A Midsummer Night's Dream
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|ACT V SCENE I ||Athens. The palace of THESEUS.|| |
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, Lords and
|HIPPOLYTA||'Tis strange my Theseus, that these|
|lovers speak of.|
|THESEUS||More strange than true: I never may believe|
|These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.|
|Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,||5|
|Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend|
|More than cool reason ever comprehends.|
|The lunatic, the lover and the poet|
|Are of imagination all compact:|
|One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,||10|
|That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,|
|Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:|
|The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,|
|Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;|
|And as imagination bodies forth||15|
|The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen|
|Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing|
|A local habitation and a name.|
|Such tricks hath strong imagination,|
|That if it would but apprehend some joy,||20|
|It comprehends some bringer of that joy;|
|Or in the night, imagining some fear,|
|How easy is a bush supposed a bear!|
|HIPPOLYTA||But all the story of the night told over,|
|And all their minds transfigured so together,||25|
|More witnesseth than fancy's images|
|And grows to something of great constancy;|
|But, howsoever, strange and admirable.|
|THESEUS||Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.||[Enter LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS, HERMIA, and HELENA]
|Joy, gentle friends! joy and fresh days of love||30|
|Accompany your hearts!|
|LYSANDER||More than to us|
|Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed!|
|THESEUS||Come now; what masques, what dances shall we have,|
|To wear away this long age of three hours||35|
|Between our after-supper and bed-time?|
|Where is our usual manager of mirth?|
|What revels are in hand? Is there no play,|
|To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?|
|PHILOSTRATE||Here, mighty Theseus.|
|THESEUS||Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?|
|What masque? what music? How shall we beguile|
|The lazy time, if not with some delight?|
|PHILOSTRATE||There is a brief how many sports are ripe:||45|
|Make choice of which your highness will see first.|
|[Giving a paper]|
|THESEUS||[Reads] 'The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
|By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.'|
|We'll none of that: that have I told my love,|
|In glory of my kinsman Hercules.||50||[Reads]
|'The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,|
|Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.'|
|That is an old device; and it was play'd|
|When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.||[Reads]
|'The thrice three Muses mourning for the death||55|
|Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.'|
|That is some satire, keen and critical,|
|Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.||[Reads]
|'A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus|
|And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.'||60|
|Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!|
|That is, hot ice and wondrous strange snow.|
|How shall we find the concord of this discord?|
|PHILOSTRATE||A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,|
|Which is as brief as I have known a play;||65|
|But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,|
|Which makes it tedious; for in all the play|
|There is not one word apt, one player fitted:|
|And tragical, my noble lord, it is;|
|For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.||70|
|Which, when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,|
|Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears|
|The passion of loud laughter never shed.|
|THESEUS||What are they that do play it?|
|PHILOSTRATE||Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,||75|
|Which never labour'd in their minds till now,|
|And now have toil'd their unbreathed memories|
|With this same play, against your nuptial.|
|THESEUS||And we will hear it.|
|PHILOSTRATE||No, my noble lord;||80|
|It is not for you: I have heard it over,|
|And it is nothing, nothing in the world;|
|Unless you can find sport in their intents,|
|Extremely stretch'd and conn'd with cruel pain,|
|To do you service.||85|
|THESEUS||I will hear that play;|
|For never anything can be amiss,|
|When simpleness and duty tender it.|
|Go, bring them in: and take your places, ladies.|
|HIPPOLYTA||I love not to see wretchedness o'er charged||90|
|And duty in his service perishing.|
|THESEUS||Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.|
|HIPPOLYTA||He says they can do nothing in this kind.|
|THESEUS||The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.|
|Our sport shall be to take what they mistake:||95|
|And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect|
|Takes it in might, not merit.|
|Where I have come, great clerks have purposed|
|To greet me with premeditated welcomes;|
|Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,||100|
|Make periods in the midst of sentences,|
|Throttle their practised accent in their fears|
|And in conclusion dumbly have broke off,|
|Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,|
|Out of this silence yet I pick'd a welcome;||105|
|And in the modesty of fearful duty|
|I read as much as from the rattling tongue|
|Of saucy and audacious eloquence.|
|Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity|
|In least speak most, to my capacity.||110|
|PHILOSTRATE||So please your grace, the Prologue is address'd.|
|THESEUS||Let him approach.|
|[Flourish of trumpets]|
|[Enter QUINCE for the Prologue]|
|Prologue||If we offend, it is with our good will.|
|That you should think, we come not to offend,|
|But with good will. To show our simple skill,||115|
|That is the true beginning of our end.|
|Consider then we come but in despite.|
|We do not come as minding to contest you,|
|Our true intent is. All for your delight|
|We are not here. That you should here repent you,||120|
|The actors are at hand and by their show|
|You shall know all that you are like to know.|
|THESEUS||This fellow doth not stand upon points.|
|LYSANDER||He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he knows|
|not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not||125|
|enough to speak, but to speak true.|
|HIPPOLYTA||Indeed he hath played on his prologue like a child|
|on a recorder; a sound, but not in government.|
|THESEUS||His speech, was like a tangled chain; nothing|
|impaired, but all disordered. Who is next?||130|
|[Enter Pyramus and Thisbe, Wall, Moonshine, and Lion]|
|Prologue||Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;|
|But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.|
|This man is Pyramus, if you would know;|
|This beauteous lady Thisby is certain.|
|This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present||135|
|Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder;|
|And through Wall's chink, poor souls, they are content|
|To whisper. At the which let no man wonder.|
|This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,|
|Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,||140|
|By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn|
|To meet at Ninus' tomb, there, there to woo.|
|This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,|
|The trusty Thisby, coming first by night,|
|Did scare away, or rather did affright;||145|
|And, as she fled, her mantle she did fall,|
|Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.|
|Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,|
|And finds his trusty Thisby's mantle slain:|
|Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,||150|
|He bravely broach'd is boiling bloody breast;|
|And Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade,|
|His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest,|
|Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain|
|At large discourse, while here they do remain.||155|
|[Exeunt Prologue, Thisbe, Lion, and Moonshine]|
|THESEUS||I wonder if the lion be to speak.|
|DEMETRIUS||No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many asses do.|
|Wall||In this same interlude it doth befall|
|That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;|
|And such a wall, as I would have you think,||160|
|That had in it a crannied hole or chink,|
|Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,|
|Did whisper often very secretly.|
|This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show|
|That I am that same wall; the truth is so:||165|
|And this the cranny is, right and sinister,|
|Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.|
|THESEUS||Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?|
|DEMETRIUS||It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard|
|discourse, my lord.||170|
|THESEUS||Pyramus draws near the wall: silence!|
|Pyramus||O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black!|
|O night, which ever art when day is not!|
|O night, O night! alack, alack, alack,|
|I fear my Thisby's promise is forgot!||175|
|And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,|
|That stand'st between her father's ground and mine!|
|Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,|
|Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine eyne!||[Wall holds up his fingers]
|Thanks, courteous wall: Jove shield thee well for this!||180|
|But what see I? No Thisby do I see.|
|O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss!
|Cursed be thy stones for thus deceiving me!|
|THESEUS||The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again.|
|Pyramus||No, in truth, sir, he should not. 'Deceiving me'||185|
|is Thisby's cue: she is to enter now, and I am to|
|spy her through the wall. You shall see, it will|
|fall pat as I told you. Yonder she comes.|
|Thisbe||O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans,|
|For parting my fair Pyramus and me!||190|
|My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones,|
|Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.|
|Pyramus||I see a voice: now will I to the chink,|
|To spy an I can hear my Thisby's face. Thisby!|
|Thisbe||My love thou art, my love I think.||195|
|Pyramus||Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover's grace;|
|And, like Limander, am I trusty still.|
|Thisbe||And I like Helen, till the Fates me kill.|
|Pyramus||Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.|
|Thisbe||As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.||200|
|Pyramus||O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall!|
|Thisbe||I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.|
|Pyramus||Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straightway?|
|Thisbe||'Tide life, 'tide death, I come without delay.|
|[Exeunt Pyramus and Thisbe]|
|Wall||Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;||205|
|And, being done, thus Wall away doth go.|
|THESEUS||Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.|
|DEMETRIUS||No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to hear|
|HIPPOLYTA||This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.||210|
|THESEUS||The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst|
|are no worse, if imagination amend them.|
|HIPPOLYTA||It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.|
|THESEUS||If we imagine no worse of them than they of|
|themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here||215|
|come two noble beasts in, a man and a lion.|
|[Enter Lion and Moonshine]|
|Lion||You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear|
|The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,|
|May now perchance both quake and tremble here,|
|When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.||220|
|Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am|
|A lion-fell, nor else no lion's dam;|
|For, if I should as lion come in strife|
|Into this place, 'twere pity on my life.|
|THESEUS||A very gentle beast, of a good conscience.||225|
|DEMETRIUS||The very best at a beast, my lord, that e'er I saw.|
|LYSANDER||This lion is a very fox for his valour.|
|THESEUS||True; and a goose for his discretion.|
|DEMETRIUS||Not so, my lord; for his valour cannot carry his|
|discretion; and the fox carries the goose.||230|
|THESEUS||His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valour;|
|for the goose carries not the fox. It is well:|
|leave it to his discretion, and let us listen to the moon.|
|Moonshine||This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;--|
|DEMETRIUS||He should have worn the horns on his head.||235|
|THESEUS||He is no crescent, and his horns are|
|invisible within the circumference.|
|Moonshine||This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;|
|Myself the man i' the moon do seem to be.|
|THESEUS||This is the greatest error of all the rest: the man||240|
|should be put into the lanthorn. How is it else the|
|man i' the moon?|
|DEMETRIUS||He dares not come there for the candle; for, you|
|see, it is already in snuff.|
|HIPPOLYTA||I am aweary of this moon: would he would change!||245|
|THESEUS||It appears, by his small light of discretion, that|
|he is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all|
|reason, we must stay the time.|
|Moonshine||All that I have to say, is, to tell you that the||250|
|lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this|
|thorn-bush, my thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog.|
|DEMETRIUS||Why, all these should be in the lanthorn; for all|
|these are in the moon. But, silence! here comes Thisbe.|
|Thisbe||This is old Ninny's tomb. Where is my love?||255|
|[Thisbe runs off]|
|DEMETRIUS||Well roared, Lion.|
|THESEUS||Well run, Thisbe.|
|HIPPOLYTA||Well shone, Moon. Truly, the moon shines with a|
|[The Lion shakes Thisbe's mantle, and exit]|
|THESEUS||Well moused, Lion.|
|LYSANDER||And so the lion vanished.|
|DEMETRIUS||And then came Pyramus.|
|Pyramus||Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;|
|I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright;||265|
|For, by thy gracious, golden, glittering gleams,|
|I trust to take of truest Thisby sight.|
|But stay, O spite!|
|But mark, poor knight,|
|What dreadful dole is here!||270|
|Eyes, do you see?|
|How can it be?|
|O dainty duck! O dear!|
|Thy mantle good,|
|What, stain'd with blood!||275|
|Approach, ye Furies fell!|
|O Fates, come, come,|
|Cut thread and thrum;|
|Quail, crush, conclude, and quell!|
|THESEUS||This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would||280|
|go near to make a man look sad.|
|HIPPOLYTA||Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.|
|Pyramus||O wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?|
|Since lion vile hath here deflower'd my dear:|
|Which is--no, no--which was the fairest dame||285|
|That lived, that loved, that liked, that look'd|
|Come, tears, confound;|
|Out, sword, and wound|
|The pap of Pyramus;||290|
|Ay, that left pap,|
|Where heart doth hop:||[Stabs himself]
|Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.|
|Now am I dead,|
|Now am I fled;||295|
|My soul is in the sky:|
|Tongue, lose thy light;|
|Moon take thy flight:||[Exit Moonshine]
|Now die, die, die, die, die.|
|DEMETRIUS||No die, but an ace, for him; for he is but one.||300|
|LYSANDER||Less than an ace, man; for he is dead; he is nothing.|
|THESEUS||With the help of a surgeon he might yet recover, and|
|prove an ass.|
|HIPPOLYTA||How chance Moonshine is gone before Thisbe comes|
|back and finds her lover?||305|
|THESEUS||She will find him by starlight. Here she comes; and|
|her passion ends the play.|
|HIPPOLYTA||Methinks she should not use a long one for such a|
|Pyramus: I hope she will be brief.|
|DEMETRIUS||A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus, which||310|
|Thisbe, is the better; he for a man, God warrant us;|
|she for a woman, God bless us.|
|LYSANDER||She hath spied him already with those sweet eyes.|
|DEMETRIUS||And thus she means, videlicet:--|
|Thisbe||Asleep, my love?||315|
|What, dead, my dove?|
|O Pyramus, arise!|
|Speak, speak. Quite dumb?|
|Dead, dead? A tomb|
|Must cover thy sweet eyes.||320|
|These My lips,|
|This cherry nose,|
|These yellow cowslip cheeks,|
|Are gone, are gone:|
|Lovers, make moan:||325|
|His eyes were green as leeks.|
|O Sisters Three,|
|Come, come to me,|
|With hands as pale as milk;|
|Lay them in gore,||330|
|Since you have shore|
|With shears his thread of silk.|
|Tongue, not a word:|
|Come, trusty sword;|
|Come, blade, my breast imbrue:||335||[Stabs herself]
|And, farewell, friends;|
|Thus Thisby ends:|
|Adieu, adieu, adieu.|
|THESEUS||Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.|
|DEMETRIUS||Ay, and Wall too.||340|
|BOTTOM||[Starting up] No assure you; the wall is down that
|parted their fathers. Will it please you to see the|
|epilogue, or to hear a Bergomask dance between two|
|of our company?|
|THESEUS||No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no||345|
|excuse. Never excuse; for when the players are all|
|dead, there needs none to be blamed. Marry, if he|
|that writ it had played Pyramus and hanged himself|
|in Thisbe's garter, it would have been a fine|
|tragedy: and so it is, truly; and very notably||350|
|discharged. But come, your Bergomask: let your|
|epilogue alone.||[A dance]
|The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:|
|Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.|
|I fear we shall out-sleep the coming morn||355|
|As much as we this night have overwatch'd.|
|This palpable-gross play hath well beguiled|
|The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.|
|A fortnight hold we this solemnity,|
|In nightly revels and new jollity.||360|
|PUCK||Now the hungry lion roars,|
|And the wolf behowls the moon;|
|Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,|
|All with weary task fordone.|
|Now the wasted brands do glow,||365|
|Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,|
|Puts the wretch that lies in woe|
|In remembrance of a shroud.|
|Now it is the time of night|
|That the graves all gaping wide,||370|
|Every one lets forth his sprite,|
|In the church-way paths to glide:|
|And we fairies, that do run|
|By the triple Hecate's team,|
|From the presence of the sun,||375|
|Following darkness like a dream,|
|Now are frolic: not a mouse|
|Shall disturb this hallow'd house:|
|I am sent with broom before,|
|To sweep the dust behind the door.||380|
|[Enter OBERON and TITANIA with their train]|
|OBERON||Through the house give gathering light,|
|By the dead and drowsy fire:|
|Every elf and fairy sprite|
|Hop as light as bird from brier;|
|And this ditty, after me,||385|
|Sing, and dance it trippingly.|
|TITANIA||First, rehearse your song by rote|
|To each word a warbling note:|
|Hand in hand, with fairy grace,|
|Will we sing, and bless this place.||390|
|[Song and dance]|
|OBERON||Now, until the break of day,|
|Through this house each fairy stray.|
|To the best bride-bed will we,|
|Which by us shall blessed be;|
|And the issue there create||395|
|Ever shall be fortunate.|
|So shall all the couples three|
|Ever true in loving be;|
|And the blots of Nature's hand|
|Shall not in their issue stand;||400|
|Never mole, hare lip, nor scar,|
|Nor mark prodigious, such as are|
|Despised in nativity,|
|Shall upon their children be.|
|With this field-dew consecrate,||405|
|Every fairy take his gait;|
|And each several chamber bless,|
|Through this palace, with sweet peace;|
|And the owner of it blest|
|Ever shall in safety rest.||410|
|Trip away; make no stay;|
|Meet me all by break of day.|
|[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and train]|
|PUCK||If we shadows have offended,|
|Think but this, and all is mended,|
|That you have but slumber'd here||415|
|While these visions did appear.|
|And this weak and idle theme,|
|No more yielding but a dream,|
|Gentles, do not reprehend:|
|if you pardon, we will mend:||420|
|And, as I am an honest Puck,|
|If we have unearned luck|
|Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,|
|We will make amends ere long;|
|Else the Puck a liar call;||425|
|So, good night unto you all.|
|Give me your hands, if we be friends,|
|And Robin shall restore amends.|
Return to: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Scenes
Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1
From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.
1. that, for the omission of the relative where the antecedent
clause is emphatic, see Abb. § 244.
2. may, can; the original sense of 'may'; see Abb. § 307, 310.
3. antique, literally ancient, and so grotesque: toys, absurdities.
4. seething, boiling; cp. W. T, iii. 3. 64, "Would any but
these boiled brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty hunt this weather?"
5. Such shaping fantasies, fancies capable of giving form and
shape to things that have no existence: apprehend, seize hold of;
perceive the existence of.
6. comprehends, takes hold of and assimilates to itself. The
hasty clutching at an idea by fancy is contrasted with the deliberate manner in which reason examines an idea before accepting
and making it a part of herself.
8. compact, made up of; put together with; cp. V. A. 149,
"Love is a spirit all compact of fire ; A. Y, L. ii. 7. 5, "If he,
compact of jars, grow musical."
10. all, wholly.
11. In a brow of Egypt, in the face of a gipsy..
12. in a fine frenzy rolling, rolling in the ecstasy of inspiration; cp. K. J. iv. 2. 192, "With wrinkled brows, with nods, with
rolling eyes"; and for the transitive use, Lucr, 368, "Rolling his greedy eyeballs in his head."
14. bodies forth, presents as something concrete.
18. tricks, feats of conjuring.
19, 20. That, if ... that joy, that if its intention is merely to
conceive some joy, it necessarily conceives also, etc. In the language of logicians, the idea denoting some joy is connoted by
the idea of some cause of that joy.
21. imaginging, if one imagines; by a person imagining; for the
participle without a noun subject, see Abb. § 378: fear, object of
fear; cp. H. IV. IV. i. 3. 87, "Shall we buy treason? and indent
with fears, When they have lost and forfeited themselves?"
22. easy, easily.
23-7. But all ... admirable, but the narration in all its particulars of what happened to them in the night, with the fact of their
minds being all at one time affected by a similar transformation,
gives proof of something more than fanciful imagination, and taken together has the appearance of real consistency; but this
in any case, be that as it may (i.e. consistent or not), is worthy
of wonder; witnesseth, the singular as though we had 'with' instead of and; constancy, cp. the adjective in T. N. iv. 2. 53, "I am no more mad than you are: make trial of it in any constant question"; for howsoever, cp. T. C. iii. 3. 297, "howsoever,
he shall pay for me ere he has me"; Cymb, iv. 2. 146, "howsoever, My brother hath done well."
29. Joy, i.e. be to you: fresh days of love, days in which love
will have lost none of its first freshness.
30. More, sc. joy.
31. Wait ... bed, be with you ever and everywhere.
33. this long ... hours, the three hours that will otherwise seem
34. after-supper, the rear supper, as it was also called, refreshments taken after supper and answering to the dessert after
dinner; cp. R. III. iv. 3. 31, "Come to me, Tyrrel, soon at
35. our manager of mirth, the master of our revels, provider
36. in hand, preparing.
39. abridgement, amusement to make the time pass quickly; in Haml. ii. 2. 439, "my abridgement" means he who by his
appearance cuts short my speech.
41. The lazy time, the time which passes so slowly when unoccupied.
42. brief, short statement; cp. A. C. v. 2. 138, "This is the
brief of money, plate, and jewels I am possessed of:" ripe, sc.
for performance, ready.
43. of, redundant; see Abb. § 179.
44. Centaurs, ie. the Bull-killers, an ancient mythological
race, inhabiting Mt. Pelion in Theasaly. They are particularly celebrated in ancient story for their fight with the Lapithae,
which arose at the marriage-feast of Pirithous. This fight is
sometimes placed in connection with a combat of Hercules with
45. to the harp, with the music of the harp as an accompaniment.
47. my kinsman, according to Plutarch, "they were near
kinsmen, being cousins removed by the mother's side" (Shakespeare's Plutarch, ed. Skeat, p. 178).
48. Bacchanals, the frenzied devotees of the god Dionysus
(Bacchus, in Roman mythology), who in their orgies tore to
pieces the poet Orpheus for the contempt he had shown them by
secluding himself from all female society after the loss of his
51. from Thebes, where, aiding Adrastus in recovering the
dead bodies of those slain in the war of the "Seven against
Thebes," he captured the city.
52, 3. The thrice... beggary. By Warton and others this is
supposed to allude to Spenser's poem The Tears of the Muses,
which, however, could only be called a satire in the sense that
the decay of poetry was in it held up to scorn. Knight thinks
that the allusion is to a satire of Harvey's upon Robert Greene,
lately dead, who as a Master of Arts in both Universities might
have been ironically personified as Learning.
55. sorting, agreeing with, being appropriate to.
56. tedious brief, not necessarily a contradiction of terms, as
Philostrate afterwards explains, though here so taken by Theseus.
59. wondrous strange, if the true reading, will mean as strange
in nature as hot ice; for wondrous, as a trisyllable, see Abb.
§ 477. Various conjectures have been made in place of strange,
e.g. 'scorching,' 'seething,' 'swarthy,' 'staining,' etc.
60. How shall ... discord? how can things so completely
opposed to each other go harmoniously together?
61. some, about; see Abb. § 21.
65. fitted, given a part suitable to his capacity.
68. Which ... rehearsed, and this when I saw it rehearsed.
70. passion, strong feeling; see note on iii. 2. 74.
71. What, of what kind; less definite than 'who.'
72. Hard-handed, whose hands have been hardened by toil;
cp. J. C. iv. 4. 74, "to wring From the hard hands of peasants
their vile trash"; Tennyson, Princess, ii. 143, " horn-handed
breakers of the glebe."
74,5. And now ... nuptial, and now have exercised their hitherto unpractised memories in studying this play I have mentioned in preparation for your wedding feast; for toil'd, transitive, cp. Haml. i. 1. 72, "Why this same strict and most
observant watch So nightly toils the subject of the land"; in unbreathed the figure is from exercising horses and so getting
them into good wind; cp. A. Y. L. i. 2. 230, "Yes, I beseech
your grace: I am not yet well breathed"; T. S. Ind. ii. 50, "as
swift As breathed stags"; for against your nuptial, see note on i.
77. not for you, not fitted for one of your greatness.
79, 80. Unless ... pain, unless the fact that they have desired
to please you, and with that desire have laboured to the utmost
in getting up their parts, will afford you amusement in spite of
their shortcomings; properly speaking, it is not the intents that
are Extremely stretch'd, but their labour due to those Intents;
oonn'd, see note on i. 2. 102.
83. When simpleness ... it, when offered out of simple-minded
loyalty; Steevens compares Ben Jonson, Cynthia's Revels,
"Nothing which duty and desire to please Bears written on the
forehead, comes amiss."
85, 6. I love not ... perishing, it is no pleasant sight to me to
see poor wretches labouring under a task too heavy for them, and
those who from a feeling of duty offer their services failing in
their attempt to acquit themselves well; Hippolyta is unwilling
that the poor rustics should be allowed to play before her and
break down in the attempt; his, its; for perishing, in this
sense, cp. M. M. v. 1. 458, "an intent That perish'd by the
88. kind, way, i.e. of acting.
89. The kinder ... nothing, if so, answers Theseus playing upon
the word kind, our gracious thanks will be all the more gracious
as being given for what does not in itself deserve them.
90. Our sport ... mistake, our amusement shall consist in
accepting, as something worthily offered, their shortcomings,
whatever they may be.
91, 2. And what ... merit, and in a case where poor creatures,
anxious to show their duty, fail in their efforts, a generous mind
accepts those efforts, taking into consideration their capacity as
performers rather than the merit of their performance. Seymour
would insert 'aright,' Coleridge, 'yet would' after do, putting
noble respect into the latter of the two lines.
93. great clerks, deeply learned men; "learning," as Wright
points out, "having been at one time almost confined to the
clergy." He compares Per. v. Prol. 5, "Deep clerks she dumbs,"
i.e. "she puts to silence profound scholars."
95. Where, and in such cases.
96. Make periods, come to a stand-still.
97. Throttle ... fears, in their nervous excitement choke the
utterance of those sentences which they had spent so much pains
in committing to memory.
98, 9. And in conclusion ... welcome, and have ended in breaking off short in their address without giving me the welcome
they had intended. For the ellipsis of the nominative, see Abb. § 399.
100. Out of... welcome, yet from this very silence of theirs I
gathered a welcome; cp. M. V. ii. 9. 48, "how much honour
Pick'd from the chaff and ruin of the times."
101-3. And In ... eloquence, and in the nervous bashfulness
which these loyal creatures have betrayed, I have discovered as
much real welcome as in the glib, fluent speech of those who
were hindered by no scruples of diffidence.
104, 5. Love, therefore ... capacity, to my judgment, therefore,
love and hesitating simplicity are most eloquent, though they
can find but few words to express their feelings; Love and
simplicity, loving and simple-minded creatures, the abstract for
the concrete; for capacity, cp. T. N. ii. 5. 128, "this is evident
to any formal capacity."
106. So please your grace, if your grace is willing to hear it;
address'd, prepared, ready; see note on ii. 2. 143.
Stage Direction. Flourish of trumpets, Steevens shows that
the Prologue was anciently ushered in by trumpets.
108-17. If we ... know. In Udall's Ralph Roister Doister, iii.
4. 34-68, there is a metrical epistle in which the stops are as
carefully misplaced as in Quince's Prologue. The lines should be
stopped as follows : —
If we offend, it is with our good will
108, 9. it is ... offend, we sincerely hope that you will believe that we do not come with the intention of offending.
That you should think we come not to offend;
But with good will to show our simple skill:
That is the true beginning of our end.
Consider then; we come; but in despite
We do not come: as minding to content you.
Our true intent is all for your delight;
We are not here that you should here repent you.
The actors are at hand; and by their show
You shall know all that you are like to know.
110. But with ... skill, but we come with the desire to show, etc.
111. That is ... end, that is the object we really have in
112, 3. but in ... come, but we do not come with a bad
113, 4. as minding ... delight, desiring to satisfy you, our real
intention is wholly to give you pleasure.
115. We are not ... you, we are not present here in order that
you should regret wasting your time upon us.
117. like, likely.
118. doth not ... points, has no respect for stops.
119, 20. He hath ... stop, his prologue goes with the paces
of an unbroken colt that pays no regard to the check of its
123. recorder, a sort of flute or flageolet with six stops; a
sound ... government, producing a sound, it is true, but not a
musical one; not one over which he has proper control; cp.
Haml, iii. 2. 372-6, where Hamlet is addressing the player who
enters with a recorder.
124, 5. nothing... disordered, in no way injured, but thrown
into complete confusion.
126. Gentles, gentlemen; 'gentle and simple' was a common
phrase for 'well-born and lowly-born': show, dumb show, no
speech being so far given to the actors.
128. would know, desire to know.
129. certain, "A burlesque was here intended on the frequent
recurrence of 'certain' as a bungling rhyme in poetry more
ancient than the age of Shakespeare" (Steevens), who quotes
132. are content, have to put up with.
135. if you will know, if you desire to hear the story.
136. did ... think no scorn, were not ashamed.
138. grisly, grim, horrible; hight, is called; an archaism,
and "the sole instance in Eng. of a passive verb" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
139. trusty, faithful in keeping her promise to meet Pyramus.
141. fall, transitive, let fall; as frequently in Shakespeare.
143. Anon, a minute later; see note on ii. 1. 17: tall, brave.
144. And finds ... slain, and finds the mantle of his faithful
Thisbe who had been slain by the lion, as he fancied.
145, 6. Whereat ... breast, ridiculing the love of alliteration
common in Shakespeare's day: broach'd, tapped; as a cask is
tapped to draw the liquor; cp. Tim. ii. 2. 186, "If I would
broach the vessels of my love."
147, 8. And Thisby ... died, and Thisbe, who was hiding herself, for fear of the lion, in the shelter of the mulberry trees,
coming out drew the dagger from his wound and killed herself
with it: For all the rest, as for the rest of the story.
150. At large, at length, in full detail.
151. be to speak, has to make a speech.
152. No wonder, it would be nothing wonderful if he had to, etc.
154. interlude, properly something played in the intervals of
157. crannied hole, a crevice cut in the wall.
162. right and sinister, going right and left; sinister, an affectation partly for the sake of a rough rhyme with whisper.
164. Would you ... better? Could any one expect lime and
hair to speak more eloquently? hair, an admixture with lime to
give it greater consistency; cp. below, 1. 193.
165. partition, Fanner proposed "This is the wittiest partition
that ever I heard in discourse," with an allusion to the many
absurd partitions in the argumentative writings of the time.
168. grim-look'd, for the termination -ed loosely employed for
'ful, 'ing, see Abb. § 374.
175. blink, peep through.
176. shield, guard, protect from storms.
180. sensible, endowed with sense; the wall being represented
by a man: should, ought, might be expected to: curse again,
return curse for curse.
181. he should not, Bottom, taking Theseus' words seriously,
replies, 'No, that is not in his part.'
183. pat, exactly; see above, iii. 1. 2.
186. For parting, on account of your separating.
188. hair ... thee, see note on 1. 164 above.
189. see a voice, see above, iii. 1. 82.
192. thy lover's grace, your graceful lover.
193. Limander, for Leander, as Helen is for Hero, Shafalus for
Cephalus, and Procrus for Procris. Everyone knows the story of
Hero and Leander; Cephalus, son of Hermes and Herse, was
loved by Aurora, but out of loyalty to his wife Procris, rejected
the offers of the goddess.
200. 'Tide life, 'tide death, whether life or death happen to
me; 'tide, for 'betide.'
201. discharged, enacted; cp. above, i. 2. 82.
202. being done, the part being played.
203. mural, if the right reading, = wall; Theseus probably imitating the affectation of the actor's language by coining a
word from the Lat. adjective muralis, from murus, a wall. Collier conjectures 'wall.'
204, 5. No remedy ... warning, nothing else could be done than to throw walls down when they take to overhearing in this clandestine way, without giving any warning of their presence as an honourable person would do rather than overhear a secret
conversation; an allusion to the proverb "Walls have ears," i.e. it is not safe to tell a secret when some one may be concealed behind a wall and overhear it.
207. In this kind, i.e. in dramatic representations.
208. no worse ... them, nothing worse than shadows, if the
faults in their acting be pierced out by imagining what good
acting of the parts would be.
209. It must ... theirs, it must be your imagination then, for
they are quite without that faculty.
211. pass for, pass current as; be accepted generally.
212. In a man and a lion, in the persons of a, etc.
214. smallest monstrous, an intentional contradiction of terms.
218. A lion fell ... dam, neither a cruel lion, nor a lioness;
editors read either 'No lion fell,' 'A lion's fell,' or 'A lion-fell,'
'fell' in the two latter readings = skin. But probably Snug is
here made to misplace his negatives, making up for the omission
at the beginning of the line by an excess in the latter part, for it
is unlikely that a lion's skin would be contrasted with a lion's
dam: for a similar omission of the former of two negatives, cp. M. M. iii. 2. 86, "Pomp. You will not bail me, then, sir? Lucio.
Then, Pompey, nor now": dam, a mere variation of dame, used
for the mother of animals, or of human beings when likened to
animals, though occasionally without any contemptuous sense, e.g.
W. T. iii. 2. 199, "his gracious dam," said by Paulina Of her
loved mistress Hermione.
220. 'twere pity on my life, see note on iii. 1. 38, 9.
221. of a good conscience, i.e. as shown by his letting the
spectators know that they need not be afraid of him.
222. at a beast, for a beast, in playing the part of a wild beast;
cp. L. L. L, i. 2. 42, "I am ill at reckoning"; Haml ii. 2. 120,
"I am ill at these numbers," i.e. a bad hand at writing verses.
223. a very ... valour, a true fox as regards valour, i.e. not valorous at all, the fox always securing its prey by cunning.
224. a goose ... discretion, with no more discretion than a goose. Delius refers to the antithesis between valour and discretion in i. H. IV. v. 4. 121, "The better part of valour is
225, 6. Not to ... goose, that simile will not hold, for if he
were like a fox in point of valour, and a goose in point of
discretion, his valour ought to be able to carry his discretion,
as the fox carries the goose; carry in the former case being used in
the sense of 'be equal to the burden of,' in the latter of 'bear
away his prey.'
227, 8. His discretion ... fox, if his discretion, as you say, is
too much for his valour (i.e. if his discretion prevents him from
exhibiting his valour), I am sure on the other hand that his
valour is too much for his discretion (i.e. will not allow his
discretion to show itself), for, as we all know, it is not the goose
that carries the fox.
228, 29. leave it to his discretion, leave him to manage matters
as he thinks fit.
230. the horned moon, the crescent moon; cp. Cor. i. 1. 217,
"As they would hang them on the horns o' the moon.
231. He should ... head, to show that he is a cuckold; an
allusion to the old belief that when a man's wife was unfaithful
to him, horns sprouted from his forehead.
232, 3. He is no crescent ... circumference, if he represented the
crescent moon, his horns would show; but he represents the full
moon, and therefore his horns are hidden like those of the moon
when at the full.
235. do seem to be, represent.
236, 7. This is ... lanthorn, if, as he says, the lanthorn represents
the moon, then he, in not being inside the lanthorn, is guilty of a
greater blunder in acting than any of the others; the greatest ...
rest, an imitation of a Greek idiom in which two constructions
are confused, (1) the greatest error of all, (2) a greater error than
all the rest; cp. above iv. 2. 9, and Milton, P. L. iv. 323, 4, "Adam
the goodliest man of men since born His sons, the fairest of her
237, 8. How is ... moon? a question of appeal equivalent to 'in
no other way can he be the man in the moon.'
239. for the candle, because of the candle; for fear of being
burnt by the candle; see Abb. § 150.
240. in snuff, a pun upon the phrase to take something in
snuff, i.e. to be offended at something as shown by snuffing up
the nose, and secondly upon the word 'snuff' = the burnt-out part
of the wick of a candle; cp. i. H. IV. i. 3. 41, "A pouncet-box,
which ever and anon He gave his nose and took't away again;
Who therewith angry, when it next came there, Took it in snuff."
241. aweary, the prefix a- here represents the A.S. intensive
242, 3. It appears ... wane, it appears, so far as we can judge
by the small amount of sense in his words, that he will soon be
no longer visible, i.e. that he will soon leave the stage; we should
now say 'on the wane.'
244. the time, i.e. the time fixed for his disappearance from the
249, 50. for all ... moon, for we see all these in the moon; the
mountains in the moon having been likened to these objects.
257. moused, to 'mouse' is to tear as a cat tears a mouse; cp.
K. J. ii. 1. 354, "mousing the flesh of men," said of Death.
258. And so ... vanished, and at the point, i.e. after mousing
the garment. I follow Spedding in transposing this and the next
line, as, in the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, Pyramus came to
the place after the lion had torn Thisbe's garment.
262. gleams, Knight's conjecture for 'streams' or 'beams' of
the old copies, and evidently required for alliteration.
263. take, for 'catch,' for the sake of the alliteration.
264. spite! misfortune! woe is me!
265. poor knight, apostrophizing himself.
266. dole, grief; cp. Haml. i. 2. 13, "In equal scale weighing
delight and dole."
269. dainty duck! apostrophizing Thisbe; duck being a
common term of endearment.
270. good, fine; for the sake of the rhyme.
274. Cut thread and thrum, "Thrum is the end or extremity
of a weaver's warp; it is popularly used for very coarse yarn.
The maids now call a mop of yarn a thrum mop" (Warner).
275. Quail, crush, destroy; transitive as in A. C. v. 2. 85,
"But when he meant to quail and shake the orb"; but here
used for the sake of the assonance with crush, etc.; quell, kill;
A.S. cwellan, to kill.
276, 7. This passion ... sad, a grim joke of Theseus', as though
the death of a dear friend were not sufficient without such pathos
as that of Pyramus to make a man look sad; for passion, see
note on iii. 2. 74.
278. Beshrew ... man, bad luck to me if I do not pity the man;
for Beshrew, see note on ii. 2. 54.
280. deflower'd, here misused by Bottom in the sense of cutting off a flower in its bloom.
281. no, no — , i.e. I must not say is but was.
282. look'd with cheer, looked bright and cheerful; for the
derivation of the word, see note on iii. 2. 96.
283. confound, throw me into a state of distraction; if, indeed,
Bottom is to be flattered by supposing him to have a definite meaning.
292, 3. Tongue ... flight, Halliwell would read 'Sun' for
Tongue, but surely the nonsense is intentional, and Pyramus, if
made to talk sense, would have said, 'Breath, take thy flight;
Moon, lose thy light.'
295. No die ... him, a die is a cube (generally of ivory) used in
gaming, and on its six sides are marked the numbers (ace) one to
(seize) six; so Theseus says the word is not applicable to
Pyramus seeing that he is but one.
299. How chance ... Thisbe, how does it chance that, etc.; see
note on i. 1. 129.
302. passion, passionate lament.
305, 6. A mote ... better, the very smallest atom will be enough
to turn the balance between them, they being so evenly matched,
and show which of the two is the better actor; mote, a particle
of dust, a speck, spot; which Pyramus ... better, apparently a
confusion between (1) which of the two, Pyramus and Thisbe, is
the better, and (2) whether Pyramus or Thisbe is the better of
306, 7. he for ... bless us, he in his capacity as a man, if we
may be forgiven for dignifying him with such a title; she in her
capacity as a woman, if in so dignifying her we may hope for
God's blessing; cp. A. Y. L. iii. 3. 5, "Your features! Lord
warrant us! what features?"
309. and thus she means, and this is what she means to say;
videlicet, to wit, namely; Lat. for videre licet, it is allowable to
see, it is easy to see, hence 'plainly,' 'to wit.'
316-8. These lily ... cheeks, the epithets in these lines are of
course intentionally absurd.
321. leeks, onions.
322. Sisters Three, the Fates; Clotho, who held the distaff;
Lachesis, who spun the thread of life; Atropos, who cut it.
326, 7. shore ... silk, i.e. put an end to his beautiful life; for
the curtailed participle, see Abb. § 343.
330. imbrue, drench in blood.
337, 8. the wall ... fathers, i.e. and therefore cannot assist in
burying the dead. The irrepressible Bottom, who has been
ready throughout to set everybody right, though he ought to be
lying dead, cannot resist this last opportunity of showing his
338. a Bergomask dauoe, a burlesque dance such as was common at Bergamo in Italy. Though, according to Marshall, the people of the place seem to have been sometimes called 'Bergamaschi,' the word is probably here spelt Bergomask from Bottom's
belief that it had something to do with a mask: see and hear,
341, 2. needs no excuse, sc, such as was commonly made in
343. there need ... blamed, none can come in for blame.
346. very notably discharged, very finely acted: come, your
Bergomask, come, let us have the dance you offered just now.
348. told, counted, numbered.
349. almost fairy time, time for the fairies to be at their
351. As much ... overwatch'd, by as long a time as we have
kept awake beyond night-fall.
352. palpable-gross play, play whose dulness is so palpable.
353. heavy gait of night, slowly passing hours of night; gait,
"manner of walking ... A particular use of the M. E. gate, a
way ... popularly connected with the verb to go; at the same
time, the word is not really derived from that verb, but from the
verb to get" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
354. hold we, we intend to hold.
355. new jollity, some fresh diversion each succeeding night.
357. behowls, howls at; see Abb. § 438.
359. fordone, exhausted; for-, intensive.
360. wasted brands, logs which have long been burning
brightly, and so are partly burnt out.
361. screech-owl, cp. Macb. ii. 2. 3, 4, "It was the owl that
shriek'd, the fatal bellman, which gives the stern'st goodnight."
362, 3. Puts ... shroud, leads the poor wretch who lies on a
bed of sickness to think of his death; shroud, the earment in
which the dead are dressed; "closely allied to shred ... the
original sense was a shred or piece of cloth or stuff, a sense
nearly retained in that of winding-sheet" (Skeat, Ety. Dict. ).
364, 5. Now it is ... wide, cp. Haml. iii. 2. 406, 7, "'Tis now
the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn."
367. church-way paths, the paths in the churchyard leading to
369. By the triple Hecate's beam, by the side of the chariot of Hecate known under three forms; the diva triformis of classical
writers; Luna, in heaven; Diana, on earth; Hecate or Proserpina, in the infernal regions; Hecate, always a dissyllable in
Shakespeare, except in i. H. VI. iii. 2. 64.
371. like a dream, as the events of the day follow a man in
372. frolic, frolicsome, merry.
375. To sweep ... door, where it would gather if the door was
left open long.
376, 7. Through ... fire, now that the fires in the house have
been allowed to go out, in their stead light up the rooms with
your fairy light.
380. ditty, literally a thing dictated (Lat. dictatum), then a
song, and more usually a plaintive one.
381. dance it trippingly, trip lightly in your dance; cp. Temp.
i. 2. 380, "Foot it featly here and there"; and for this indefinite
use of it, see Abb. § 226.
382. by rote, repeating the words from memory; rote, from
"O. F. rote ... Mod. F. route, a road, way, beaten track... Hence
by rote = along a beaten track, or with constant repetition'...
(Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
383. To each ... note, accompanying each word by a musical
387. each fairy stray, let each fairy stray.
388. To the ... we, we, i.e. Titania and himself, as king and
queen of the fairies, will make our way to the chief bed of the
house occupied by Hippolyta and Theseus. Douce shows that it
was customary to bless the bed at all marriages, and quotes a
form of blessing from the Manual for the use of Salisbury.
390. create, created; for the omission of -ed the participle
of verbs ending in -t, -te, and -d, see Abb. § 342.
394. blots, such as those mentioned in L 396.
395. shall not ... stand, shall never be found among their
396. hare-lip, lip divided in the middle, and thought to resemble the lip of a hare; cp. Lear, iii. 4. 123, "This is the foul
fiend Flibbertigibbet: he... gives the web and pin, squints the
eye, and makes the hare-lip." Steevens says that this defect in
children was much dreaded, and numerous charms were applied
for its prevention.
397. mark prodigious, ill-omened mark.
398. Despised in nativity, looked upon with horror, regarded
as hateful, in a new-born child.
400. consecrate, see note on 1. 390, above.
401. take his gait, take his way; see note on L 353, above.
402. several, separate, individuaL
404, 5. And the owner ... rest, I have followed Staunton in
transposing these lines, though sense might be made of them as
they stood in the old copies, by construing 'Ever shall the
owner of it rest in safety and blest.' Dyce, retaining the old
order, reads 'Ever shall't,' etc.
407. by break of day, as soon as the day breaks.
408. we shadows, we shadowy beings; as in iii. 2. 347.
409-11. Think but ... appear, all you have to do is to imagine
that you were asleep when these visions appeared to you, and
then everything will be well.
412-4. And this ... reprehend, and do not blame this slight
subject of our merriment, the outcome of which has been nothing
more than a dream.
415. mend, intransitive, improve in our behaviour.
416-9. And, as I am... long, and on my word as an honest fairy, if we are so fortunate, though we do not deserve it, as to
escape being hissed, we will shortly present you with something better worthy of your attention; serpent's tongue, Steevens
quotes Markham's English Arcadia, 1607, "But the nymph,
after the custom of distrest tragedians, whose first act is entertained with a snaky salutation," etc.
420. Else, if I do not keep my promise: the Puck, the hobgoblin you now know so well.
422. Give me your hands, applaud us by clapping your hands;
cp. Temp. Epil. 20, "But release me from my bands With the
help of your good hands."
423. restore amends, in return show you marks of our friendship.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1891. Shakespeare Online. 15 Aug. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/mids_5_1.html >.
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