'

Prospero then buried deep in the earth his magical books and wand, for
he was resolved never more to make use of the magic art. And having
thus overcome his enemies, and being reconciled to his brother and the
king of Naples, nothing now remained to complete his happiness, but to
revisit his native land, to take possession of his dukedom, and to
witness the happy nuptials of his daughter and Prince Ferdinand, which
the king said should be instantly celebrated with great splendour on
their return to Naples. At which place, under the safe convoy of the
spirit Ariel, they, after a pleasant voyage, soon arrived.


There was a law in the city of Athens which gave to its citizens the
power of compelling their daughters to marry whomsoever they pleased;
for upon a daughter's refusing to marry the man her father had chosen
to be her husband, the father was empowered by this law to cause her to
be put to death; but as fathers do not often desire the death of their
own daughters, even though they do happen to prove a little refractory,
this law was seldom or never put in execution, though perhaps the young
ladies of that city were not unfrequently threatened by their parents
with the terrors of it.

There was one instance, however, of an old man, whose name was Egeus,
who actually did come before Theseus (at that time the reigning duke of
Athens), to complain that his daughter Hermia, whom he had commanded to
marry Demetrius, a young man of a noble Athenian family, refused to
obey him, because she loved another young Athenian, named Lysander.
Egeus demanded justice of Theseus, and desired that this cruel law
might be put in force against his daughter.

Hermia pleaded in excuse for her disobedience, that Demetrius had
formerly professed love for her dear friend Helena, and that Helena
loved Demetrius to distraction; but this honourable reason, which
Hermia gave for not obeying her father's command, moved not the stern

Theseus, though a great and merciful prince, had no power to alter the
laws of his country; therefore he could only give Hermia four days to
consider of it: and at the end of that time, if she still refused to
marry Demetrius, she was to be put to death.

When Hermia was dismissed from the presence of the duke, she went to
her lover Lysander, and told him the peril she was in, and that she
must either give him up and marry Demetrius, or lose her life in four

Lysander was in great affliction at hearing these evil tidings; but
recollecting that he had an aunt who lived at some distance from
Athens, and that at the place where she lived the cruel law could not
be put in force against Hermia (this law not extending beyond the
boundaries of the city), he proposed to Hermia that she should steal
out of her father's house that night, and go with him to his aunt's
house, where he would marry her. 'I will meet you,' said Lysander, 'in
the wood a few miles without the city; in that delightful wood where we
have so often walked with Helena in the pleasant month of May.'

To this proposal Hermia joyfully agreed; and she told no one of her
intended flight but her friend Helena. Helena (as maidens will do
foolish things for love) very ungenerously resolved to go and tell this
to Demetrius, though she could hope no benefit from betraying her
friend's secret, but the poor pleasure of following her faithless lover
to the wood; for she well knew that Demetrius would go thither in
pursuit of Hermia.

The wood in which Lysander and Hermia proposed to meet was the
favourite haunt of those little beings known by the name of Fairies.

Oberon the king, and Titania the queen of the fairies, with all their
tiny train of followers, in this wood held their midnight revels.

Between this little king and queen of sprites there happened, at this
time, a sad disagreement; they never met by moonlight in the shady
walks of this pleasant wood, but they were quarrelling, till all their
fairy elves would creep into acorn-cups and hide themselves for fear.

The cause of this unhappy disagreement was Titania's refusing to give
Oberon a little changeling boy, whose mother had been Titania's friend;
and upon her death the fairy queen stole the child from its nurse, and
brought him up in the woods.

The night on which the lovers were to meet in this wood, as Titania was
walking with some of her maids of honour, she met Oberon attended by
his train of fairy courtiers.

'I'll met by moonlight, proud Titania,' said the fairy king. The queen
replied: 'What, jealous Oberon, is it you? Fairies, skip hence; I have
foresworn his company.' 'Tarry, rash fairy,' said Oberon; 'am not I thy
lord? Why does Titania cross her Oberon? Give me your little changeling
boy to be my page.'

Set your heart at rest,' answered the queen; 'your whole fairy kingdom
buys not the boy of me.' She then left her lord in great anger. 'Well,
go your way,' said Oberon 'before the morning dawns I will torment you
for this injury.'

Oberon then sent for Puck, his chief favourite and privy counsellor.

Puck (or as he was sometimes called, Robin Goodfellow) was a shrewd and
knavish sprite, that used to play comical pranks in the neighbouring
villages; sometimes getting into the dairies and skimming the milk,
sometimes plunging his light and airy form into the butter-churn, and
while he was dancing his fantastic shape in the churn, in vain the
dairymaid would labour to change her cream into butter: nor had the
village swains any better success; whenever Puck chose to play his
freaks in the brewing copper, the ale was sure to be spoiled. When a
few good neighbours were met to drink some comfortable ale together,
Puck would jump into the bowl of ale in the likeness of a roasted crab,
and when some old goody was going to drink he would bob against her
lips, and spill the ale over her withered chin; and presently after,
when the same old dame was gravely seating herself to tell her
neighbours a sad and melancholy story, Puck would slip her three-legged
stool from under her, and down toppled the poor old woman, and then the
old gossips would hold their sides and laugh at her, and swear they
never wasted a merrier hour.

'Come hither, Puck,' said Oberon to this little merry wanderer of the
night; 'fetch me the flower which maids call Lore in Idleness; the
juice of that little purple flower laid on the eyelids of those who
sleep, will make them, when they awake, dote on the first thing they
see. Some of the juice of that flower I will drop on the eyelids of my
Titania when she is asleep; and the first thing she looks upon when she
opens her eyes she will fall in love with, even though it be a lion or
a bear, a meddling monkey, or a busy ape; and before I will take this
charm from off her sight, which I can do with another charm I know of,
I will make her give me that boy to be my page.'

Puck, who loved mischief to his heart, was highly diverted with this
intended frolic of his master, and ran to seek the flower; and while
Oberon was waiting the return of Puck, he observed Demetrius and Helena
enter the wood: he overheard Demetrius reproaching Helena for following
him, and after many unkind words on his part, and gentle expostulations
from Helena, reminding him of his former love and professions of true
faith to her, he left her (as he said) to the mercy of the wild beasts,
and she ran after him as swiftly as she could.

The fairy king, who was always friendly to true lovers, felt great
compassion for Helena; and perhaps, as Lysander said they used to walk
by moonlight in this pleasant wood, Oberon might have seen Helena in
those happy times when she was beloved by Demetrius. However that might
be, when Puck returned with the little purple flower, Oberon said to
his favourite: 'Take a part of this flower; there has been a sweet
Athenian lady here, who is in love with a disdainful youth; if you find
him sleeping, drop some of the love-juice in his eyes, but contrive to
do it when she is near him, that the first thing he sees when he awakes
may be this despised lady. You will know the man by the Athenian
garments which he wears.' Puck promised to manage this matter very
dexterously: and then Oberon went, unperceived by Titania, to her
bower, where she was preparing to go to rest. Her fairy bower was a
bank, where grew wild thyme, cowslips, and sweet violets, under a
canopy of wood-bine, musk-roses, and eglantine. There Titania always
slept some part of the night; her coverlet the enamelled skin of a
snake, which, though a small mantle, was wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

He found Titania giving orders to her fairies, how they were to employ
themselves while she slept. 'Some of you,' said her majesty, 'must kill
cankers in the musk-rose buds, and some wage war with the bats for
their leathern wings, to make my small elves coats; and some of you
keep watch that the clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, come not near
me: but first sing me to sleep.' Then they began to sing this song:

'You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen
Newts and blind-worms do no wrong
Come not near our Fairy Queen.
Philomel, with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby;
Never harm, nor spell, nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So good night with lullaby.'

When the fairies had sung their queen asleep with this pretty lullaby,
they left her to perform the important services she had enjoined them.
Oberon then softly drew near his Titania, and dropped some of the
love-juice on her eyelids, saying:

'What thou seest when thou wake
Do it for thy true-love take.'

But to return to Hermia, who made her escape out of her father's house
that night, to avoid the death she was doomed to for refusing to marry
Demetrius. When she entered the wood, she found her dear Lysander
waiting for her, to conduct her to his aunt's house; but before they
had passed half through the wood, Hermia was so much fatigued, that
Lysander, who was very careful of this dear lady, who had proved her
affection for him even by hazarding her life for his sake, persuaded
her to rest till morning on a bank of soft moss, and lying down himself
on the ground at some little distance, they soon fell fast asleep. Here
they were found by Puck, who, seeing a handsome young man asleep, and
perceiving that his clothes were made in the Athenian fashion, and that
a pretty lady was sleeping near him, concluded that this must be the
Athenian maid and her disdainful lover whom Oberon had sent him to
seek; and he naturally enough conjectured that, as they were alone
together, she must be the first thing he would see when he awoke; so,
without more ado, he proceeded to pour some of the juice of the little
purple flower into his eyes. But it so fell out, that Helena came that
way, and, instead of Hermia, was the first object Lysander beheld when
he opened his eyes; and strange to relate, so powerful was the
love-charm, all his love for Hermia vanished away, and Lysander fell in
love with Helena.

Had he first seen Hermia when he awoke, the blunder Puck committed
would have been of no consequence, for he could not love that faithful
lady too well; but for poor Lysander to be forced by a fairy love-charm
to forget his own true Hermia, and to run after another lady, and leave
Hermia asleep quite alone in a wood at midnight, was a sad chance

Thus this misfortune happened. Helena, as has been before related,
endeavoured to keep pace with Demetrius when he ran away so rudely from
her; but she could not continue this unequal race long, men being
always better runners in a long race than ladies. Helena soon lost
sight of Demetrius; and as she was wandering about, dejected and
forlorn, she arrived at the place where Lysander was sleeping. 'Ah!'
said she, 'this is Lysander lying on the ground: is he dead or asleep?'
Then, gently touching him, she said: 'Good sir, if you are alive,
awake.' Upon this Lysander opened his eyes, and (the love-charm
beginning to work) immediately addressed her in terms of extravagant
love and admiration; telling her she as much excelled Hermia in beauty
as a dove does a raven, and that he would run through fire for her
sweet sake; and many more such lover-like speeches. Helena, knowing
Lysander was her friend Hermia's lover, and that he was solemnly
engaged to marry her, was in the utmost rage when she heard herself
addressed in this manner; for she thought (as well she might) that
Lysander was making a jest of her. 'Oh!' said she, 'why was I born to
be mocked and scorned by every one? Is it not enough, is it not enough,
young man, that I can never get a sweet look or a kind word from
Demetrius; but you, sir, must pretend in this disdainful manner to
court me? I thought, Lysander, you were a lord of more true
gentleness.' Saying these words in great anger, she ran away; and
Lysander followed her, quite forgetful of his own Hermia, who was still

When Hermia awoke, she was in a sad fright at finding herself alone.
She wandered about the wood, not knowing what was become of Lysander,
or which way to go to seek for him. In the meantime Demetrius, not
being able to find Hermia and his rival Lysander, and fatigued with his
fruitless search, was observed by Oberon fast asleep. Oberon had learnt
by some questions he had asked of Puck, that he had applied the
love-charm to the wrong person's eyes; and now having found the person
first intended, he touched the eyelids of the sleeping Demetrius with
the love-juice, and he instantly awoke; and the first thing he saw
being Helena, he, as Lysander had done before, began to address
love-speeches to her; and just at that moment Lysander, followed by
Hermia (for through Puck's unlucky mistake it was now become Hermia's
turn to run after her lover) made his appearance; and then Lysander and
Demetrius, both speaking together, made love to Helena, they being each
one under the influence of the same potent charm.

The astonished Helena thought that Demetrius, Lysander, and her once
dear friend Hermia, were all in a plot together to make a jest of her.

Hermia was as much surprised as Helena; she knew not why Lysander and
Demetrius, who both before loved her, were now become the lovers of
Helena; and to Hermia the matter seemed to be no jest.

The ladies, who before had always been the dearest of friends, now fell
to high words together.

'Unkind Hermia,' said Helena, 'it is you have set Lysander on to vex me
with mock praises; and your other lover Demetrius, who used almost to
spurn me with his foot, have you not bid him call me Goddess, Nymph,
rare, precious, and celestial? He would not speak thus to me, whom he
hates, if you did not set him on to make a jest of me. Unkind Hermia,
to join with men in scorning your poor friend. Have you forgot our
school-day friendship? How often, Hermia, have we two, sitting on one
cushion, both singing one song, with our needles working the same
flower, both on the same sampler wrought; growing up together in
fashion of a double cherry, scarcely seeming parted! Hermia, it is not
friendly in you, it is not maidenly to join with men in scorning your
poor friend.'

I am amazed at your passionate words,' said Hermia: I scorn you not; it
seems you scorn me.' 'Ay, do,' returned Hermia, 'persevere, counterfeit
serious looks, and make mouths at me when I turn my back; then wink at
each other, and hold the sweet jest up. If you had any pity, grace, or
manners, you would not use me thus.'

While Helena and Hermia were speaking these angry words to each other,
Demetrius and Lysander left them, to fight together in the wood for the
love of Helena.

When they found the gentlemen had left them, they departed, and once
more wandered weary in the wood in search of their lovers.

As soon as they were gone, the fairy king, who with little Puck had
been listening to their quarrels, said to him: 'This is your
negligence, Puck; or did you do this wilfully?' 'Believe me, king of
shadows,' answered Puck, 'it was a mistake; did not you tell me I
should know the man by his Athenian garments? However, I am not sorry
this has happened, for I think their jangling makes excellent sport.'
'You heard,' said Oberon, 'that Demetrius and Lysander are gone to seek
a convenient place to fight in. I command you to overhang the night
with a thick fog, and lead these quarrelsome lovers so astray in the
dark, that they shall not be able to kind each other. Counterfeit each
of their voices to the other, and with bitter taunts provoke them to
follow you, while they think it is their rival's tongue they hear. See
you do this, till they are so weary they can go no farther; and when
you find they are asleep, drop the juice of this other flower into
Lysander's eyes, and when he awakes he will forget his new love for
Helena, and return to his old passion for Hermia; and then the two fair
ladies may each one be happy with the man she loves, and they will
think all that has passed a vexatious dream. About this quickly, Puck,
and I will go and see what sweet love my Titania has found.'

Titania was still sleeping, and Oberon seeing a clown near her, who had
lost his way in the wood, and was likewise asleep: 'This fellow,' said
he, 'shall be my Titania's true love'; and clapping an ass's head over
the clown's, it seemed to fit him as well as if it had grown upon his
own shoulders. Though Oberon fixed the ass's head on very gently, it
awakened him, and rising up, unconscious of what Oberon had done to
him, he went towards the bower where the fairy queen slept.

'Ah! what angel is that I see?' said Titania, opening her eyes, and the
juice of the little purple flower beginning to take effect: 'are you as
wise as you are beautiful?'

'Why, mistress,' said the foolish clown, 'if I have wit enough to find
the way out of this wood, I have enough to serve my turn.'

'Out of the wood do not desire to go,' said the enamoured queen. 'I am
a spirit of no common rate. I love you. Go with me, and I will give you
fairies to attend upon you.'

She then called four of her fairies: their names were, Pease-blossom,
Cobweb, Moth, and Mustard-seed.

'Attend,' said the queen, 'upon this sweet gentleman; hop in his walks,
and gambol in his sight; feed him with grapes and apricots, and steal
for him the honey-bags from the bees. Come, sit with me,' said she to
the clown, 'and let me play with your amiable hairy cheeks, my
beautiful ass! and kiss your fair large ears, my gentle joy!'

'Where is Pease-blossom?' said the ass-headed clown, not much regarding
the fairy queen's courtship, but very proud of his new attendants.

'Here, sir,' said little Pease-blossom.

'Scratch my head,' said the clown. 'Where is Cobweb?'

'Here, sir,' said Cobweb.

'Good Mr. Cobweb,' said the foolish clown, 'kill me the red humble bee
on the top of that thistle yonder; and, good Mr. Cobweb, bring me the
honey-bag. Do not fret yourself too much in the action, Mr. Cobweb, and
take care the honey-bag break not; I should be sorry to have you
overflown with a honey-bag. Where is Mustard-seed?'

'Here, sir,' said Mustard-seed: 'what is your will?'

'Nothing,' said the clown, 'good Mr. Mustard-seed, but to help Mr.
Pease-blossom to scratch; I must go to a barber's, Mr. Mustard-seed,
for methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face.'

'My sweet love,' said the queen, 'what will you have to eat? I have a
venturous fairy shall seek the squirrel's hoard, and fetch you some new

'I had rather have a handful of dried pease,' said the clown, who with
his ass's head had got an ass's appetite. 'But, I pray, let none of
your people disturb me, for I have a mind to sleep.'

'Sleep, then,' said the queen, 'and I will wind you in my arms. O how I
love you! how I dote upon you!'

When the fairy king saw the clown sleeping in the arms of his queen, he
advanced within her sight, and reproached her with having lavished her
favours upon an ass.

This she could not deny, as the clown was then sleeping within her
arms, with his ass's head crowned by her with flowers.

When Oberon had teased her for some time, he again demanded the
changeling boy; which she, ashamed of being discovered by her lord with
her new favourite, did not dare to refuse him.

Oberon, having thus obtained the little boy he had so long wished for
to be his page, took pity on the disgraceful situation into which, by
his merry contrivance, he had brought his Titania and threw some of the
juice of the other flower into her eyes; and the fairy queen
immediately recovered her senses, and wondered at her late dotage,
saying how she now loathed the sight of the strange monster.

Oberon likewise took the ass's head from off the clown, and left him to
finish his nap with his own fool's head upon his shoulders.

Oberon and his Titania being now perfectly reconciled, he related to
her the history of the lovers, and their midnight quarrels; and she
agreed to go with him and see the end of their adventures.

The fairy king and queen found the lovers and their fair ladies, at no
great distance from each other, sleeping on a grass-plot; for Puck, to
make amends for his former mistake, had contrived with the utmost
diligence to bring them all to the same spot, unknown to each other:
and he had carefully removed the charm from off the eyes of Lysander
with the antidote the fairy king gave to him.

Hermia first awoke, and finding her lost Lysander asleep so near her,
was looking at him and wondering at his strange inconstancy. Lysander
presently opening his eyes, and seeing his dear Hermia, recovered his
reason which the fairy charm had before clouded, and with his reason,
his love for Hermia; and they began to talk over the adventures of the
night, doubting if these things had really happened, or if they had
both been dreaming the same bewildering dream.

Helena and Demetrius were by this time awake; and a sweet sleep having
quieted Helena's disturbed and angry spirits, she listened with delight
to the professions of love which Demetrius still made to her, and
which, to her surprise as well as pleasure, she began to perceive were

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Online LibraryCharles LambTales of Shakespeare → online text (page 2 of 23)