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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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ACT I SCENE I Athens. The palace of THESEUS. 
THESEUS Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour 
 Draws on apace; four happy days bring in 
 Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow 
 This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires,
 Like to a step-dame or a dowager 
 Long withering out a young man revenue. 
HIPPOLYTA Four days will quickly steep themselves in night; 
 Four nights will quickly dream away the time; 
 And then the moon, like to a silver bow
 New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night 10 
 Of our solemnities. 
THESEUS Go, Philostrate, 
 Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments; 
 Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth;
 Turn melancholy forth to funerals; 
 The pale companion is not for our pomp. 
 Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword, 
 And won thy love, doing thee injuries; 
 But I will wed thee in another key,
 With pomp, with triumph and with revelling. 
EGEUS Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke! 20 
THESEUS Thanks, good Egeus: what's the news with thee? 
EGEUS Full of vexation come I, with complaint 
 Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
 Stand forth, Demetrius. My noble lord, 
 This man hath my consent to marry her. 
 Stand forth, Lysander: and my gracious duke, 
 This man hath bewitch'd the bosom of my child; 
 Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes,
 And interchanged love-tokens with my child: 
 Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung, 30 
 With feigning voice verses of feigning love, 
 And stolen the impression of her fantasy 
 With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds, conceits,
 Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats, messengers 
 Of strong prevailment in unharden'd youth: 
 With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart, 
 Turn'd her obedience, which is due to me, 
 To stubborn harshness: and, my gracious duke,
 Be it so she; will not here before your grace 
 Consent to marry with Demetrius, 40 
 I beg the ancient privilege of Athens, 
 As she is mine, I may dispose of her: 
 Which shall be either to this gentleman
 Or to her death, according to our law 
 Immediately provided in that case. 
THESEUS What say you, Hermia? be advised fair maid: 
 To you your father should be as a god; 
 One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
 To whom you are but as a form in wax 
 By him imprinted and within his power 50 
 To leave the figure or disfigure it. 
 Demetrius is a worthy gentleman. 
HERMIA So is Lysander.
THESEUS In himself he is; 
 But in this kind, wanting your father's voice, 
 The other must be held the worthier. 
HERMIA I would my father look'd but with my eyes. 
THESEUS Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.
HERMIA I do entreat your grace to pardon me. 
 I know not by what power I am made bold, 
 Nor how it may concern my modesty, 60 
 In such a presence here to plead my thoughts; 
 But I beseech your grace that I may know
 The worst that may befall me in this case, 
 If I refuse to wed Demetrius. 
THESEUS Either to die the death or to abjure 
 For ever the society of men. 
 Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;
 Know of your youth, examine well your blood, 
 Whether, if you yield not to your father's choice, 
 You can endure the livery of a nun, 70 
 For aye to be in shady cloister mew'd, 
 To live a barren sister all your life,
 Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon. 
 Thrice-blessed they that master so their blood, 
 To undergo such maiden pilgrimage; 
 But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd, 
 Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
 Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness. 
HERMIA So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord, 
 Ere I will my virgin patent up 80 
 Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke 
 My soul consents not to give sovereignty.
THESEUS Take time to pause; and, by the nest new moon-- 
 The sealing-day betwixt my love and me, 

For everlasting bond of fellowship--

 Upon that day either prepare to die 
 For disobedience to your father's will,
 Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would; 
 Or on Diana's altar to protest 
 For aye austerity and single life. 90 
DEMETRIUS Relent, sweet Hermia: and, Lysander, yield 
 Thy crazed title to my certain right.
LYSANDER You have her father's love, Demetrius; 
 Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him. 
EGEUS Scornful Lysander! true, he hath my love, 
 And what is mine my love shall render him. 
 And she is mine, and all my right of her
 I do estate unto Demetrius. 
LYSANDER I am, my lord, as well derived as he, 
 As well possess'd; my love is more than his; 100 
 My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd, 
 If not with vantage, as Demetrius';
 And, which is more than all these boasts can be, 
 I am beloved of beauteous Hermia: 
 Why should not I then prosecute my right? 
 Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head, 
 Made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena,
 And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes, 
 Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry, 
 Upon this spotted and inconstant man. 110 
THESEUS I must confess that I have heard so much, 
 And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;
 But, being over-full of self-affairs, 
 My mind did lose it. But, Demetrius, come; 
 And come, Egeus; you shall go with me, 
 I have some private schooling for you both. 
 For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
 To fit your fancies to your father's will; 
 Or else the law of Athens yields you up-- 
 Which by no means we may extenuate-- 120 
 To death, or to a vow of single life. 
 Come, my Hippolyta: what cheer, my love?
 Demetrius and Egeus, go along: 
 I must employ you in some business 
 Against our nuptial and confer with you 
 Of something nearly that concerns yourselves. 
EGEUS With duty and desire we follow you.
 Exeunt all but LYSANDER and HERMIA. 
LYSANDER How now, my love! why is your cheek so pale? 
 How chance the roses there do fade so fast? 
HERMIA Belike for want of rain, which I could well 130 
 Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes. 
LYSANDER Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
 Could ever hear by tale or history, 
 The course of true love never did run smooth; 
 But, either it was different in blood,-- 
HERMIA O cross! too high to be enthrall'd to low. 
LYSANDER Or else misgraffed in respect of years,--
HERMIA O spite! too old to be engaged to young. 
LYSANDER Or else it stood upon the choice of friends,-- 
HERMIA O hell! to choose love by another's eyes. 140 
LYSANDER Or, if there were a sympathy in choice, 
 War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
 Making it momentany as a sound, 
 Swift as a shadow, short as any dream; 
 Brief as the lightning in the collied night, 
 That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth, 
 And ere a man hath power to say 'Behold!'
 The jaws of darkness do devour it up: 
 So quick bright things come to confusion. 
HERMIA If then true lovers have been ever cross'd, 150 
 It stands as an edict in destiny: 
 Then let us teach our trial patience,
 Because it is a customary cross, 
 As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs, 
 Wishes and tears, poor fancy's followers. 
LYSANDER A good persuasion: therefore, hear me, Hermia. 
 I have a widow aunt, a dowager
 Of great revenue, and she hath no child: 
 From Athens is her house remov'd seven leagues; 
 And she respects me as her only son. 160 
 There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee; 
 And to that place the sharp Athenian law
 Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me then, 
 Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night; 
 And in the wood, a league without the town, 
 Where I did meet thee once with Helena, 
 To do observance to a morn of May,
 There will I stay for thee. 
HERMIA My good Lysander! 
 I swear to thee, by Cupid's strongest bow, 
 By his best arrow with the golden head, 170 
 By the simplicity of Venus' doves,
 By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves, 
 And by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen, 
 When the false Troyan under sail was seen, 
 By all the vows that ever men have broke, 
 In number more than ever women spoke,
 In that same place thou hast appointed me, 
 To-morrow truly will I meet with thee. 
LYSANDER Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena. 
 Enter HELENA. 
HERMIA God speed fair Helena! whither away? 
HELENA Call you me fair? that fair again unsay.
 Demetrius loves your fair: O happy fair! 182 
 Your eyes are lode-stars; and your tongue's sweet air 
 More tuneable than lark to shepherd's ear, 
 When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear. 
 Sickness is catching: O, were favour so,
 Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go; 
 My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye, 
 My tongue should catch your tongue's sweet melody. 
 Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated, 190 
 The rest I'd give to be to you translated.
 O, teach me how you look, and with what art 
 You sway the motion of Demetrius' heart. 
HERMIA I frown upon him, yet he loves me still. 
HELENA O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill! 
HERMIA I give him curses, yet he gives me love.
HELENA O that my prayers could such affection move! 
HERMIA The more I hate, the more he follows me. 
HELENA The more I love, the more he hateth me. 
HERMIA His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine. 200 
HELENA None, but your beauty: would that fault were mine!
HERMIA Take comfort: he no more shall see my face; 
 Lysander and myself will fly this place. 
 Before the time I did Lysander see, 
 Seem'd Athens as a paradise to me: 
 O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,
 That he hath turn'd a heaven unto a hell! 
LYSANDER Helen, to you our minds we will unfold: 
 To-morrow night, when Phoebe doth behold 
 Her silver visage in the watery glass, 210 
 Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass,
 A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal, 
 Through Athens' gates have we devised to steal. 
HERMIA And in the wood, where often you and I 
 Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie, 
 Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,
 There my Lysander and myself shall meet; 
 And thence from Athens turn away our eyes, 
 To seek new friends and stranger companies. 
 Farewell, sweet playfellow: pray thou for us; 220 
 And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!
 Keep word, Lysander: we must starve our sight 
 From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight. 
LYSANDER I will, my Hermia. 
 Exit HERMIA. 
 Helena, adieu: 
 As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!
HELENA How happy some o'er other some can be! 
 Through Athens I am thought as fair as she. 
 But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so; 
 He will not know what all but he do know: 
 And as he errs, doting on Hermia's eyes, 230
 So I, admiring of his qualities: 
 Things base and vile, folding no quantity, 
 Love can transpose to form and dignity: 
 Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; 
 And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind:
 Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste; 
 Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste: 
 And therefore is Love said to be a child, 
 Because in choice he is so oft beguiled. 
 As waggish boys in game themselves forswear, 240
 So the boy Love is perjured every where: 
 For ere Demetrius look'd on Hermia's eyne, 
 He hail'd down oaths that he was only mine; 
 And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt, 
 So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.
 I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight: 
 Then to the wood will he to-morrow night 
 Pursue her; and for this intelligence 
 If I have thanks, it is a dear expense: 
 But herein mean I to enrich my pain, 250
 To have his sight thither and back again. 

Next: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 1, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1

From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.

Stage Direction. Theseus, the great legendary hero of Attica, was the son of Egeus, king of Athens. Among his many exploits was the war he waged against the Amazons, whose queen, Antiope, he, according to one tradition, carried off. According to another, the Amazons, led by Hippolyte, in their turn invaded Attica to avenge the capture of Antiope, when Theseus, having vanquished them, married Hippolyte.

2. apace, swiftly; "at an earlier period the word was written as two words, a pas ... It is also to be remarked that the phrase has widely changed its meaning. In Chaucer ... it means 'a foot-pace,' and was originally used of horses when proceeding slowly, or at a walk. The phrase is compounded of the English indefinite article, a, and the M. E. pas, modern E. pace, a word of French origin" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

3. methinks, it seems to me; me, the dative, and the A. S. thyncan, to seem, which is quite distinct from the A. S. thencan, to think; slow, used adverbially.

4. lingers my desires, delays the realization of my desires; for lingers, used transitively, cp. R. II. ii. 2. 72, "Who gently would dissolve the bands of life, Which fond hope lingers in extremity."

5, 6. Like ... revenue. The picture here is of a widow who for long years keeps the heir out of possession of that portion of his father's property to a life interest in which she is entitled as her dower, and which will be his at her death; dowager is a coined word from another coined word, dowage, endowment, ultimately from the Lat. dotare, to endow, and is equally appropriate to mother and step-mother, though step-dame is here used with special reference to the proverbial harshness of step-mothers to step-children; step-, in composition, is the A. S. steop, meaning "'orphaned,' or 'deprived of its parent'; so that it was first used in the compounds, stepchild, stepbairn, stepson, stepdaughter, and afterwards extended, naturally enough, so as to form the compounds stepfather, stepmother, to denote the father or mother of the child who had lost one of its first parents" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). For withering out, Steevens compares Chapman's translation of Homer, bk. iv., "there the goodly plant lies withering out his grace."

7. steep themselves in night, plunge themselves in the gloom of night; with an allusion to the sun dipping below the horizon and so bringing on the night. For steep, in this figurative sense, cp. Oth, iv. 2. 50, "Steep'd me in poverty to the very lips"; A. C. ii. 7. 113, "Till that the conquering wine hath steep'd our sense In soft and delicate Lethe."

8. Four nights ... time; four nights will quickly pass away in dreams.

10. New-bent, Rowe's correction of 'Now-bent.'

11. solemnities, marriage festivities; as below, iv. 1. 131, 182.

12. merriments, displays of mirth; diversions.

13. pert, lively, brisk; now used only in a disagreeable sense, = forward, saucy. According to Skeat, the M. E. pert has two meanings and two sources. In some instances it is certainly a corruption of apert, F. apert, open, and pertly means 'openly,' evidently; in others it is from Welsh pert, smart, spruce, as here.

14. Turn ... funerals, turn melancholy out of doors, and let it go as an accompaniment to funerals.

15. The pale ... pomp, such a pale-faced attendant is not a fitting one for the festivity of our marriage; companion, as frequently in Shakespeare, used in a contemptuous sense.

16, 17. See note on stage direction above.

18. in another key, to another tune; in a very different way; cp. T. C. i. 3. 53, "An accent tuned in the self-same key."

19. triumph, stately pageant; public festivity; cp. R. II. v. 2. 66, "For gay apparel for the triumph day."

20. duke, from Lat. dux, leader, chief, is in Elizabethan literature a title frequently given to Grecian chiefs, and Chaucer speaks of 'Duke Theseus.'

21. Egeus, a trisyllable, as throughout the play: what's...thee, what is it you have to tell us about yourself?

22. vexation, trouble; the word was formerly used in a more forcible sense than it now has.

27. This hath is the reading of the later folios, and it seems likely that in the reading of the quartos and first folio, 'This man hath,' 'man' was repeated from 1.25: for bewitch'd, Theobald, retaining 'man,' reads 'witch'd': the bosom, the heart within the bosom.

28. given her rhymes, addressed her in verse; as though the rhymes were a love-potion.

29. interchanged love-tokens, given to her and received from her presents in pledge of love.

31. feigning voice, voice which pretended to be deeply moved by love.

32. stolen ... fantasy, fraudulently made yourself master of the impression upon her fancy, i.e. by impressing his own image upon it. The figure is that of surreptitiously obtaining the impression of a seal to be used in giving validity to a document of possession; fantasy, the older form of 'fancy,' i.e. love, or rather an inclination to love.

33. gawds, ornaments, toys; literally things which please the fancy, from Lat. gaudium, gladness, joy; cp. below, iv. 1. 164, and T. C. iii. 3. 176, "That all with one consent praise new-born gauds": conceits, "presents fancifully devised" (Schmidt).

34. Knacks, Skeat gives as the senses of the word (1) a snap, crack, (2) a snap with the finger or nail, (3) a jester's trick, piece of dexterity, (4) a joke, trifle, toy; the two latter words being the sense here; cp. W. T. iv. 4. 360, "To load my she with knacks"; T. S. iv. 3. 67, "A knack, a toy, a trick, a baby's cap." The more modem form is the reduplicated 'knick-knacks' = trifles, toys, which is found in Beaumont and Fletcher's Loyal Subject, ii. 1. 126, in the sense of deception, "But if ye use these knick-knacks."

34, 5. messengers ... youth, which are most persuasive envoys to those like my daughter whose tender age is easily impressed.

38. stubborn harshness, sullen obstinacy against my will; harshness is more generally used of the rough treatment of a superior, as in Temp. iii. 1. 9, "O, she is Ten times more gentle than her father's crabbed. And he's composed of harshness."

39. Be it so, if it should prove that.

41. the ancient ... Athens, the time-honoured custom which the citizens of Athens enjoy.

42. As she ... her, that, as she belongs to me, I may do as I please with her.

43-5. Which shall ... case, and this disposal of her shall be either marriage with this gentleman, or death in accordance with that law which is expressly applicable to a case of such disobedience. Warburton points out that by a law of Solon's, which Shakespeare may have assumed to be in force even in Theseus' day, parents in Athens had absolute power of life and death over their children; but he also, and more probably, suggests that Shakespeare perhaps neither thought nor knew anything of the matter; Immediately, with direct reference to. Steevens points out that the line "has an undoubted smack of legal commonplace."

46. be advised, listen to reason; suffer yourself to be prevailed upon by advice; cp. Oth, i. 2. 65, "General, be advised; He comes to bad intent"; but the phrase is frequent in Shakespeare.

48. One that ... beauties, one to whom you owe your personal beauty; so 'composition' is used for 'frame,' 'constitution,' K. J. i. 1. 88, "In the large composition of this man."

50, 1. and within ... it, and within whose power it lies to leave the figure (of your beauty) as it is, or to destroy it; i.e. who has power of life and death over you. For the ellipsis of 'it is,' see Abb. § 403.

54, 5. But in ... worthier, but in this particular respect, since he lacks your father's approval, he must be held to be less worthy than Lysander who has that approval. For kind, cp. M. A. ii. 1. 70, "if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer"; for voice = approval, suffrage, cp. R. III. iii. 4. 20, "And in the duke's behalf I'll give my voice"; J. C. iii. 1. 177, "Your voice shall be as strong as any man's In the disposing of new dignities."

56. look'd but with my eyes, saw matters only as I see them.

57. with his judgment, as his discernment shows them.

59. by what ... bold, what inward strength emboldens me.

60. Nor how ... modesty, nor how far it may beseem me as a modest maiden; for concern, = afifect, cp. below, i. 1. 126, "Of something nearly that concerns yourselves."

61. In such a presence, in the presence of one so exalted as my sovereign: to plead my thoughts, to give expression to my thoughts in pleading my cause before you; for plead, with a cognate accusative, cp. i. H. VI. ii. 4. 29, "If he suppose that I have pleaded truth."

63. may befall, can possibly befall; for this, the original, sense of may, see Abb. § 307.

63, 4. in this case ... Demetrius, in case I should refuse, etc.

65. the death, the well-known sentence of death passed upon disobedience; for the, expressing notoriety, see Abb. § 92.

68. Know of your youth, interrogate the warm feelings of youth and find out: your blood, the impulses of nature.

69. Whether, here, as frequently in Shakespeare, metrically a monosyllable.

70. the livery of a nun, not merely the dress worn by a nun, but all that is involved in the wearing of that dress; cp. R. J. ii. 2. 8, "Her vestal livery is but sick and green"; Per. ii. 5. 10, "One twelve moons more she'll wear Diana's livery." Of course the mention of nuns in Theseus' time is an anachronism.

71. For aye, forever; cloister, more commonly used for the partially enclosed walk beneath the upper storey of monasteries, convents, colleges, etc., but also for the buildings themselves, or any place of religious seclusion; from Lat. claustrum, an enclosure: mew'd, confined; a 'mew,' from which the verb comes, was originally a cage for hawks, etc. Cp. R. III. i. 1. 132, "More pity that the eagle should be mew'd, While kites and buzzards prey at liberty."

72. To live a barren sister, to spend your days as one of the sisterhood (of nuns) without any children of your own to gladden your life.

73. Chanting ... moon, with languid monotony offering up hymns of praise to that chaste-cold divinity, the moon. The faint hymns are in contrast with the fervid devotion offered to divinities from whom some warm return of favour might be expected; the moon (personified as Diana, the goddess of chastity) making no return of love to her devotees. For fruitless in this sense, and for an illustration of the passage generally, cp. V. A. 751-5, "Therefore, despite of fruitless chastity, Love-lacking vestals and self-loving nuns, That on the earth would breed a scarcity And barren dearth of daughters and of sons, Be prodigal."

74. that master ... blood, who attain such a mastery over their natural inclinations.

75. To undergo ... pilgrimage, as to submit themselves to a pilgrimage through life uncheered by the joys of love. For undergo, cp. W. T. iv. 4. 554, "if you will not change your purpose But undergo this flight"; for pilgrimage, as applied to the weary journey through life, cp. R. II. ii. 1. 154, "His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be"; Genesis, xlvii. 9, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years"; Hebrews xi. 13, "strangers and pilgrims on the earth."

76-8. But earthlier ... blessedness, but as regards earthly happiness, better is the lot of the rose whose sweetness is distilled from it than that of the rose which, unplucked, lives a lonely existence, and at length withers away upon its bush; i.e. putting aside the figure, happier, as far as earthly joys are concerned, is the maiden who marries than she who dies unwedded. For earthlier happy Capell would read 'earthly happier,' thus sacrificing the far more poetic reading of the text which emphasizes the earthly character of the happiness to be enjoyed; virgin belongs to rose rather than to thorn; Malone compares Sonn. V, 13, "Flowers distilled, though they with winter meet, Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet"; for thorn, = a tree or shrub armed with thorns, cp. i. H, IV, i. 3. 176, "To put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose, And plant this thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke."

80. my virgin patent, the privilege of remaining unmarried, which belongs to me.

81, 2. Unto ... sovereignty, to the sway of him to whose unpalatable yoke my soul utterly refuses submission; for lordship, as applied to a husband, cp. A, W. v. 3. 156, "I wonder, sir, sith wives are monsters to you. And that you fly them as you swear them lordship. Yet you desire to marry: "My soul, emphatic; I from the bottom of my soul. For the ellipsis of 'to' before whose, see Abb. § 201.

83. Take ... pause, take time to reflect on the matter.

84, 5. The sealing-day ... fellowship, the day on which Hippolyta and I are to ratify by marriage a bond of everlasting partnership in love; cp. T. N, v. 1. 164, "And all the ceremony of this compact, Seal'd in my function, by my testimony."

87. For disobedience, as a punishment for disobedience.

88. as he would, as he (sc. your father) desires that it should be.

89. to protest, to make solemn profession of; cp. T, G. iv. 2. 7, "When I protest true loyalty to her."

90. austerity ... life, a hendiadys for 'the austerity of a life of singleness,' such as was led by those who devoted themselves to religious seclusion.

92. Thy crazed ... right, the utterly invalid title you set up to the right which is assuredly mine; the original sense of 'craze' is 'break,' 'weaken.'

95. he hath my love, I have given him my affection.

96. my love, the affection I bear to him: render, give; as often in Shakespeare without any idea of giving in return, or giving back.

97. my right of her, the right in her which as a parent I possess.

98. estate unto, devolve upon, as an estate is devolved; elsewhere Shakespeare uses 'estate on,' or 'upon,' as in Temp. iv. I. 85, "And some donation freely to estate On the blest lovers"; A. Y. L. V. 2. 13, "all the revenue that was old Sir Rowland's will I estate upon you."

99. as well derived, of as noble descent; as frequently in Shakespeare, e.g. J. C ii. 1. 322, "Brave son, derived from honourable loins."

100. As well possess'd, as richly endowed in point of wealth.

101, 2. My fortunes ... Demetrius, in that which I owe to fortune, I am in all respects the equal, if not the superior, of Demetrius; his love is the gift of Nature, his prosperity of Fortune.

103. which is ... be, a matter of greater importance than all these other advantages which I boast; for which used in this parenthetical way, see Abb. § 271.

104. of, by; see Abb. § 171.

105. prosecute my right, follow up the right I have to Hermia.

106. avouch it to his head, boldly assert it to him face to face; avouch, formed from a (Lat. ad, to,) and vouch, to warrant, affirm strongly.

108. her soul, her deepest love; soul, emphatic, as in 1. 82.

109. dotes in idolatry, worships him with foolishly passionate love; to 'dote' is to betray foolishness in whatever way; so we speak of a person being in his dotage when (especially from age) he has lost the power of reasoning.

110. spotted, polluted by perjury; cp. R. II. iii. 2. 134, "Terrible hell make war Upon their spotted souls for this offence."

111. so much as you tell me, i.e. I have heard of his inconstancy.

112. thought, intended: spoke, for the curtailed form of the participle, see Abb. § 353.

113. over-full of, too much occupied: self-affairs, personal affairs; for similar compounds of 'self,' cp. T. C. ii. 3. 182, "self-breath"; Cymb. iii. 4. 149, "self-danger."

114. did lose it, forgot all about it; it completely passed out of my mind.

116. some private schooling, some words of reprimand to be said in private; cp. i. H. IV. iii. 1. 190, "Well, I am school'd."

117. For you, as regards you; look ... yourself, take care to discipline yourself, prepare yourself; cp. M. V. iv. 1. 264, "I am arm'd and well prepared."

118. To fit ... will, to accommodate your fanciful desires to your father's determination in the matter.

119. yields you up, necessarily gives you up.

120. Which, and this law: extenuate, weaken the force of; in Oth. V. 2. 342, "nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice," the word means to 'palliate'; Bacon, in his Colours of Good and Evil, 7, uses it as here for to 'weaken'; Adv. Learn, i. 2. 3, and Letter of Advice to Essex, as = to 'depreciate.'

122. what cheer, my love? how is it with you? how do you look upon things? cheer, look, countenance; from O. F. chere, chiere the face, look; so we say, 'he put a good face upon the matter.'

123. go along, come with us; see Abb. § 80; along, from "A. S. prefix and-, ... over against, close to, and A. S. adjective lang, long. The sense is over against in length" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

124. I must employ you, I have employment for you.

125. Against, in preparation for; to be ready by the time of; cp. below, iii. 2. 99, "I'll charm his eyes against she do appear": nuptial, frequently used by Shakespeare in the singular, as conversely he uses 'funerals' where we should say 'funeral.'

126. nearly ... yourselves, that closely concerns yourselves; for similar transpositions of the adverb, see Abb. § 421.

127. With duty and desire, with dutiful eagerness.

129. How chance ... fast? We should now say either 'How does it chance that the roses there do fade,' etc., or, 'How do the roses there chance to fade,' etc. Cp. below, v. 1. 300, "How chance Moonshine is gone before Thisbe comes back and finds her lover?", and see Abb. § 37.

130. Belike, probably; literally by like, i.e. likelihood.

131. Beteem, allow, permit; literally make or consider as fitting. Skeat (Ety. Dict. 8. v. 'teem') shows that 'teem' is related to the A. S. suffix -teme, tyme, with the notion of 'fitting ' or 'suitable.' "In Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, A.D. 1587, we have 'could he not beteeme' = he did not think fit, would not deign; the Latin text has dignatus, Metam. X. 157. Spenser uses it still more loosely: 'So woulde I... Beteeme you to this sword' = permit, grant, allow you the use of this sword; F. Q. ii. 8. 19." ... Probably, as the Cl. Pr. Edd. point out, both here and in Haml. i. 2. 141, "so loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly," Shakespeare had in his mind a reference to the word teem in the sense of 'empty,' 'pour out,' from Icel. tama, to empty: the tempest of my eyes, the torrent of tears which is ready to pour from my eyes.

132. Ay me! alas for me! for aught ... read, for anything to the contrary that I have ever met with in my reading; so far as my reading goes.

133. by, in the way of; by mens of.

134-40. The course ... eyes. Malone thinks that Milton imitated this passage in P. L. x. 896-906.

135. it was ... blood, there was inequality in the matter of birth.

136. cross! ... low! O, what a trial that one of higher rank should be the slave of love to one beneath him! cross, cp. R. II. iv. 1. 241, "yet you Pilates Have here delivered me to my sour cross" where, as here, there is an allusion to the figurative phrase of 'bearing one's cross,' i.e. trials, which originated in Christ's being made literally to bear to the place of execution the cross on which He was crucified. So, Galatians, v. 24, "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Malone compares V. A. 1136, "Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend ... Ne'er settled equally, but high or low," though he misquotes the end of the latter line.

137. Or else ... years, — or else there was disparity of age; the pair linked together were not suitable to each other in point of years; to 'graft,' the only form now in use, is corrupt, owing to a confusion with 'graffed,' past participle of 'graff.' Shakespeare uses the correct form, as here, R. III. iii. 7. 127, A. Y. L. iii. 2. 124, and also the corrupt form, Macb. iv. 3. 51.

138. spite! ... young. O sad misfortune that age and youth should be bound by contract to another! Cp. The Passionate Pilgrim, xii. 157, etc., "Crabbed age and youth cannot live together," etc.

139. Or else ... friends,— or else it depended upon, was due to, the choice made by friends; the union had been a matter of negotiation between the friends, or relatives, not a matter of love between the principal parties.

140. hell! ... eyes. O misery that choice in a matter of love should be made by others than those immediately concerned! to choose love is elliptical for 'to make choice of the object of love.'

141. sympathy, correspondency, equality, in birth, years, etc.; cp. R. II. iv. 1. 33, "If that thy valour stand on sympathy," i.e. if you are unwilling to meet in combat one who is not your equal in rank; Oth. ii. 1. 232, "sympathy in years, manners, and beauties."

142. it, sc. love.

143. momentany, from Lat. momentaneus, as the more modern form 'momentary' is from the Lat. momentarius.

144. Swift as a shadow, sc. in passing away.

145. Collied, darkened; literally covered with coal-smuts, as 'collier' is from the M. E. col, coal, with the suffix -er, and the insertion of i for convenience in pronunciation.

146. in a spleen, in a fit of passion; as though the lightning were endowed with the same feelings as a man; cp. K. J. ii. 1. 448, "With swifter spleen than powder (i.e. gunpowder) can enforce:" unfolds, i.e. from the mantle of darkness in which they were enveloped.

147, 8. And ere ... up, and before a man can so much as say 'Behold!' it is again swallowed up by darkness; cp. R. J. ii. 2. 119, 20, "like the lightning, which doth cease to be, Ere one can say 'It lightens.'"

149. confusion, ruin; as frequently in Shakespeare.

150. ever, constantly: cross'd, thwarted by circumstances.

151. It stands ... destiny, it (sc. that they should be thwarted) is a decree firmly established by destiny; edict, with the accent on the former syllable, as often in Shakespeare.

152. teach ... patience, teach ourselves, thus tried, to endure with calmness.

154. As due to love, as much a part of, as much belonging to, love.

155. poor fancy's followers, the constant attendants on poor love.

156. A good persuasion, a good belief, doctrine, to hold; cp. Cymb. i. 4. 125, "You are a great deal abused in too bold a persuasion"; M. M. iv. 1. 47, "whose persuasion I come about my brother."

157. a widow aunt, an aunt who is a widow; widow, used as an adjective.

157, 8. a dowager ... revenue, one endowed with a rich jointure; see note on 1. 5.

159. remote, removed, distant; cp. L, L. L. v. 2. 806, "some forlorn and naked hermitage Remote from all the pleasures of the world."

160. respects, regards; cp. i. H, IV, v; 4. 20, "I do respect thee as my soul."

161. may, shall be able; on the original sense of may, see Abb. § 307.

162. sharp, cruel.

163. If ... then, therefore if.

164. forth, out from; on forth, used as a proposition, see Abb. § 55.

165. without, outside.

170. By his ... head. Cupid is by Ovid (Metam. i. 469-71) spoken of as armed with two arrows, one of gold, the other of lead; the former exciting, the latter repelling, love; cp. T. N. i. 1. 35, "How will she love, when the rich golden shaft Hath kill'd the flock of all affections else That live in her."

171. simplicity, innocence: Venus' doves, or pigeons, are mentioned again in M. V. ii. 6. 5; and among other birds supposed to draw her chariot were sparrows, swans, and swallows.

172. knitteth, binds together; prospers, for this transitive use of the verb, cp. Lear, iii. 2. 92, "Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him."

173. 4. the Carthage queen, Dido, who burned with love for Aeneas, the false Troyan; for the noun put for the adjective, cp. "Corioli walls," Cor, i. 1. 8; "Philippi fields," J. C. v. 5. 19; "the Cyprus wars," Oth. i. 1. 151. "Steevens pointed out the anachronism of making Dido and Aeneas earlier in point of time than Theseus. But Shakespeare's Hermia lived in the latter part of the sixteenth century and was contemporary with Nick Bottom the weaver" (Wright).

174. under sail was seen, was seen by her sailing away from her shores. The story of Dido falling in love with AEneas is told in Vergil's AEneid Bk. i.; at his departure for Latium Dido destroyed herself.

176. In number more, i.e, which are more in number; for the curtailed participles broke and spoke, see Abb. § 343.

177. same place, very place: hast appointed me, have appointed for me.

180. God ... Helena! may heaven favour Helena wherever she is going! The radical sense of 'speed' is 'success.'

181. that fair, that title of 'fair' which you give me.

182. your fair, your beauty; the substantival use of the word is frequent in Shakespeare: O happy fair! beauty fortunate in attracting the love of Demetrius!

183. lode-stars, lode-star is literally "'way-star,' i.e. the star that shows the way ... Compounded of lode a way, and star" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): your tongue's sweet air, the sweet sound of your voice.

184. tuneable, melodious; cp. iv. 1. 121, "A cry more tuneable"; for the omission of the article before lark, see Abb. § 83.

185. When wheat ... appear, i.e. in early summer.

186. favour, looks, appearance; "'In beauty,' says Bacon in his 43rd Essay, 'that of favour is more than that of colour; and that of decent and gracious motion more than that of favour.' The word is now lost to us in that sense; but we still use favoured with well, ill, and perhaps other qualifying terms, for featured or looking; as in Genesis xli. 4: — 'The ill-favoured and lean-flesh'd kine did eat up the seven well-favoured and fat kine'" (Craik, English of Shakespeare § 54).

188. My ear should catch your voice. Lettsom points out the inconsistency here by which Helena is made to wish her ear may resemble the voice of Hermia; and would read 'My hair should catch your hair,' since catch in all three clauses is evidently used in the technical sense of contracting some affection from another person. If any change were allowable, I should be inclined to read, 'My fair should catch your fair,' i.e. the personal beauty you have ascribed to me should catch your personal beauty; my eye should catch the fascination of your eye; my tongue, etc., fair being the general term including the particulars, eye and tongue. Voice seems clearly wrong, since the next line deals with that particular; and with my conjecture we have in these two lines a complete correspondency with 11. 182, 3. For catch, used in a good sense, cp. ii. H. IV. v. 1. 85, "'It is certain that either wise hearing or ignorant carriage is caught, as men take diseases, one of another." Abbott (§ 237) points out that mine is almost always found before 'eye,' 'ear,' etc., where no emphasis is intended. But where there is an antithesis, as here, we have my, thy.

190. bated, excepted, left out; cp. Temp. ii. 1. 100, "Bate, I beseech you, widow Dido"; Haml. v. 2. 23, "no leisure bated."

191. translated, transformed; cp. below, iii. 1. 109, "Bless thee, Bottom! bless thee! thou art translated"; Haml. iii. 1. 113, "the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is ... than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness."

193. sway the motion ... heart, make his heart move in whatever direction you please.

194. still, nevertheless; in spite of my frowning.

195-7. that ... move! Would that my warmest welcome and my most earnest prayers could effect that which is the prompt result of your disdain and maledictions!

200. is no fault of mine, is not a thing for which I am to be blamed, since I do everything in my power to cure him of it.

201. None, ... beauty, I grant that all you can be blamed for is your beauty.

203. will fly, am determined to quit with all speed.

206, 7. O, then ... hell! How powerful must be the graces of my beloved one, seeing that they have made Athens a place of torture to me; i.e. since so long as she remained in it she could not marry Lysander. As Johnson points out, Hermia is endeavouring to comfort Helena by showing that personal beauty, such as Helena covets, does not necessarily bring happiness with it. Johnson, however, seems to take my love as = the love which I feel.

209. Phoebe, the moon, sister of Phoebus, the sun.

210. in the watery glass, mirrored in the water.

211. liquid pearl, dew-drops; pearl, used generically, as in H. V, iv. 1. 279, "The intertissued robe of gold and pearl"; Macb, V. 8. 56, "I see thee compass'd with thy Kingdom's pearl."

212. doth still conceal, is ever wont to conceal.

213. devised, planned.

215. faint primrose-beds, beds of pale primroses, as they are called in W. T. iv. 4. 122, "pale primroses That die unmarried"; Cymb. iv. 2. 221, "The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose." Delius regards the epithet here as applying to those who lie upon the primroses, beds for those who were faint, weary; and Schmidt and Wright follow him. But the picture of Helena and Hermia lying out in the meadow is one that does not at all necessarily infer weariness, and the interpretation seems a very forced one.

216. Emptying ... sweet, unreservedly exchanging confidence with each other; the words counsel sweet are from Psalms, lv. 15, "We took sweet counsel together." Cp. below, iii. 2. 198, "In all the counsel that we two have shared."

217. shall meet, have determined to meet.

219. stranger companies, the society of strangers; stranger, the substantive used as an adjective; cp. K. J. v, 1. 11. "Swearing allegiance and the love of soul To stranger blood"; for companies, cp. Cymb, iv. 2. 69, "search What companies are near."

222. Keep word, keep your promise of meeting me; apostrophizing Lysander in his absence; we still use the phrase 'keep my, your, his, etc. word,' in this sense.

223. From lovers' food, i.e. the sight of one another: till ... midnight, till the dead of tomorrow's night; cp. Haml. i. 2. 198, "In the dead vast and middle of the night"; ii. H. VI. i. 4. 19, "Deep night, dark night, the silent of the night." Blackstone points out that tomorrow night would be within three nights of the new moon, when there would be no moonshine at all.

225. dote, see note on 1. 109; and for the subjunctive used optatively. Abb. § 365.

226. other some, certain others; cp. M. M. iii 2. 94, "Some say he is with the Emperor of Russia; other some, he is in Rome."

227. Through, throughout.

228. But what of that? but that is of no avail; more commonly in the sense of 'that does not matter,' 'is of no consequence.'

229. will not know, obstinately refuses to know.

231. So I, sc. err: admiring of, on of, following a verbal noun, see Abb. § 178.

232. holding no quantity, "bearing no proportion to what they are estimated at by love" (Schmidt) ; cp. Haml. iii. 2. 177, "For women's fear and love holds quantity."

233. Love ... dignity, love's alchemy can transmute into that which is shapely and dignified; cp. Sonn. cxiv. 3-6, "And whether shall I say ... that your love taught it this alchemy, To make of monsters and things indigest Such cherubins as your sweet self resemble."

236. Nor hath ... taste, nor has Love's mind the smallest flavour of the critical faculty; cp. T. C. v. 2. 127, "Why, my negation hath no taste of madness.

237. Wings ... haste, in painting, statuary, etc., Cupid is represented with wings and without sight; figure, symbolize.

238. therefore, for this reason that in making his choice as to whom he should wound with his arrows, he is often led astray.

240. in game, in sport; for mere fun.

242. eyne, i.e. eyen, the archaic plural; sometimes, as here, for the sake of the rhyme, sometimes without any such constraint.

243. hail'd down, uttered with the rapidity and frequency of falling hail; cp. M, W. v. 5. 21-3, "let it thunder to the tune of Green Sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes"; Macb. i. 3. 97, "As thick as hail came post with post."

244. 5. And when ... melt, and when the love kindled by the sight of Hermia began to glow in his heart, his love for me melted away; for so, as the correlative of when, see Abb. § 66.

246. go tell, for the omission of 'to' before tell, see Abb. § 349.

248. this intelligence, this information which I shall communicate to him.

249. If I ... expense, if I so much as obtain his thanks (which is doubtful), I shall have paid a high price for them (sc. in the pain it will cost me to give him the opportunity of meeting Hermia). Steevens explains, "It will cost him much (be a severe constraint on his feelings) to make even so slight a return for my communication," — an explanation which the next line seems to disprove.

250, 1. But herein ... again, but in this manner I mean to requite the pain I shall thus give myself, to wit, by enjoying the sight of him on the way there and back.


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) < >.


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'And she, sweet lady, devoutly dotes.' Illustrations by W. Heath Robinson.