From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.
1. a roundel, a round dance; but used also for a song beginning
and ending with the same words.
2. hence, go hence; the verb of motion omitted, as frequently.
3. cankers, small worms that prey upon blossoms; cp. Haml.
i. 3. 89, "The canker galls the infants of the spring."
4. rere-mice, bats; the word is still used in the west of England; A.S. hrere-mus: for, in order to obtain.
7. At our quaint spirits, at our delicately-formed spirits;
Titania speaks as a queen; quaint, from "O. F. coint, 'quaint,
neat, fine,'... Cotgrave ... Certainly derived from Lat. cognitus
known, ... though confused ... with Lat. comptus, neat, adorned."
(Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
8. your offices, the different duties assigned to each.
9. double, forked; cp. Temp. ii. 2. 13, "All wound with adders
who with cloven tongues Do hiss me into madness"; and iii. 2.
10. Thorny, with spines which they erect at will; cp. Haml.
i. 5. 20, "Like quills upon the fretful porpentine."
11. Newts, a kind of lizard; properly an ewt, the initial n being
borrowed from the indefinite article. Similarly formed words
are nick-name for an eke-name, nugget formerly niggot = ningot for
an ingot. Conversely an adder is properly a noedder, an auger,
a nauger, an orange, a norange: blind-worms, so called from the
smallness of their eyes, known also as 'slow-worms'; both again
mentioned in Macb. iv. 1. 14, 16.
13. Philomel, the nightingale; in ancient mythology the
daughter of King Pandion of Attica, who was metamorphosed
into a nightingale.
14. Sing in ... lullaby, take part in singing our lullaby; lullaby,
a song sung to soothe to rest, from the verb 'lull,' to sing to rest.
16-8. Never ... Come, may it never come; let it never come.
19. So ... lullaby, so may you sleep sweetly, accompanied by
21. spinners, i.e. of the spider's web; cp. R. J. i. 4. 59, "Her
waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs," said of the chariot of
Queen Mab, the fairies' midwife.
26. One ... sentinel, let one of our number stand apart as
sentinel; aloof, "perhaps immediately from Du. loef, in te loef,
to windward ... From the idea of keeping a ship's head to the
wind, and thus clear of the lee-shore or quarter to which she
might drift, came the general sense of 'steering clear of,' or
'giving a wide berth to' anything with which one might otherwise
come into contact with" (Murray, Engl. Dict.).
29. languish, pine, grow weak.
30. ounce, a kind of lynx: cat, wild cat.
31. Pard, panther.
33. it is thy dear, it is the object with which you shall fall in
34. Wake, may you wake.
35. you faint, you have become faint; for with, used to express
the juxtaposition of cause and effect, see Abb. § 193.
36. troth, a doublet of 'truth'; forgot, for the curtailed
form of past participles, see Abb. § 343.
38. tarry ... day, wait for the comfort which daylight will bring
39. a bed, sc. for yourself.
42. One heart ... troth, since there is but one heart between us
(i.e. as we are one in heart), one bed will serve for us to lie upon;
though there are two bosoms, there is but one faith between us
(i.e. that which we have pledged to each other).
45. O, take ... innocence! "Understand the meaning of my
innocence, or my innocent meaning. Let no suspicion of ill
enter thy mind" (Johnson); take, apprehend; cp. v. 1. 90,
46. Love ... conference, in talk between those who love, love
catches the meaning intended by love; where two mutually
love, each readily understands the thoughts of the other without
the need of gloss or commentary on the words used.
47. knit, for the omission of -ed in the participle of verbs ending
in -te, -t and -d, see Abb. § 342.
48. So that ... it, so that, as I said (1. 43), we can make but
one heart out of the two; it, used indefinitely, the circumstance,
49. interchained, linked each to the other.
52. For lying ... lie, for in lying by your side, I am guilty of no
treachery; with a pun on the two senses of lie.
54, 5. Now much ... lied, a mischief upon my bad manners
and my pride if in the words I used I meant to imply that
Lysander was false; i.e. I am not so ill-mannered and arrogant
as to mean by what I said that Lysander was false; beshrew,
literally 'curse,' used as a gentle, sometimes very gentle, imprecation; e.g. M. V. iii. 2. 14, "Beshrew your eyes, They have
o'erlook'd and divided me"; said by Portia in loving reproach
56. for, for the sake of; out of.
57-60. in human ... distant, for the sake of that modesty which
men and women should observe, remain at such a distance from
me as may justly be said to be suitable to a virtuous bachelor and
a maid. There seems to be a confusion of constructions between
'let there be such a distance between us as may be justly said is
becoming between a virtuous,' etc., and 'be so far distant from
me as it may be justly said is becoming between,' etc. Delius
takes in human modesty with as may well be said.
62. Amen, so be it; commonly placed at the end of a prayer.
63. end life, may life end.
64. all his rest, all the peace he has in his gift.
65. With half ... press'd! Nay, answers Hermia, may half of
his peace be yours!
68. approve, make trial of; prove; as frequently in Shakespeare.
69. stirring, exciting.
71. Weeds, see note on ii. 1. 256.
73. Despised, who despised; for the omission of the relative,
see Abb. § 244.
74. sound, soundly.
75. dank, damp; Skeat (Ety. Dict.) remarks, "It is commonly
assumed that dank is another form of damp, but, being of
Scandinavian origin, it is rather to be associated with Swed.
dagg, dew ... and indeed it seems to be nothing else than a
nasalized form of the prov. Eng. dag, dew."
76. durst, preterite of dare which, in the sense of challenge,
forms another preterite dared.
77. this lack-love, this churlish fellow so wanting in love
towards her who loves him; accent on the first syllable: this
kill-courtesy, this boor who murders courtesy, is utterly Without
good manners. To mend the metre, Walker would read 'nearer'
For Near, making the line one of ten syllables; Theobald gives
"Near to this kill-courtesy."
78. Churl, literally 'a countryman,' and hence one with rustic,
79. owe, possess; the final -n of owen being dropped.
80, 1. let love ... eyelid, may love banish sleep from your eyes;
cp. Macb, i. 3. 19, 20, "Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang
upon his pent-house lid."
82. So wake ...gone, I leave you to wake after I have gone
with this result (i.e. of your not being able to find sleep again).
86. darkling, in the dark; cp. Lear, i. 4. 237, "So, out went
the candle, and we were left darkling." "There were some
adverbs in O. E., originally dative feminine singular, ending in
-inga, -unga, linga, -lunga. A feww of these, without the dative
suffix, exist under the form -ling or -long as headlong (O. E. heed-linge), sideling, sidelong, darkling (darklong), flating, and flatlong" (Morris, Hist. Outl. p. 194).
87. on thy peril, at thy peril, as we should now say; i.e. at
the risk, if you follow me, of being ill-used by me: I alone will
go, I am determined to go unaccompanied by you.
88. fond, foolish; the radical sense of the word.
89. the lesser ... grace, the less is the favour, kindness, I meet
with at your hands; the, the ablative of the demonstrative.
91. blessed and attractive, happy in being able to attract to
her those she wishes to attract.
92. How came ... bright? What is it that has made her eyes,
93. If so ... hers, for, in that case, mine would be brighter than
hers, seeing that they are oftener washed with such tears.
96. no marvel, it is no wonder.
97. Do, subjunctive: as a monster, as that of a monster.
98, 9. What wicked ... eyne? how could any mirror be so
wickedly treacherous as to make me think my eyes rivalled the
star-like orbs of Hermia? compare with, make comparison
between her eyes and mine, and assume an equality in brightness; for this intransitive use, cp. Haml. v. 2. 146, "I dare not
confess that, lest I should compare with him in excellence"; for
eyne, see note on i. 1. 242.
103. And run, I do so and will run.
104. Transparent, though indicating also the brilliancy of her
beauty, refers especially to the transparency of her nature which
enables him to see her heart through her bosom; Nature and
Art are usually contrasted, but here Nature employs Art. With
Dyce, Delius, etc., I have followed the later folios in reading
Nature here shows, the quartos giving 'Nature shewes.'
106, 7. O, how ... sword! i.e. how well does the bearer of that
vile name deserve to perish at my hands! Cp. above, ii. 1. 190.
109. What though, even though he loves your Hermia, that does not matter; that is not sufficient reason for you to wish to
110. be content, be calm, do not be in such a passion; a frequent use of the expression in Shakespeare.
111. Content with Hermia! Lysander takes Helena's content in
the sense of 'satisfied with.'
112. tedious minutes, minutes which once seemed to fly so
swiftly because delightful, but which now seem a mere tedious
waste of time.
118. So I ... reason, so I, being but young when I loved
Hermia, only now ripen to reason, only now have acquired
mature reason; for ripe, as a verb, cp. A. Y. L. ii. 7. 26, "And
so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe".
119, 20. And touching ... will, and reason having now attained
its highest point of sagacity, having reached its fullest maturity,
guides my will in the way it should go; for skill, = sagacity,
mental power, cp. M. M. iv. 2. 164, "if I read it not truly, my
ancient skill beguiles me"; for marshal, cp. Haml, iii. 4. 205,
"they must sweep my way And marshal me to knavery."
121. o'erlook, read over, peruse; cp. Lear, v. 1. 50, "I will
o'erlook thy paper."
122. love's richest book, sc, her eyes; cp. R. J. i. 4. 85, 6,
"And what obscured in this fair volume lies Find written in the
margent of his eyes."
123. Wherefore ... born? Why should I have been born to
endure such bitter irony? i.e. I have done nothing myself to
124. at your hands, from you.
127. Deserve, win by any attractions of mine; be thought
really worthy of.
128. But you ... insufficiency, but that you should think it
necessary, without your thinking it necessary, to jeer at my want
of power to win such a favour.
129. Good troth ... good sooth, in very truth.
130. In such ... woo, to make a mock of seeking my love in
these ironical terms of praise.