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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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A wood near Athens

Enter a FAIRY at One door, and PUCK at another

PUCK. How now, spirit! whither wander you?

FAIRY. Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;                                         10
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours.

I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone.
Our Queen and all her elves come here anon.
PUCK. The King doth keep his revels here to-night;
Take heed the Queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,                                        20
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king.
She never had so sweet a changeling;
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;
But she perforce withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy.
And now they never meet in grove or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen,
But they do square, that all their elves for fear                             30
Creep into acorn cups and hide them there.

FAIRY. Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow. Are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery,
Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn,
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm,
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,                          40
You do their work, and they shall have good luck.
Are not you he?

PUCK. Thou speakest aright:
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal;
And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.                                    50
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And 'tailor' cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
But room, fairy, here comes Oberon.

FAIRY. And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!

Enter OBERON at one door, with his TRAIN, and TITANIA, at another, with hers

OBERON. Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.                                    60

TITANIA. What, jealous Oberon! Fairies, skip hence;
I have forsworn his bed and company.

OBERON. Tarry, rash wanton; am not I thy lord?

TITANIA. Then I must be thy lady; but I know
When thou hast stolen away from fairy land,
And in the shape of Corin sat all day,
Playing on pipes of corn, and versing love
To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here,
Come from the farthest steep of India,
But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,                                    70
Your buskin'd mistress and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded, and you come
To give their bed joy and prosperity?

OBERON. How canst thou thus, for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?
Didst not thou lead him through the glimmering night
From Perigouna, whom he ravished?
And make him with fair Aegles break his faith,
With Ariadne and Antiopa?                                             80

TITANIA. These are the forgeries of jealousy;
And never, since the middle summer's spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land,                   90
Hath every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
For lack of tread, are undistinguishable.                      100
The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest;
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose;
And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds                   110
Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which.
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

OBERON. Do you amend it, then; it lies in you.
Why should Titania cross her Oberon?
I do but beg a little changeling boy                                   120
To be my henchman.

TITANIA. Set your heart at rest;
The fairy land buys not the child of me.
His mother was a vot'ress of my order;
And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side;
And sat with me on Neptune's yellow sands,
Marking th' embarked traders on the flood;
When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive,
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;
Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait                      130
Following- her womb then rich with my young squire-
Would imitate, and sail upon the land,
To fetch me trifles, and return again,
As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.
But she, being mortal, of that boy did die;
And for her sake do I rear up her boy;
And for her sake I will not part with him.

OBERON. How long within this wood intend you stay?

TITANIA. Perchance till after Theseus' wedding-day.
If you will patiently dance in our round,                                140
And see our moonlight revels, go with us;
If not, shun me, and I will spare your haunts.
OBERON. Give me that boy and I will go with thee.
TITANIA. Not for thy fairy kingdom. Fairies, away!
We shall chide downright if I longer stay.

Exit TITANIA with her train

OBERON. Well, go thy way; thou shalt not from this grove
Till I torment thee for this injury.
My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememb'rest
Since once I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back                      150
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song,
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid's music.

PUCK. I remember.

OBERON. That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,
Flying between the cold moon and the earth
Cupid, all arm'd; a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal, throned by the west,
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;                    160
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon;
And the imperial vot'ress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it Love-in-idleness.
Fetch me that flow'r, the herb I showed thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid                               170
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league.

PUCK. I'll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes.

OBERON. Having once this juice,
I'll watch Titania when she is asleep,
And drop the liquor of it in her eyes;
The next thing then she waking looks upon,
Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,                                       180
On meddling monkey, or on busy ape,
She shall pursue it with the soul of love.
And ere I take this charm from off her sight,
As I can take it with another herb,
I'll make her render up her page to me.
But who comes here? I am invisible;
And I will overhear their conference.

Enter DEMETRIUS, HELENA following him

DEMETRIUS. I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.
Where is Lysander and fair Hermia?
The one I'll slay, the other slayeth me.                                 190
Thou told'st me they were stol'n unto this wood,
And here am I, and wood within this wood,
Because I cannot meet my Hermia.
Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.

HELENA. You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant;
But yet you draw not iron, for my heart
Is true as steel. Leave you your power to draw,
And I shall have no power to follow you.

DEMETRIUS. Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair?
Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth                                       200
Tell you I do not nor I cannot love you?
HELENA. And even for that do I love you the more.
I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
What worser place can I beg in your love,
And yet a place of high respect with me,
Than to be used as you use your dog?                               210

DEMETRIUS. Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit;
For I am sick when I do look on thee.
HELENA. And I am sick when I look not on you.
DEMETRIUS. You do impeach your modesty too much
To leave the city and commit yourself
Into the hands of one that loves you not;
To trust the opportunity of night,
And the ill counsel of a desert place,
With the rich worth of your virginity.

HELENA. Your virtue is my privilege for that:                      220
It is not night when I do see your face,
Therefore I think I am not in the night;
Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company,
For you, in my respect, are all the world.
Then how can it be said I am alone
When all the world is here to look on me?

DEMETRIUS. I'll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,
And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.

HELENA. The wildest hath not such a heart as you.
Run when you will; the story shall be chang'd:                      230
Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase;
The dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind
Makes speed to catch the tiger- bootless speed,
When cowardice pursues and valour flies.

DEMETRIUS. I will not stay thy questions; let me go;
Or, if thou follow me, do not believe
But I shall do thee mischief in the wood.
HELENA. Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field,
You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius!
Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex.                          240
We cannot fight for love as men may do;
We should be woo'd, and were not made to woo.


I'll follow thee, and make a Heaven of Hell,
To die upon the hand I love so well.


OBERON. Fare thee well, nymph; ere he do leave this grove,
Thou shalt fly him, and he shall seek thy love.

Re-enter PUCK

Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.

PUCK. Ay, there it is.

OBERON. I pray thee give it me.
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,                      250
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine;
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in;
And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.
Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove:
A sweet Athenian lady is in love                                           260
With a disdainful youth; anoint his eyes;
But do it when the next thing he espies
May be the lady. Thou shalt know the man
By the Athenian garments he hath on.
Effect it with some care, that he may prove
More fond on her than she upon her love.
And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.

PUCK. Fear not, my lord; your servant shall do so.


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


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 1

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

Stage Direction. Puck, "a goblin, mischievous sprite ... Of Celtic origin. — Irish puca, an elf, sprite, hobgoblin" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict. ).

1. How now ... you? i.e. what are you about? what brings you here, and whither are you bound ?

3. Thorough, the lengthened form of 'through,' for the metre's sake.

4. pale, enclosure; literally a stake used for enclosing ground.

7. the moon's sphere. Furnivall (Proceedings of the New Shakspere Society) gives a full account of the Ptolemaic system of spheres, of which there were nine, all circling round the earth, the nearest sphere being that of the moon; then came those of Mercury, Venus, The Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, The Fixed Stars, The Primum Mobile. In or on each of the seven lower spheres was a planet fixed, and this was whirled by that sphere right round the earth in twenty-four hours, the driving power being the Primum Mobile. Reference to these spheres is frequent in Shakespeare.

9. her orbs, the fairy-rings, as they are commonly called, the "green-sour ringlets" of Temp. v. 1. 37, circular patches in meadows, the ring being of a brighter and lighter green than the grass around it. Of old supposed to be caused by the nightly dances of the fairies, but now said to result from the outspreading propagation of a particular mushroom, the fairy-ringed fungus, by which the ground is manured for a richer following vegetation. For the infinitive To dew used indefinitely, and here = by dewing, see Abb. § 356.

10. pensioners, an allusion, says Warton, to Queen Elizabeth's "establishment of a band of military courtiers, by the name of pensioners. They were some of the handsomest and tallest young men, of the best families and fortunes, that could be found": cowslips are mentioned, Temp. v. 1. 89, in connection with the fairy Ariel, "In the cowslip's bell I lie."

11. gold coats, yellow blossoms; with an allusion to the handsome uniforms of the gentlemen pensioners: the spots are what in 1. 13 are called freckles, a word now used only of tan-spots in the face.

12. fairy favours, tokens of the love in which cowslips are held by the fairies.

13. savours, sweet odours.

14. go seek, for the omission of 'to,' see Abb. § 349.

15. a pearl, i.e, a dew-drop; with an allusion to pearl earrings, common then as in more modern days.

16. thou lob of spirits, you lubberly spirit; Puck being of a less ethereal nature than the fairies; lob, literally dolt, blockhead, and etymologically connected with 'lubber.'

17. anon, immediately; A. S. on = on or in, and an, old form of one; literally in one (moment).

18. doth keep, has determined to hold.

19. come, for the conjunctive after verbs of command, see Abb. § 369.

20. passing ... wrath, surpassingly, exceedingly, angry; wrath, the A. S. adjective wrad wroth: fell, bitter-tempered; A. S. fel cruel.

21. Because that, for the conjunctional affix, see Abb. § 287.

23. changeling, here and in W. T. iii. 3. 122, a child whom the fairies had carried off; but more usually the child left in the place of the one carried off, fairies being supposed to be addicted to stealing the most beautiful children they could find, leaving in their place those that were ugly and misshapen. Cp. Spenser, F. Q. L 10. 65, "From thence a Faerie thee unweeting reft, There as thou slepst in tender swadling band. And her base elfin brood there for thee left. Such men do changelings call, so chaunged by Faeries theft."

24. would have, desires to have.

25. Knight of his train, as leader of his retinue of attendants: trace, wander about in; cp. M. A. iii, 1. 16, "As we do trace this alley up and down."

27. makes ... joy, makes him the sole object of her delight.

28. they, Titania and Oberon.

29. spangled, the stars in heaven resembling the spangles (small disks of bright metal) worn as ornaments on dresses, bridles, etc. Spenser, F. Q. iv. 11. 45, has the form 'spangs' in the same metaphor, "With glittering spangs that did like starres appear." Cp. also Bacon, Essay of Masques and Triumphs, "And Oes, or Spangs, as they are of no great cost, so they are of most Glory": sheen, brightness.

30. but they do square, without their squaring, i.e. quarrelling; cp. T. A. ii. 1. 100, "are you such fools To square for this?" A. C. ii. 1. 45, "'Twere pregnant they should square between themselves"; also the substantive, M. A. i. 1. 82, "Is there no young squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the devil?" The verb is still used for preparing for a fight with fist by squaring the arms across the chest: for fear, out of fear.

31. them, themselves.

32. Either, like 'whether,' 'further,' 'neither,' etc., metrically a monosyllable; see Abb. § 466.

33. shrewd, mischievous; literally 'accursed'; pp. of M. E. shrewen to curse.

34. Robin Goodfellow, under this euphemistic title Puck is identified with a domestic spirit who at one time would help the servants of the house in their work, and at another would play mischievous tricks. See Introduction, and cp. Ben Jonson, Masque of Love Restored, "Robin Goodfellow, he that sweeps the hearth and the house clean, riddles [i.e. passes the embers through a sieve] for the country maids, and does all their other drudgery, while they are at hot-cockles." he, the person.

35. villagery, according to Johnson, a collection of villages, but the form seems rather to indicate a collection of villagers, as Wright explains. Cp. stitchery, Cor. i. 1. 75, the work on which a stitcher is engaged.

36. Skim, properly speaking we should have 'skims,' 'labours,' 'makes' as well as frights; but Shakespeare seems to have begun the construction grammatically and then to have changed it as though he had written 'is it not you' instead of are not you he: skim milk, skim the cream from the milk and drink it up [Shakespeare invented the term.]: labour in the quern, grind corn in the hand-mill when it is not wanted; quern, from "A. S. cweorn, cywrn, ... originally 'that which grinds'" (Skeat, Ety, Dict.). Wright understands the fairy to be enumerating all Robin Goodfellow's pranks, good and bad, and quotes Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, in which he is made to say of himself when in good humour, "I grind at mill Their malt up still."

37. bootless, without boot, profit; A. S. bot, profit, advantage, and the suffix - less, from M. E. laus, loose; breathless, i.e. with their vain exertion.

38. And sometime ... barm, and sometimes prevent the beer from producing any yeast; barm, the froth of malt liquor in fermentation used for leavening dough; sometime and 'sometimes,' in their various senses, are used convertibly by Shakespeare.

39. their harm, the injuries done to them by you; their, objectively.

40. 1. Those that ... luck, those who compliment you with the titles of Hobgoblin and sweet Puck, have their work done by you, and are certain of good luck. Cp. Milton, L'Allegro, 11. 105-14.

42. Thou speak'st aright, for examples of lines with four accents only, where there is an interruption in the line, see Abb. § 506. Collier and Dyce insert 'Fairy' before Thou, and in rhyming lines the omission of a word of two accents is less likely than in blank verse. Johnson remarks, "It seems that in the fairy mythology. Puck, or Hobgoblin, was the trusty servant of Oberon, and always employed to watch or detect the intrigues of Queen Mab, called by Shakespeare, Titania. For in Drayton's Nymphidia, the same fairies are engaged in the same business."...

43. am, emphatic.

44. I jest to Oberon, I act as jester to Oberon, make jokes to amuse him, like the Court jesters.

45. bean-fed, fed on beans, and so lusty and frolicsome; cp. the slang expression of the present day, 'full of beans,' in the same sense.

46. Neighing ... foal, assumung the form of a young filly and neighing like it.

47. gossip's bowl, the christening bowl round which old women sat drinking; 'gossip,' from 'God' and 'sib'= akin, was formerly used for a sponsor at baptism, those who stood in this relation to a child being considered as 'akin in God.' 'Gossips,' then, says Trench, Eng. Past and Present, p. 297, 9th ed., "are first the sponsors, brought by the act of a common sponsorship into affinity and near familiarity with one another; secondly, these sponsors, who being thus brought together, allow themselves with one another in familiar, and then in trivial and idle, talk; thirdly, they are any who allow themselves in this trivial and idle talk"...

48. In very ... crab, taking the exact form of a roasted wild apple; such as was commonly put into bowls of warm, spiced, ale, a favourite drink in former days; cp. L. L. L. v. 2. 935, "When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl."

49. bob, jump up; thus spilling the ale as she is about to drink it.

50. dewlap, properly the loose flesh hanging from the throats of cattle, and so called from its lapping up the dew as they graze; here the breast made flaccid by age.

51. wisest aunt, the old crony, "full of strange saws and modern instances" (A. Y. L. ii. 7. 166), who from her great age sets up for an authority among her companions. Grant White says that in New England villages good-natured old people are still called 'aunt' and 'uncle' by the whole community: saddest tale, most doleful tales of ghosts or bygone calamities, such as gossips round a fire were fond of. Cp. R. II. V. 1. 40-2, "In winter's tedious nights sit by the fire With good old folks and let them tell thee tales Of woeful ages long ago betid"; W. T. ii. 1. 25, 6, "A sad tale's best for winter: I have one of sprites and goblins."

52. Sometime, see note on 1. 36 above: three-foot stool, stool with three legs, such as were common in cottages.

53. topples, tumbles over; properly tumbles headlong from being top-heavy.

54. And 'tailor' cries. Johnson says, "The custom of crying tailor at a sudden fall backwards, I think I remember to have observed. He that slips beside his chair, falls as a tailor squats upon his board." This explanation, the only one suggested, seems hardly satisfactory; for the expression, in that case a derisive one, would hardly be applied to herself by the old woman as she fell. More probably it would be used in an angry tone to the person who had been clumsy enough to upset her, as we still say 'a regular tailor' of a bungling fellow; and 'cobbler' and 'botcher of a clumsy workman: falls into a cough, is seized with a fit of coughing.

55. quire, assembly; another spelling of 'choir,' properly a band of singers, from Lat. chorus a band of singers, which again is from the Gk... a dance in a ring, a band of dancers and singers: hold their hips, in the paroxysm of laughter which seizes them; the commoner expression is to 'hold the sides'; cp. Milton, L'Allegro 1. 32, "And Laughter holding both her sides."

56. waxen in their mirth, wax merrier and merrier, become uproarious in their merriment; Farmer conjectured yexen i.e. hiccup, and Singer so reads: neeze, sneeze (of which the word is a parallel form); or, as we might say, puff and blow in the violence of their mirth. For old forms of the third person plural, indicative mood, see Abb. § 332.

57. wasted, spent (without any idea of loss of time); a sense frequent in Shakespeare.

58. now, I have followed Dyce in inserting this word; to scan fairy as a trisyllable being, as he says, "too ridiculous."

Stage Direction. Oberon, "the 'dwarfe king of fayryes' is introduced into the popular romance of Huon de Bordeaux, translated by Lord Bemers, probably earlier than 1598. The older part of Huon de Bordeaux, Mr. Keightley has shown to have been taken from the story of Otnit in the Heldenbuch, where the dwarf king Elberich performs nearly the same services to Otnit that Oberon does to Huon. The name of Oberon, in fact, according to Grimm, is only Elberich slightly altered. From the usual change of l into u ... in the French language, Elberich or Albrich ... becomes Auberich; and ich not being a French termination, the dominative on was substituted, and thus the name Auberon, or Oberon" (Staunton). Titania, Shakespeare seems to have taken this name from Ovid, who uses it as an appellation of Diana.

60. I'll met, instead of being pleased to encounter her at the usual time for the meeting of fairies, Oberon is now vexed, and reverses the ordinary salutation, 'well met!' proud, in reference to her obstinate refusal to give up the "little changeling boy" he desired to have in his train.

61. What, Jealous Oberon! What, is that you, jealous Oberon? pretending to be surprised at meeting him: skip hence, i.e. let us be off and leave him to himself.

62. forsworn, sworn utterly to avoid; cp. Temp. iv. 1. 91, "Her and her blind boy's scandall'd company I have forsworn"; for-, as a prefix to verbs, has usually an intensive sense, as in forswear, meaning to swear falsely (Lat. per-jurare to swear out and out, and hence to swear falsely), fordo, forbid etc., or, as here preserves the sense of 'from,' i.e. abjure, Lat. ab-jurare.

63. wanton, alluding to her love of Theseus.

64. Then I must ... lady, if, as you say, you are my lord, I ought to be your lady, but that I cannot be since you have been vowing love to Phillida, and therefore you cannot be my lord.

64, 5. but I know ... land, but I am well acquainted with the occasions on which you have secretly left the fairy land, your proper domain.

66. in the shape of Corin, taking the form of a human rustic; Corin and Phillis are names of shepherds and shepherdesses in classical pastoral poetry.

68. Phillida, properly the Greek accusative of 'Phillis.'

68-70. Why art ... that, what brings you here all the way from the plains of India, except that, etc., i.e. your only reason for having taken this long journey is your desire to be present at the marriage of your mistress, Hippolyta. The first quarto gives steppe, the second and the folios 'steep', a reading adopted by many editors because there is no proof of steppe being known in Shakespeare's day, and also because it was the mountains, rather than the plains, of India which had impressed the minds of travellers. In support of 'steep' commentators quote Comus, 1. 139, "The nice morn on the Indian steep From her cabin'd loophole peep"; but there the word is especially appropriate in a description of the sun just making itself visible over the lofty mountains of the extreme East. Mere there is no reason why Oberon should prefer the plains to the mountains.

70. forsooth, in truth; said with scorn: bouncing, large and plump; 'stalwart' would be the corresponding epithet for a man, though in bouncing there is also the radical idea of activity.

71. Your buskin'd mistress, that mistress of yours always so ready to don the buskin; 'buskin,' ... Lat. cothurnes, was a boot reaching to the middle of the leg. It was worn in war, the chase, etc., and by tragic actors in heroic characters, with very high heels serving to add stateliness to the figure: your warrior love, that warrior maiden with whom you are in love.

72. must be, is to be; for must, meaning no more than definite futurity, see Abb. § 314.

73. To give ... prosperity. The presence of benevolent fairies at births, christenings, weddings, was supposed to bring good fortune, as that of malevolent ones to bring misfortunes.

74. How canst ... shame, how can you without being ashamed, etc.; i.e. if you had any sense of shame, you would not, etc. For for = for want of, cp. H. V. i. 2. 114, "cold for action"; Macb. i. 5. 37, "dead for breath"; A. W. i. 2. 17, "sick for breathing"; T. S. iv. 3. 9, "starved for meat."

75. Glance at my credit with, hint at the favour with which I am regarded by; cp. J. C. i. 2. 324, "wherein obscurely Caesar's ambition shall be glanced at"; and, without the preposition, C. E. V. 1. 66, "In company I often glanced it."

76. Knowing I know, when you well know that I am aware of.

77. the glimmering night, the night faintly illuminated by the light of the stars; cp. Macb. iii, 3. 5, "The west yet glimmers with some streaks of day. "

78. Perigenia, called Perigouna by Plutarch, her real name being Perigune.

79. AEgle, a nymph beloved by Theseus, for whom he forsook Ariadne, daughter of Minos and Pasiphae, AEgle in her turn being forsaken for another.

80. Antiopa, see note on stage direction at the beginning of the play.

81. These are ... jealousy, all these stories about my intercourse with Theseus are mere calumnious inventions due to jealousy.

82. the middle summer's spring, the commencement of midsummer; "When trees put forth their second, or as they are frequently called, their midsummer shoots. Thus Evelyn in his Sylva: 'Where the rows and the brush lie longer than midsummer, unbound, or made up, you endanger the loss of the second spring'" (Henley). Steevens compares ii. H. IV. iv. 4. 35, "As flaws congealed in the spring of day"; and Luke i. 78, "whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us."

83. Met we, for the simple past incorrectly combined with the complete present, see Abb. § 347.

84. paved fountain, probably, as Henley takes it, fountains whose bottoms were covered with pebbles as with a pavement, in opposition to those of the rushy brooks which are oozy. He compares an expression in Sylvester, "By some cleare river's lilie-paved side."

85. beached margent, the beach which fringes the sea; margent, the form of 'margin' always used by Shakespeare, and frequently found in other Elizabethan writers: in for 'on.'

86. To dance our ringlets, to form our fairy-rings by dancing; see note on 1. 9 above: to, in harmony with, to the accompaniment of.

87. But with ... sport, without your disturbing our sport with your exhibition of quarrelsome humours; brawls, from W. brawl, a boast.

88. piping to us in vain, i.e. since we refused to dance when they piped to us.

90. Contagious fogs, fogs bringing disease with them; the adjective is used of clouds, H. V. iii. 3. 31; of the night, K. J. v. 4. 33; of darkness, ii. H. VI. iv. 1. 7. For the pestilential nature of fogs, cp. Cymb. ii. 3. 136, "The south-fog rot him"; Lear, i. 4. 321, "Blasts and fogs upon thee!"

91. pelting, paltry, petty; used literally R. II. ii. 1. 60, "Like to a tenement or a pelting farm"; Lear, ii. 3. 18, "Poor pelting villages"; and figuratively M. M. ii. 2. 112, "For every pelting, petty officer"; T. C. iv. 5. 267, "We have had pelting wars." Probably connected with peltry, vile trash, and paltry, formed of rags, hence vile, worthless.

92. have, for every with a plural verb, cp. Lear, ii. 2. 82, "Smooth every passion That in the natures of their lords rebel": continents, confining banks; cp. i. H. IV. iii. 1. 110, "Gelding the opposed continent as much As on the other side it takes from you."

93. stretch'd his yoke, laboured in dragging the plough; the yoke was the curved piece of wood put upon the neck of oxen and attached by traces to the plough.

95. ere his youth ... beard, before it has grown old enough to get a beard, — the word applied to the prickly spines on ears of corn, from their likeness to hair-bristles on the human face; cp, Sonn. xii. 8, "And summer's green all girded up in sheaves Born on the bier with white and bristly beard": his, its.

96. fold, sheep or cattle fold, the enclosure in the fields in which they were penned: drowned, flooded with rain to such an extent that cattle could not be put into it.

97. the murrion flock, the flock of sheep among which the murrain had spread owing to the great damp; murrion, here used in an adjectival sense, is another form of 'murrain,' an infectious disease among cattle, ultimately from Lat. mori, to die.

98. The nine men's morris, "A game played by two persons, with nine men or pieces each. It was played indoors with a board; out of doors, on a square of turf, with lines marked and holes cut, which in rainy weather would become 'filled up with mud.' The game was originally French, under the name of 'merelles' counters; and was first called in England 'merrils,' afterwards corrupted into 'morris'" (C. Clarke).

99. quaint mazes. "This alludes," says Steevens, "to a sport still followed by boys; i.e. what is now called running the figure of eight." "But," adds Wright, "I have seen very much more complicated figures upon village greens, and such as might strictly be called mazes or labyrinths. On St. Catherine's Hill, Winchester, 'near the top of it, on the north-east side, is the form of a labyrinth, impressed upon the turf, which is always kept entire by the coursing of the sportive youth through its meanderings '... (Milner, History of Winchester ii. 155)": wanton, playful; a transferred epithet properly applicable to those who by their playing formed the mazes.

100. For lack of tread, owing to their not being trodden.

101. human mortals, though Titania and her elves were immortal, some fairies were mortal, and the expression is probably meant to contrast human beings who were mortal with fairies that were so too: want their winter cheer, are unable to enjoy their usual winter amusements; cheer is Theobald's emendation for 'heere' of the earlier quartos and folios.

102. hymn or carol, the Christmas hymns or carols still sung at night and early morning in villages, though the custom has well nigh died out in towns.

103. the goveress of floods, who controls the ebb and flow of the tides; Wright compares Haml i. 1. 119, "The moist star Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands."

104. Pale in her anger, ac. at the neglect of our rites: washes all the air, deluges the air with watery vapour.

105. rheumatic diseases. Malone shows that in Shakespeare's time this term sigified not what we call 'rheumatism,' but, more in accordance with the derivation of 'rheumatic,' distillations from the head, catarrhs, etc.

106. thorough, the lengthened form of 'through,' as in 11. 3 and 5: distemperature. Malone, whom Wright follows, explains this as the perturbed state in which the king and queen had lived for some time; and Steevens supports the explanation by quoting R. J. ii. 3. 40, "Therefore thy earliness doth me assure Thou art uproused by some distemperature." Schmidt gives "disorder of the weather," in which sense the word is used in i. H. IV. iii. 1. 34, V. 1. 3.

108. fresh lap, the blooming calix, or cup.

109. thin, thinly covered; cp. R. II. iii. 2. 112, "White-beards have armed their thin and hairless scalps."

112. childing, fruit-bearing; literally, bringing forth children. Holt White says that this is an old term in botany when a small flower grows out of a large one.

113. Their wonted liveries, their usual dress; mazed, bewildered, in a maze of doubt. The only form now in use is 'amazed,' from a = in, and 'maze,' a labyrinth.

114. By their increase, by the fruits they produce; cp. Sonn, xcvii. 6, "The teeming autumn, big with rich increase": which is which, which of them is of which character.

116. debate, quarrel, contest; used in a much stronger sense than at present, and more in accordance with the literal meaning of the verb, sc. to beat down; cp. L. L. L. i. 1. 174, "From tawny Spain lost in the world's debate"; ii. H. IV. iv. 4. 2, "this debate that bleedeth at our doors."

117. original, first cause.

118. it, the present state of things between us: lies in you, is in your power to do so.

119. Why should ... Oberon? what reason is there (i.e. there is no reason) that compels Titania to thwart him she once loved so fondly? said coaxingly.

121. henchman, attendant, page. Of disputed origin, but, according to Skeat, probably from M. E. hengest, a horse, and E. man: Set your heart at rest, said sarcastically; do not for a moment allow yourself to be agitated by any hope on the subject; make up your mind that such a thing is quite out of the question.

122. The fairy ... me, the whole fairyland is an insufficient bribe to tempt me to give up the boy.

123. a votaress of my order, one enrolled as a devotee of mine; order, in the sense of a religious sisterhood; cp. C. E. v. 1. 107, "It is a branch and parcel of my oath, A charitable duty of my order" said by the Abbess.

124. spiced, scented with spices.

125. gossip'd, spent the time in familiar talk; see note on ii. 1. 47.

127. embarked traders, the merchant vessels pursuing their course on the ocean; cp. M. V. i. 1. 9-13, "where your argosies with portly sail ... Do overpeer the petty traffickers, That curtsy to them, do them reverence, As they fly by them with their woven wings." For the transposition, see Abb. § 419 a.

130, 1. with pretty ... Following, copying with her pretty undulating motion; her graceful motion resembling that of vessels as they rise and fall with the swell of the waves; cp. Oth. iii. 3. 178, "To follow still the changes of the moon"; and for the idea, the word 'curtsy' in the above quotation from M. V.

134. voyage, dissyllable: rich, qualifying she in 1. 130.

138. intend you stay, for the omission of 'to' before stay, see Abb. § 349.

140. patiently, without displaying ill humour such as you have of late so often displayed: round, dance in a circle; cp. Macb. iv. 1. 130, "While you perform your antic round."

142. spare your haunts, treat you with the same avoidance; not attempt to follow you about; haunts, places you frequent.

145. chide downright, have a regular quarrel.

146. thy way, the way you choose to take: shalt not, i.e. go; for the ellipsis, see Abb. § 405.

147. injury, slight, contemptuous treatment; so iii. H. VI. iv. 1. 107, "But what said Warwick to these injuries?", where injuries means taunting language.

148, 9. Thou rememberest Since, you remember the time past when, etc.; cp. W. T. vi. 1. 219, "Remember since you owed no more to time Than I do now."

150. mermaid. Warburton refers to the vulgar opinion that mermaids by their songs allured men to destruction, and compares C. E. iii. 2. 45, "O, train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note. To drown me in thy sister's flood of tears:" on a dolphin's back, an allusion to Arion who for the love of his music was saved by the dolphins when, in order to escape being murdered by the sailors on his voyage from Sicily to Corinth, he threw himself into the sea; cp. T. N. i. 2. 16-7, "Where, like Arion on the dolphin's back, I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves So long as I could see."

151. breath, musical voice: used of singing, T. N. ii. 3. 21, "so sweet a breath to sing"; and of the sound of a trumpet, Macb. V. 6. 9, "Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath."

152. rude, rough: civil, quiet, in antithesis with rude: at, on hearing.

153. spheres, see note on 1. 7 above.

157. all arm'd, fully equipped with bow and arrows; all, adverbial: certain, which would not miss his mark.

158. At a ... west, a compliment to Queen Elizabeth's maiden life, England being to the west of the rising sun.

159. loosed, let go; a technical term in archery, as is also the substantive 'loose': smartly, with a smart twang of the bowstring as the arrow left it; indicating the determination with whicn he shot his bolt.

160. As it should pierce. "'As,' like 'an,' appears to be (though it is not) used by Shakespeare for 'as if' ... the 'if' is implied in the subjunctive" (Abb. § 107); as it would be loosed should it pierce, i.e. in a case in which it would, etc.

161. might see, was able to see; for might, the past tense of 'may,' originally used in the sense of 'was able,' 'could,' see Abb. § 312.

162. watery moon, cp. "moist star," Haml, i. 1. 118.

163. votaress, sc. of chastity; vowed to a maiden life.

164. fancy-free, untouched by thoughts of love.

166. western, English.

168. love-in-idleness, one of the names given by rustics to the pansy (F. pensee, thought) or heart's-ease; cp. T. S. i. 1. 156, "I found the effect of love in idleness," where the expression = idle love. For the allegorical interpretations given to this passage, see Introduction.

169. the herb, sc. which bears the flower.

171. or man or woman, any one of whichever sex; or, a contraction of other, i.e. either: dote, see note on i. 1. 109.

172. it, the being, whether man or woman.

173. be thou here again, take care to return.

174. leviathan, in Shakespeare meaning a huge whale; cp. H. V. iii. 3. 26, "As send precepts to the leviathan To come ashore"; from "Heb. livyathan an aquatic animal, dragon, serpent; so called from its trailing itself in curves.— Heb. root lavah, to cleave; Arab, root lawa to bend" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.),

175. I'll put ... round, I will circle the earth; probably, as Steevens says, a proverbial expression for circumnavigating the globe. He quotes Chapman's Bussy d'Ambois, i. 1. 23, "To put a girdle round about the world."

179. The next ... upon, for the omission of the relative, see Abb. § 244.

180. Be it on lion, whether it be a lion on which she looks.

181. meddling, mischievous: busy, sc. in ways that he should not be busy; so we speak of a 'busybody,' meaning one who interferes where he is not wanted.

182. the soul of love, the deepest love; cp. above, i. 1. 82.

184. As I can take it, for so I can do.

186. I am invisible. "It is probable that here Oberon put on a garment such as is mentioned in Henslowe's 'Diary,' which speaks of stage properties, and among them 'a robe for to go invisible.' When this was assumed, the audience were to understand that the wearer was supposed to be unseen by the other personages on the stage" (C. Clarke).

189. Where is, for the inflexion in -s preceding two singular substantives, see Abb. § 336.

190. slayeth, kills me by refusing her love.

192. wode, mad; from A.S. wod mad; cp. i. H. VI. iv. 7. 35, "How the young whelp of Talbot's, raging-wood, Did flesh his puny sword in Frenchmen's blood."

193. my Hermia, Hermia whom I love with all my soul.

194. get thee gone. "An idiom; that is to say, a peculiar form of expression the principle of which cannot be carried out beyond the particular instance. Thus we cannot say either Make, thee gone, or He got him (or himself) gone. Phraseologies, on the contrary, which are not idiomatic are paradigmatic, or may serve as models or moulds for others to any extent. All expression is divided into these two kinds" ... (Craik, on J. C. ii. 4. 2).

195. you hard-hearted adamant, you whose heart is as hard as adamant; adamant, from "Gr...originally an adjective = invincible ... afterwards a name of the hardest metal, probably steel ... The early medical Lat. writers apparently explaining the word from adama-re 'to take a liking to, have an attraction for,' took the lapidem adamantem for the loadstone or magnet ...; and with this confusion the word passed into the modern languages"... (Murray, English Dict.).

196, 7. But yet ... steel, if the reading is right, the meaning probably is, 'Though you draw my heart it is not a substance like iron, famed for its hardness, but a substance like steel famed for its truth.' Lettsom suggests 'though' for for, which gets rid of all difficulty. There seems, however, the possibility that Shakespeare sometimes used 'though' and 'for' convertibly; cp. Oth. iii. 3. 145, "I do beseech you — Though I perchance am vicious in my guess," where we should have expected "For I perchance," etc.

197, 8. leave you ... shall, if you will abandon your power to draw, I shall, etc.

199. Do I ... fair? questions of appeal equivalent to 'You well know that I do not, ' etc. speak you fair, make you fair speeches, pay you compliments.

201. nor I cannot, the emphatic double negative; see Abb. § 406.

203. your spaniel, an illusion to the proverb, "A spaniel, a woman, a walnut-tree, The more you beat them, the truer they be"; for the, as the ablative of the demonstrative, see Abb. § 94.

204. I will fawn, i.e. the more I will fawn.

205. but as, i.e. no better.

206. lose me, cast me off and have nothing to do with me.

207. Unworthy as I am, though utterly unworthy, as I confess myself to be.

208. worser, for the double comparative, see Abb. § 11.

209. And yet ... with me, and yet even that I look upon as a place of honour.

214. impeach, expose to slander; cp. R. II. i. 1. 189, "Shall I seem crest-fall'n in my father's sight? Or with pale beggar-fear impeach my height Before this out-dared dastard?"; properly to hinder, from F. empecher, thence to arraign before a tribunal, the first step towards that end being to hinder the escape of the person charged.

215. To leave, by leaving; on the infinitive used indefinitely, see Abb. § 356.

217. the opportunity of night, the opportunity which the night-time affords; the subjective genitive,

218. the ill ... place, the suggestions to evil which a place so lonely as this offers.

220. your virtue ... that, it is your well-known virtue which gives me the privilege of acting as I have acted; knowing how virtuous you are, I have ventured to trust myself alone with you at such a time as this. The quartos and folios all put a colon at privilege, beginning a new clause with for that = because. I have followed Malone, Dyce, and Delius in accepting Tyrwhitt's punctuation.

223. worlds of company, abundance of company.

224. in my respect, as I regard you; cp. Cymb, ii. 3. 140, "His meanest garment, ... is dearer In my respect than all the hairs above thee."

227. me, myself: brakes, bushes, thickets.

229. The wildest, i.e. of wild beasts.

230. Run when you will, whenever you choose to run: the story, i.e. of ancient mythology in which Daphne, daughter of the river-god Ladon, being pursued by Apollo was, in answer to her prayers, changed into a laurel tree, which became in consequence Apollo's favourite tree: changed, reversed.

231. holds the chase, maintains the pursuit, is the pursuer.

232. the griffin, a fabulous animal, frequently represented in heraldry; "a better spelling is griffon ... — F. griffon — Gk. ... a fabulous creature named from its hooked beak.- Gk ... curved" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

233. bootless, vain; see note on 1. 37.

235. thy questions, your reproachful speeches; cp. M. V. iv. 1. 346, "I'll stay no longer question."

237. But I shall, anything except that I shall: mischief, personal injury; cp. Lear, i. 2. 178, "which (sc. his displeasure) at this instant so rageth in him, that with the mischief of your person it would scarcely allay."

238. the temple, the most sacred of places: the town, the most frequented of places: the field, the most open of places.

240. Your wrongs, your cruelty to me; your, used subjectively.

242. should be, ought to be; see Abb. § 323.

243. malce ... hell, find the happiness of heaven in enduring the tortures to which you condemn me.

244. To die, by dying; the indefinite infinitive: upon the hand, falling upon and dying by the hand; cp. T. G. ii. 4. 114, "I'll die on him that says so but yourself"; referring to Demetrius' words in 1. 237, above.

245. Fare thee well, go, and good fortune go with you.

247. wanderer, you who wander by night; cp. above, 11. 39, 43.

248. there, said as he produces it.

249. where, Pope reads 'whereon,' and is followed by some editors. If the reading is right, the word must be pronounced as a dissyllable: wild thyme, a plant of which bees are especially fond; there is also a variety grown in gardens and used for seasoning dishes: blows, blossoms.

250. oxlips, "the 'bold ox lip' [W. T, iv. 3. 125] ... is so like both the Primrose and Cowslip that it has been by many supposed to be a hybrid between the two ... It is a handsome plant, and is a great favourite in cottage gardens" (Ellacombe, Plant Lore of Shakespeare): grows, the verb for the rhyme's sake being made to agree with the singular noun only.

251. over-canopied, covered over as with a canopy. ...: luscious, sweet-scented; Steevens for the sake of the metre reads 'lush': woodbine, the great convolvulus, or bindweed, so called from its twining about other plants; cp. M. A. iii. 1. 30, "who even now Is couched in the woodbine coverture."

252. musk-roses, a species of rose prized more for its sweet scent than for its beauty: eglantine, more commonly called sweet-briar; literally, the prickly-one, from its sharp thorns. Cp. Cymb. iv. 2. 223, "The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander, Out-sweeten'd not thy breath."

253. of the night, during the night; for the preposition with this sense, see Abb. § 176: for sometime see note on ii. 1. 38, above.

255. throws, casts; the word more commonly used: enamell'd, glittering like enamel, a glass-like substance made of glass and metals fused together.

256. Weed, covering; from A.S. wœd and wœde, a garment, in which sense it is frequent in Shakespeare. So we still speak of 'widows' weeds,' meaning the head-dress worn by widows.

257. streak, smear, as with a painter's brush.

258. fantasies, fancies, especially love-fancies.

261. disdainful, sc. of her love.

262, 3. But do it ... lady, but take care to do it at such a time that the next thing she espies is sure to be the lady.

266. More fond on, more in love with; on, of: her love, him whom now she loves so distractedly.

267. look thou meet, take care to meet; see note on 1. 19: the first cock crow, when the cock crows for the first time; in Haml. i. 1. 147, the cock is spoken of as crowing not long after midnight; in R. J. iv. 4. 3, "the second cock" crows at three o'clock in the morning.

268. shall, denoting inevitable futurity without reference to 'will' (desire); see Abb. § 315.


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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