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By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.
We'll none of that: that have I told my love,
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.

The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.
That is an old device; and it was play'd
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of learning, late deceas'd in beggary.
That is some satire, keen, and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.

A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus,
And his love Thisbe: very tragical mirth.
Merry and tragical! Tedious and brief!
That is, hot ice, and wonderous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?
Philost. A play there is, my lord, some ten words

Which is as brief as I have known a play;
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long;
Which makes it tedious: for in all the play
There is not one word apt, one player fitted.
And tragical, my noble lord, it is ;
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
Which, when I saw rehears'd, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed.

The. What are they that do play it?
Philost. Hard-handed men, that work in Athens

Which never labour'd in their minds till now;
And now have toil'd their unbreath'd' memories
With this same play, against your nuptial.

The. And we will hear it.


No, my noble lord, It is not for you: I have heard it over, And it is nothing, nothing in the world: Unless you can find sport in their intents, Extremely stretch'd, and conn'd with cruel pain, To do you service.


I will hear that play;

1 Steevens thought, that by abridgment was meant a dramatic performance which crowds the events of years into a few hours. Surely the context seems to require a different explanation; an abridgment appears to mean some pastime to shorten the tedious evening. 2 Short account.

3 This may be an allusion to Spenser's poem: The Tears of the Muses on the Neglect and Contempt of Learning;' first printed in 1591.

4 It is thought that Shakspeare alludes here to certain good hearted men of Coventry,' who petitioned that they mought renew their old storial shew' before the Queen at Kenilworth: where the poet himself may have been prosent, as he was then twelve years old. 5 i. e. unexercised, unpractised,

For never any thing can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go, bring them în ;—and take your places, ladits.
Hip. I love not to see wretchedness o'ercharg'd,
And duty in his service perishing.

The. Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such

Hip. He says they can do nothing in this kind.
The. The kinder we, to give them thanks for no

Our sport shall be, to take what they mistake:
And what poor duty cannot do,

Noble respect takes it in might, not merit."
Where I have come, great clerks have purposed
To greet me with premeditated welcomes;
Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
Make periods in the midst of sentences,
Throttle their practis'd accent in their fears,
And, in conclusion, dumbly have broke off,
Not paying me a welcome: Trust me, sweet,
Out of this silence, yet, I pick'd a welcome;
And in the modesty of fearful duty

I read as much, as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity,
In least speak most, to my capacity.

Philost. So please your grace, the prologue is
The. Let him approach.

[Flourish of trumpets.

Enter Prologue.

Prol. If we offend, it is with our good will.
you should think we come not to offend,
But with good-will. To shew our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
Consider then, we come but in despite.

We do not come as minding to content you,
Our true intent is. All for your delight,

We are not here. That you should here repent you. The actors are at hand: and, by their show, You shall know all, that you are like to know.

The. This fellow doth not stand upon points. Lys. He hath rid his prologue, like a rough colt, he knows not the stop. A good moral, my lord: It is not enough to speak, but to speak true.

Hip. Indeed he hath played on this prologue like a child on a recorder; 10 a sound, but not in government.11.

The. His speech was like a tangled chain; nothing impaired, but all disordered. Who is next? Enter PYRAMUS and THISBE, Wall, Moonshine, and Lion, as in dumb show.

Prol. "Gentles, perchance, you wonder at this show;

"But wonder on, till truth make all things plain. "This man is Pyramus, if you would know; "This beauteous lady Thisby is, certain. "This man, with lime and rough-cast doth present "Wall, that vile wall which did these lovers sun


"And through wall's chink, poor souls, they are


"To whisper; at the which let no man wonder. "This man, with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn,

"Presenteth moon-shine; for, if you will know, "By moon-shine did these lovers think no scorn

6 Intents may be put for the object of their attention. To intend and to attend were anciently synonymous. 7 The sense of this passage appears to be:-"What dutifulness tries to perform without ability, regardful ge nerosity receives with complacency; estimating it, not by the actual merit, but according to the power or might of the humble but zealous performers."

8 Ready.

9 Anciently the prologue entered after the third sounding of the trumpets, or, as we should now say, after the third music.

10 A kind of flageolet. To record anciently signified to modulate; perhaps the name arose from birds being taught to record by it.

11 i. e. not regularly, according to the time.

"To meet at Ninus' tomb, there, there to woo. "This grisly beast, which by name lion hight,' "The trusty Thisby, coming first by night, "Did scare away, or rather did affright; "And, as she fled, her mantle she did fall; "Which lion vile with bloody mouth did stain: "Anon comes Pyramus, swee youth, and tall, "And finds his trusty Thisby's mantle slain: "Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade, "He bravely broach'd his boiling bloody breast; "And, Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade,

"His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest, "Let lion, moon-shine, wall, and lovers twain, "At large discourse, while here they do remain." [Exeunt Prol. THISBE, Lion, and Moonshine. The. I wonder, if the lion be to speak. Dem. No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when

many asses do.

Wall. "In this same interlude, it doth befall, "That I, one Snout by name, present a wall: "And such a wall, as I would have you think, "That had in it a cranny'd hole, or chink, "Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby, "Did whisper often very secretly.

"This loam, this rough-cast, and this stone, doth show

"That I am that same wall; the truth is so: "And this the cranny is, right and sinister, "Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper." The. Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?

Dem. It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.

The. Pyramus draws near the wall: silence!

Pyr. "O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black;

"O night, which over art, when day is not! "O night, O night, alack, alack, alack,

"I fear my Thisby's promise is forgot!"And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall, "That stand'st between her father's ground and


"Thou wall, O wall, O sweet, and lovely wall, "Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine [Wall holds up his Fingers. "Thanks, courteous wall: Jove shield thee well for this!


"But what see I? No Thisby do I see. "O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss: "Curst be thy stones for thus deceiving me!" The. The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again.

Pyr. No, in truth, sir, he should not. Deceiving e, Is Thisby's cue: she is to enter now, and I am to spy her through the wall. You shall see, it will fall pat as I told you :-Yonder she comes.

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This. "I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all." Pyr. "Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straightway?"

This. "Tide life, tide death, I come without delay."

Wall. "Thus have I, wall, my part discharged so; "And, being done, thus wall away doth go.'

[Exeunt Wall, PYRAMUS, and THISBE. The. Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.

Dem. No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to hear without warning. 3

Hip. This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard. The. The best in this kind are but shadows: and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them. Hip. It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.

The. If we imagine no worse of them, than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here come two noble beasts in, a moon and a lion. Enter Lion and Moonshine.

Lion. "You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear

"The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,

"May now, perchance, both quake and tremble here,

Then know, that I, one Snug the joiner, am "When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar. No lion fell, nor else no lion's dam:

"For if I should as lion come in strife "Into this place, 'twere pity on my life." The. A very gentle beast, and of a good con


Dem. The very best at a beast, my lord, that e' I saw.

Lys. This lion is a very fox for his valour. The. True; and a goose for his discretion. Dem. Not so, my lord: for his valour cannot carry his discretion; and the fox carries the goose.

The. His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valour; for the goose carries not the fox. It is well: leave it to his discretion, and let us listen to the moon.

Moon. "This lantern doth the horned moon pre


Dem. He should have worn the horns on his head. The. He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible within the circumference.

Moon. "This lantern doth the horned moon present:

"Myself the man i'the'moon do seem to be."

The. This is the greatest error of all the rest: the man should be put into the lantern: How is it else the man i'the moon?

Dem. He dares not come there for the candle; for, you see, it is already in snuff.

Hip. I am aweary of this moon: Would he would change!

The. It appears, by his small light of discretion, that he is in the wane: but yet, in courtesy, in all reason, we must stay the time.

Lys. Proceed, moon.

Moon. All that I have to say, is, to tell you, that the lantern is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this thorn bush, my thorn bush; and this dog my dog.

Dem. Why, all these should be in the lantern; for they are in the moon. But silence; here comes



This. "This is old Ninny's tomb: Where is my love?" Lion. "Oh."

[The Lion roars.-THISBE runs off. down, were it to exercise this faculty without previous warning.

4 The old copies read, a man, &c. The emendation is by Theobald.

5 An equivoque. Snuff signifies both the cinder of a candle and hasty anger,

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"I thank thee, moon, for shining now so bright. "For, by thy gracious, golden, glittering streams, "I trust to taste of truest Thisby's sight.

"But stay;-O spite!
"But mark;-Poor knight,
"What dreadful dole is here!
"Eyes do you see?
"How can it be?

"O dainty duck! O dear!
"Thy mantle good,

"What, stain'd with blood?
"Approach, ye furies fell!
"Ofates! come, come;2
"Cut thread and thrum;3

"Quail, crush, conclude, and quell !"4 The. This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would go near to make a man look sad.

Hip. Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
Pyr. "O, wherefore, nature, didst thou lions

"Since lion vile hath here deflour'd my dear: "Which is no, no-which was the fairest dame, "That liv'd, that lov'd, that lik'd, that look'd

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Hip. Methinks, she should not use a long one, for such a Pyramus: I hope, she will be brief. Dem. A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus, which Thisbe, is the better.

Lys. She hath spied him already with those sweet eyes.

Dem. And thus she moans," videlicet. This. "Asleep, my love? "What, dead, my dove? "O Pyramus, arise, "Speak, speak.

Quite dumb?

"Dead, dead? A tomb "Must cover thy sweet eyes. "These lily brows," "This cherry nose, "These yellow cowslip cheeks, "Are gone, are gone: "Lovers, make moan! "His eyes were green as leeks. "O sisters three,

"Come, come, to me, "With hands as pale as milk; "Lay them in gore, "Since you have shore

"With shears his thread of silk.

"Tongue, not a word :

"Come, trusty sword;

"Come, blade, my breast imbrue :

"And farewell, friends;

"Thus Thisby ends:

"Adieu, adieu, adieu."


The. Moonshine and lion are left to bury the dead Dem. Ay, and wall too.

Bot. No, I assure you; the wall is down that parted their fathers. Will it please you to see the epilogue, or to hear a Burgomask dance, between two of our company?


The. No epilogue, I pray you: for your play needs no excuse. Never excuse; for when the players are all dead, there need none to be blamed. Marry, if he that writ it, had play'd Pyramus, and hanged himself with Thisbe's garter, it would have been a fine tragedy: and so it is, truly; and very notably discharged. But come, your Bergomask: let your epilogue alone. [Here a dance of Clowns. The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.

I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn,
As much as we this night have overwatch'd.
This palpable-gross play hath well beguil'd
The heavy gait of night.-Sweet friends, to bed.
A fortnight hold we this solemnity
In nightly revels, and new jollity.

Puck. Now the hungry lion roars,

And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task fordone."
Now the wasted brands do glow,


Whilst the scritch-owl, scritching loud, Puts the wretch that lies in woe,

In remembrance of a shroud.
Now it is the time of night,

That the graves all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide:
And we fairies, that do run,

By the triple Hecat's team,
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic; not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:

1 To mouse, according to Malone, signified to mam-You shall taste him more as a soldier than as a wit, mock, to tear in pieces, as a cat tears a mouse.

2 Dr. Farmer thought this was written in ridicule of a passage in Damon and Pythias, by Richard Edwards,


Ye furies, all at once

On me your torments tire.
Gripe me, you greedy griefs

And present pangues of death;
You sisters three, with cruel hands,
With speed come stop my breath."

3 Thrum is the end or extremity of a weaver's warp.
It is used for any collection or tuft of short thread.
4 Destroy.
5 Countenance.
6 The character of Theseus throughout this play is
more exalted in its humanity than in its greatness.
Though some sensible observations on life and anima-
ted descriptions fall from him, as it is said of lago,|

which is a distinction he is here striving to deserve, though with little success; as in support of his pretensions he never rises higher than a pun, and frequently sinks as low as a quibble.

7 The old copies read means, which had anciently the same signification as moans. Theobald made the alteration.

8 The old copies read lips instead of brows. The alteration was made for the sake of the rhyme by Theo


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I am sent, with broom, before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.1

Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train.
Obe. Through this house give glimmering light,2
By the dead and drowsy fire:
Every elf, and fairy sprite,

Hop as light as bird from brier;
And this ditty after me,
Sing and dance it trippingly.

Tita. First, rehearse this song by rote:
To each word a warbling note,
Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.


Obe. Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be ;3
And the issue, there create,
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be:
And the blots of nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand;
Never mole, hare-lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,



Shall their children be.-
With this field-dew consecrate,
Every fairy take his gate;5

And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace with sweet peace:
E'er shall it in safety rest,

And the owner of it blest.

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Trip away;

Make no stay;

Meet me all by break of day.

Puck. If we shadows have offended,

[Exeunt ORERON, TITANIA, and Train.

Think but this (and all is mended,)
That you have but slumber'd here,
While these visions did appear,
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I'm an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck,"
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,3
We will make amends, ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call.

So, good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.


WILD and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great. JOHNSON.

JOHNSON'S concluding observations on this play are not conceived with his usual judgment. There is no analogy or resemblance between the Fairies of Spenser and those of Shakspeare. The Fairies of Spenser, as appears from his description of them in the second book of the Faerie Queene, canto x. were a race of mortals created by Prometheus, of the human size, shape, and affections, and subject to death. But those of Shakspeare, and of common tradition, as Johnson calls them, were a diminutive race of sportful beings, totally different from those of Spenser. M. MASON. endowed with immortality and supernatural powers, married couple would no doubt rejoice when the benediction was ended,

4 Portentous.

5 Way, course.

in Chaucer's Millere's Tale, vol. i. p. 105, 1. 22. Whit6 The same superstitious kind of benediction occurs tingham's Edit.

7 i. e. if we have better fortune than we have deserved. Si. e. hisses.

9 Clap your hands, give us your applause.



THE novel upon which this comedy was founded has hitherto eluded the research of the commentators. Mr. Nathaniel the curate, and Holofernes, that prince of peThe grotesque characters, Don Adrian de Armado, Douce thinks it will prove to be of French extraction. dants, with the humours of Costard the clown, are well The Dramatis Personæ in a great measure demons-contrasted with the sprightly wit of the principal chatrate this, as well as a palpable Gallicism in Act iv. Sc. racters in the play. It has been observed that 'Biron 1: viz. the terming a letter a capon.' and Rosaline suffer much in comparison with Benedick This is one of Shakspeare's early plays, and the and Beatrice, and it must be confessed that there is author's youth is certainly perceivable, not only in the some justice in the observation. Yet Biron, that merry style and manner of the versification, but in the lavish mad-cap Lord,' is not overrated in Rosaline's admirasuperfluity displayed in the execution: the uninterrupt- ble character of himed succession of quibbles, equivoques, and sallies of A merrier man, every description. The sparks of wit fly about in Within the limit of becoming mirth, such profusion that they form complete fireworks, and the dialogue for the most part resembles the bustling I never spent an hour's talk withal: sion and banter of passing masks at a carnival.'* His eye begets occasion for his wit; The scene in which the king and his companions detect For every object that the one doth catch, each other's breach of their mutual vow, is capitally The other turns to a mirth-moving jest ;So sweet and voluble is his discourse.' Corived. The discovery of Biron's love-letter while Shakspeare has only shown the inexhaustible powers rallying his friends, and the manner in which he extri- of his mind in improving on the admirable originals of cates himself, by ridiculing the folly of the vow, are his own creation in a more mature age. admirable.

* Schlegel.

Malone placed the composition of this play first in 1591, afterwards in 1594. Dr. Drake thinks we may safely assign it to the earlier period. The first edition was printed in 1598.

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Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring time,
The endeavour of this present breath may buy
That honour, which shall bate his scythe's keen edge,
And make us heirs of all eternity.

Therefore, brave conquerors!-for so you are,
That war against your own affections,
And the huge army of the world's desires,-
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years' term to live with me,
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes,
That are recorded in this schedule here:
Your oaths are past, and now subscribe your names;
That his own hand may strike his honour down,
That violates the smallest branch herein:
If you are arm'd to do, as sworn to do,
Subscribe to your deep oath, and keep it too.
Long. I am resolv'd: 'tis but a three years' fast;
The mind shall banquet, though the body pine:
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bank'rout quite the wits.
Dum. My loving lord, Dumain is mortified;
The grosser manner of these world's delights
He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves:
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die;
With all these living in philosophy.

Biron. I can but say their protestation over,
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, To live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances:
As, not to see a woman in that term;
Which, I hope well, is not enrolled there:
And, one day in a week to touch no food;
And but one meal on every day beside;
The which, I hope, is not enrolled there:
And then, to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be scen to wink of all the day;
(When I was wont to think no harm all night,
And make a dark night too of half the day ;)
Which, I hope well, is not enrolled there:
O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep;
Not to see ladies-study-fast-not sleep.

1 Beroune in all the old editions.

King. Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these.

I only swore, to study with your grace,
Biron. Let me say no, my liege, an if you please;
And stay here in your court for three years' space.

Lmg. You swore to that, Biron, and to the rest. Biron. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest. What is the end of study? let me know.

King. Why, that to know, which else we should not know.

Biron. Things hid and barr'd, you mean, from

common sense?

King. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense. Biron. Come on then, I will swear to study so To know the thing I am forbid to know: As thus-To study where I well may dine,

When I to feast expressly am forbid; Or, study where to meet some mistress fine, When mistresses from common sense are hid: Or, having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath, Study to break it, and not break my troth. If study's gain be thus, and this be so, Study knows that, which yet it doth not know: Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say, no.

King. These be the stops that hinder study quite, And train our intellects to vain delight.

Biron. Why, all delights are vain; but that most


Which, with pain purchas'd, doth inherit pain: As, painfully to pore upon a book,

To seek the light of truth: while truth the while Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:

Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile: So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. Study me how to please the eye indeed,

By fixing it upon a fairer eye; Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed, And give him light that it was blinded by. Study is like the heaven's glorious sun, That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks; Small have continual plodders ever won, Save base authority from others' books. These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights, That give a name to every fixed star, Have no more profit of their shining nights

Than those that walk, and wot not what they are. Too much to know, is, to know nought but fame; And every godfather can give a name.

King. How well he's read, to reason against reading!

Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!

5 The meaning is; that when he dazzles, that is, has

21. e. with all these companions. He may be sup- his eye made weak, by fixing his eye upon a later ye posed to point to the king, Biron, &c.

3 Dishonestly, treacherously.

4 The whole sense of this gingling declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read him self blind.

that fairer eye shall be his heed or guide, his lode-stat and give hom light that was blinded by it.

6 That is, too much knowledge gives no real olur") of doubts, but merely fame, or a name, a thing whea every godfather can give.

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