From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.
2. Then, what, then, if she has awaked, what, etc.
3. Which she ... extremity, which, from the potency of the
drug, she will be compelled to love with ridiculous passion.
4. How now, what is 'up' now? as we say colloquially.
5. night-rule, night-work; practice common to the night.
Some editors take -rule here as another spelling of 'revel,' and
cite the title 'Lord of Mis-rule' given to the conductor of
revels; but 'Mis-rule' in that phrase means licensed disorder:
haunted, Oberon applies to the presence of human beings the
term which they would use of the presence of fairies, spirits,
etc., though the sense in which the word is so used is a
secondary one, the original meaning nothing more than to
7. close, secret, carefully hidden.
8. her dull ... hour, that period of time during which her senses
are dulled by sleep.
9. patches, fools; the word in this sense is probably due to the
patched, parti-coloured, dresses worn by fools, jesters; mechanicals, artizans; cp. ii. H. VI. i. 3. 196, "Base dunghill villain and
10. That work ... stalls, that get their livelihood by such
occupations as weaving, etc.
13. The shallowest ... sort, the most empty-brained blockhead
of that dull lot (Poor Bottom! that he should be so little
appreciated); for thick-skin, a term now used of those who are
wanting in proper sensitiveness, cp. M. W. iv. 5. 2, "What
wouldst thou have, boor? what, thick-skin?"; for barren, cp.
T. N. i. 5. 90, "I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a
barren fool"; for sort, R. I. iv. 1. 246, "a sort of traitors";
R. III. V. 3. 316, "A sort of vagabonds."
14. presented, acted the part of.
15. Forsook his scene, left the stage on which he was acting;
for in, = into, see Abb. § 159.
16. When I did ... take, when I caught him thus alone.
17. nole, a comical word for 'head,' more commonly spelled
'nowl.' Douce quotes a receipt from Albertus Magnus de
Secretis Naturae for effecting this transformation; and Steevens
refers to "a similar trick played by Dr. Faustus."
18. Anon ... answered, a moment later the time comes for him
to re-appear on the stage and reply to the speech of him who
19. And forth ... comes, and so this precious fellow who is to
act the part of Pyramus makes his appearance; my, said contemptuously; Malone quotes Dekker and Jonson as using mimic
20. creeping, sc. in order to snare them: fowler, bird-catcher.
21. russet-pated choughs, Marshall has shown in Notes and
Queries, sixth series, vol. ix., Nos. 227, 233, that the bird here
meant is the jackdaw, not the Cornish chough, and that russet is
used in the sense of dark grey: many in sort, many all together.
23. Sever themselves, quickly disperse: madly sweep the sky,
in wildest terror dash hither and thither across the sky.
25. at our stamp ... falls, at each stamp of ours, one after another falls to the ground.
26. He, another.
27, 8. Their sense ... wrong, their senses being thus weakened
and bewildered by overpowering fear, even inanimate objects
find courage to plague them.
30. Some sleeves ... catch, some of the briers and thorns strip
them of their sleeves; some strip them of their hats; some
strip of every article of dress those who are so ready to yield
31. I led ... fear, they being in this state of distraction, I led
them hither and thither in all directions; cp. Ariel's description
of the way in which he led Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo
"through Tooth'd briers, sharp furzes, pricking goss and thorns,"
Temp. iv. 1. 180.
32. Sweet Pyramus, said ironically, that Bottom of whose
good looks they were so proud; see above i. 2. 75, "for Pyramus
is a sweet-faced man." translated, see note on iii. 1. 109.
33. When in ... pass, and at that very moment it so happened
that Titania, etc.; so, here used almost as a correlative to when.
35. better than I could devise, even better than I hoped when
I planned my stratagem.
36. latch'd, is used twice elsewhere by Shakespeare, Sonn.
cxiii. 6, "For it no form delivers to the heart Of bird, of flower,
or shape, which it doth latch"; Macb. iv. 3. 195, "But I have
words That would be howl'd out in the desert air Where hearing
should not latch them"; the meaning in both passages being to
catch and retain. In the present passage Hanmer interprets the
word as 'lick over,' 'anoint,' from F. lecher, to lick, and many
editors accept his explanation, though no instance has been discovered of the word in that sense. Possibly the meaning may be
nothing more than 'closed,' i.e. in such a way that the juice
might work the required effect when the eyes were opened,
though Oberon speaks of performing the operation upon those
already asleep. But I believe we should read 'hatch'd' a
word originally meaning to engrave (from F. hacher, to engrave),
but not seldom used in the sense of staining, smearing. Thus
in Beaumont and Fletcher's Custom of the Country, v. 5. 108,
"When thine own bloody sword cried against thee, Hatch'd in
the life of him," i.e. smeared with his life-blood; The Humorous
Lieutenant, i. 1. 172, "His weapon hatch'd in blood." In T. C
i. 3. 65, "As venerable Nestor hatch'd in silver," the meaning is
streaked with silvery hairs resembling the lines made in engraving; while in T. N. iii. 4. 257, the old reading "unhatch'd
rapier" probably = unstained rapier. The sense of stained,
smeared, well agrees with ii. 1. 257, "And with the juice of this
I'll streak her eyes."
38. took, caught; cp. Haml. iii. 3. 80, "He took my father
grossly, full of bread. "
40. That ... eyed, so that whenever he should awake he could
not help seeing her.
41. close, so as not to be seen; cp T. N. ii. 5. 17, "Close, in
the name of jesting!" same Athenian, the one I meant.
42. the man, sc. whose eyes I smeared with the juice.
44. Lay breath ... foe, keep such bitter words for one who deserves them.
45. Now I but chide, so far I only use reproach: should, ought to.
48. Being o'er shoes ... deep, having gone so far in guilt, go
further still; make your guilt complete; cp. Macb. iii. 4. 136-8,
"I am in blood Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er"; T. G. i. 1. 24, "For he
was more than over shoes in love."
50. true unto the day, sc. in regulating the time. Wright
compares T. C. iii. 2. 185, "As true as steel, as plantage to the
moon, As sun to day, as turtle to her mate."
53. bored, pierced right through from surface to surface.
54, 5. displease ... Antipodes, by her sudden presence annoy
her brother then holding noontide with the Antipodes, then at
his zenith in the Antipodes.
57. So should ... look, so might a murderer be expected to look;
dead, deadly looking; cp. K. J. v. 7. 65, "You breathe these
dead news in as dead an ear."
61. glimmering, glittering; properly shining faintly; for sphere, see note on ii. 1. 9.
62. What's this ... Lysander? what has all this to do with my
Lysander? All this foolish talk of yours is beside the matter,
and is employed merely in order to shirk the question of his
65, 6. thou drivest ... patience, you enrage me beyond what it is
possible for a maiden to endure with calmness: then, since you
say that you would rather give his dead body to your hounds to
be torn to pieces in the way that hounds are allowed to tear their
67. Henceforth ... men! henceforth be accounted a devil rather
than a man!
68. once, for once in a way; cp. L. L. L. iv. 3. 361, "Let us
once lose our oaths to find ourselves": tell true, speak the truth:
even for my sake, even when entreated by one you hate so
69, 70. Durst thou ... sleeping? Have you, who would not for
a moment have dared to face him when awake, killed him in his
sleep? Durst thou have looked, i.e. you know well you would not
have dared: O brave touch! O valiant deed! Schmidt takes
touch as = 'test or proof of bravery,' comparing Cor. iv. 1. 49,
"My friends of noblest touch," i.e. of tried nobleness.
71. worm, snake; as frequently in Shakespeare.
72. doubler, used to indicate the figurative idea of duplicity,
treachery, as well as the literal idea of being forked.
74. You spend ... mood, you waste your indignation by indulging in a mistaken humour, i.e. the indignation in which you
indulge has no real foundation; passion, used by Shakespeare of
any strong emotion
76. for aught ... tell, so far as I know.
78. therefore, as a return for telling you, etc.
79. A privilege, sc. since to you, who so detest me, never to
see me again must be a boon.
81. whether, metrically a monosyllable.
82. in this fierce vein, while she is in this angry mood.
84, 5. So sorrow's ... owe, as I am, in my present condition,
the grief with which I am burdened becomes more burdensome
in consequence of the debt that sleep owes to sorrow not being
paid; in Macb. ii. 2. 37, 9, we have, "Sleep that knits up the
ravelled sleave of care ... Balm of hurt minds," and here sleep is
spoken of as something properly due to those in trouble. So
seems out of place here, it not being correlative to anything;
possibly it is a mistake for since, the so- of sorrow being caught
by the transcriber's eye.
86, 7. Which now ... stay, which debt it will pay in part (as a
bankrupt pays so-much in the pound) if I wait here to receive its
offer of such part; cp. Cymb. v. 4. 18-21, where Posthumus, addressing the gods and offering his life in payment of his
offence, says, "I know you are more clement than vile men,
Who of their broken debtors take a third, A sixth, a tenth,
letting them thrive again On their abatement."
88. hast mistaken quite, have made a complete mistake in
what you have done.
89. some true-love's sight, the eyes of some constant lover.
90, 1. Of thy ... true, the result of your mistake must be that
some constant lover will have turned inconstant, instead of an
inconstant lover becoming constant, as I intended; for misprision, cp. above 1. 74, and. i. H. IV. i. 3, 27, "Either envy,
therefore, or misprision Is guilty of this fault and not my
92, 3. Then fate ... oath. Puck's excuse for his carelessness
does not seem to be very logical. Possibly the meaning is, Then,
if that happens, the fault is fate's, who so often is too strong for
men's intentions that, for one man who keeps faith, a million,
whatever their intentions, give way and break oath after oath,
i.e. any number of oaths.
94. About the wood go, search the wood in eveiy direction.
95. look thou find, take care to find; for the subjunctive after
verbs of command, see Abb. § 369.
96. All fancy-sick, utterly love-sick: pale of cheer, pale in
countenance, see note on i. 1. 122, above.
97. that costs ... dear, that make a terrible drain on the
resources of the blood; costs, on the relative with a singular
verb, though the antecedent be plural, see Abb. § 247; for the
supposed effect of sighs, cp. ii. H. VI. iii. 2. 63, "I would be
blind with weeping, sick with groans, Look pale as primrose
with blood-drinking sighs."
99. I'll charm ... appear, I will lay the spell upon his eyes in
anticipation of her coming, so that he may be ready to look upon
her with love when she comes; against she do appear, elliptically
for 'against the time when,' etc.; cp. T. S. iv. 4. 104, "bid the
priest be ready to come against you come"; do, subjunctive.
101. the Tartar's bow, the nomad hordes of Tartary were
famous for their archery. The spelling of the word, which
should be 'Tatar,' is due to a false etymology, the Tartars,
from their cruelty, being supposed to have proceeded out of
Tartarus, or hell.
103. Hit ... archery, see above, ii. 1. 165-7.
104. apple, the ball of the eye, so called from being round.
For the omission of the article, see Abb. § 89.
107. the Venus of the sky, the bright planet Venus.
108. by, near at hand.
109. Beg ... remedy, ask her to cure you by granting you
112. mistook, for the curtailed form of participles, see Abb.
113. a lover's fee, according to Halliwell, this was a reward
of three kisses. He quotes an old ballad, "How many (i.e,
kisses) says Batt; why, three, says Matt, For that's a maiden's
114. their fond pageant, their display of foolish love.
119. needs, necessarily; the old genitive used adverbially:
alone, beyond everything else, unique; cp. T. G. ii. 4. 167,
"To her whose worth makes other worthies nothing; She is
121. befall, the original meaning of be-, as a prefix, was
'about'; with verbs it frequently becomes merely intensive, as
'be-muddle,' 'be-grudge,' or gives a figurative sense as in
'befall,' to fall as an accident: preposterously, used by Shakespeare more in accordance with its literal sense than is commonly the case now, 'preposterous' meaning 'having that first
which ought to be last', hence 'perverted,' 'absurd'; cp. H. V.
ii. 2. 112, "That wrought upon thee so preposterously" i.e. in a
manner so unnatural.
122. should woo, was likely to woo.
123. never come, never show themselves in the guise of, etc.
124. vows so born, vows being so born; when vows have such
125. In their ... appears, perfect truth manifests itself in their
nativity, is a necessary accompaniment to their birth.
127. Bearing ... true, when they bear the outward symbol of
good faith in proof of their sincerity; 'badges' of silver, etc.,
with the arms of the family engraved on them, were in Shakespeare's time worn by liveried servants; for the word in this
figurative sense, cp. Sonn. xliv. 14, "heavy tears, badges of
128. You do ... more, you make your cunning more and more
conspicuous by the language you use; in advance the figure is
that of bringing a standard more to the front; cp. M. W. iii. 4.
85, "I must advance the colours of my love"; M. A. iii. 1. 10,
"like favourites ... that advance their pride Against the power
that bred it."
129. When truth ... fray! "If Lysander's present protestations are true, they destroy the truth of his former vows to
Hermia, and the contest between these two truths, which in
themselves are holy, must in the issue be devilish and end in the
destruction of both" (Wright).
130. give her o'er, abandon your interest in her; throw her
over, as we say colloquially.
131. Weigh ... weigh, if you weigh the worth of your oath to
her with the worth of your oath to me, you will find that you
are weighing nothing at all; each of the oaths, as she goes on to
say, being equally worthless.
133. tales, mere empty stories; cp. A. C. ii. 3. 136, "Truths
would be tales, When now half tales be truths."
134. swore, sc. my oaths of loyalty.
135. mind, opinion, judgment.
138. eyne, see note on i. 1. 142, above.
139. Crystal is muddy, i.e. in comparison with your bright
139, 40. O, how ripe ... grow! O, how ripe your lips show,
growing like two cherries resting against each other, and tempting one to pluck them; ripe and tempting used adverbially.
141. Taurus, a chain of mountains running through Asia from
W. to E., forming the southern margin of the great tableland of
Central Asia; the word Taurus means a high mountain.
142. Fann'd ... wind, which the east wind winnows of all stains
upon its whiteness; Wright compares W. T. iv. 4. 375, "I
take thy hand, this hand, As soft as dove's down and as white
as it, Or Ethiopian's tooth, or the fann'd snow that's bolted By
the northern blasts twice over"; for with = by, see Abb. § 193:
turns to a crow, appears as black as a crow.
144. This princess ... white, this hand so peerless in its whiteness; for princess, in the sense of supreme impersonation of a
thing, Malone compares W. T. iv. 4. 161, "she is The queen of
curds and cream." Staunton adopts Collier's conjecture 'impress,' quoting in its support Virolet's apostrophe to Juliana's
hand in Beaumont and Fletcher's Double Marriage iv. 3, "White
seal of virtue"; but though a hand may be said to be a seal of
bliss, we could scarcely talk of an 'impress of pure white,'
whether 'impress' means an impression or a device.
145. spite, misfortune, misery: bent, determined.
146. To set against me, to make a set against me; to unite in
flouting me; the figure here, as in iii. 1. 137, is probably from
card-playing, in which a sum is set, staked, by one party against
a sum staked by another party.
147. civil, well-bred: knew, were practically acquainted with.
148. injury, wrong in the shape of insult; see note on ii.
150. But you must join, without your joining; in souls, soul
with soul, as we talk of ' joining hand in hand' in heartily doing
51. in show, in appearance, outwardly.
152. gentle, tenderly nurtured.
153. To vow, by vowing; the indefinite infinitive; superpraise,
praise in exaggerated and insincere terms.
156. And now ... mock, and now rival one another in mocking;
the substantive verb 'are' being supplied from the former line.
157. A trim exploit, a pretty piece of bravery, a fine exhibition
of your courage; for trim, in this ironical sense, cp. T. C. iv. 5.
33, "O, this is trim!"; T. A. v. 1. 96 "and 'twas Trim sport
for them that had the doing of it."
159. sort, nature, condition.
160. offend, affront.
160, 1. and extort ... patience, exhaust the power of endurance
of one so forlorn as myself; literally, twist it out of me: all ...
sport, wholly and solely to amuse yourselves.
164. with all good will, most willingly and sincerely.
166. And yours ... bequeath, and do you, on your part, leave
me all your share in Helena's love; bequeath, generally used of
devising property by will; though there is nothing in the derivation so to limit the sense...
169. I will none, I will none of her, i.e. I do not want to have
anything to do with her, to have any part in her love; cp., for
this adverbial use of none, T. N. i. 3. 113, "it's four to one
she'll none of me"; ii. 2. 13, "She took the ring of me; I'll none
171. but as ... sojourn'd, stayed for a short visit as a guest
does with his host; as guest-wise is redundant; guest-wise by
itself meaning 'in the way of a guest'; for the sentiment, cp.
Tennyson, The Gardener's Daughter, 14-7, "she To me myself,
for some three careless moons, The summer pilot of an empty
heart Unto the shores of nothing!" to, some editors adopt
Johnson's conjecture 'with'; but probably, as Delius points
out, to belongs to guest-wise, i.e. as a guest to her. Malone
quotes Sonn, cix. 5, 6, "This is my home of love: if I have
ranged, Like him that travels I return again."
175. to thy peril, here to expresses the consequence: aby it
dear, pay dearly for it; see notes on iii. 1. 12, above, and 1. 426,
177. his function, its office; sc. of seeing.
178. quick, lively.
179, 80. Wherein ... recompense, by that same act (i.e. of darkening the earth) by which it weakens the sense of sight, it makes
a double recompense in giving greater acuteness to the sense of
hearing; impair, through F. empeirer, from Low Lat. impeiorare,
to make worse.
182. thy sound, the sound made by you, i.e. your voice.
184. press, ply hard, constrain; probably in this and the next
line used in the sense of 'pressing' for service; the word in that
sense being a corruption of prest ready, prest-money ready money
advanced when a man was hired for service.
186. bide, stay, remain.
188. oes and eyes of light, stars; oes, for round objects, leads
to the pun upon the letters O and I. For oes, cp. H. V. Prol. i.
13, "Within this wooden O," i.e. the circular building of the
Globe Theatre; A. C. v. 2. 81, "The little O, the earth"; L. L. L.
V. 2. 45, "O, that your face were not so full of O's" (i.e. marks
of small-pox); also quotation from Bacon's Essays on ii. 1. 29.
189, 90. could not ... so? could not the fact of my leaving you
teach you that I did so because of the hatred I feel towards you?
191. it cannot be, sc. that you hate me, as you say.
192. she is ... confederacy, she has banded herself together
with Lysander and Demetrius.
194. fashion, shape, concoct: false, treacherous, cowardly: in
spite of me, out of malice towards me; not 'without regard to
me,' 'caring nothing for me,' as the words would mean in modern
195. Injurious, insulting.
196. contrived, plotted; cp. Haml. iv. 7. 136, "Most generous
and free from all contriving."
197. bait, worry; as dogs worry a bear; to 'bait' is properly
to cause to bite.
198. counsel, mutual confidences; as above, i. 1. 216.
199. The sisters' vows, the vows of sisterly love; protestations
such as two sisters would make to each other: spent, wearily
200. chid, for the curtailed form of the participle, see Abb. §
343: hasty-footed, so quickly slipping away.
201. O, is it all forgot? Various suggestions have been made to
complete the metre, but the pause probably accounts for the
202. Childhood innocence, the innocence of children; cp. M. V.
i. 1. 144, "I urge this childhood proof"; and for substantives used
as adjectives, see Abb. § 3.
203. artificial, creative; now used chiefly in opposition to what
is natural and especially of what is an imitation of what is
204. needles, metrically a monosyllable; many editors give the
contracted form neelds, which is common in E. E.: created both
one flower, both worked at the same flower in our embroidery,
i.e. each doing a part of it.
205. sampler, literally, a pattern; used here and commonly for
a piece of work given to children to do as a sample of their
206. warbling of, for 'of,' following a verbal noun, see Abb.
§ 178: in one key, in unison of note.
209. a double cherry, a twin cherry originating out of a single
blossom: seeming, seemingly, apparently.
210. But yet ... partition, but yet really united in spite of the
line of seeming partition; what the Siamese Twins were in human
211. lovely, according to Dyce = loving, and so Delius:
moulded, shaped by Nature.
212-4. with two ... crest. Douce explains, "Helen says, 'we
had two seeming bodies but only one heart.' She then exemplifies her position by a simile — 'we had two of the first, i.e. bodies,
like double coats in heraldry that belong to man and wife as one
person, but which, like our single heart, have but one crest.'"
Wright makes this more clear by adding that in "the language of
heraldry ... when a tincture has been once mentioned in the description of a coat of arms, it is always afterwards referred to
according to the order in which it occurs in the description; and
a charge is accordingly said to be 'of the first,' 'of the second,'
etc., if its tincture be the same as that of the field which is always
mentioned first, or as that of the second or any other that has
215. rent, tear; an older form of 'rend' frequent in Shakespeare.
218, 9. Our sex ... injury, though I alone suffer from your behaviour, our whole sex is dishonoured by it.
220. amazed, utterly bewildered; see note on ii. 1. 113.
225. even but now, only a moment ago; even but is redundant.
229. Deny your love, deny all love for you; your, objectively.
231. But by ... on, unless it be that you have incited him to do
232. What though, even if; supposing it to be the case: so in
grace, looked upon with such favour.
233. So hung upon with love, so lovingly clung to; the idea
being that of arms thrown round a person in loving embrace;
cp. M. A. i. 1. 86, "Lord, he will hang upon him like a
234. Bit miserable ... unloved, but suffering from that worst
of miseries, the misery of loving without being loved in return.
237. persever, with the accent on the penultimate, as always
238. mouths, grimaces; cp. Lear, iii. 2. 36, "For there was
never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass."
239. hold ... up, encourage each other in keeping up the fine
joke you have between you.
240. well carried, if well managed; cp. M. A, iv. 1 212,
"Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf Change slander to
remorse": shall be chronicled, will be thought worthy of being
recorded as a good story.
241. grace, good feeling.
242. would not, for this irregular sequence of tenses, see Abb.
§ 370: argument, subject of your merriment; cp. M. A. i. 1. 258,
"Thou wilt prove a notable argument."
247. O excellent! Well done!
248. cannot entreat, cannot effect anything by her entreaties:
I can compel, I can force Lysander to desist from mocking
252. lose, readily sacrifice; sc, his life.
255. withdraw ... too, walk aside with me and prove it in
256. whereto tends all this? what object have you in view in
257. Ethiope, dark as an Ethiopian. No, no; he'll ..., the
first quarto reads 'No, no; he'el seeme,' etc.; the second,
'No, no, he'el seeme,' etc.; the folios, 'No, no, sir, seem,' etc.
The Camb. Edd. mark a lacuna, but possibly nothing more is
intended than a change of thought which causes Demetrius
suddenly to break off in addressing Hermia and turn tauntingly
258. take on ... follow, behave in a furious manner as though
you intended to follow me: for take on, in this sense, cp. M. W.
iii. 5. 40, "she does so take on with her men"; iii. H. VI. ii. 5.
104, "How will my mother for a father's death Take on with me
and ne'er be satisfied!"
259. a tame man, a coward, poltroon; cp. ii. H. IV. ii. 4. 105,
"He's no swaggerer, hostess; a tame cheater, i' faith."
260. Hang off ... cat! cease to claw me as a cat does its prey;
said to Hermia as she throws her arms around him to prevent
his following Demetrius: for cat, used in a contemptuous sense,
cp. A. W. iv. 3. 295, "he's more and more a cat": burr, the
prickly case of the seeds of certain plants, e,g, the burdock,
which clings to anything it touches.
264. loathed medicine, as nauseous to me as medicine.
265. Do you not jest? Surely you must be jesting.
267, 8. I would ... you: I wish I had something more than your
word, — your bond; for I see (alluding to Hermia's throwing her
arms round Lysander and so detaining him) you are easily held
by a bond.
269. What, should ... dead? What, does your taunt mean that
you expect me to be so inhuman as to prevent her from clinging
to me by striking her dead?
271. what, ... hate? i.e. you need not be scrupulous about
striking me, for no personal injury you can do me will be worse
than your hatred.
272. what news, that is a strange story to tell me (sc. that you
274. erewhile, only a short time ago (when you swore you
loved me); literally, before (the present) time; in Temp, iii. 2.
117, we have while-ere, = during (the time), before, while being
there used adverbially.
275. Since night ... me, no longer ago than last night you, etc. ;
it is but the time since night that you, etc.
276, 7. Why, then ... say? Am I then to say, to believe, that
you were in earnest in leaving me, that you really meant to
nave nothing more to do with me? May the gods forbid such a
279. Therefore ... doubt, cease therefore to retain any hope,
cease to question me on the subject, or to buoy yourself up with
the possibility that you are mistaken. I have followed Pope in
omitting 'of' before doubt. Lettsom compares ii. 1. 237, "Ay,
in the temple, in the town, the field."
280. nothing truer, i.e. that nothing is more certain.
282. juggler, cheat: canker-blossom, you who have destroyed
the love which was blossoming between Lysander and myself
just as the canker destroys the blossoms of flowers; cp. above,
ii. 2. 3, and, for the figurative use of the word, Temp. i. 2. 415,
"grief that's beauty's canker"; i. H. IV. iv. 2. 32, "the
cankers of a calm world and a long peace." The word is a
doublet of 'cancer,' from Lat. cancer, a crab, the tumour being
so named from its eating into the flesh.
284. Fine, i' faith, truly a fine apostrophe that!
285. maiden, maidenly.
286. touch, spice, smack; cp. T. N. ii. 1. 13, "But I perceive
in you such an excellent touch of modesty"; H. V. iv. Chor. 47,
"Behold, as may unworthiness define, A little touch of Harry
in the night."
286, 7. What ... tongue? What, are you determined by your
abuse to compel impatient answers from one so gentle of speech
as you know me to be?
288. you counterfeit, you pretended friend of mine: you
puppet, you doll, who in the hands of others are made to play
any part they like.
289. why so? ... game, what makes you call me a puppet?
what is the point of your calling me puppet? Then, discovering,
as she thinks, Helena's meaning, she adds, ah, now I see the
game you are playing.
290, 1. Now I perceive ... statures, now I see that she has been
drawing an invidious comparison between herself and me as
regards her superior height; compare, comparison, as frequently
292. her tall personage, her stately figure; cp. T. N. i. 5. 164,
"Of what personage and years is he?"
293. prevail'd with him, won him over to admire her more
294. grown so high, reached such a height; with a pun on the
word high in its literal and figurative senses.
296. thou painted maypole, a reference to the old custom,
observed on the first of May, when villagers bedecked with
ribbons and finery, assembled to dance and sing round a Maypole diagonally painted in various colours, and festooned with
sprigs of May-blossom, ribbons, etc .... In painted Hermia hints that Helena owes her complexion
299. though you mock me, even though you think proper to,
300. curst, shrewish, spiteful; cp. T. S. i. 2. 70, "curst and
shrewd"; i. 2. 128, "Katherine the curst."
301. I have no ... shrewishness, I am not in the least endowed
with shrewishness; shrewishness is no part of my nature; for
have no gift, cp. T. C. iv. 2. 75, "the secrets of nature Have not
more gift in taciturnity."
302. a right maid, a thorough girl, one thoroughly deserving
in point of timidity the name of, etc.; cp. A. C. iv. 12. 28,
"Like a right gipsy"; ii. H. IV. ii. 1. 206, "This is the right
fencing grace"; for, as regards, in the matter of.
304. something, somewhat.
305. That I can match her, that I am her match, her equal in
308. counsels, secrets entrusted to me; cp. above, i. 1. 216.
310. your stealth, your having stolen away, secretly gone; cp.
Macb, ii. 3. 152, "there's warrant in that theft Which steals
itself, when there's no mercy left," said by Malcolm to Donalbain as they are preparing to steal away from Macbeth's
311. for love, out of love.
314. so, provided that.
315. bear my folly back, rid you of my foolish self, and bear
alone the burden of my folly.
317. simple, silly: fond, foolish.
318. get you gone, see note on ii. 1. 194.
319. A foolish ... behind, my heart is with Demetrius here,
and drags me back though wishing to go.
322. though ... part, even though you espouse her cause (sc.
Helena's) and are thus guilty of an officious piece of interference.
As below, 330-3, Demetrius resents even an act of kindness towards one whom he considers to belong entirely to himself, and
whose cause he claims to uphold alone.
323. shrewd, bitter-tongued; see note on ii. 1. 33, above.
324. a vixen, a sharp-tempered hussy; properly, a she-fox;
"by the ordinary laws of vowel-change, the feminine form is
fyx-en made by changing the vowel from o to y, and adding the
feminine suffix -en ... The use of vox for fox is common ...; so
also vane for fane, and vat for fat"... (Skeat, Ety, Dict.),
327. flout, jeer at.
329. minimus, an atom; literally, smallest one: of hindering ...
made, Steevens points out that knot-grass was anciently supposed
to prevent the growth of animals and children, and compares
Beaumont and Fletcher's Coxcomb, ii. 2, "We want a boy extremely for this function, Kept under for a year with milk and
330. bead, no bigger than a bead or drop; a name given to a
fairy in M. W. v. 5. 53.
330, 1. You are ... services, you put yourself forward a great
deal too much in offering to help one who scorns both you and
your offers of help; for her, as the antecedent of a relative, see
Abb. § 218.
333, 4. if thou dost ... her, if you venture to make the least
display of love to her; for intend = put forward, direct, cp. M.
W. ii. 1. 188, "If he should intend this voyage towards my wife":
Never so little, however small; literally, a show of love so little
as has never been shown.
335. aby, pay dearly for; see note on 1. 175, above: holds me
not, no longer clings to me and prevents my following you, as
you just now (1. 268) taunted me with not doing.
336, 7. to try ... Helena, to put to the test of combat the question which of us has the better claim to Helena: a confusion of
two constructions (1) to try whose right, yours or mine, is most,
etc. (2) to try which, of you or me (i.e. us), has most, etc. Cp.
Temp. ii. 1. 28, 9, "Which of he or Adrian, for a good wager,
first begins to crow."
338. cheek by jole, with the utmost closeness; literally, as
near as cheek is to cheek; jole, an old spelling of jowl, and "a
corruption of chole, chowl or chaul ... Again, chaul is a corruption
of chauel = chavel ...— A.S. caefle, the jaw"... (Skeat, Ety, Dict).
339. coil, trouble, disturbance; cp. K. J. ii. 1. 165, "I am
not worth this coil": 'long of you, of your doing; literally, in
close connection with you, and so due to you; now used provincially only.
342. for a fray, when a quarrel has to be decided.
343. to run away, for running away; when the question comes
of running away.
345. still, constantly.
347. shadows, shadowy beings, the fairies; cp. below, v. 1.
408, "If we shadows have offended."
352, 3. And so far ... sport, and my gladness that matters
turned out as they did is proportionate to the amusement their
quarrelling affords me; so and As are correlative; sort, turn out,
from Lat. sors, lot, destiny; cp. M. A. v. 4. 7, "I am glad that
all things sort so well."
355. overcast the night, envelope the night in a mantle of
356. welkin, sky; A.S. wolcnu, plural of wolcen, a cloud.
357. Acheron, the name of several classical rivers, and one of
the five rivers of the lower world; also used in late classical
writers for the whole of the lower world. Shakespeare seems to
have taken it for a burning lake.
358. testy, quarrelsome; literally, heady; from O. F. teste,
M. F. tete, the head.
359. As, as that, so that.
360. Like to ... tongue, at one time attune your voice to that
361. wrong insults.
363. from, away from.
364. death-counterfeiting, cp. Macb. ii. 3. 81, "Shake off this
downy sleep, death's counterfeit"; Cymb. ii. 2. 31, "O sleep,
thou ape of death."
365. batty wings, wings like those of bats, who fly in
the night-time only; hence slumberous.
367. This virtuous property, this efficacy belonging to it;
'virtue' in this sense is very frequent in Shakespeare; cp. ii.
H. IV. iv. 5. 76, "Culling from every flower the virtuous
368. all error, all delusions; his, its; see Abb. § 228: might,
369. wonted sight, usual vision.
370. this derision, this deception of which they have been
made the fools.
371. fruitless, empty.
372. wend, go, take their way; from "A.S. wendan, (1) transitive, to turn; (2) intransitive, to turn oneself, proceed; its past
tense, went, as the past tense of go" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
373. league, sc. of friendship.
374. Whiles, the old genitive used adverbially.
375. I'll to, the verb of motion being omitted, as frequently.
377. From monster's view, from the sight of the monster with
whom she is in love; for the omission of the article, see Abb. §
379. night's swift dragons, cp. Cymb. ii. 2. 48, "Swift, swift,
you dragons of the night, that dawning May bare the raven's
eye!" and Il Penseroso 59, "While Cynthea checks her dragon
yokes:" dragons, because of their supposed wakefulness: full
fast, with all possible speed.
380. Aurora's harbinger, the forerunner of the goddess of
the dawn, i.e. the day-star; harbinger, forerunner; properly an
officer in the royal household, whose duty it was to allot and mark
the lodgings of the king's attendants in a royal progress.
382. Troop ... churchyards, hurry back in troops to their graves
in the churchyard: cp. Haml. i. 1. 150-6.
383. in crossways, suicides were formerly buried in crossways
so that their graves instead of being kept sacred as in churchyards
might be trodden by every wayfarer; a stake was also driven
through their hearts to mark their burial: floods, ... the ghosts of those who were drowned were condemned,
in consequence of their not having received the rites of burial to
wander for a hundred years...
387. consort, have their lot with; for this word and for sort
in the next line, see note on 1. 352, above.
389. the morning's love, "by the morning's love I apprehend
Cephalus, the mighty hunter and paramour of Aurora, is intended" (Holt White).
391, 2. Even till ... beams, even till the sun, issuing forth from
the eastern gate, lights up the sea, etc. The gate of the east is
an idea derived from ancient mythology in which the sun is a
399. Goblin, a mischievous sprite; from "O. F. gobelin ... — Low Lat. gobelinus an extension of Low Lat. cobalus, a goblin, demon...." (Skeat, Ety. Dict.)
402. drawn, with my sword drawn; cp. H. V. ii. 1. 39, "O
well a day, Lady, if he be not drawn now; R. J. i. 1. 73, "What,
art thou drawn among these heartless hinds?" Cymb iii. 4. 111,
"Why hast thou gone so far To be unbent when thou hast ta'en
thy stand, The elected deer before thee?"
403. straight, straightway, immediately.
404. plainer, more level, and so more suitable for their combat.
408. look'st for wars, are in eager expectation of a combat.
409. recreant, coward; from F. recroire, "to believe again, or
alter one's faith ... also used in the phrase se recredere, to own
oneself beaten in a duel or judicial combat" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict. ).
410. whip thee with a rod, i.e. treat you as an insolent child
deserves to be treated: he, any one; see Abb. § 224.
412. we'll try ... here, we will not make trial of one another's
courage and skill here.
413. dares me on, challenges me to come on.
414. then he is gone, then I find him gone.
415. lighter-heel'd, nimbler in running; cp. i. H. IV. ii. 4. 53,
"show it a fair pair of heels and run from it."
419. grey, as the light is before the sun is above the horizon.
420. revenge this spite, revenge the insult he has put upon me.
422. Abide me, wait till I come up with you: wot, know.
423. shifting every place, changing your place every moment.
426. then, i.e. it is plain: buy this dear, pay for this dearly; 'buy' and 'aby' are both from the A.S. bicgan, to buy; cp.
above, iii. 2. 175. "Lest, to thy peril, thou aby it dear."
428. Faintness, weariness.
429. To measure ... length, cp. Lear, i. 4. 100, "If you will
measure your lubber's length again, tarry," i.e, if you wish to be
knocked down again.
430. look to be visited, expect to be met and punished by
432. Abate thy hours, shorten your duration: Shine comforts,
let comforts shine; the imperative used optatively.
435. sleep, that ... eye, see note on iii. 2. 85, above.
436. steal, gently remove.
437. Yet but three? are there only three here as yet? Come
one more, let one more come.
439. curst, see note on l. 300.
442. Never, on this word where we more commonly use 'ever,'
see Abb. § 52.
443. Bedabbled, wetted thoroughly, see note on 1. 121.
444. go, walk.
447. mean a fray, intend to fight.
458. And the ... known, and the proverb so well known to
460. In your ... shown, shall be exemplified in your case when
461. Jack shall have Jill, every lad shall have his lass; Jack and Jill, names common among rustics; cp. L. L. L. v. 2. 885,
"Our wooing doth not end like an old play; Jack hath no Jill."
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_3_2.html >.