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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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ACT II SCENE II Another part of the wood. 
 Enter TITANIA, with her train 
TITANIA Come, now a roundel and a fairy song; 
 Then, for the third part of a minute, hence; 
 Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds, 
 Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,
 To make my small elves coats, and some keep back 
 The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders 
 At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep; 
 Then to your offices and let me rest. 
 'You spotted snakes with double tongue,
 Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen; 10 
 Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong, 
 Come not near our fairy queen.' 
 'Philomel, with melody 
 Sing in our sweet lullaby;
 Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby: 
 Never harm, 
 Nor spell nor charm, 
 Come our lovely lady nigh; 
 So, good night, with lullaby.'
 'Weaving spiders, come not here; 20 
 Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence! 
 Beetles black, approach not near; 
 Worm nor snail, do no offence. 
 Philomel, with melody, &c.'
Fairy Hence, away! now all is well: 
 One aloof stand sentinel. 
 Exeunt Fairies. TITANIA sleeps. 
 Enter OBERON and squeezes the flower on TITANIA's eyelids 
OBERON What thou seest when thou dost wake, 
 Do it for thy true-love take, 
 Love and languish for his sake:
 Be it ounce, or cat, or bear, 30 
 Pard, or boar with bristled hair, 
 In thy eye that shall appear 
 When thou wakest, it is thy dear: 
 Wake when some vile thing is near.
LYSANDER Fair love, you faint with wandering in the wood; 
 And to speak troth, I have forgot our way: 
 We'll rest us, Hermia, if you think it good, 
 And tarry for the comfort of the day. 
HERMIA Be it so, Lysander: find you out a bed;
 For I upon this bank will rest my head. 40 
LYSANDER One turf shall serve as pillow for us both; 
 One heart, one bed, two bosoms and one troth. 
HERMIA Nay, good Lysander; for my sake, my dear, 
 Lie further off yet, do not lie so near.
LYSANDER O, take the sense, sweet, of my innocence! 
 Love takes the meaning in love's conference. 
 I mean, that my heart unto yours is knit 
 So that but one heart we can make of it; 
 Two bosoms interchained with an oath;
 So then two bosoms and a single troth. 50 
 Then by your side no bed-room me deny; 
 For lying so, Hermia, I do not lie. 
HERMIA Lysander riddles very prettily: 
 Now much beshrew my manners and my pride,
 If Hermia meant to say Lysander lied. 
 But, gentle friend, for love and courtesy 
 Lie further off; in human modesty, 
 Such separation as may well be said 
 Becomes a virtuous bachelor and a maid,
 So far be distant; and, good night, sweet friend: 60 
 Thy love ne'er alter till thy sweet life end! 
LYSANDER Amen, amen, to that fair prayer, say I; 
 And then end life when I end loyalty! 
 Here is my bed: sleep give thee all his rest!
HERMIA With half that wish the wisher's eyes be press'd! 
 They sleep. 
 Enter PUCK. 
PUCK Through the forest have I gone. 

But Athenian found I none,
 On whose eyes I might approve 
 This flower's force in stirring love.
 Night and silence.--Who is here? 70 
 Weeds of Athens he doth wear: 
 This is he, my master said, 
 Despised the Athenian maid; 
 And here the maiden, sleeping sound,
 On the dank and dirty ground. 
 Pretty soul! she durst not lie 
 Near this lack-love, this kill-courtesy. 
 Churl, upon thy eyes I throw 
 All the power this charm doth owe.
 When thou wakest, let love forbid 80 
 Sleep his seat on thy eyelid: 
 So awake when I am gone; 
 For I must now to Oberon. 
 Enter DEMETRIUS and HELENA, running. 
HELENA Stay, though thou kill me, sweet Demetrius.
DEMETRIUS I charge thee, hence, and do not haunt me thus. 
HELENA O, wilt thou darkling leave me? do not so. 
DEMETRIUS Stay, on thy peril: I alone will go. 
HELENA O, I am out of breath in this fond chase! 
 The more my prayer, the lesser is my grace.
 Happy is Hermia, wheresoe'er she lies; 90 
 For she hath blessed and attractive eyes. 
 How came her eyes so bright? Not with salt tears: 
 If so, my eyes are oftener wash'd than hers. 
 No, no, I am as ugly as a bear;
 For beasts that meet me run away for fear: 
 Therefore no marvel though Demetrius 
 Do, as a monster fly my presence thus. 
 What wicked and dissembling glass of mine 
 Made me compare with Hermia's sphery eyne?
 But who is here? Lysander! on the ground! 100 
 Dead? or asleep? I see no blood, no wound. 
 Lysander if you live, good sir, awake. 
LYSANDER Awaking. 
 Transparent Helena! Nature shows art, 
 That through thy bosom makes me see thy heart.
 Where is Demetrius? O, how fit a word 
 Is that vile name to perish on my sword! 
HELENA Do not say so, Lysander; say not so 
 What though he love your Hermia? Lord, what though? 
 Yet Hermia still loves you: then be content. 110
LYSANDER Content with Hermia! No; I do repent 
 The tedious minutes I with her have spent. 
 Not Hermia but Helena I love: 
 Who will not change a raven for a dove? 
 The will of man is by his reason sway'd;
 And reason says you are the worthier maid. 
 Things growing are not ripe until their season 
 So I, being young, till now ripe not to reason; 
 And touching now the point of human skill, 
 Reason becomes the marshal to my will 120
 And leads me to your eyes, where I o'erlook 
 Love's stories written in love's richest book. 
HELENA Wherefore was I to this keen mockery born? 
 When at your hands did I deserve this scorn? 
 Is't not enough, is't not enough, young man,
 That I did never, no, nor never can, 
 Deserve a sweet look from Demetrius' eye, 
 But you must flout my insufficiency? 
 Good troth, you do me wrong, good sooth, you do, 
 In such disdainful manner me to woo. 130
 But fare you well: perforce I must confess 
 I thought you lord of more true gentleness. 
 O, that a lady, of one man refused. 
 Should of another therefore be abused! 
LYSANDER She sees not Hermia. Hermia, sleep thou there:
 And never mayst thou come Lysander near! 
 For as a surfeit of the sweetest things 
 The deepest loathing to the stomach brings, 
 Or as tie heresies that men do leave 
 Are hated most of those they did deceive, 140
 So thou, my surfeit and my heresy, 
 Of all be hated, but the most of me! 
 And, all my powers, address your love and might 
 To honour Helen and to be her knight! 
HERMIA Awaking. 
 To pluck this crawling serpent from my breast!
 Ay me, for pity! what a dream was here! 
 Lysander, look how I do quake with fear: 
 Methought a serpent eat my heart away, 
 And you sat smiling at his cruel prey. 
 Lysander! what, removed? Lysander! lord! 151
 What, out of hearing? gone? no sound, no word? 
 Alack, where are you speak, an if you hear; 
 Speak, of all loves! I swoon almost with fear. 
 No? then I well perceive you all not nigh 
 Either death or you I'll find immediately.

Next: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 3, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 2

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

1. a roundel, a round dance; but used also for a song beginning and ending with the same words.

2. hence, go hence; the verb of motion omitted, as frequently.

3. cankers, small worms that prey upon blossoms; cp. Haml. i. 3. 89, "The canker galls the infants of the spring."

4. rere-mice, bats; the word is still used in the west of England; A.S. hrere-mus: for, in order to obtain.

7. At our quaint spirits, at our delicately-formed spirits; Titania speaks as a queen; quaint, from "O. F. coint, 'quaint, neat, fine,'... Cotgrave ... Certainly derived from Lat. cognitus known, ... though confused ... with Lat. comptus, neat, adorned." (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

8. your offices, the different duties assigned to each.

9. double, forked; cp. Temp. ii. 2. 13, "All wound with adders who with cloven tongues Do hiss me into madness"; and iii. 2. 72, below.

10. Thorny, with spines which they erect at will; cp. Haml. i. 5. 20, "Like quills upon the fretful porpentine."

11. Newts, a kind of lizard; properly an ewt, the initial n being borrowed from the indefinite article. Similarly formed words are nick-name for an eke-name, nugget formerly niggot = ningot for an ingot. Conversely an adder is properly a noedder, an auger, a nauger, an orange, a norange: blind-worms, so called from the smallness of their eyes, known also as 'slow-worms'; both again mentioned in Macb. iv. 1. 14, 16.

13. Philomel, the nightingale; in ancient mythology the daughter of King Pandion of Attica, who was metamorphosed into a nightingale.

14. Sing in ... lullaby, take part in singing our lullaby; lullaby, a song sung to soothe to rest, from the verb 'lull,' to sing to rest.

16-8. Never ... Come, may it never come; let it never come.

19. So ... lullaby, so may you sleep sweetly, accompanied by your lullaby.

21. spinners, i.e. of the spider's web; cp. R. J. i. 4. 59, "Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs," said of the chariot of Queen Mab, the fairies' midwife.

26. One ... sentinel, let one of our number stand apart as sentinel; aloof, "perhaps immediately from Du. loef, in te loef, to windward ... From the idea of keeping a ship's head to the wind, and thus clear of the lee-shore or quarter to which she might drift, came the general sense of 'steering clear of,' or 'giving a wide berth to' anything with which one might otherwise come into contact with" (Murray, Engl. Dict.).

29. languish, pine, grow weak.

30. ounce, a kind of lynx: cat, wild cat.

31. Pard, panther.

33. it is thy dear, it is the object with which you shall fall in love.

34. Wake, may you wake.

35. you faint, you have become faint; for with, used to express the juxtaposition of cause and effect, see Abb. § 193.

36. troth, a doublet of 'truth'; forgot, for the curtailed form of past participles, see Abb. § 343.

38. tarry ... day, wait for the comfort which daylight will bring with it.

39. a bed, sc. for yourself.

42. One heart ... troth, since there is but one heart between us (i.e. as we are one in heart), one bed will serve for us to lie upon; though there are two bosoms, there is but one faith between us (i.e. that which we have pledged to each other).

45. O, take ... innocence! "Understand the meaning of my innocence, or my innocent meaning. Let no suspicion of ill enter thy mind" (Johnson); take, apprehend; cp. v. 1. 90, below.

46. Love ... conference, in talk between those who love, love catches the meaning intended by love; where two mutually love, each readily understands the thoughts of the other without the need of gloss or commentary on the words used.

47. knit, for the omission of -ed in the participle of verbs ending in -te, -t and -d, see Abb. § 342.

48. So that ... it, so that, as I said (1. 43), we can make but one heart out of the two; it, used indefinitely, the circumstance, the fact.

49. interchained, linked each to the other.

52. For lying ... lie, for in lying by your side, I am guilty of no treachery; with a pun on the two senses of lie.

54, 5. Now much ... lied, a mischief upon my bad manners and my pride if in the words I used I meant to imply that Lysander was false; i.e. I am not so ill-mannered and arrogant as to mean by what I said that Lysander was false; beshrew, literally 'curse,' used as a gentle, sometimes very gentle, imprecation; e.g. M. V. iii. 2. 14, "Beshrew your eyes, They have o'erlook'd and divided me"; said by Portia in loving reproach to Bassanio.

56. for, for the sake of; out of.

57-60. in human ... distant, for the sake of that modesty which men and women should observe, remain at such a distance from me as may justly be said to be suitable to a virtuous bachelor and a maid. There seems to be a confusion of constructions between 'let there be such a distance between us as may be justly said is becoming between a virtuous,' etc., and 'be so far distant from me as it may be justly said is becoming between,' etc. Delius takes in human modesty with as may well be said.

62. Amen, so be it; commonly placed at the end of a prayer.

63. end life, may life end.

64. all his rest, all the peace he has in his gift.

65. With half ... press'd! Nay, answers Hermia, may half of his peace be yours!

68. approve, make trial of; prove; as frequently in Shakespeare.

69. stirring, exciting.

71. Weeds, see note on ii. 1. 256.

73. Despised, who despised; for the omission of the relative, see Abb. § 244.

74. sound, soundly.

75. dank, damp; Skeat (Ety. Dict.) remarks, "It is commonly assumed that dank is another form of damp, but, being of Scandinavian origin, it is rather to be associated with Swed. dagg, dew ... and indeed it seems to be nothing else than a nasalized form of the prov. Eng. dag, dew."

76. durst, preterite of dare which, in the sense of challenge, forms another preterite dared.

77. this lack-love, this churlish fellow so wanting in love towards her who loves him; accent on the first syllable: this kill-courtesy, this boor who murders courtesy, is utterly Without good manners. To mend the metre, Walker would read 'nearer' For Near, making the line one of ten syllables; Theobald gives "Near to this kill-courtesy."

78. Churl, literally 'a countryman,' and hence one with rustic, rough, manners.

79. owe, possess; the final -n of owen being dropped.

80, 1. let love ... eyelid, may love banish sleep from your eyes; cp. Macb, i. 3. 19, 20, "Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his pent-house lid."

82. So wake ...gone, I leave you to wake after I have gone with this result (i.e. of your not being able to find sleep again).

86. darkling, in the dark; cp. Lear, i. 4. 237, "So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling." "There were some adverbs in O. E., originally dative feminine singular, ending in -inga, -unga, linga, -lunga. A feww of these, without the dative suffix, exist under the form -ling or -long as headlong (O. E. heed-linge), sideling, sidelong, darkling (darklong), flating, and flatlong" (Morris, Hist. Outl. p. 194).

87. on thy peril, at thy peril, as we should now say; i.e. at the risk, if you follow me, of being ill-used by me: I alone will go, I am determined to go unaccompanied by you.

88. fond, foolish; the radical sense of the word.

89. the lesser ... grace, the less is the favour, kindness, I meet with at your hands; the, the ablative of the demonstrative.

91. blessed and attractive, happy in being able to attract to her those she wishes to attract.

92. How came ... bright? What is it that has made her eyes, etc.

93. If so ... hers, for, in that case, mine would be brighter than hers, seeing that they are oftener washed with such tears.

96. no marvel, it is no wonder.

97. Do, subjunctive: as a monster, as that of a monster.

98, 9. What wicked ... eyne? how could any mirror be so wickedly treacherous as to make me think my eyes rivalled the star-like orbs of Hermia? compare with, make comparison between her eyes and mine, and assume an equality in brightness; for this intransitive use, cp. Haml. v. 2. 146, "I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with him in excellence"; for eyne, see note on i. 1. 242.

103. And run, I do so and will run.

104. Transparent, though indicating also the brilliancy of her beauty, refers especially to the transparency of her nature which enables him to see her heart through her bosom; Nature and Art are usually contrasted, but here Nature employs Art. With Dyce, Delius, etc., I have followed the later folios in reading Nature here shows, the quartos giving 'Nature shewes.'

106, 7. O, how ... sword! i.e. how well does the bearer of that vile name deserve to perish at my hands! Cp. above, ii. 1. 190.

109. What though, even though he loves your Hermia, that does not matter; that is not sufficient reason for you to wish to kill him.

110. be content, be calm, do not be in such a passion; a frequent use of the expression in Shakespeare.

111. Content with Hermia! Lysander takes Helena's content in the sense of 'satisfied with.'

112. tedious minutes, minutes which once seemed to fly so swiftly because delightful, but which now seem a mere tedious waste of time.

118. So I ... reason, so I, being but young when I loved Hermia, only now ripen to reason, only now have acquired mature reason; for ripe, as a verb, cp. A. Y. L. ii. 7. 26, "And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe".

119, 20. And touching ... will, and reason having now attained its highest point of sagacity, having reached its fullest maturity, guides my will in the way it should go; for skill, = sagacity, mental power, cp. M. M. iv. 2. 164, "if I read it not truly, my ancient skill beguiles me"; for marshal, cp. Haml, iii. 4. 205, "they must sweep my way And marshal me to knavery."

121. o'erlook, read over, peruse; cp. Lear, v. 1. 50, "I will o'erlook thy paper."

122. love's richest book, sc, her eyes; cp. R. J. i. 4. 85, 6, "And what obscured in this fair volume lies Find written in the margent of his eyes."

123. Wherefore ... born? Why should I have been born to endure such bitter irony? i.e. I have done nothing myself to deserve it.

124. at your hands, from you.

127. Deserve, win by any attractions of mine; be thought really worthy of.

128. But you ... insufficiency, but that you should think it necessary, without your thinking it necessary, to jeer at my want of power to win such a favour.

129. Good troth ... good sooth, in very truth.

130. In such ... woo, to make a mock of seeking my love in these ironical terms of praise.

131. perforce, of necessity.

132. lord of, master of, possessed of; gentleness, gentlemanly feeling, manly kindness.

134. therefore be abused, on that account be insulted.

139. do leave, abjure.

140. of those, by those: deceive, lead astray.

141. my surfeit ... heresy, of whose love I have tasted to excess; and belief in whose excellence I now cast away.

142. be, subjunctive used optatively; the most of me, by me more than any one.

143. And, all ... might, and let all the faculties I possess bend their most loving and mightiest efforts: address, make ready; ultimately from Lat. directus, straight.

144. be her knight, swear yourself to her service and honour; as knights swore themselves to the service and honour of their lady-loves.

147. Ay me, alas for me! for pity, how piteous is my case!

149. Methought, for the abundance of impersonal verbs in Early and Elizabethan English, see Abb. § 297: away, completely; used as an intensive.

150. his cruel prey, the cruel prey he was making of me; his cruelty in preying upon me; prey, the act, not the object; cp. H. V. i. 2. 169, "For once the eagle England being in prey."

151. removed? have you moved away?

152. out of hearing? have you gone so far from me that you cannot hear my cries?

153. Alack, probably, according to Skeat, a corruption of M. E. Ah! lak!, i.e. ah, a loss! an if, for this reduplication, see Abb. § 103.

154. of all loves, in the name of everything that has to do with love: for this adjuration, cp. M. W. ii. 2. 119, "Mistress Page would desire you to send her your little page, of all loves."

156. Either, metrically a monosyllable.


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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