From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.
2. You were best, for this ungrammatical remnant of ancient
usage, see Abb. § 230: generally, Bottom's blunder for 'individually.'
3. the scrip, the list in which their names are written down;
the same word as 'script,' from O. F. escript, a writing, Lat.
scriptum pp. of scribere to write.
4. which, though frequently used as less definite than 'who,'
and indicating 'a kind of person,' is here perhaps intended as a
note of Bottom's speech, just as we have in 1.6 his applied to the
duke and duchess, and the phrase wedding-day at night, — a
phrase with which Wright compares the words of the not much
more highly educated nurse in R, J. i. 3. 21, "On Lammas-eve
at night shall she be fourteen"; though for both there is this
much excuse that 'wedding-day' and 'Lammas-eve' may not
improperly be taken for the whole twelve hours.
9. on, of.
9, 10. grow to a point, come to a conclusion; cp. M, V. iii. 1.
17, "Come, the full stop," said by Salarino to the prolix Solanio.
11. comedy, Bottom's blunder for 'tragedy.'
12. Pyramus and Thisby. Thisbe, a beautiful Babylonian
maiden, was beloved by Pyramus. Their parents objecting to a
marriage, the lovers were obliged to meet by stealth, and agreed
on a certain day to a rendezvous at Ninus' tomb. Thisbe, arriving first, perceived a lioness which had just torn to pieces an ox,
and therefore took to flight. While running away she dropped
one of her garments, which the lion seized and stained with
blood. Pyramus, on finding it, supposed Thisbe to be slain, and
so put an end to himself. Thisbe presently returning to the
spot and finding Pyramus' dead body, also slew herself.
13. A very ... merry. "This," says Steevens, "is designed as
a ridicule on the titles of our ancient moralities and interludes.
Thus Skelton's Magnificence is called 'a goodly interlude and a
14. the scroll, the list of names.
15. spread yourselves, do not crowd all together.
18. are set down for Pyramus, have had the part of Pyramus
assigned to you.
20. gallant, gallantly.
21. That will ... of it, that if well performed will make a great
demand upon the audience for tears; cp. T. S. ii. 1. 115, "my
business asketh haste"; R. II. ii. 1. 159, "And for these great
affairs do ask some charge."
22. let the audience ... eyes, i.e. or else they will weep their
very eyes out.
22, 3. I will ... measure, probably means 'I will make a fine
story of grief'; though condole is probably intended for a
blunder, the word in Shakespeare and his contemporaries was
used as a neuter and as a transitive verb, and not merely as now
with the preposition 'with,' in the sense of sympathizing. Thus,
Marston, ii. Antonio and Mellida, v. 2. 81, we have the stage
direction "Piero seems to condole his son," who is dead; and
Heywood, Fortune by Land and Sea, uses the word absolutely,
"My heart begins to condole." Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress has
the phrase "To condole his own misery."
23. To the rest seems to me nothing more than a stage direction that has crept into the text. Bottom having made his
former remarks to Quince, the stage-manager, in particular, now
turns to his fellow-actors in general, and tells them that though
he is ready to play Pyramus, the part of a tyrant is the one he
24. Ercles, Hercules; a character often exhibited in the bombastic dramas of the time. Delius quotes Greene's Groatsworth
of Wit, "The twelve labours of Hercules have I terribly thundered on the stage."
25. or a part ... in, or a part in which some doughty deed was
to be done, such as rending a cat. Steeven quotes Histriomastix,
"Sirrah, this is you that would rend and tear a cat upon a
stage": to make all split, a phrase like the last expressive of
violent action, and of nautical origin. Rolfe quotes Taylor, the
Water Poet, "Some ships have so great a sayle, that they heave
their masts by the boord and make all split againe."
30. Phibbus' car, the chariot of the sun-god, Phoebus, which he
daily drove round the earth. The lines seem to be rather a burlesque of, than a quotation from, some old play.
34. This was lofty! That is the kind of noble verse that I
should enjoy having to recite! name ... players, call out the name
of each and tell them what parts are assigned to them.
34, 5. This is Ercles' vein, such language as that would Hercules use: condoling, pathetic.
38. must take ... you, must undertake the part of Thisbe;
probably with an allusion to taking somebody on one's back.
39. a wandering knight, a knight in quest of adventures, a
40. must love, has to make love to in the play.
41. let not me ... woman, the parts of women were in those days
played by boys or young men, and actresses were not regularly
employed till the revival of the drama in the time of Charles the
Second. Cp. A. C. v. 2. 220, where Cleopatra is anticipating her
story being represented on the stage; "I shall see Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness."
43. That's all one, that does not matter in the least: in a mask,
as was often the case when no actor sufficiently youthful could be
found for the part.
44. may speak ... will, may mince your words and speak with
a voice as much like a woman's as you can; cp. M. W. i. 1. 49,
"She has brown hair and speaks small like a woman"; and such
phrases as to 'speak big,' to 'speak thick.'
45. An, see Abb. § 101.
46. monstrous little, wonderfully small: 'Thisne, Thisne,'
expressing the manner in which he will mince his words, if
allowed to play Thisbe.
48, 9. you Thisby, you must play Thisbe.
53. you must ... mother. Theobald points out that the father
and mother of Thisbe, and the father of Pyramus, here mentioned, do not appear at all in the interlude.
57, 8. and, I hope ... fitted, I flatter myself that the cast of the
play is now complete.
60. study was and still is the technical term for getting up a
part; cp. Haml. ii. 2. 566, "You could, for a need, study a
speech of some dozen or sixteen lines."
63, 4. that I will... hear me, so that every one will be
delighted to hear me.
64, 5. that I will ... say, in such a perfect way that the duke
will be unable to refrain from saying, etc.
65. Let him ... again, "Not only does Bottom propose to play
every part himself, but he anticipates the applause, and encores
his own roar" (C. Clarke).
67. that they would shriek, so that they could not help
69. every mother's son, every one of us.
71. no more discretion but, no other choice than.
72. aggravate, Bottom's blunder for 'moderate,' as in ii. H.
IV, ii. 4. 176, the Hostess says, "I beseek you now, aggravate
73. roar you, for me, you, him, etc., representing the old
dative and giving liveliness to the narration, see Abb. § 220.
73, 4. I will roar ... nightingale, Abbott (§ 104) thinks an
ellipsis is probably to be understood here, 'I will roar you, and
if it were a nightingale (I would still roar better),' which is
perhaps to pay a too high compliment to Bottom's English.
Wright compares T. C. i. 2. 189, "He will weep you, an 'twere
a man born in April." sucking dove, Bottom's blunder for
76. sweet-faced, comely looking: proper, handsome; the literal
sense is 'own,' thence 'what becomes a man, is appropriate to
him,' and so 'well-looking,' 'handsome.'
76, 7. in a summer's day, i.e. in a long day; cp. H. V. iii. 6. 67,
"I'll assure you, a' uttered as brave words at the bridge as you
shall see in a summer's day"; and iv. 8. 23, "a most contagious
treason come to light, look you, as you shall desire in a summer's
78. needs, of need; necessarily; the old genitive used adverbially, as 'whiles,' 'twice' (twies), etc.
79. were I best, see note on 1. 2. above.
81. what you will, any you like.
82. discharge, perform, enact; a theatrical technicality; cp.
below, iv. 2. 8, v. 1. 201, 346: your straw-colour, the straw colour
you know so well; your, used generically.
83. orange-tawny, a colour midway between orange and tawny;
'tawny' is merely another spelling of 'tanny,' resembling that
which is tanned or browned by the sun: purple-in-grain, in this
phrase grain is cochineal, a dye obtained from the dried bodies
of insects of the species Coccus cacti, but supposed by the ancients
to be made from a berry, the meaning of the word coccus.
84. French-crown-colour, the colour of the gold ecu, or crown,
formerly current in France.
85, 6. crowns, heads: barefaced, probably with a play upon its
literal and its figurative sense: masters, a term frequently used
without any acknowledgment of inferiority; my friends, my
87. I am to entreat you, I have to entreat you.
88. con, get by heart; literally to try to know; "a secondary
verb, formed from A. S. cunnan, to know" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
88, 9. palace wood, the wood in which the palace stands:
without, outside: a mile, Wright points out that in i. 1. 165 it
is a league.
90. rehearse, repeat; from "O. F. reherser, 'to harrow over
again,' Cotgrave. ... From the sense of harrowing again we easily
pass to the sense of 'going again over the same ground,' and
hence to that of repetition. Cp. the phrase 'to rake up an old
story.'— F. re- (Lat. re-), again; and hercer, to harrow ... from
herce, a harrow" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): dogged, followed closely;
tracked as by dogs.
91. Devices, plans for playing.
92. draw a bill, make out a list: properties, stage necessaries;
everything required for the performance of a play, except dresses
95. obscenely, Bottom's blunder probably for 'seemly,' as in
L. L. L. iv. 1. 145, "When it comes so smoothly off, so obscenely
as it were, so fit," used by the clown, Costard: courageously,
without fear of interruption.
97. hold or cut bow-strings. Capell's explanation, which is
generally accepted, seems hardly satisfactory. He says, "When
a party was made at butts, assurance of meeting was given in the
words of that phrase; the sense of the person using them being
that he would 'hold' or keep promise, or they might 'cut his
bowstrings,' 'demolish him for an archer.'" The meaning of the
phrase clearly is 'in any case,' 'whatever happens'; and the
construction of the sentence apparently is 'whether bowstrings
hold or break,' both hold and cut being subjunctives, and cut
being used in a neuter sense, as Warburton suggests. Moreover
it is not certain that bowstrings do not mean the strings of the
bows of musical instruments, such as violins, etc.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1891. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/mids_1_2.html >.