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Her. Take comfort; he no more shall see my face;
Lysander and myself will fly this place.-
O then, what graces in my love do dwell,
Lys. Helen, to you our minds we will unfold:
Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Quin. Is all our company here?
Quin. Here is the scroll of every man's name, which is thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude before the duke and duchess, on his wedding-day at night.
Bot. First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on; then read the names of the actors; and so grow to a point.
Quin. Marry, our play is-The most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby.
Bot. A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry.-Now, good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the scroll: Masters, spread yourselves.
Quin. Answer, as I call you.--Nick Bottom, the weaver.
Bot. Ready: Name what part I am for, and proceed.
Quin. You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Py
Bot. What is Pyramus? a lover, or a tyrant? Quin. A lover, that kills himself most gallantly for love.
Bot. That will ask some tears in the true performing of it: If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes; I will move storms, I will condole in some measure. To the rest :-Yet my chief humour is for a tyrant: I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in, to make all split. "The raging rocks, With shivering shocks, Shall break the locks Of prison gates: And Phibbus' ear Shall shine from far,
And make and mar
The foolish fates."
This was lofty!-Now name the rest of the players. -This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein; a lover is more condoling.
Quin. Francis Flute, the bellows-mender.
Quin. You must take Thisby on you.
Flu. What is Thisby? a wandering knight? Quin. It is the lady that Pyramus must love. Flu. Nay, faith, let me not play a woman; I have a beard coming.
Quin. That's all one; you shall play it in a mask, and you may speak as small as you will.
Bot. An I may hide my face, let me play Thisby too: I'll speak in a monstrous little voice ;-Thisne, Thisne-Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear; thy Thisby dear! and lady dear!
Quin. No, no; you must play Pyramus; and, Flute, you Thisby.
Bot. Well, proceed.
Quin. Robin Starveling, the tailor.
Star. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. Robin Starveling, you must play Thisby's mother. Tom Snout, the tinker.
Snout. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. You, Pyramus's father; myself, Thisby's father;-Snug, the joiner, you, the lion's part:and, I hope, here is a play fitted.
Snug. Have you the lion's part written? pray you, if it be, give it me, for I am slow of study. Quin. You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring.
Bot. Let me play the lion too: I will roar, that I will do any man's heart good to hear me; I will
Bot. You were best to call them generally, man exclude his inferiors from all possibility of distinction. by man, according to the scrip.
2 Eyes. 3 In this scene Shakspeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the theatre, to ridicule the prejudices and competitions of the players. Bottom, who is generally acknowledged the principal actor, declares his inclina. tion to be for a tyrant, for a part of fury, tumult, and noise, such as every young man pants to perform when he first appears upon the stage. The same Bottom, who seems bred in a tiring-room, has another histrionical passion. He is for engrossing every part, and would
He is therefore desirous to play Pyramus, Thisbe, and the Lion, at the same time.
4 Probably a burlesque upon the titles of some of our old Dramas.
5 This passage shows how the want of women on the old stage was supplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pass for feminine, the character was acted in a mask, which was at that time a part of a lady's dress, and so much in use that it did not give any unusual appearance to the scene; and he that could modulate his voice to a female tone might play the woman very successfully.
roar, that I will make the duke say, Let him roar again, Let him roar again.
Quin. An you should do it too terribly, you would fright the duchess and the ladies, that they would shriek; and that were enough to hang us all.
All. That would hang us every mother's son. Bot. I grant you, friends, if that you should fright the ladies out of their wits, they would have. no more discretion but to hang us: but I will aggravate my voice so, that I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you an' 'twere any nightingale.
Quin. You can play no part but Pyramus: for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man; a proper man, as one shall see in a summer's day; a most lovely, gentleman-like man; therefore you must needs play Pyramus.
Bot. Well, I will undertake it. What beard were I best to play it in?
Quin. Why, what you will.
Bot. I will discharge it in either your straw-coloured beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-colour beard, your perfect yellow.2
Quin. Some of your French crowns have no hair at all, and then you will play bare-faced. But, masters, here are your parts: and I am to entreat you, request you, and desire you, to con them by to-morrow night; and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moon-light; there will we rehearse for if we meet in the city, we shall be dogg'd with company, and our devices known. In the mean time I will draw a bill of properties,4 such as our play wants. I pray you, fail me not. Bot. We will meet; and there we may rehearse more obscenely, and courageously. Take pains; be perfect, adieu.
Quin. At the duke's oak we meet.
In their gold coats spots you see;
Take heed the queen come not within his sight.
And now they never meet in grove, or green,
Fai. Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite,
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
SCENE I. A Wood near Athens. Enter a Fairy And on her wither'd dew-lap pour the ale.
at one door; and Рuck at another.
Puck. How now, spirit! whither wander you? Fai. Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough briar," Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire.
I do wander every where,
To dew her orbs' upon the green:
1 As if.
2 It seems to have been a custom to stain or dye the beard.
3 This allusion to the Corona Veneris, or baldness attendant upon a particular stage of, what was then termed, the French disease, is too frequent in Shakspeare, and is here explained once for all.
4 Articles required in performing a play. 5 To meet whether bowstrings hold or are cut is to meet in all events. But the origin of the phrase has not been satisfactorily explained.
6 So Drayton, in his Nymphidia, or Court of Fairy: "Thorough brake, thorough briar, Thorough muck, thorough mire, Thorough water, thorough fire.
7 The orbs here mentioned are those circles in the herbage commonly called fairy-rings, the cause of which is not yet certainly known.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Fai. And here my mistress :-'Would that he were gone!
13 Quarrel, For the probable cause of the use of square for quarrel, see Mr. Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 182.
14 A quern was a handmill.
15 And if that the bowle of curds and creame were not duly set out for Robin Goodfellow, the frier, and Sisse the dairy-maid, why then either the pottage was burnt next day in the pot, or the cheeses would not curdle, or the butter would not come, or the ale in the fat never would have good head. But if a Peeterpenny, or an housle-egg were behind, or a patch of tythe unpaid, then ware of bull-beggars, spirits,' &c. 16 Milton refers to these traditions in L'Allegro. 17 Wild apple.
18 Dr. Johnson thought he remembered to have heard this ludicrous exclamation upon a person's seat slipping 8 The allusion is to Elizabeth's band of gentlemen from under him. He that slips from his chair falls as a pensioners, who were chosen from among the hand-tailor squats upon his board. Hanmer thought the pas somest and tallest young men of family and fortune; they were dressed in habits richly garnished with gold
9 In the old comedy of Doctor Dodypoll, 1600, an enchanter says,
'Twas I that led you through the painted meads Where the light fairies danc'd upon the flowers, Hanging on every leaf an orient pearl.'
10 Lubber or clown. Lob, lobcock, looby, and lubber, all denote inactivity of body and dulness of mind.
sage corrupt, and proposed to read rails or cries."
19 The old copy reads: And waren in their mirth, &c. Though a gliminering of sense may be extracted from this passage as it stands in the old copy, it seems most probable that we should read, as Dr. Farmer proposed, yexen. To yer is to hiccup, and is so explained in all the old dictionaries. The meaning of the passage will then be, that the objects of Puck's waggery laughed till their laughter ended in a yer or hiccup. Puck is speaking with an affectation of ancient phraseology.
SCENE II. Enter OBERON, at one door, with his | And on old Hyems' chin, and icy crown,
Train, and TITANIA, at another, with hers.
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Obe. Tarry, rash wanton: Am not I thy lord?
By their increase, 12 now knows not which is which:
Obe. Do you amend it then; it lies in you:
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering
From Perigenia, whom he ravished?
And make him with fair Ægle break his faith,
Tito. These are the forgeries of jealousy:
I The shepherd boys of Chaucer's time had
And pipes made of grene corne,
Set your heart at rest,
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side
Would imitate; and sail upon the land,
Obe. How long within this wood intend you stay?
Obe. Give me that boy, and I will go with thee.
[Exeunt TITANIA and her Train. Obe. Well, go thy way: thou shalt not from this
2 See the Life of Theseus in North's Translation of Plutarch. Egle, Ariadne, and Antiopa were all at dif- Forladen with the isycles, that dangled up and downe, ferent times mistresses to Theseus. The name of Pe-Upon his gray and hourie beard, and snowie frozen rigune is translated by North Perigouna.
3 Spring seems to be here used for beginning. The spring of day is used for the dawn of day in K. Henry IV. Part II.
4 A very common epithet with our old writers, to sig. rify paltry; pulting appears to have been its original orthography.
51. e. borne down the banks which contain them. 6 A rural game, played by making holes in the ground in the angles and sides of a square, and placing stones or other things upon them, according to certain rules. These figures are called nine men's morris, or merrils, because each party playing has nine men; they were generally cut upon turf, and were consequently choked up with mud in rainy seasons.
7 Human mortals is a mere pleonasm; and is neither ret in opposition to fairy mortals nor to human immortals, according to Steevens and Ritson. It is simply the language of a fairy speaking of men. See Mr. Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 185.
Theobald proposed to read their winter cheer,' 9 This singular image was probably suggested to the poet by Golding's translation of Ovid, B. ii.: And lastly quaking for the colde, stoode Winter all forlorne,
With rugged head as white as dove, and garments all
10 Autumn producing flowers unseasonably upon those of Summer.
11 The confusion of seasons here described is no more than a poetical account of the weather which happened in England about the time when the Midsummer-Night's Dream was written. The date of the piece may be determined by Churchyard's description of the same kind of weather in his 'Charitie,' 1595. Shakspeare fauci fully ascribes this distemperature of seasons to a quar. rel between the playful rulers of the fairy world; Churchyard, broken down by age and misfortunes, is seriously disposed to represent it as a judgment from the Almighty on the offences of mankind.
12 Produce. So in Shakspeare's 97th Sonnet;
14 It is well known that a compliment to Queen Elizabeth was intended in this very beautiful passage. Warburton has attempted to show, that by the mermaid in the preceding lines, Mary Queen of Scots was iotended. It is argued with his usual fanciful ingenuity, but will not bear the test of examination, and has been satisfactorily controverted. It appears to have been no uncommon practice to introduce a compliment to Elizabeth in the body of a play.
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
Fetch me that flower: the herb I show'd thee once:
And ere I take this charm off from her sight
Enter DEMETRIUS, HELENA following him.
Dem. Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair? Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth Tell you-I do not, nor I cannot love you? Hel. And even for that do I love you
I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
What worser place can I beg in your love,
Than to be used as you
do your dog?
Then how can it be said, I am alone,
And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
Hel. The wildest hath not such a heart as you. Run when you will, the story shall be chang'd; 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.
Dem. 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.
Hel. Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field, You do me mischief. Fye, Demetrius ! Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex 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.
[Exeunt DEM. and HEL. Obe. Fare thee well, nymph: ere he do leave
Thou shalt fly him, and he shall seek thy love.
Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer. Puck. Ay, there it is.
With a disdainful youth: anoint his eyes;
SCENE III. Another part of the Wood. Ente
Tita. Come, now a roundel, and a fairy song;
Dem. Tempt not too much the hatred of my Then, for the third part of a minute, hence;
For I am sick, when I do look on thee.
Hel. And I am sick, when I look not on you.
Hel. Your virtue is my privilege for that.
1 Exempt from the power of love.
2 The tricolored violet, commonly called pansies, or heartsease, is here meant; one or two of its petals are of a purple colour. It has other fanciful and expressive names, such as-Cuddle me to you; Three faces under a hood; Herb trinity, &c.
Some, to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds; Some, war with rear-mice1o for their leathern wings To make my small elves coats; and some, kee
8 Steevens thinks this rhyme of man and on a sui cient proof that the broad Scotch pronunciation en prevailed in England. But our ancient poets were particular in making their rhymes correspond in soun and I very much doubt a conclusion made upon su slender grounds.
9 The roundel, or round, as its name implies, was dance of a circular kind. 11 Sports 12 Efts.
so, my eyes are oftener wash'd than hers.
For beasts that meet me, run away for fear:
Lys. Fair love, you faint with wandering in the Dead? or asleep? I see no blood, no wound:
And to speak troth, I have forgot our way;
Her. Be it so, Lysander; find you out a bed,
Lys. One turf shall serve as pillow for us both;
Lys. O, take the sense, sweet, of my innocence ;
Her. Lysander riddles very prettily:-
Puck. Through the forest have I gone,
But Athenian found I none,
1 The small tiger, or tiger-cat.
Lysander, if you live, good sir, awake.
Hel. 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.
Lys. Content with Hermia? No: I do repent
Who will not change a raven for a dove?
Hel. Wherefore was I to this keen mockery born?
And never mayst thou come Lysander near!
5 So in Macbeth:
Sleep shall neither night nor day
6 i. e. the lesser my acceptableness, the favour I can gain.
7 The quartos have only-Nature shews art.' The first folio Nature her shews art. The second folio changes her to here. Malone thought we should read, "Nature shews her art.' 8 i. do not ripen to it.