William Shakespeare.

The dramatic works of William Shakspeare... embracing a life of the poet, and notes, original and selected (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryWilliam ShakespeareThe dramatic works of William Shakspeare... embracing a life of the poet, and notes, original and selected (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 36)
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VOL. II. 1




\V>: may presume the plot of this play to have been the invention of
Shakspeare, ;us the diligence of his commentators has Jailed to trace tiie
sources from whence it is derived. Steevens says that the hint for it was
probably received from Chaucer s Knight s Tale.

"In the. Midsummer- Night s Dream," says Schickel, there flows a
luxuriant vein of the boldest and most fantastical invention: the most
extraordinary combination of the most dissimilar ingredients seems to
have; arisen without eflort, by some ingenious and lucky accident, and the
colors are of such clear transparencv that \\ e think that the whole of the
variegated fabric may be blown away with a breath. The fain* world
here described resembles those elegant pieces of Arabesque, where little
(Jenii, with butterfly wings, rise lialf embodied above tlie flower cups.
Twiliuht, moonshine, de\v, and spring-perfumes are the element of these
tender sj)irit.s: they assist Nature in embroiderinji her carpet with preen
leaves, many-colored flowers, and dazzling insects; in the human world
they merely sport in a childish and way ward manner with their beneficent
or noxious influences. Their most violent rage dissolves in good-natured
raillery; their passions, stripped of all earthly matter, are merely an ideal
dream. To correspond with tins, the loves, of mortals are painted as a
poetical enchantment, which, by a contrary enchantment, may be imme
diately suspended, and then renewed afjain. The different parts of the
plot the wedding of Theseus the disagreement of ()hern and Titania,
the flight of the two piir of lovers and the theatrical opontiun- of the
mechanics are so li^htlv and happily interwoven, that they serin necr<-
sary to each other for the fonnation of a \\ hole. ( >ben>n is desirous ..f
relieving the lovers from their perplexities, and greatly adds to them
through the misapprehension of his servant, till he at last comes to the
aid of their fruitless amorous pain, their inconstancy and jealousy, and
restores fidelity to its old rights. The extremes of fanciful and vulgar
are united when the enchanted Vitania awakes and falls in love with a
coarse mechanic, with an ass s head, who represents, or rather disfigures,
the part of a tragical lover. The droll wonder of the transmutation of
Hottom is merely the transmutation of a metaphor in its literal sense : but,
in his behavior during the tender homage of the Fairy Queen, we have a
most amusing proof how much the consciousness of such a head-dress
heightens the effect of his usual folly. Theseus and Hippolyta are, as it
were, a splendid frame for the picture ; they take no part in the action,
but appear with a stately pomp. The discourse of the hero and his Ama
zon, as they course through the forest with their noisy hunting train,
works u|>on the imagination like the fresh breath of morning, before which
the shapes of night disappear."*

This is a production of the youthful and vigorous imagination of the
poet. Malone places the date of its composition in ].">!M. There are two
quarto editions, both printed in 1<K)(); one by Thomas Fisher, the other
by James Roberts.

* Lectures on Dramatic Literatim-, vol. li. ;>. 17U.


THESEUS, Duke of Athens.

EGEUS, Father to Hermia.

LYSANDER, \ ^ ^ w[t]i Hermm>


PHILOSTRATE, Master of the Revels to Theseus.

QUINCE, the Carpenter.

SNUG, the Joiner.

BOTTOM, the Weaver.

FLUTE, the Bellows-mender.

SNOUT, the Tinker.

STARVELING, the Tailor.

HIPPOLYTA, Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus.
HERMIA, Daughter of Egeus, in love with Lysander.
HELENA, in love with Demetrius.

OBERON, King of the Fairies.
TITANIA, Queen of the Fairies.
COBWEB, f p .. .



i BE) (Characters in the Interlude performed by


Other Fairies attending their King and Queen. Attendants
on Theseus and Hippolyta.

SCENE. Athens, and a Wood not far from it.



SCENE I. Athens. A Room in the Palace <>f




Theseus. Now, lair Ilippolvta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace ; four happy (lavs brin^ in
Another moon. Hut. (), methinks how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers inv desires,
Like to a step-dame, or a dowager.
.Lonij withering out a voumj. m m s revenue.

/////. Four davs will (juicklx steep themselves in

nights :

Four nights will (piiekh dream awav the time ;
And then the moon, like to a silver how
Now hent in heaven, shall behold the ni^ht
( )i our solemnities.

The. ( Jo, Philostrate,

Stir ii[) tin 4 Athenian vonth to merriments :
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth ;
Turn melancholy forth to funerals:
The pale companion is not for our pomp.


Ilippolyta. I wooed thee with mv sword.
And won thv love, doini; thee injuries;
But 1 will wed thee in another kev,
With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling.



Ege. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke ! l
The. Thanks, good Egeus. What s the news with

thee ?

Ege. Full of vexation come I, with complaint
Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
Stand forth, Demetrius ; my noble lord,
This man hath my consent to marry her.
Stand forth, Lysander ; and, my gracious duke,
This hath bewitched 2 the bosom of my child.
Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes,
And interchanged love tokens with my child ;
Thou hast by moon-light at her window sung,
With feigning voice, verses of feigning love ;
And stolen the impression of her fantasy
With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds 3 , conceits,
Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats ; messengers
Of strong prevailment in unhardened youth.
With cunning hast thou filched my daughter s heart :


Turned her obedience, which is due to me,

To stubborn harshness ; And, my gracious duke,

Be it so she will not here before your grace

Consent to marry with Demetrius,

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,

As she is mine, I may dispose of her ;

Which shall be either to this gentleman,

Or to her death ; according to our law r ,

Immediately provided in that case.

The. What say you, Hermia ? Be advised, fair


To you your father should be as a god ;
One that composed your beauties ; yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax,
By him imprinted, and within his power

1 Duke, in our old language, was used for a leader or chief, as the
Latin dux.

2 The old copies read, " This man hath bewitched."

3 Baubles, toys, trifles.


To leave the figure, or disfigure it.


Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.

Her. So is Lysander.

The. In himself he is.

But, in this kind, wanting your father s voice,
The other must be held the worthier.

Hfi . I would mv father looked hut with my eyes.

The. Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.

Her. \ do entreat vour grace to pardon me.
I know not by what power I am made bold,
Nor how it mav concern mv modesty,
In such a presence here, to plead mv thoughts:

I /

But I beseech vour grace that I may know
The worst that may befall me in this case,
If I refuse to wed Demetrius.

The. Either to die the death, or to abjure
Forever the society of men.
Therefore, fair Ilermia, question vour desin -,
Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
Whether, if you yield not to vour father s choice,
You can endure the liverv of a nun;
For ave to be in shadv cloister mewed,
To live a barren sister all vour life,
Chanting faint hvmns to the cold, fruitless moon.
Thrice blessed thev, that master M> their blood,
To undergo such maiden pil^rima^e :
But earthlier happv is the rose distilled,
Than that, which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.

Her. So will I grow, so live, so Jie, m\ lord,
Kre I will vield my virgin patent u[>
( T nto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
INIv soul consents not to i;i\e sovereignty.

The. Take 1 time to pause ; and, by the next new


(The sealing-day betwixt my love and me,
For everlasting bond of fellowship,)
Upon that day either prepare to die,
For disobedience to vour father s will ;
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;


Or on Diana s altar to protest,
For aye, austerity and single life.

Dem. Relent, sweet Hermia ; and, Lysander, yield
Thy crazed title to my certain right.

Lys. You have her father s love, Demetrius ;
Let me have Hermia s. Do you marry him.

Ege. Scornful Lysander ! true, he hath my love,
And what is mine my love shall render him ;
And she is mine ; and all my right of her
1 do estate unto Demetrius.

Lys. I am, my lord, as well derived as he,
As well possessed : my love is more than his ;
My fortunes every way as fairly ranked,
If not with vantage, as Demetrius ;
And, which is more than all these boasts can be,
I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.
Why should not I then prosecute my right ?
Demetrius, I ll avouch it to his head,
Made love to Nedar s daughter, Helena,
And w r on her soul ; and she, sweet lady, dotes,
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry.
Upon this spotted l and inconstant man.

The. I must confess, that I have heard so much,
And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;
But, being over-full of self-affairs,
My mind did lose it. But, Demetrius, come,
And come, Egeus ; you shall go with me ;
I have some private schooling for you both.
For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
To fit your fancies to your father s will ;
Or else the law of Athens yields you up
(Which by no means we may extenuate)
Tc death, or to a vow of single life.

* o

Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love ?
Demetrius, and Egeus, go along :
I must employ you in some business
Against our nuptial ; and confer with you
Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.

1 As spotless is innocent, so spotted is wicked.


Ege. With duty and desire we follow you.

DEMETRIUS, and Train.

Lys. How now, my love ! Why is your cheek

so pale .*
How chance the roses there do fade so fast ?

Her. Belike, for want of rain ; which I could well
Beteeni J them from the tempest of mine eyes.

Lys. Ah me! For aught that ever I could read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth !
But either it was different in blood.

Her. O cross! too hi^h to be enthralled to low!

Lys. Or else misgrafled, in respect of vear>.

Her. O spite! too old to be engaged to vounu !

Lys. Or else it stood ujx)ii the choice of friends.

Her. O hell ! to choose love bv another s eve !

Lys. Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it ;
Making it momentany 2 as a sound,
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
Brief as the lightning in the eollied :< niijit.
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,
And ere a man hath power to say, Behold!
The jaws of darkness do devour it up.
So (jiiick bright things come to confusion.

Her. If then true lovers have been ever crossed,
It stands as an edict in destiny.
Then let us teach our trial patience.
Because it is a customary cross :
As dm* to love, as thoughts, and dreams, and sighs,
Wishes, and tears, poor fancy s followers.

Lys. A good persuasion; therefore, hear me, Her-


1 Inve a widow aunt, a dowager
Of i;Teat revenue, and she hath no child.
Kroiii Athens is her house remote seven leagues;

. , or, according to Stcevens, pour out.


And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee ;
And to that place the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us. If thou lov st me then,
Steal forth thy father s house to-morrow night ;
And in the w r ood, a league without the town
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May,
There will I stay for thee.

Her. My good Lysander !

I swear to thee, by Cupid s strongest bow ;
By his best arrow, with the golden head ;
By the simplicity of Venus doves ;
By that which knitteth souls, and prospers loves ;
And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen, 1
When the false Trojan under sail was seen ;
By all the vows that ever men have broke,
In number more than woman ever spoke ;
In that same place thou hast appointed me,
To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.

Lys. Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.


Her. God speed fair Helena! Whither away?

Hcl. Call you me fair ? That fair again unsay.
Demetrius loves your fair. 9 O happy fair !
Your eyes are lode-stars ; 3 and your tongue s sweet air
More tunable than lark to shepherd s ear,
When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
Sickness is catching; O, were favor 4 so,
Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go.
My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,
My tongue should catch your tongue s sweet melody.

1 Shakspeare forgot that Theseus performed his exploits before the
Trojan war, and, consequently, long before the death of Dido.

2 Fair for fairness, beauty very common in writers of Shak-
speare s age.

3 The lode-star is the leading or guiding star, that is, the polar-star.
The magnet is, for the same reason, called the lode-stone.

4 Countenance, feature.


Wen; the world mine, Demetrius being bated,
The rest I ll give to be to you translated. 1
O, teach me how you look ; and with what art
You sway the motion of Demetrius heart.

Her. \ frown upon him, yet he loves me still.

Hd. O that your frowns would teach my smiles
such skill !

Her. I give him curses, yet he gives me love,

Hd. O that my prayers could such affection move!

Her. The more 1 hate, the more he follows me.

Hd. The more I love, the more he hateth me.

Her. His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

Hd. None, but your beauty. Would that fault
were mini; !

Her. Take comfort; he no more shall see mv lace ;
Lysander and myself will fly this place.
Before the time I did Lysander see,
Seemed Athens like a paradise; to me.
O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,
That he hath turned a heaven unto hell !

Lys. Helen, to you our minds we will unfold.
To-morrow night, when Plurbe doth behold
Her silver visage in the watery glas^.
Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass,
(A time that lovers flights doth still conceal,)
Through Athens gates have we devised to steal.

Hfr. And in the wood, where often von and I
Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie.
Fmptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet.
There my Lysander and myself shall meet :
And thence, from Athens, turn away our eyi s,
To seek new friends and stranger companies.
Farewell, sweet playfellow; pray thou for us,
And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!
Keep word, Lysander. We must starve our sight
From lovers food, till morrow deep midnight.


Lys. I will, my Hermia. Helena, adieu.
As you on him, Demetrius dote on you !


i i. c. changed, transformed.


Hcl. How happy some o er other some can be !
Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
But what of that ? Demetrius thinks not so ;
He will not know what all but he do know.
And as he errs, doting on Hermia s eyes,
So I, admiring of his qualities.
Things base and vile, holding no quantity.
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath love s mind of any judgment taste ;
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste ;
And therefore is love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
So the boy Love is perjured every where ;
For ere Demetrius looked on Hermia s eyne,
He hailed down oaths, that he was only mine ;
And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.
I will go tell him of fair Hermia s flight ;
Then to the wood will he, to-morrow night,
Pursue her ; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither and back again. [Exit.

SCENE II. The same. A Room in a Cottage.


Quin. Is all our company here ?

Bot. You were best to call them generally, man by
man, according to the scrip.

Quin. Here is the scroll of every man s name,
which is thought fit, through all Athens, to play in
our interlude before the duke and duchess, on his
wedding-day at night.


Bol. First, good Peter Quince, say yvhat the play
treats on; then read the names of the actors; and so
grow on to a point. 1

Qui/i. Marry, our play is The most lamentable
comedy, and most cruel deatli of Pyramus and Thisbv.

But. \ very good piece of work, I assure you, and
r a merry. Now, good Peter Quince, call forth vour
actors by the scroll. Masters, spread yourselves.

Quin. Answer, as I call you. Nick Bottom,
the weaver.

Bot. Ready. Name what part 1 am for, and pro

Quin. You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pvramus.

Bot. What is Pyramus r A lover, or a tyrant:

Quin. A lover, that kills himself most gallantly
for love.

Bot. That will ask some tears in the true perform
ing of it. If I do it, let the audience look to their
eyes ; I will move storms, I will condole in some
measure. To the rest. Yet my chief humor is for
a tyrant ; I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear
a cat in, to make all split.

" The raii m^ rocks,
With shivering shocks.
Shall break the locks

Of prison iiate^ :
And Phibbus car
Shall shine from far,
And make and mar

The foolish fates.

This was lofty! Now name the rest () f the plavcr>
This is Frcles vein, a tyrant s vein ; a lover is
more condoling.

Quin. Francis Flute, the bellows-mender.

Flu. Here, Peter Quince.

Quin. You must take Thisby on you.

1 Grow on to a point. This is the reading of the first folio, and is
probably a misprint for -0 on to appoint, i. e. appoint the actors to their
several parts.


Flu. What is Thisby? A wandering knight ?

Quin. It is the lady that Pyramus must love.

Flu. Nay, faith, let me not play a woman ; I have
a beard coming.

Quin. That s all one ; you shall play it in a mask,
and you may speak as small as you will.

Bot. An I may hide my face, let me play Thisby
too. I ll speak in a monstrous little voice, Thisne^
Thisne Ah, Pyramus^ my lover dear ; thy Thisby dear !
And lady dear !

Quin. No, no ; you must play Pyramus ; and, Flute,
you Thisby.

Bot. Well, proceed.

Quin. Robin Starveling, the tailor.

Star. Here, Peter Quince.

Quin. Robin Starveling, you must play Thisby s
mother. Tom Snout, the tinker.

Snout. Here, Peter Quince.

Quin. You, Pyramus s father ; myself, Thisby s
father ; Snug, the joiner, you, the lion s part : and,
I hope, here is a play fitted.

Snug. Have you the lion s part written ? Pray you,
if it be, give it me, for I am slow of study.

Quin. You may do it extempore, for it is nothing
but roaring.

Bot. Let me play the lion too. I will roar, that
I will do any man s heart good to hear me ; I will
roar, that I will make the duke say, Let htm roar again,
Let him roar again.

Quin. An you should do it too terribly, you would
fright the duchess and the ladies, that they would
shriek ; and that were enough to hang us all.

All. That would hang MS every mother s son.

Bot. I grant you, friends, if that you should fright
the ladies out of their wits, they would have no more
discretion but to hang us ; but I will aggravate my
voice so, that I will roar you as gently as any sucking
dove ; I will roar you an twere any nightingale.

Quin. You can play no part but Pyramus ; for
Pyramus is a sweet-faced man, a proper man, as one


shall see in a summer s day. a most lovely, gentleman
like man ; therefore you must needs play Pyramus.

Bot. Well, I will undertake it. What heard were
I best to play it in ?

Quin. Why, what you will.

Bot. \ will discharge it in either vour straw-rolored
heard, your orange-tawny heard, your purple-in-grain
beard, or vour French-crown-color beard, vour per
fect yellow.

Quill. Some of vour French crowns have no hair
at all. and then you will plav hire-faced. But. me
ters, here are your parts; and I am to entreat vou,
request you, and desire you. to con them by to-morrow
night, and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without
the town, by moon-light. There will we rehearse ;
for if we meet in the city, we shall be do^ed with
company, and our devices known. In the mean time,
I will draw a bill of properties, such as our play wants.
I pray you, fail me not.

Bot. We will meet ; and there we may rehearse
more obscenely, and courageously. Take pains; be
perfect ; adieu.

Quin. At the duke s oak we meet.

Hot. Enough ; hold, or cut bow-strings. 1 [Exeunt.


SCENE 1. A I food near Athens.

Enter a Fairy at one door, and PUCK at another.

Puck. How now, spirit ! whither wander you?
Fai. Over hill, over dale.

Thorough bush, thorough briar.

I To meet whether boicstrinys hold or are nit is to moot in all events.
But the origin of the phrase has not been satisfactorily explained.


Over park, over pale,

Thorough flood, thorough fire.

I do wander every where,

Swifter than the moones sphere ;

And I serve the fairy queen,

To dew her orbs l upon the green.

The cowslips tall her pensioners 2 be ;

In their gold coats spots you see ;

Those be rubies, fairy favors ;

In those freckles live their savors.
1 must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip s ear.
Farewell, thou lob 3 of spirits, I ll be gone;
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.

Puck. The king doth keep his revels here to-night.
Take heed the queen come not within his sight,
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,
Because that she, as her attendant, hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king.
She never had so sweet a changeling ; 4
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forest wild.
But she, perforce, withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy;
And now they never meet in grove, or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled star-light sheen, 5
But they do square ; 6 that all their elves, for fear,
Creep into acorn cups, and hide them there.

Fai. Either I mistake your shape and making

Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite,

1 The orls here mentioned are those circles in the herbage, commonly
called fairy-rings, the cause of which is not yet certainly known.

2 The allusion is to Elizabeth s band of gentlemen pensioners, who
were chosen from among the handsomest and tallest young men of family
and fortune ; they were dressed in habits richly garnished with gold lace.

3 Lubber or clown. Lol), lobcock, looby, and lubber, all denote inac
tivity of body and dulness of mind.

4 A changeling was a child changed by a fairy : it here means one
stolen or got in exchange.

5 Shining. c Quarrel.


Called Robin Good-fellow. Are you not he,
That fright the maidens of the village ry ;
Skim milk ; and sometimes lal>or in the quern, 1
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm ;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm ?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
You do their work ; and they shall have good luck.
Are not you he ?

Puck. Thou speak st aright ;

I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal ;
And sometime lurk I in a gossip s bowl,

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