Complete Annotated Text
The following version of A Midsummer Night's Dream is based on the text in the
1914 Oxford Edition of Shakespeare's works, edited by W. J. Craig.
text numbers the lines, including those with stage directions such
"Enter" and "Exit." The annotations (notes and definitions) within
the text of the play appear in brackets in boldfaced type.
Theseus: Duke of Athens. He
orders lavish festivities and merriment for his marriage to
queen of the Amazons, telling her "I will wed thee . . . with
with triumph and with revelling." Theseus and Hippolyta
ideal, mature love against which the immature love of the other
couples—including Oberon and Titania—is to be measured.
Hippolyta: Queen of the
Amazons, a race of women warriors, and a former battlefield foe of
Theseus. She is his wife-to-be. According to one tale in Greek
mythology, Theseus first made war on the Amazons in their homeland
the Black Sea; they, in turn, invaded Greece in the region of
In that tale, Theseus marries an Amazon queen named Antiope, who
daughter of the war god Ares (Mars).
Hermia: Strong-willed young
woman in love with Lysander. She refuses to marry Demetrius, her
father's choice for her. Her father asks Theseus to settle the
Egeus: Hermia's father.
Demetrius: Young men in
love with Hermia.
Helena: Young woman in love with Demetrius.
Philostrate: Master of the revels for Duke
Bottom: A weaver who plays Pyramus in the
Peter Quince: A carpenter who plays Thisbe's
father in the tradesmen's play. He also recites the prologue.
Snug: A joiner (cabinetmaker) who plays a
lion in the tradesmen's play.
Francis Flute: Bellows-mender who plays Thisbe in
the tradesmen's play.
Tom Snout: A tinker who plays Pyramus's father.
Starveling: Tailor who
plays Thisbe's mother.
Oberon: King of the fairies.
Titania: Queen of the fairies.
Puck (also called Robin Goodfellow):
Mischievous sprite who acts on behalf of Oberon. He can take the
of any creature or thing—hog, bear, horse, dog, and even fire.
Nedar: Father of Helena. He has no speaking
part in the play.
Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed:
Attending Their King and Queen
Theseus and Hippolyta
Text of A Midsummer Night's
Annotations by Michael J. Cummings
Act 1, Scene 1: Athens. The
palace of Theseus.
Act 1, Scene 2: Athens. A
room in Quince's house.
Act 2, Scene 1: A wood near
Act 2, Scene 2: Another part
of the wood.
Act 3, Scene 1: A wood.
Titania lying asleep.
Act 3, Scene 2: Another part
of the wood.
Act 4, Scene 1: A wood.
Lysander, Demetrius, Helena and Hermia lying asleep.
Act 4, Scene 2: Athens. A
room in Quince's house.
Act 5, Scene 1: Athens. An
apartment in the palace of Theseus.
Act 5, Scene 2: (Puck
recites a closing poem. No setting is listed.)
Athens. The Palace of THESEUS.
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, and Attendants.
THESEUS: Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial [wedding] hour
Draws on apace: four happy days bring in
Another moon [change in the shape of the moon; lunar phase] ; but O! methinks how
This old moon wanes; she lingers [continues] my desires,
in visibility after a full moon. A shadow appears over the part of
the moon not visible.]
Like to a step-dame [stepmother], or a dowager [widow with property]
Long withering out a young man’s revenue.
HIPPOLYTA: Four days will quickly steep themselves in
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow [resembling an
archery bow; crescent-shaped]
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.
THESEUS: Go, Philostrate,
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments;
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth;
Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
The pale companion [death] is not for our pomp [celebration]. [Exit
Hippolyta, I woo’d thee with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key [way, manner],
With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling.
Enter EGEUS, HERMIA, LYSANDER, and DEMETRIUS.
EGEUS: Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!
THESEUS: Thanks, good Egeus: what’s the news with
EGEUS: Full of vexation come I, with complaint
Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
Stand forth, Demetrius. My noble lord,
This man hath my consent to marry her.
Stand forth, Lysander: and, my gracious duke,
This man hath bewitch’d the bosom of my child:
Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rimes [poems],
And interchang’d love-tokens with my child;
Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung,
With feigning voice, verses of feigning love;
[With . . .
love: Egeus accuses
Lysander of feigning (disguising) his intentions toward Hermia. In
other words, Lysander is insincere—and perhaps a downright liar
lusts after Hermia but does not love her.]
And stol’n the impression of her fantasy
With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds [trinkets], conceits [fancy words],
trifles, nosegays [small bouquets of flowers], sweetmeats [candies; sweets], messengers,
Of strong prevailment in unharden’d youth;
Of strong . . .
youth: All of which appeal to innocent and inexperienced young
With cunning hast thou filch’d my
Turn’d her obedience, which is due to me,
To stubborn harshness. And, my gracious duke,
Be it so she will not here before your Grace
Consent to marry with Demetrius,
I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,
As she is mine, I may dispose of her;
Which shall be either to this gentleman,
Or to her death, according to our law
Immediately provided in that case.
THESEUS: What say you, Hermia? be advis’d, fair
To you, your father should be as a god;
One that compos’d your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted, and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it.
Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
HERMIA: So is Lysander.
THESEUS: In himself he is;
But, in this kind, wanting your father’s voice,
The other must be held the worthier.
HERMIA: I would my father look’d but with my
THESEUS: Rather your eyes must with his judgment
HERMIA: I do entreat your Grace to pardon
I know not by what power I am made bold,
Nor how it may concern my modesty
In such a presence here to plead my thoughts;
But I beseech [beg] your Grace,
that I may know
The worst that may befall me in this case,
If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
THESEUS: Either to die the death, or to abjure [renounce]
For ever the society of men.
Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;
Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
Whe’r [whether], if you yield not to your father’s
You can endure the livery [uniform; clothing; habit] of a nun,
For aye to be in shady cloister [convent] mew’d [confined; closed
To live a barren [childless] sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
Thrice blessed they that master so their blood,
To undergo such maiden pilgrimage;
But earthlier happy is the rose distill’d,
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives, and dies, in single blessedness.
[Thrice . . .
blessedness: Three times
blessed are those who have what it takes to subdue their worldly
desires in order to live the maiden life of a nun. On the other
woman who shares herself in marriage, like a rose that shares its
perfume with a passerby, enjoys an earthly happiness far greater
that of a woman who lives, matures, and dies as a virginal nun.]
HERMIA: So will I grow, so live, so die, my
Ere [before] I will yield my virgin patent [chastity] up
Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
Dominance over me]
My soul consents not to give sovereignty.
THESEUS: Take time to pause; and, by the next new
The sealing-day [wedding day] betwixt [between] my love and me
For everlasting bond of fellowship,—
Upon that day either prepare to die
For disobedience to your father’s will,
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;
Or on Diana’s altar to protest
goddess in ancient
mythology. Her Greek name was Artemis and her Roman name, Diana.
was a virgin. One of her duties was to safeguard chastity.]
For aye austerity and single life.
DEMETRIUS: Relent, sweet Hermia; and, Lysander,
Thy crazed title to my certain right.
LYSANDER: You have her father’s love,
Let me have Hermia’s: do you marry him [Hermia's father].
EGEUS: Scornful Lysander! true, he hath my
And what is mine my love shall render him;
And she is mine, and all my right of her
I do estate [pledge; give]
LYSANDER: I am, my lord, as well deriv’d as
As well possess’d; my love is more than his;
My fortunes every way as fairly rank’d
If not with vantage, as Demetrius’;
[If not . . .
Demetrius: If not greater than the fortunes of Demetrius]
And, which is more than all these boasts can be,
I am belov’d of beauteous Hermia.
Why should not I then prosecute my right?
Demetrius, I’ll avouch [affirm] it to his head [face],
Made love [wooed] to
Nedar’s daughter, Helena,
And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
Upon this spotted [blemished in virtue or reputation] and inconstant man.
THESEUS: I must confess that I have heard so
And with Demetrius thought to have spoke
But, being over-full of
My mind did lose it. But, Demetrius, come;
[I must . . .
lose it: I must confess
that I have heard rumors about Demetrius and considered speaking
about them. However, busy with other affairs, I forgot to do so.]
And come, Egeus; you shall go with me,
I have some private schooling for you both,
For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
To fit your fancies to your father’s will,
Or else the law of Athens yields you up,
Which by no means we may extenuate,
To death, or to a vow of single life.
Come, my Hippolyta: what cheer, my love?
Demetrius and Egeus, go along:
I must employ you in some business
Against our nuptial [concerning our wedding], and confer with
Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.
EGEUS: With duty and desire we follow you. [Exeunt
HIPPOLYTA, EGEUS, DEMETRIUS, and Train [attendants].
LYSANDER: How now, my love! Why is your cheek so pale?
How chance the roses there do fade so fast?
HERMIA: Belike [maybe]
for want of rain, which I could well
Beteem [pour on] them
from the tempest of mine eyes.
LYSANDER: Ay me! for aught [anything] that ever I could
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
But, either it was different in blood,—
HERMIA: O cross! too high to be enthrall’d to
[O cross . . .
low: How unfortunate! To be so high in society that you cannot
keep company with the low-born.]
LYSANDER: Or else misgraffed [mismatched] in respect of
HERMIA: O spite! too old to be engag’d to
LYSANDER: Or else it stood upon the choice of
[Or else . . .
friends: Or else parents or other supervisors chose your
companions for you.]
HERMIA: O hell! to choose love by another’s
LYSANDER: Or, if there were a sympathy in
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
Making it momentary as a sound,
[Or, if . . .
sound: Or if the young
man and woman freely chose each other, war, death, or sickness
their love, making it as brief as a sound.]
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
Brief as the lightning in the collied [darkened; black] night,
That, in a spleen [display of angry light], unfolds both heaven and
And ere [before] a man
hath power to say, ‘Behold!’
The jaws of darkness do devour it up:
So quick bright things come to confusion.
[So quick . . .
confusion: So it is that the forces of darkness can swallow the
brightness of love.]
HERMIA: If then true lovers have been ever
It stands as an edict in
[If then . . .
destiny: If then true lovers have always been defeated or
thwarted, fate must have ordained their sorry destiny.]
Then let us teach our trial patience,
Because it is a customary cross,
As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs,
Wishes and tears, poor fancy’s followers.
[Then let . . .
followers: Then let's
be patient. Patience must be as much a part of love as dreams,
wishes, and tears, which are all symptoms of love.]
LYSANDER: A good persuasion: therefore, hear me,
I have a widow aunt, a dowager
Of great revenue, and she hath no child:
From Athens is her house remote seven leagues [twenty-one miles,
or 33.79 kilometers];
And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee,
And to that place the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us. If thou lov’st me then,
Steal forth thy father’s house to-morrow night,
And in the wood, a league [three miles, or 4.82 kilometers] without the town,
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May,
There will I stay for thee.
HERMIA: My good Lysander!
I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow,
name for Eros,
the Greek god of love in ancient mythology. He made a man or woman
in love by shooting an arrow into his or her body.]
By his best arrow with the golden head,
By the simplicity of Venus’ doves,
name for Aphrodite [af
ro DYE te], the Greek goddess of love in ancient mythology. She
mother of Eros. Aphrodite was associated with the dove as a symbol
By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,
And by that fire which burn’d the Carthage
When the false Troyan under sail was seen,
[And by . .
. was seen: Allusion
to Dido, queen of Carthage in ancient mythology. Carthage was in
Africa. After she had a love affair with the Trojan (written as Troyan
in line 180) warrior Aeneas [uh NE ihs], Aeneas abandoned her.
Heartbroken, she committed suicide. As he sailed from the shores
North Africa, Aeneas could see the glow of the fire cremating
By all the vows that ever men have broke,—
In number more than ever women spoke,—
In that same place thou hast appointed me,
To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.
LYSANDER: Keep promise, love. Look, here comes
HERMIA: God speed fair Helena! Whither away? [Where are you
HELENA: Call you me fair? that fair again
Demetrius loves your fair: O happy fair!
Your eyes are lode-stars! and your tongue’s sweet
More tuneable than lark to shepherd’s ear,
When wheat is green, when hawthorn
[Call you . . .
ear: You call me beautiful, but you should not do so. It is your
beauty that Demetrius loves. Your eyes are bright stars, and your
speech is sweeter than a lark's song to a shepherd's ear when
brings forth green wheat and hawthorn buds.]
Sickness is catching: O! were favour so,
Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere [before] I go;
My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,
My tongue should catch your tongue’s sweet
Were the world mine, Demetrius being
The rest I’d give to be to you translated.
[Sickness is .
. . translated: If you
were a sickness. Hermia, I
would want to catch you. I'd like to catch your voice, your eye,
the sweet melodies that trip from your tongue. If I could have any
in the world, I would wish to be you. However, I would never give
love for Demetrius under any circumstances.]
O! teach me how you look, and with what art
You sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart.
HERMIA: I frown upon him, yet he loves me
HELENA: O! that your frowns would teach my smiles such
HERMIA: I give him curses, yet he gives me
HELENA: O! that my prayers could such affection
HERMIA: The more I hate, the more he follows
HELENA: The more I love, the more he hateth
HERMIA: His folly, Helena, is no fault of
HELENA: None, but your beauty: would that fault were
HERMIA: Take comfort: he no more shall see my
Lysander and myself will fly this place.
Before the time I did Lysander see,
Seem’d Athens as a paradise to me:
O! then, what graces in my love do dwell,
That he hath turn’d a heaven unto a hell.
LYSANDER: Helen, to you our minds we will
To-morrow night, when Phoebe [the moon] doth
Her silver visage in the wat’ry glass [body of water],
Decking with liquid pearl [moonlight] the bladed grass,—
A time that lovers’ flights doth still conceal, [a time when
shadows hide secret lovers]—
Through Athens’ gates have we devis’d to steal.
HERMIA: And in the wood, where often you and
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont [likely] to lie,
Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet [discussing our
concerns and giving each other advice],
There my Lysander and myself shall meet;
And thence from Athens turn away our eyes,
To seek new friends and stranger companies.
Farewell, sweet playfellow: pray thou for us;
And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!
Keep word, Lysander: we must starve our sight
From lovers’ food till morrow deep midnight.
[we must . . .
midnight: We must not see each till midnight tomorrow.]
LYSANDER: I will, my Hermia.—[Exit HERMIA.] Helena,
As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!
[As you . . .
on you: May Demetrius love you as much as you love him!]
HELENA: How happy some o’er other some can be! [How much happier
some can be than others!]
Through Athens I am thought as fair as she;
But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;
He will not know what all but he do know;
. . . do know:
Throughout Athens, people think I am as beautiful as Hermia. But
views of others don't mean a thing to Demetrius. The only opinion
matters to him is his own.]
And as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes,
So I, admiring of his qualities.
[As as . . .
qualities: And just as he
errs when he fixes all his attention on Hermia, I also err when I
all my attention on him.]
Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
[Things base .
. . dignity: Things
that are vile and repugnant, having no merit, can be changed by
into beautiful and dignified things.]
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.
[Love looks . .
. blind: A lover does
not see the faults in the beloved. Rather, the lover is blind to
faults of the beloved.]
Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgment taste;
and no eyes figure unheedy
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguil’d.
[Nor hath . . .
beguil'd: Nor does a
lover have experience in good judgment. He is like the god of
Cupid, who soars with his wings but lacks the insight to make wise
As waggish [joking; impish]
boys in game themselves forswear,
So the boy Love is perjur’d every where;
[So . . . every
where: So the boy Cupid lies everywhere. (Here, Cupid represents
fickle lovers like Demetrius.)]
For ere [before]
Demetrius look’d on Hermia’s eyne [eyes],
He hail’d down oaths that he was only mine;
And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
So he dissolv’d, and showers of oaths did melt.
[And when . . .
melt: But when he heated up his passion for Hermia, his
promise to love me melted.]
I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight:
Then to the wood will he to-morrow night
Pursue her; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense:
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither and back again.
[I will go . .
. back again: I will
inform him of Hermia's planned excursion into the forest tomorrow
night. If he thanks me, it will be a little reward for me. It will
cause me pain, of course, to see him chase after her. But at least
will get to see him when he runs off and when he comes back.]
The Same. A Room in QUINCE’S House.
Enter QUINCE, SNUG, BOTTOM, FLUTE, SNOUT, and STARVELING.
QUINCE: Is all our company here?
BOTTOM: You were best to call them generally, man by man,
according to the scrip.
[You were . . .
scrip: You should call
each man specifically by name in the order in which the names are
written down on our list. (Bottom often uses the wrong word (or
to convey his meaning. Here, he uses generally for specifically.
A scrip is a scrap of paper with words on it.)]
QUINCE: Here is the scroll of every man’s name, which is
thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude before
duke and the duchess on his wedding-day at
[Here is . . .
night: Here is the list
of every man in Athens believed competent to act in our play
duke and duchess on their wedding night.]
BOTTOM: First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats
on; then read the names of the actors, and so grow to a
[First . . . a
point: First, Peter Quince, tell us the topic of the play and read
the actors' names. Then stop talking.]
QUINCE: Marry, our play is, The most lamentable comedy, and
most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby. [Quince mispells the female character.
Her name is Thisbe.]
BOTTOM: A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a
Now, good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the scroll.
QUINCE: Answer as I call you. Nick Bottom, the
BOTTOM: Ready. Name what part I am for, and
QUINCE: You, Nick Bottom, are set down for
BOTTOM: What is Pyramus? a lover, or a
QUINCE: A lover, that kills himself most gallantly for
BOTTOM: That will ask some tears in the true performing of
it: if I do it, let the audience look to their eyes [the audience will
cry too]; I will move
storms [I will make them cry storms], I will condole [cry; wail; grieve] in some measure. To the rest: yet my
humour [preference] is
for a tyrant. I could play Ercles [Hercules] rarely [very well], or a part to tear a
cat in, to make all split [part requiring me to rant and rave and
The raging rocks
And shivering shocks
Shall break the locks
And Phibbus’ car
Shall shine from far
And make and mar
The foolish Fates.
Allusion to the golden
chariot driven by Phoebus Apollo, a sun god in Greek mythology.
drove the gleaming chariot (the sun) each day across the sky, from
east to west.]
This was lofty! Now name the rest of the players. This is Ercles’
a tyrant’s vein; a lover is more condoling.
[This was . . .
condoling: You've got
to admit that I did a great job with this recitation. Now name the
of the actors. Incidentally, my acting just now was tyrannical, as
the Hercules vein. If I acted the part of a lover, I would be more
QUINCE: Francis Flute, the bellows-mender.
FLUTE: Here, Peter Quince.
QUINCE: You must take Thisby on you.
FLUTE: What is Thisby? a wandering knight?
QUINCE: It is the lady that Pyramus must
FLUTE: Nay, faith, let not me play a woman; I have a beard
QUINCE: That’s all one: you shall play it in a mask, and you
may speak as small as you will.
[That's all . .
. you will: That
doesn't make any difference because you will be wearing a mask.
speak as much like a woman as you like.]
BOTTOM: An [if]
I may hide my face, let me play Thisby too. I’ll
speak in a monstrous little voice, ‘Thisne, Thisne!’ ‘Ah, Pyramus,
lover dear; thy Thisby dear, and lady dear!’
QUINCE: No, no; you must play Pyramus; and Flute, you
BOTTOM: Well, proceed.
QUINCE: Robin Starveling, the tailor.
STARVELING: Here, Peter Quince.
QUINCE: Robin Starveling, you must play Thisby’s mother. Tom
Snout, the tinker.
SNOUT: Here, Peter Quince.
QUINCE: You, Pyramus’s father; myself, Thisby’s father;
Snug, the joiner [cabinetmaker], you the lion’s part: and, I hope,
here is a play
SNUG: Have you the lion’s part written? pray you, if it
be, give it me, for I am slow of study.
QUINCE: You may do it extempore [without
preparation; extemporaneously], for it is nothing but roaring.
BOTTOM: Let me play the lion too. I will roar, that I will
any man’s heart good to hear me; I will roar, that I will make the
say, ‘Let him roar again, let him roar again.’
QUINCE: An [if]
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
BOTTOM: I grant you, friends, if that you should fright the
ladies out of their wits, they would have no more discretion [no alternative] but to
hang us; but I will aggravate [lower the intensity of; moderate] my voice so that I will roar you as
gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you as ’twere any
QUINCE: 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;
most lovely, gentleman-like man; therefore, you must needs play
BOTTOM: Well, I will undertake it. What beard were I best to
play it in?
QUINCE: Why, what you will.
BOTTOM: I will discharge it in either your straw colour
beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard [beard dyed purple], or your
French-crown [coin] colour
beard, your perfect yellow.
QUINCE: Some of your French crowns have no hair at all, and
then you will play bare-faced. But masters, here are your parts;
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
town, by moon-light: there will we rehearse; for if we meet in the
city, we shall be dogged with company, and our devices known. In
meantime I will draw a bill of properties, such as our play wants.
pray you, fail me not.
BOTTOM: We will meet; and there we may rehearse more
obscenely [obscurely; without notice] and courageously. Take pains; be
QUINCE: At the duke’s oak we meet.
BOTTOM: Enough; hold, or cut bow-strings.
A Wood near Athens.
Enter a Fairy on one side, and PUCK on the other.
PUCK: How now, spirit! whither [where] wander you?
FAIRY: Over hill, over dale [valley],
Thorough [through] bush, thorough
Over park, over pale [fence; barrier],
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moone’s
[Swifter . . . sphere: Swifter than the moon
in its orbit]
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs [rings of grass] upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners
[cowslip: Plant with a long stem and clusters of yellow flowers]
[pensioners: Men-at-arms who attend the fairy queen]
In their gold coats spots you
Those be rubies, fairy
In their freckles live their
[In their . . . savours: On their yellow
flowers are ruby spots that emit a pleasing fragrance.]
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.
Farewell, thou lob [lout; oaf]: I’ll be gone;
Our queen and all her elves come here anon [soon].
PUCK: The king doth keep his revels here
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell [angry; deadly] and wrath,
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stol’n from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling;
Beautiful child that
changed places with an ugly child. The exchange took place when
abducted the beautiful child and left behind the ugly child.]
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;
[would have . .
. wild: Would have the child as a knight who helps the king trace
tracks in the forest]
But she, perforce, withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her
And now they never meet in grove, or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen,
But they do square [square off; quarrel; argue]; that all their elves, for
Creep into acorn-cups and hide them there.
FAIRY: Either I mistake your shape and making
[Either . . .
quite: Either I quite mistake your shape]
Or else you are that shrewd and
Call’d Robin Goodfellow: are you not he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern,
Skims the cream from others' milk]
[labour . . .
quern: Vandalizes the hand-operated mills that grind grain]
And bootless make the breathless
[And . . .
churn: And cause the housewife to churn and churn in a useless
(bootless) effort to make butter from milk]
And sometime make the drink to
bear no barm [foam; froth];
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good
[Those that . .
. luck: Those that address you as Hobgoblin or sweet
win your favor, and you give them good luck.]
Are you not he?
PUCK: Fairy, thou
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
[When I .
. . foal: When I fool
a fat, bean-fed horse into thinking that I am a young female horse
ready to mate with him.all I do is neigh like a female.]
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 wither’d dewlap pour the ale.
[And sometime .
. . ale: And sometimes
I lurk as a roasted crabapple in the bottom of a gossipy old
bowl of ale. When she drinks, I ascend and caress her lips, then
the ale on the fold of fat skin on her wrinkled old neck.]
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
[Sometime . . .
me: Sometimes mistakes me for a three-legged stool and attempts to
sit on me]
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And ‘tailor’ cries, and falls into a
[Then . . .
cough: Then I slip away
from her rear end, like a chair being pulled from under someone,
down she topples. She shouts, "Tailor!" Then she begins coughing.
not clear what tailor is
supposed to mean. Perhaps she's accusing a tailor of playing a
prank on her.]
And then the whole quire hold their hips and
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
[And then . . .
wasted there: And then
all the listeners put their hands on their hips and laugh. As
laughter broadens, they sneeze and declare they had a merry old
But, room [give me room],
fairy! here comes Oberon.
FAIRY: And here my mistress. Would that he were
Enter OBERON from one side, with his Train; and TITANIA from the
other, with hers.
OBERON: Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
[Ill met . . .
Titania: I'm not exactly happy to meet with you here in the
TITANIA: What! jealous
Oberon. Fairies, skip hence:
I have forsworn his bed and company.
. . . company: Fairies,
skip away with me. I don't want to be with Oberon. I have refused
share his bed and be in his presence.]
OBERON: Tarry [wait a moment], rash wanton [capricious woman]! am not I thy lord?
TITANIA: Then, I must be thy lady; but I
When thou hast stol’n 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,
[Then, I . . .
Phillida: If you are my
lord, I must be your lady. But you don't treat me like your lady.
steal away from our fairyland and go off to a countryside. There,
pose as a shepherd (Corin) while playing music and reciting love
to a shepherdess (Phillida).]
Come from the furthest steppe [grassy plain where trees are sparse or
But that, forsooth [in truth], the bouncing Amazon,
[Amazon: One of
a race of female warriors said to have lived in Scythia, an
ancient region northeast of the Black Sea]
Your buskin’d mistress and your
Sandal-like footwear with laces around the calf that rise halfway
to the knee]
To Theseus must be wedded, and you come
[mistress . . .
wedded: Apparently Oberon has been keeping company with Hippolyta
even though she is to marry Theseus.]
To give their bed joy and prosperity.
OBERON: How canst thou thus for shame,
Glance at my credit [relationship] with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to [for]
Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering
From Perigouna, whom he ravished?
[Didst thou . . . ravished: Weren't you the one who led
away in the night after he ravished a young woman named Perigouna
spelled Perigune, Perigenia, and Perigone)? In Greek
mythology, Perigouna was the daughter of a bandit killed by
Theseus. She bore Theseus a son.
And make him with fair Aegle break his faith,
With Ariadne, and Antiopa?
Ariadne, Antiopa: In Greek
mythology, Aegle was the daughter of Panopeus, a skillful hunter.
was said to be a lover of Theseus. But he abandoned her for
Antiopa. Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, the king of Crete.
Antiopa was an Amazon and the sister of Hippolyta.]
TITANIA: These are the forgeries [lies] of jealousy:
And never, since the middle summer’s spring [since early in
Met we [met my fairies and I] on hill, in dale, forest, or mead [meadow],
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent [shore] of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport.
[And never . .
. our sport: And never,
since early in midsummer, have my fairies and I met without being
interrupted by your angry rants. Whether we met on a hill or in a
valley, in a forest or mead, or at a fountain, a brook, or the
seashore—to dance in a circle to the song of the wind, you were
there to disturb us.]
Therefore the winds, piping to us
As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land,
Have every pelting [modest] river made so proud [swelled]
That they have overborne their continents;
[Therefore . .
Therefore, the winds became enraged that you interrupted their
accompaniment of our dance. To express their anger, they sucked up
from the sea and expelled them on land, causing rivers to
The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke [pulled the plow] in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat [lost his crop in the flooded fields], and the green corn
Hath rotted ere [before] his youth attain’d a beard [growth of corn
The fold [pen for sheep]
stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion [dead pestilence] flock;
The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,
[nine . . .
morris: Game played on a square board]
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are
[And the . . .
the intriguing mazes on the village green are imperceptible
grass is overgrown for lack of foot traffic.]
The human mortals want their winter here:
No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
[The human . .
. blest: People aren't holding their winter feasts and
celebrations, so no hymns or carols bless the night.]
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
[Therefore . .
. abound: Therefore,
the angry moon spreads rheumatic diseases (diseases of the
bones, nerves, tendons, and joints; rheumatism) in the air.]
And thorough [through] this
distemperature [disturbance in nature] we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems’ [winter's] thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet [garland for the
head] of sweet summer
Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer,
The childing [fruitful; providing a bountiful harvest] autumn, angry winter,
Their wonted liveries [usual appearance], and the mazed [confused;
By their increase, now knows not which is which.
And this same progeny of evil comes
From our debate, from our dissension:
We are their parents and original.
[And this . . .
original: And all of these abnormalities result from our
quarreling. We are the source of the problems.]
OBERON: Do you amend it then; it lies in you.
[Do . . . you:
Do make the necessary changes to end the problems. The task is
Why should Titania cross her
I do but beg a little changeling boy,
To be my henchman [attendant; servant].
TITANIA: Set your heart at rest;
The fairy land buys not the child of me.
[Set your . . .
of me: Forget about
the boy and put your heart to rest. If you offered to buy all of
fairyland for me, I wouldn't give him up.]
His mother was a votaress of my order:
Femine form of votary, a devoted follower of a cult, religion,
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,
ancient mythology, the Roman name for the Greek god of the sea,
Marking the embarked traders on the flood;
[Marking . . .
flood: Watching the merchants embark on the ocean]
When we have laugh’d to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;
[the sails . .
. wind: The sails grow big-bellied, like a pregnant woman, after
"having relations" with the lascivious wind.]
Which she, with pretty and with
Following,—her womb then rich with my young
Would imitate, and sail upon the land,
To fetch me trifles, and return again,
As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.
[Which she . .
. merchandise: My
votaress, then pregnant with the changeling boy, would imitate the
by walking with a sway while on her way to fetch me little gifts.
she returned with the gifts, she was like a ship returning with
But she, being mortal, of that boy did die;
[But . . . die:
But she died when the boy was born.]
And for her sake I do rear up her boy,
And for her sake I will not part with him.
OBERON: How long within this wood intend you
TITANIA: Perchance, till after Theseus’
If you will patiently dance in our round,
And see our moonlight revele, go with us;
If not, shun me, and I will spare your haunts.
[If you . . .
haunts: If you are
willing to dance with us and take part in our moonlight revelry,
with us. If not, stay away from me; in return, I will stay away
from you and your favorite haunts.]
OBERON: Give me that boy, and I will go with
TITANIA: Not for thy fairy kingdom. Fairies,
We shall chide downright, if I longer stay. [Exit TITANIA
[We shall . . .
stay: We shall have a vicious quarrel if I remain here any
OBERON: Well, go thy way: thou shalt not from this
Till I torment thee for this injury.
[Well, go . . .
injury: Oberon is speaking to himself. Titania has exited (line
My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou remember’st
Since once I sat upon a promontory,
a cliff, a rock formation that juts out over the sea]
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back
Uttering such dulcet [sweet] and harmonious breath [tones],
That the rude sea grew civil at her song,
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid’s music.
OBERON: That very time I saw, but thou couldst
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,
[vestal . . .
west: Virgin enthroned in the west]
And loos’d his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft
Quench’d in the chaste beams of the wat’ry moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
[But I .
. . fancy-free: But
Cupid's fiery arrow of love was extinguished by watery moonbeams.
("Chaste beams" is perhaps an allusion to the moon goddess in
mythology. Her Greek name was Artemis and her Roman name, Diana.
was a virgin. One of her duties was to safeguard chastity. Hence,
uses "chaste beams" to thwart Cupid.) The throned vestal then
sitting on her throne, meditating and unaffected by thoughts of
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 [probably a pansy].
Fetch me that flower; the herb I show’d thee
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
[Will make . .
. it sees: Will make any man or woman fall madly in love with the
next living creature it sees.]
Fetch me this herb [the flower in line 172]; and be thou here
Ere [before] the leviathan [whale] can swim a league [three miles].
PUCK: I’ll put a girdle round about the
In forty minutes. [Exit.
[I'll put . . .
minutes: It will take me just forty minutes to search the entire
earth for the flower.]
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,
On meddling monkey, or on busy ape,
She shall pursue it with the soul of love:
And ere [before] I take
this charm off from her sight,
As I can take it with another herb,
I’ll make her render up her page [changeling] 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
Where is Lysander and fair Hermia?
The one I’ll slay, the other slayeth me.
[The one . . .
The one I'll kill, the other will slay me with her beauty and
Thou told’st me they were stol’n into this wood;
And here am I, and wood [archaic: insane; mad] within this wood,
Because I cannot meet my Hermia.
Hence! get thee gone, and follow me no more.
HELENA: You draw me [you draw me to you], you hard-hearted adamant [one unwilling to
change his mind]:
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.
[leave . . .
follow you: Turn off your power to attract me, and I will no
longer be drawn to you and thus will not follow you.]
DEMETRIUS: Do I entice you? Do I speak you
Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth
Tell you I do not nor I cannot love you?
HELENA: And even for that do I love you the
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?
DEMETRIUS: Tempt not too much the hatred of my
For I am sick when I do look on you.
HELENA: And I am sick when I look not on
DEMETRIUS: You do impeach your modesty too
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.
[You do . . .
virginity: You should be
modest and reserved. But you are so bold that you left the city
committed yourself into my hands. And I am a man who does not love
You seem to be willing to risk losing your virginity in a desert
under the cover of night.]
HELENA: Your virtue is my privilege: for
It is not night when I do see your face,
Therefore I think I am not in the night;
[Your virtue .
. . in the night: It is
my privilege to have you as my virtuous protector. It is not
day, when I see your bright face.]
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 [briars; bushes; thicket],
And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
HELENA: The wildest hath not such a heart as
[The wildest .
. . you: The wildest beast has a gentler heart than 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.
[Run when . . .
flies: Go ahead and
run. Normally, men chase women and the strong chase the weak. But
change the story by chasing you. It will be as if the water nymph
Daphne, a virgin, is chasing the sun god Apollo. (In Greek
Apollo pursued Daphne relentlessly. After she asked her father—a
god—for help, he changed her into a laurel tree. Apollo had no
interest in a laurel tree.) And it will be as if the meek dove is
chasing the monstrous griffin (a creature that is part lion and
part eagle) and the gentle
hind (female deer) is speedily chasing the tiger. But speed bears
fruit when the meek and humble is chasing the strong and proud.]
DEMETRIUS: I will not stay [stay here to listen to] thy questions: let me
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
You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius!
Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex.
[Ay . . . sex:
Yes, just as you do me
mischief in the church, in the town, in the field. For shame,
Demetrius! Your wrongdoing sets a bad example that damages the
We cannot fight for love, as men may do;
We should be woo’d [courted] and were not made to woo. [Exit
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 [before] he do leave this
Thou shalt fly him, and he shall seek thy love.
[Fare thee . .
. thy love: With Helena
and Demetrius gone, Oberon speaks to himself, saying that before
Demetrius leaves the forest Helena shall run from him as he
seeking her love.]
Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.
PUCK: Ay, there it is.
OBERON: I pray thee, give it me.
I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
violet, woodbine, musk-roses, eglantine: Plants]
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws [sheds] her enamell’d [smooth and shiny] skin,
garment] 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 [dreadful
Take thou some of it, and seek through this
A sweet Athenian lady is in love
With a disdainful youth: anoint his eyes;
But do it when the next thing he espies [sees]
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.
[More fond . .
. love: More fond of her than she is of him]
And look thou meet me ere [before] the first cock
PUCK: Fear not, my lord, your servant shall do so.
Another Part of the Wood.
Enter TITANIA, with her Train [attendants].
TITANIA: Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;
in which the participants move slowly in a circle; roundelay]
Then, for the third of a minute, hence;
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,
Some war with rere-mice for their leathern
To make my small elves coats, and some keep back
The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, and
At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep;
[Then, for . .
. spirits: Then, for a
short while, go off—some to kill worms in the buds of musk roses
(roses with white petals that emit a musk scent), some to battle
to get their leathery wings for making elves' coats, and some to
the noisy owl that nightly hoots while observing us in wonder.]
Then to your offices, and let me rest.
The Fairies sing.
You spotted snakes with double tongue [forked tongue],
Thorny [having spiny protrusions] hedge-hogs, be not seen;
Newts [salamanders], and blind-worms [legless lizards thought to be blind], do no wrong;
Come not near our fairy queen.
Philomel [nightingale], with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby:
Nor spell, nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
[Come near our
So, good night, with
Weaving spiders come not here;
Hence [get out of here], you long-legg’d spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence.
Philomel, with melody,
FAIRY: Hence, away! now all is
One aloof stand sentinel. [Exeunt
[One . . .
sentinel: One of you keep watch.]
Enter OBERON, and squeezes the flower on TITANIA’S eyelids.
OBERON: What thou seest when thou dost
Do it for thy true-love take;
Love and languish for his sake:
Be it ounce [lynx; wildcat],
or cat, or bear,
or leopard], or boar with
In thy eye that shall appear
When thou wak’st, it is thy dear.
Wake when some vile thing is near. [Exit.
Enter LYSANDER and HERMIA.
LYSANDER: Fair love, you faint with wandering in the
And to speak troth [the truth], I have forgot our way:
We’ll rest us, Hermia, if you think it good,
And tarry for the comfort of the day.
[tarry . . .
day: Wait for the comfort that daylight brings.]
HERMIA: Be it so, Lysander: find you out a
For I upon this bank will rest my head.
LYSANDER: One turf shall serve as pillow for us
One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth [pledge of love and
HERMIA: Nay, good Lysander; for my sake, my
Lie further off yet, do not lie so near.
LYSANDER: O! take the sense, sweet, of my
Love takes the meaning in love’s conference.
I mean that my heart unto yours is
So that but one heart we can make of it;
Two bosoms interchained with an oath;
So then two bosoms and a single troth.
Then by your side no bed-room me deny,
For, lying so, Hermia. I do not lie.
[O! take . . .
do not lie: O! take my
meaning as entirely innocent. When two lovers confer, each should
clearly understand what the other says. What I meant was that my
and your heart beat as one heart. When I said our bosoms would be
united, I meant they would be united spiritually—with our pledge
love for each other—not physically. So allow me to lie beside you.
Trust what I say. I am not lying.]
HERMIA: Lysander riddles very prettily:
Now much beshrew [condemn; curse] my manners and my
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.
Thy love ne’er alter till thy
sweet life end!
[So far . . .
life end: So bed down at some distance from me. Good night,
dearest friend, and love me till the day you die.]
LYSANDER: Amen, amen, to that fair prayer, say
And then end life when I end loyalty! [Retires a little
Here is my bed: sleep give thee all his rest!
HERMIA: With half that wish the wisher’s eyes be press’d [closed as sleep
sets in]! [They
PUCK: Through the forest have I
But Athenian found I
On whose eyes I might
This flower’s force in
Night and silence! who
Weeds [clothing; apparel] of Athens he doth
This is he, my master
Despised the Athenian
[This is . . .
maid: Puck thinks that Lysander is Demetrius and that Hermia is
And here the maiden,
On the dank and dirty
Pretty soul! she durst
Near this lack-love,
kill-courtesy. [Squeezes the flower on LYSANDER’S
Churl, upon thy eyes I
All the power this
charm doth owe.
When thou wak’st, let
Sleep his seat on thy
[When thou . .
. eyelid: When you awaken, let love prevent you from going back to
So awake when I am
For I must now to
Enter DEMETRIUS and HELENA, running.
HELENA: Stay, though thou kill me, sweet
DEMETRIUS: I charge thee, hence [go away], and do not haunt me
HELENA: O! wilt thou darkling [in darkness] leave me? do not
DEMETRIUS: Stay, on thy peril: I alone will go.
HELENA: O! I am out of breath in this fond
The more my prayer, the lesser is my grace.
[The more . . .
grace: The more I pray, the less I benefit.]
Happy is Hermia, wheresoe’er she lies;
For she hath blessed and attractive eyes.
How came her eyes so bright? Not with salt
If so, my eyes are oftener wash’d than hers.
[If so . . .
hers: If her eyes brighten when she cries, mine should be
brighter, because I cry more often than she does.]
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.
[Therefore . .
. thus: Therefore, it is no marvel that Demetrius runs from me
too, for I am a monster.]
What wicked and dissembling glass of mine
Made me compare with Hermia’s sphery eyne?
[What wicked .
. . eyne: What wicked and deceptive mirror of mine made me compare
my eyes with Hermia's sparkling eyes?]
But who is here? Lysander! on the ground!
Dead? or asleep? I see no blood, no wound.
Lysander, if you live, good sir, awake.
LYSANDER: [Awaking.] And run through fire I will for
thy sweet sake.
Transparent Helena! Nature shows art,
That through thy bosom makes me see thy heart.
. . heart: Nature has permitted me to see your heart, as if your
bosom were transparent.]
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
What though he love your Hermia? Lord! what
Yet Hermia still loves you: then be content.
[Do not . . .
content: Do not say such
harsh things, Lysander. What does it matter that Demetrius loves
Hermia? She still loves you. So be satisfied.]
LYSANDER: Content with Hermia! No: I do
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;
. . . reason: Fruits,
vegetables, and other plants do not ripen until they mature at
time. The same is true of my judgment, my reason. It did not ripen
until this moment. Now my judgment tells me that you, not Hermia,
the woman I love.]
And touching now the point of human skill,
Reason becomes the marshal to my will,
And leads me to your eyes; where I o’erlook
Love’s stories written in love’s richest book.
. . . book: My mature
judgment now governs what I do, and it leads me to your eyes. They
beckon me, like the greatest love stories in the greatest book
HELENA: Wherefore [why]
was I to this keen mockery born? [Why was I born to
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,
word for truly]
In such disdainful manner me to woo.
But fare you well: perforce [of or by necessity] I must confess
I thought you lord of more true gentleness.
O! that a lady of one man refus’d,
Should of another therefore be abus’d. [Exit.
[O! that . . .
abus'd: First, Demetrius refused me. Now you abuse me.]
LYSANDER: She sees not Hermia. Hermia, sleep thou
And never mayst thou come Lysander near.
For, as a surfeit of the sweetest things
The deepest loathing to the stomach brings;
Or, as the heresies that men do
Are hated most of those they did deceive:
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.
. . . her knight:
keep on sleeping. But when you're awake, don't ever come near me.
see, filling the stomach with sweet things brings on a bad case of
indigestion. Men who deceive others—as I deceived you when I told
I loved you—really hate their deceptions. So now you, Hermia—who
me a stomachache and received my false pledges of love—are an
to be hated. I will now devote all my powers to honoring Helena
being her knight.]
HERMIA: [Awaking.] Help me, Lysander, help me! do thy
To pluck this crawling serpent from my breast.
Ay me, for pity! what a dream was here [what a dream I
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! remov’d? [what! are you gone?]—Lysander! lord!
What! out of hearing? gone? no sound, no word?
Alack! [expression of dismay; alas] where are you? speak, an if you hear
if you can hear me];
Speak, of all loves! I swound [faint] almost with fear.
No! then I well perceive you are not nigh [near]:
Either death or you I’ll find immediately.
A Wood. TITANIA lying asleep.
Enter QUINCE, SNUG, BOTTOM, FLUTE, SNOUT, and STARVELING.
BOTTOM: Are we all met?
QUINCE: Pat, pat [we're
exactly on time]; and
here’s a marvellous convenient place
for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our stage, this
hawthorn-brake [thicket] our tiring-house [place to put on costumes; dressing room;
"attiring" room]; and we
will do it in action [we will rehearse it the same way] as we will
do it before the duke.
BOTTOM: Peter Quince,—
QUINCE: What sayst thou, bully Bottom?
BOTTOM: There are things in this comedy of Pyramus and
that will never please. First Pyramus must draw a sword to kill
himself, which the ladies cannot abide. How answer you
SNOUT: By ’r lakin [by Our Lady, a mild oath referring to the
Virgin Mary], a parlous [dangerous;
STARVELING: I believe we must leave the killing out, when
all is done.
BOTTOM: Not a whit: I have a device to make all well. Write
me a prologue; and let the prologue seem to say, we will do no
with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed; and, for
more better assurance, tell them that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus,
Bottom the weaver: this will put them out of
QUINCE: Well, we will have such a prologue, and it shall be
written in eight and six.
[eight and six:
A ballad in which one line has eight syllables, the next six, the
next eight, the next six, and so on.]
BOTTOM: No, make it two more: let it be written in eight and
SNOUT: Will not the ladies be afeard of the
STARVELING: I fear it, I promise you.
BOTTOM: Masters, you ought to consider with yourselves: to
bring in,—God shield us!—a lion among ladies, is a most dreadful
for there is not a more fearful wild-fowl [another example of
Bottom's faulty word choice] than your lion living, and we
ought to look to it.
SNOUT: Therefore, another prologue must tell he is not a
BOTTOM: Nay, you must name his name, and half his face must
be seen through the lion’s neck; and he himself must speak
saying thus, or to the same defect [Bottom means effect], ‘Ladies,’ or, ‘Fair ladies,’ ‘I
would wish you,’ or, ‘I would request you,’ or, ‘I would entreat
not to fear, not to tremble: my life for yours. If you think I
hither as a lion, it were pity of my life: no, I am no such thing:
a man as other men are;’ and there indeed let him name his name,
tell them plainly he is Snug the joiner.
QUINCE: Well, it shall be so. But there is two hard things,
that is, to bring the moonlight into a chamber; for, you know,
and Thisby meet by moonlight.
SNUG: Doth the moon shine that night we play our
BOTTOM: A calendar, a calendar! look in the almanack; find
out moonshine, find out moonshine.
QUINCE: Yes, it doth shine that night.
BOTTOM: Why, then may you leave a casement [window frame that
opens on hinges and contains a pane or several panes] of the great
chamber-window, where we play, open; and the moon may shine in at
QUINCE: Ay; or else one must come in with a bush of thorns
and a lanthorn [lantern], and say he comes to disfigure [prefigure:
suggest, indicate, represent], or to present, the
person of Moonshine. Then, there is another thing: we must have a
in the great chamber; for Pyramus and Thisby, says the story, did
through the chink of a wall.
SNUG: You can never bring in a wall. What say you,
BOTTOM: Some man or other must present Wall; and let him
some plaster, or some loam [mixture used to cover walls or make bricks], or some rough-cast about him, to
wall; and let him hold his fingers thus [hold his fingers
in the shape of a V], and through that cranny shall
Pyramus and Thisby whisper.
QUINCE: If that may be, then all is well. Come, sit down,
every mother’s son, and rehearse your parts. Pyramus, you begin:
you have spoken your speech, enter into that brake [thicket]; and so every one
according to his cue.
Enter PUCK, behind.
PUCK: What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering
home-spuns: Commoners wearing
clothing rough to the touch; commoners wearing clothing spun from
coarse fibers, such as hemp]
So near the cradle [bed; sleeping place] of the fairy queen?
What! a play toward; I’ll be an auditor;
An actor too perhaps, if I see cause.
[What! . . .
cause: What! A play is about to be enacted. I'll be the audience.
I'll act in the play too, if I have a mind to.]
QUINCE: Speak, Pyramus.—Thisby, stand
BOTTOM: Thisby, the flowers have odious savours
QUINCE: Odorous, odorous.
[Thisby . . .
odorous: Quince corrects Bottom, telling him he should use odorous, not odious, which means hatetful. Some editions of
Shakespeare's works say Quince recommends the word odours instead of odorous.]
BOTTOM: —odours savours sweet:
So hath thy breath [so is your breath sweet], my dearest Thisby
But hark, a voice! stay thou but here awhile,
And by and by I will to thee appear.
PUCK: A stranger Pyramus than e’er play’d here!
[A stranger . .
. here: The way he plays Pyramus is stranger than any I have ever
seen played in this country.]
FLUTE: Must I speak now?
QUINCE: Ay, marry [by the Virgin Mary], must you; for you must understand,
goes but to see a noise that he heard, and is to come
[see a noise:
Quince is sometimes like Bottom in expressing himself.]
FLUTE: "Most radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of
Of colour like the red rose on triumphant
Most brisky [frisky] juvenal
or youth], and eke [also] most lovely Jew,
As true as truest horse that yet would never
I’ll meet thee, Pyramus, at Ninny’s tomb."
. . . tomb": Most
glorious Pyramus, your lily-white complexion has a color
that of a red rose. You are a frisky young man and a most lovely
Moreover, you are as true as a horse that runs without tiring.
meet you at the tomb of Ninus. (Ninus was the founder of Nineveh,
capital of Assyria in ancient times. The ruins of the city are in
present-day northern Iraq.) Flute uses Ninny to refer to Ninus.
A ninny is a simpleton or fool.]
QUINCE: ‘Ninus’ tomb,’ man. Why, you must not speak that
yet; that you answer to Pyramus: you speak all your part at once,
and all. Pyramus, enter: your cue is past; it is ‘never
FLUTE: O!—As true as truest horse, that yet would never
Re-enter PUCK, and BOTTOM with an ass’s head.
BOTTOM: If I were fair [handsome], Thisby, I were only
QUINCE: O monstrous! O strange! we are
Pray, masters! fly, masters!—Help! [Exeunt
PUCK: I’ll follow you, I’ll lead you about a round [this way and that],
Through bog, through bush, through brake, through
Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound,
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;
And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and
Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn.
BOTTOM: Why do they run away? this is a knavery of them to
make me afeard.
[this is . . .
afeard: They're playing a trick to make me afraid.]
SNOUT: O Bottom, thou art changed! what do I see on
BOTTOM: What do you see? you see an ass-head of your own, do
you? [Exit SNOUT.
[What . . .
you?: What do you see on my head? There's nothing on it, you
QUINCE: Bless thee, Bottom! bless thee! thou art translated
BOTTOM: I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me;
fright me, if they could. But I will not stir from this place, do
they can: I will walk up and down here, and I will sing, that they
shall hear I am not afraid.
The ousel-cock [male blackbird], so black of hue,
With orange-tawny bill,
The throstle [thrush, a songbird] with his note so true,
The wren with little quill [feather].
TITANIA: [Awaking.] What angel wakes me from my
The finch, the sparrow, and the lark,
The plain-song cuckoo gray,
cuckoo: The cuckoo sings a simple—or plain—song without
Whose note full many a man doth mark,
And dares not answer, nay;
for indeed, who would set his wit to so foolish a bird? who would
a bird the lie, though he cry ‘cuckoo’ never so?
[And dares . .
. never so: No man would say no
to this bird because no man would want to reply to such a stupid
bird, even to say no.
Who would accuse the bird of lying no matter what is says?]
TITANIA: I pray
thee, gentle mortal, sing again:
Mine ear is much enamour’d of [attracted to] thy note;
So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape;
And thy fair virtue’s force, perforce, doth move
On the first view, to say, to swear, I love thee.
scheme is working. Titania falls in love with the first creature
she sees—Bottom wearing the head of an ass.]
BOTTOM: Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason
that: and yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little
together now-a-days. The more the pity, that some honest
will not make them friends. Nay, I can gleek upon
[Methinks . . .
occasion: I think you
should have little reason to love me. But reason and love are
these days. It's a pity that the neighbors of love and reason
arrange for them to meet each other. Oh, I'm just joking
TITANIA: Thou art as wise as thou art
BOTTOM: Not so, neither [not really]; but if I had wit enough to get out
of this wood, I have enough to serve mine own turn [I would have
enough intelligence to get along].
TITANIA: Out of this wood do not desire to
Thou shalt remain here, whe’r thou wilt or no [whether you want
to or not].
I am a spirit of no common rate;
The summer still doth tend upon my state;
[I am . . .
state: I am a fairy with great powers. Summer is my servant.]
And I do love thee: therefore, go with me;
I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee,
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing, while thou on pressed flowers dost
And I will purge thy mortal grossness so
That thou shalt like an airy spirit go.
[And I . . .
spirit go: And I will purge you of your mortal flaws so that you
can come and go like a spirit.]
Peaseblossom! Cobweb! Moth! and Mustardseed!
Enter Four Fairies.
COBWEB: And I.
MOTH: And I.
MUSTARDSEED: And I.
Four. Where shall we go?
TITANIA: Be kind and courteous to this
Hop in his walks, and gambol in his eyes;
[Hop . . .
eyes: Dance and frolic for him.]
Feed him with apricocks [apricots] and dewberries [dark blue or black berries],
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs,
[The honey . .
. thighs: Steal honey from the bees and use their wax to make
And light them at the fiery glow-worm’s eyes,
Wingless, worm-like larva of a female beetle, such as the firefly]
To have my love to bed, and to
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes:
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.
PEASEBLOSSOM: Hail, mortal!
BOTTOM: I cry your worships mercy, heartily: I beseech your
BOTTOM: I shall desire you of more acquaintance, good Master
Cobweb: if I cut my finger, I shall make bold with you. Your name,
[I shall . . .
gentleman: I'd like to
make friends with you, good Master Cobweb. If I cut my finger, I'd
to use you to treat the cut. (In Shakespeare's time and earlier,
sometimes wrapped cobwebs around cuts.]
BOTTOM: I pray you, commend me to Mistress Squash, your
mother, and to Master Peascod, your father. Good Master
I shall desire you of more acquaintance too. Your name, I beseech
[I pray . . .
sir: Please give my
regards to your mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Peapod. I'd like
make friends with you, too. Now, what is your name, sir?]
BOTTOM: Good Master Mustardseed, I know your patience well:
that same cowardly, giant-like ox-beef hath devoured many a
of your house. I promise you, your kindred hath made my eyes water
ere [before]now. I desire you of more
acquaintance, good Master
[I know . . .
now: You must have lot
of patience having to endure watching members of your mustard
being eaten as a seasoning on beef. I promise you, your relatives
made my eyes water before now.]
TITANIA: Come, wait upon him; lead him to my bower [sleeping place].
The moon methinks, looks with a watery eye;
And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,
Lamenting some enforced chastity.
Tie up my love’s tongue, bring him silently.
[The moon . . .
silently: The moon and
the little flowers weep against the enforcement of chastity.
his tongue and bring him along.]
Another Part of the Wood.
OBERON: I wonder if Titania be awak’d;
Then, what it was that next came in her eye,
Which she must dote on in extremity [with extreme
Here comes my messenger.
How now, mad spirit!
What night-rule now about this haunted grove?
[What . . .
grove: What mischief did you make in this haunted grove?]
PUCK: My mistress with a monster is in
Near to her close and consecrated bower,
While she was in her dull and sleeping hour,
A crew of patches, rude mechanicals,
That work for bread upon Athenian stalls,
Were met together to rehearse a play
Intended for great Theseus’ nuptial day.
[A crew . . .
nuptial day: A crew of
common tradesmen from Athenian shops met to rehearse a play to be
performed on Theseus' wedding day.]
The shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort,
Who Pyramus presented in their sport
Forsook his scene, and enter’d in a brake,
When I did him at this advantage take;
An ass’s nole I fixed on his head:
. . . The
dumbest of these men, who are enacting a play about Pyramis and
walked off and entered a thicket. At that moment, I outfitted him
an ass's head.]
Anon [soon]his Thisbe must be
And forth my mimick comes. When they him spy,
As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye,
Or russet-pated choughs [jackdaws], many in sort,
Rising and cawing at the gun’s report,
Sever themselves, and madly sweep the sky;
So, at his sight, away his fellows fly,
And, at our stamp, here o’er and o’er one falls;
He murder cries, and help from Athens calls.
[Anon . . .
Athens calls: Soon he had
to come out of the thicket to act his part with Thisbe. When the
(mimick) comes forth, all of the other men—like wild geese and
jackdaws frightened by gunshots—flee. One of them cries, "Murder!"
and calls for help.]
Their sense thus weak, lost with their fears thus
Made senseless things begin to do them wrong;
For briers and thorns at their apparel snatch;
Some sleeves, some hats, from yielders all things
I led them on in this distracted fear,
And left sweet Pyramus translated there;
[Their sense .
. . translated there:
Their senses weakened and their fears growing strong, senseless
begin to happen to them. Briers and thorns snatch at sleeves,
other items of apparel. I continued to work my mischief against
while allowing Pyramus (Bottom) to stand there with his ass's
When in that moment, so it came to pass,
Titania wak’d and straightway lov’d an ass.
OBERON: This falls out better than I could
But hast thou yet latch’d [sprinkled] the Athenian’s eyes
With the love-juice, as I did bid thee do?
PUCK: I took him sleeping,—that is finish’d
And the Athenian woman by his side;
That, when he wak’d, of force she must be ey’d.
[That, when . .
. ey'd: That, when he awakened, he he couldn't help but look upon
Enter DEMETRIUS and HERMIA.
OBERON: Stand close: this is the same
PUCK: This is the woman; but not this the
DEMETRIUS: O! why rebuke you him that loves you
Lay breath so bitter on your bitter foe.
[O! why . . .
bitter: O! why rebuke me for loving you so. Save your bitter
breath for a bitter foe.]
HERMIA: Now I but chide; but I should use thee
For thou, I fear, hast given me cause to curse.
If thou hast slain Lysander in his sleep,
Being o’er shoes in blood, plunge in knee deep,
And kill me too.
[Now I . . . me
too: I am just
scolding you. But maybe I should be cursing you. If you have
Lysander in his sleep—his blood rising over your shoes—you
might as well kill me and stand knee-deep in blood.]
The sun was not so true unto the day
As he to me. Would he have stol’n away
From sleeping Hermia? I’ll believe as soon
This whole earth may be bor’d, and that the moon
May through the centre creep, and so displease
Her brother’s noontide with the Antipodes.
[I'll believe .
. . Antipodes: I'll
believe it as soon as a hole is bored through the earth and the
can creep through the center and emerge on the other side,
with the sun's ("her brother's) ability to shine on the Antipodes. The
antipodes are two regions on earth that are diametrically opposite
other. If you drove an ice pick completely through a rubber ball
(imagining that it is the earth), passing the pick through the
center of the ball, the entry point of the tip of the pick would
antipodes of the exit point of the tip.]
It cannot be but thou hast murder’d him;
So should a murderer look, so dead, so grim.
[So should . .
. grim: You look like a murderer with your deathly, grim
DEMETRIUS: So should the murder’d look, and so should
Piere’d [pierced] through
the heart with your stern cruelty;
Yet you, the murderer, look as bright, as clear,
As yonder Venus in her glimmering sphere.
planet Venus is visible in the morning and evening as a bright
HERMIA: What’s this to my Lysander? where is
Ah! good Demetrius, wilt thou give him me?
DEMETRIUS: I had rather give his carcass to my
HERMIA: Out, dog! out, cur! thou driv’st me past the
Of maiden’s patience. Hast thou slain him then?
Henceforth be never number’d among men!
O! once tell true, tell true, e’en for my sake;
[O! . . . sake:
O, just for once tell me the truth, for my sake.]
Durst thou have look’d upon him being awake,
And hast thou kill’d him sleeping? O brave
Could not a worm, an adder, do so much?
An adder did it; for with doubler tongue
Than thine, thou serpent, never adder stung.
. . adder stung: Did
you dare to look upon him while he was awake, or did you kill him
he was sleeping? O how brave, to kill a sleeping man. A worm or an
adder could have done the same thing. In fact, it must be that an
did kill him—for you are are like an adder, with a forked lying
DEMETRIUS: You spend your passion on a mispris’d
[You . . .
mood: Your wasting your words on an unfounded accusation.]
I am not guilty of Lysander’s
Nor is he dead, for aught that I can tell.
HERMIA: I pray thee, tell me then that he is
DEMETRIUS: An if I could, what should I get
HERMIA: A privilege never to see me more.
And from thy hated presence part I so;
See me no more, whe’r [whether] he be dead or no. [Exit.
DEMETRIUS: There is no following her in this fierce
Here therefore for a while I will remain.
So sorrow’s heaviness doth heavier grow
For debt that bankrupt sleep doth sorrow owe;
Which now in some slight measure it will pay,
If for his tender here I make some stay. [Lies down and
sorrow's . . . stay: My
heavy sorrow only grows heavier. Sleep might relieve my sorrow
and, lord knows, I deserve some rest. Perhaps if I lie down, sleep
give me what I deserve.]
OBERON: What hast thou done? thou hast mistaken
And laid the love-juice on some true-love’s
Of thy misprision must perforce ensue
Some true-love turn’d, and not a false turn’d true.
[What has . . .
true: Puck, you put love juice on the wrong person. Your mistake
will produce unexpected results.]
PUCK: Then fate o’er-rules, that, one man holding
A million fail, confounding oath on oath.
[Then fate . .
. oath: It's in fate's
hands now. Bear in mind that in the world at large, one man may
true to his pledges of love while a million other men violate
vows of love.]
OBERON: About the wood go
swifter than the wind,
And Helena of Athens look thou find:
All fancy-sick she is, and pale of cheer
With sighs of love, that cost the fresh blood
By some illusion see thou bring her here:
I’ll charm his eyes against she do appear.
[About the wood
. . . appear: With all
due speed, search the woods and find Helena of Athens, who is sick
love. By some trick, bring her here. Meanwhile, I'll put love
Demetrius's eyes in preparation for her arrival.]
PUCK: I go, I go; look how I go;
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow.
of the army of
Ghenghis Khan (1162?-1227), who conquered vast territories in
Tartar was renowned for his extraordinary skill with the bow and
OBERON: Flower of this purple dye,
Hit [Demetrius] with Cupid’s
Sink in apple of his
When his love he doth
Let her shine as
As the Venus of the
When thou wak’st, if
she be by,
Beg of her for
PUCK: Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at
And the youth [Lysander], mistook by me [for Demetrius],
Pleading for a lover’s
[Pleading . . . fee: Pleading with
Hermia to love him]
Shall we their fond
Lord, what fools these
OBERON: Stand aside: the noise they
Will cause Demetrius to
PUCK: Then will two [Demetrius and Lysander] at once woo one [Hermia];
That must needs be
[That . . . alone:
Their wooing competition will be amusing.]
And those things do
best please me
That befall [happen] preposterously.
Enter LYSANDER and HELENA.
LYSANDER: Why should you think that I should woo in
Scorn and derision never come in tears:
Look, when I vow, I weep; and vows so born,
In their nativity all truth appears.
How can these things in me seem scorn to you,
Bearing the badge of faith to prove them true?
[Why should . .
. true: Why do you
think I am making fun of you when I woo you? A person who is in
as I am, is not a person who scorns others. Look at me: notice
when I swear I love you, I weep. Truth resides in a person who
when he makes a vow. So, how can I be scorning you when my
proven by my tears, tells you that I love you?]
HELENA: You do advance your cunning more and
When truth kills truth, O devilish-holy fray!
These vows are Hermia’s: will you give her o’er?
[You do . . .
her o'er: You are
getting better and better at deceiving people. Now, you're using
to kill truth, vowing that you truly love me when you previously
that you truly loved Hermia. You're turning holy truth into a
thing. Now, what of Hermia? Are you rejecting her?]
Weigh oath with oath, and you will nothing
Your vows, to her and me, put in two scales,
Will even weigh, and both as light as tales.
[Weigh oath . .
. tales: If you
weighed on balance scales the promises you made to me and the
you made to her, the scales would show no weight at all. All of
promises are lies, without substance.]
LYSANDER: I had no judgment when to her I
HELENA: Nor none, in my mind, now you give her
LYSANDER: Demetrius loves her, and he loves not
DEMETRIUS: [Awaking.] O Helen! goddess, nymph,
To what, my love, shall I compare thine eyne [eyes]?
Crystal is muddy. O! how ripe in show
Thy lips, those kissing cherries, tempting grow;
This pure congealed white, high Taurus’ snow,
Fann’d with the eastern wind, turns to a crow
When thou hold’st up thy hand. O! let me kiss
That princess of pure white, this seal of bliss.
[Crystal . . .
bliss: Crystal is muddy compared to the clarity of your
eyes. Your cherry lips are tempting. The snow on the Taurus
(in present day southern Turkey) turns black when you hold up a
white hand. O, let me kiss your hand, an action that will seal my
HELENA: O spite! O hell! I see you all are
To set against me for your merriment:
If you were civil and knew courtesy,
You would not do me thus much injury.
Can you not hate me, as I know you do,
But you must join in souls to mock me too?
If you were men, as men you are in show,
You would not use a gentle lady so;
To vow, and swear, and superpraise my parts,
When I am sure you hate me with your hearts.
You both are rivals, and love Hermia,
And now both rivals, to mock Helena:
A trim [challenging]
exploit, a manly enterprise,
To conjure tears up in a poor maid’s eyes
With your derision! none of noble sort
Would so offend a virgin, and extort
A poor soul’s patience, all to make you sport.
LYSANDER: You are unkind, Demetrius; be not
For you love Hermia; this you know I know:
And here, with all good will, with all my heart,
In Hermia’s love I yield you up my part;
And yours of Helena to me bequeath,
Whom I do love, and will do to my death.
HELENA: Never did mockers waste more idle
DEMETRIUS: Lysander, keep thy Hermia; I will
If e’er I lov’d her, all that love is gone.
My heart with her but as guest-wise sojourn’d,
And now to Helen it is home return’d,
[My heart . . .
return'd: My heart was but a guest that briefly resided with her.
It has now returned to Helena.]
There to remain.
LYSANDER: Helen, it is not so.
DEMETRIUS: Disparage not the faith thou dost not
Lest to thy peril thou aby it dear.
[Disparage . . . dear: Don't belittle my devotion to Helena, which
don't understand, or you will pay heavy penalty for doing so.
Look! where thy love comes: yonder is thy dear.
HERMIA: Dark night, that from the eye his function
The ear more quick of apprehension makes;
Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense,
It pays the hearing double recompense.
[Dark . . .
recompense: Dark night
robs the eye of its ability to see. But the ear hears well. In
the night doubles the ear's ability while diminishing the eye's
Thou art not by mine eye, Lysander, found;
Mine ear, I thank it, brought me to thy sound.
But why unkindly didst thou leave me so?
LYSANDER: Why should he [I] stay, whom love doth press to go?
HERMIA: What love could press Lysander from my
LYSANDER: Lysander’s love, that would not let him
Fair Helena, who more engilds [makes golden] the night
Than all yon fiery oes [circles; spheres] and eyes of light.
Why seek’st thou me? could not this make thee
The hate I bear thee made me leave thee so?
HERMIA: You speak not as you think: it cannot
HELENA: Lo! she is one of this confederacy.
Now I perceive they have conjoin’d all three
To fashion this false sport in spite of me.
[she is . . .
spite of me: She must
be part of this conspiracy against me. I think she has joined
Demetrius in a plot to make fun of me.]
Injurious Hermia! most ungrateful maid!
Have you conspir’d, have you with these
To bait me with this foul derision?
Is all the counsel that we two have shar’d,
The sister-vows, the hours that we have spent,
When we have chid [scolded] the hasty-footed time
For parting us, O! is it all forgot?
All school-days’ friendship, childhood
We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our neelds [needles] created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
images intended to demonstrate the skill of a needleworker and to
as a decorative element]
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
. . . key: Both singing the same song in the same key]
As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds,
Had been incorporate [the same]. So we grew together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition;
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem;
So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart;
Two of the first, like coats in heraldry,
Due but to one, and crowned with one crest.
[Two of . . .
crest: Two people who
are united in one coat of arms with a single crest. In heraldry,
coat of arms of a husband was united with the coat of arms of a
The crest is an ornamental, often leafy, element that appears
And will you rent [tear] our ancient love asunder [into pieces],
To join with men in scorning your poor friend?
It is not friendly, ’tis not maidenly:
Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it,
Though I alone do feel the injury.
HERMIA: I am amazed at your passionate
I scorn you not: it seems that you scorn me.
HELENA: Have you not set Lysander, as in
To follow me and praise my eyes and face,
[Have you . . .
face: Isn't it true that you told Lysander to mock me by
pretending to praise me?]
And made your other love, Demetrius,—
Who even but now did spurn me with his foot,—
To call me goddess, nymph, divine and rare,
Precious, celestial? Wherefore [why] speaks he this
[And made . . .
celestial: And didn't you also tell Demetrius to mock me by
calling me a goddess and a celestial being?]
To her he hates? and wherefore [why] doth Lysander
Deny your love, so rich within his soul,
And tender [offer] me,
forsooth [in truth],
But by your setting on [instigation], by your consent?
What though I be not so in grace as you,
So hung upon with love, so fortunate,
But miserable most to love unlov’d?
This you should pity rather than despise.
[What though .
. . despise: I am not
as popular as you are. Though I love, I am not loved back. You
pity me instead of making fun of me.]
HERMIA: I understand not what you mean by
HELENA: Ay, do, persever, counterfeit sad
Make mouths upon me when I turn my back;
Wink each at other; hold the sweet jest up:
This sport, well carried, shall be chronicled.
[Ay, do . . .
chronicled: All right,
go ahead and persevere in your mockery. Put on sad looks. Make
me behind my back. Wink at each other and keep the jest going.
been doing so well at it that someone should write a story about
If you have any pity, grace, or manners,
You would not make me such an argument.
would . . . argument: You would not make me the butt of
But, fare ye well: ’tis partly mine own fault,
Which death or absence soon shall remedy.
LYSANDER: Stay, gentle Helena! hear my
My love, my life, my soul, fair Helena!
HELENA: O excellent!
HERMIA: Sweet, do not scorn her so.
DEMETRIUS: If she cannot entreat, I can
[If she . . .
compel: If Hermia cannot persuade you to stop teasing her,
Lysander, I can force you to do so.]
LYSANDER: Thou canst compel no more than she
Thy threats have no more strength than her weak
force me any more than Hermia can persuade me. Your threats are no
stronger than her weak entreaties.]
Helen, I love thee; by my life, I do:
I swear by that which I will lose for thee,
To prove him false that says I love thee not.
DEMETRIUS: I say I love thee more than he can do [more than he does].
LYSANDER: If thou say so, withdraw, and prove it
[If thou . . .
too: Back up your words by withdrawing with me and fighting a
DEMETRIUS: Quick, come!
Lysander, whereto tends all this? [Lysander, what is all this
LYSANDER: Away, you Ethiop!
[Away . . .
Ethiop: Away, you Ethiopian (a remark
addressed to Hermia). An Ethiopian is a black African. This remark
sounds racist. However, in Shakespeare: the
editor G. B. Harrison says the remark may indicate that the boy
playing Hermia had a dark complexion. (New York: Harcourt,
& World, Inc., 1952, page 530)].
DEMETRIUS: No, no, he’ll …
Seem to break loose; take on, as you would
But yet come not: you are a tame man, go!
[No, no . . .
go: If you leave his
side, Hermia, he'll make it seem as if he is breaking away from
The fact is that he is using you as a shield. As for you,
make as if you are going to follow me. But don't. You're a
coward.Your best option is to run away.]
LYSANDER: [To HERMIA.] Hang off, thou cat, thou burr!
vile thing, let loose,
Or I will shake thee from me like a serpent.
HERMIA: Why are you grown so rude? what change is
LYSANDER: Thy love! out, tawny Tartar [dark-skinned
Out, loathed medicine! hated poison, hence!
HERMIA: Do you not jest?
HELENA: Yes, sooth; and so do you. [Yes, he is joking. And
so are you.]
LYSANDER: Demetrius, I will keep my word [to duel] with
DEMETRIUS: I would I had your bond [written pledge], for I perceive
A weak bond [the bond is Hermia] holds you: I’ll not trust your word.
LYSANDER: What! should I hurt her, strike her, kill her
Although I hate her, I’ll not harm her so.
HERMIA: What! can you do me greater harm than
Hate me! wherefore [why]?
O me! what news [what has changed you], my love?
Am not I Hermia? Are not you Lysander?
I am as fair [attractive to you] now as I was erewhile [earlier; before].
Since night you lov’d me; yet, since night you left
Why, then you left me,—O, the gods forbid!—
In earnest, shall I say?
[Since night .
. . I say: You loved me
earlier in the evening, but after you woke up you rejected me—the
forbid!—and did so in earnest.]
LYSANDER: Ay, by my life;
And never did desire to see thee more.
Therefore be out of hope, of question, doubt;
Be certain, nothing truer: ’tis no jest,
That I do hate thee and love Helena.
HERMIA: O me! you juggler [one who "juggles" lovers]! you canker-blossom [destructive worm
in a flower blossom]!
You thief of love! what! have you come by night
And stol’n my love’s heart from him?
[you juggler .
. . from him: Helena, you are a juggler of lovers! You are a
destructive worm in a flower blossom! You came by night and stole from him
his love for me.]
HELENA: Fine, i’
Have you no modesty, no maiden shame,
No touch of bashfulness? What! will you tear
Impatient answers from my gentle tongue?
Fie, fie! you counterfeit [deceiver], you puppet [mere doll] you!
HERMIA: Puppet! why, so: ay, that way goes the
Now I perceive that she hath made compare
Between our statures: she hath urg’d her height;
And with her personage, her tall personage,
Her height, forsooth, she hath prevail’d with
And are you grown so high in his esteem,
Because I am so dwarfish and so low?
How low am I, thou painted maypole? speak;
How low am I? I am not yet so low
But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes.
[Puppet! . . .
thine eyes: In this
passage, Hermia says Helena claims to be tall in stature and
Hermia, on the other hand, is dwarfish in appearance and virtue.
least that is what Hermia says Helena maintains. Hermia asks
Helena—adressing her as a "painted maypole"—just how low she is.
matter how low she is, Hermia says, she is tall enough to scratch
HELENA: I pray you, though you mock me,
Let her not hurt me: I was never curst;
I have no gift at all in shrewishness;
I am a right maid for my cowardice:
Let her not strike me. You perhaps may think,
Because she is something lower than myself,
That I can match her.
[I pray . . .
match her: Please,
gentlemen, don't let her hurt me. I was never cursed with savagery
unruliness. I am a meek, upstanding maid. Don't let her hit me.
might think that I can repel her because she is lower than I am.]
HERMIA: Lower! hark, again.
HELENA: Good Hermia, do not be so bitter with
I evermore did love you, Hermia,
Did ever keep your counsels, never wrong’d you;
Save that, in love unto Demetrius,
I told him of your stealth unto this wood.
He follow’d you; for love I follow’d him;
But he hath chid me hence [chased me away], and threaten’d me
To strike me, spurn me, nay, to kill me too:
And now, so you will let me quiet go,
To Athens will I bear my folly back,
And follow you no further: let me go:
You see how simple and how fond I am.
HERMIA: Why, get you gone. Who is ’t that hinders
HELENA: A foolish heart, that I leave here
HERMIA: What! with Lysander?
HELENA: With Demetrius.
LYSANDER: Be not afraid: she shall not harm thee,
DEMETRIUS: No, sir; she shall not, though you take her
HELENA: O! when she’s angry, she is keen and
She was a vixen [unruly girl; female fox] when she went to
And though she be but little, she is fierce.
HERMIA: ‘Little’ again! nothing but ‘low’ and
Why will you suffer her to flout me thus?
Let me come to her.
LYSANDER: Get you gone, you dwarf;
You minimus, of hindering knot-grass made;
[You minimus .
. . made: You insignificant thing; you piece of knotgrass, a weed
that hinders the growth of surrounding plants]
You bead, you acorn!
DEMETRIUS: You are
In her behalf that scorns your services.
Let her alone; speak not of Helena;
Take not her part, for, if thou dost intend
Never so little show of love to her,
Thou shalt aby it.
[You are . . .
aby it: You are too
quick to meddle in the affairs of someone who scorns you. And
speak of Helena. If you wrong her, you'll pay a penalty.]
LYSANDER: Now she holds me not;
Now follow, if thou dar’st, to try whose right,
Or thine or mine, is most in Helena.
[Now she . . .
Helena: First, Hermia and I have broken up. Second, I am willing
to fight you for Helena. Follow me.]
DEMETRIUS: Follow! nay, I’ll go with thee, cheek by jole [jowl]. [Exeunt LYSANDER and
[Follow . . .
jole: I won't follow you. I'll walk with you shoulder to
shoulder—that is, cheek to jowl.]
HERMIA: You, mistress, all this coil is ’long of
Nay, go not back.
. . . back: You, Helena—all this trouble is because of you. Stay
put. Don't run away.]
HELENA: I will not trust you, I,
Nor longer stay in your curst company.
Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray,
My legs are longer though, to run away.
[I will . . .
away: Because I don't
trust you, I will no longer stay in your accursed company. You may
quicker hands than mine in a fight, but I have strong legs to
HERMIA: I am amaz’d, and know not what to say.
OBERON: This is thy negligence: still thou
Or else commit’st thy knaveries wilfully.
[This is . . .
wilfully: The conflicts
between these mortals result from your mistakes, Puck—or perhaps
PUCK: Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook [made a mistake].
Did not you tell me I should know the man
By the Athenian garments he had on?
And so far blameless proves my enterprise,
That I have ’nointed [anointed; put magic potion on] an Athenian’s eyes;
And so far am I glad it so did sort,
As this their jangling [arguing; wrangling] I esteem a sport.
OBERON: Thou see’st these lovers seek a place to
Robin, overcast the night;
The starry welkin [sky]
cover thou anon [then; immediately]
With drooping fog as black as Acheron;
[Acheron (AK er
on) : In Greek mythology, the river of woe in Hades]
And lead these testy rivals so astray,
As one come not within another’s way.
Like to Lysander sometime frame thy tongue,
Then stir Demetrius up with bitter wrong;
And sometime rail thou like Demetrius;
And from each other look thou lead them thus,
Till o’er their brows death-counterfeiting sleep
With leaden legs and batty wings doth creep:
[Like to . . .
Lysander's voice, say nasty things about Demetrius. Then imitate
Demetrius's voice and say nasty things about Lysander. Keep up
mischief until they tire and fall asleep.]
Then crush this herb into Lysander’s eye;
Whose liquor hath this virtuous property,
To take from thence all error with his might,
And make his eyeballs roll with wonted sight.
[Whose . . .
sight: Whose juice has
the power to restore Lysander's senses so that he sees the world
was before he entered the forest.]
When they next wake, all this derision [fighting;
Shall seem a dream and fruitless vision;
And back to Athens shall the lovers wend [go],
With league whose date till death shall never
[With . . .
end: With pledges of love that will remain in effect for the rest
of their lives]
Whiles I in this affair do thee employ,
I’ll to my queen and beg her Indian boy;
[beg . . . boy:
Ask her for the changeling]
And then I will her charmed eye release
From monster’s view, and all things shall be peace.
[And then . . .
peace: And then I will cancel out the magic that has made her fall
in love with the man with the ass's head.]
PUCK: My fairy lord, this must be done with
For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full
And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger;
[night's . . .
harbinger: The dragons
that pull night's dark chariot across the sky are nearing the end
their journey. Moreover, Aurora—the goddess of dawn—has already
out visible signs of her coming.]
At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and
Troop home to churchyards: damned spirits all,
That in cross-ways [crossroads] and floods have burial,
Already to their wormy beds [graves] are gone;
For fear lest day should look their shames upon,
They wilfully themselves exile from light,
And must for aye consort with black-brow’d
OBERON: But we are spirits of another
I with the morning’s love have oft made sport;
And, like a forester, the groves may tread,
Even till the eastern gate, all fiery-red,
Opening on Neptune with fair blessed beams,
Turns into yellow gold his salt green streams.
[But we . . .
streams: But we are not
like those sad, woeful ghosts. I myself welcome dawn and its fiery
sky that shines down on the the god of the sea, Neptune, and turns
oceans into golden waterways.]
But, notwithstanding, haste; make no delay:
We may effect [carry out; accomplish] this business yet ere [before] day. [Exit
PUCK: Up and down, up and down;
I will lead them up and
I am fear’d in field and
Goblin, lead them up and
creature that works mischief against humans. Puck appears to be
referring to himself.]
Here comes one.
LYSANDER: Where art thou, proud Demetrius? speak thou
PUCK: Here, villain! drawn and ready. Where art
LYSANDER: I will be with thee straight.
PUCK: Follow me, then,
To plainer ground. [Exit LYSANDER as following the
Thou runaway, thou coward, art thou fled?
Speak! In some bush? Where dost thou hide thy
PUCK: Thou coward! art thou bragging to the
Telling the bushes that thou look’st for wars,
And wilt not come? Come, recreant [coward]; come, thou child;
I’ll whip thee with a rod: he is defil’d
That draws a sword on thee.
[he is . . .
thee: It would be shameful to have to draw a sword on a coward
DEMETRIUS: Yea, art thou there?
PUCK: Follow my voice: we’ll try no manhood here.
. . here: We won't fight in this place.]
LYSANDER: He goes before me and still dares me
When I come where he calls, then he is gone.
The villain is much lighter-heel’d than I:
I follow’d fast, but faster he did fly;
That fallen am I in dark uneven way,
[That fallen .
. . way: I have come upon a dark, uneven area.]
And here will rest me. [Lies down.] Come, thou gentle
For it but once thou show me thy grey light,
I’ll find Demetrius and revenge this spite.
[For it . . .
spite: For once the first light of dawn appears. I'll find
Demetrius and gain my revenge.]
Re-enter PUCK and DEMETRIUS.
PUCK: Ho! ho! ho! Coward, why com’st thou
DEMETRIUS: Abide [confront] me, if thou dar’st [dare]; for well I wot [know]
Thou runn’st [run] before me,
shifting every place,
And dar’st not stand, nor look me in the face.
Where art thou now?
PUCK: Come hither: I am here.
DEMETRIUS: Nay then, thou mock’st me. Thou shalt buy this
If ever I thy face by daylight see:
[Nay then . . .
see: You're mocking me. You'll pay dearly for your tricks if I see
your face in the daylight.]
Now, go thy way. Faintness [weariness] constraineth [forces] me
To measure out my length [to lie down] on this cold bed:
By day’s approach look to be visited. [Lies down and
[By day's . . .
visited: When day arrives, I'll track you down.]
HELENA: O weary night! O long and tedious
Abate [shorten] thy hours! shine, comforts [comforting light], from the east!
That I may back to Athens by daylight,
From these that my poor company detest:
[That I . . .
detest: That I may return to Athens and get away from these people
who detest my company]
And sleep, that sometimes shuts up sorrow’s eye,
Steal me a while from mine own company. [Lies down and
PUCK: Yet but three? Come one more;
Two of both kinds make up
Here she comes, curst and
Cupid is a knavish
Thus to make poor females
HERMIA: Never so weary, never so in woe,
Bedabbled [smeared] with
the dew and torn with briers,
I can no further crawl, no further go;
My legs can keep no pace with my desires.
Here will I rest me till the break of day.
Heavens shield Lysander, if they mean a fray! [Lies down and
PUCK: On the ground
To your eye,
Gentle lover, remedy [Squeezing the juice on
When thou wak’st,
In the sight
Of thy former lady’s eye:
And the country proverb
That every man should take his
[That every Jack should have his Jill]
In your waking shall be
Jack shall have
Nought shall go
The man shall have his mare
And all shall be well.
A Wood. LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS, HELENA and HERMIA lying asleep.
Enter TITANIA and BOTTOM, Fairies attending; OBERON behind unseen.
TITANIA: Come, sit thee down upon this flowery
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy [kiss; caress],
And stick musk-roses [white roses with the scent of musk] in thy sleek smooth
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.
BOTTOM: Where’s Peaseblossom?
BOTTOM: Scratch my head, Peaseblossom. Where’s Mounsieur [Monsieur] Cobweb?
BOTTOM: Mounsieur Cobweb, good mounsieur, get your weapons
your hand, and kill me a redhipped humble-bee [bumblebee] on the top of a thistle [prickly plant];
and, good mounsieur, bring me the honey-bag [honey sac]. Do not fret yourself too
much in the action, mounsieur; and, good mounsieur, have a care
honey-bag break not; I would be loath to have you overflown with a
honey-bag, signior [have you get honey all over yourself]. Where’s Mounsieur
BOTTOM: Give me your neaf [neif: fist], Mounsieur Mustardseed. Pray you,
leave your curtsy [don't bow to me], good mounsieur.
Must. What’s your will?
BOTTOM: Nothing, good mounsieur, but to help Cavalery [cavalier;
to scratch [scratch my head].
I must to the barber’s, mounsieur, for methinks I am
marvellous hairy about the face; and I am such a tender ass, if my
do but tickle me, I must scratch.
[I am such . .
. scratch: My skin is so sensitive that if a hair tickles it, I
TITANIA: What, wilt thou hear some music, my sweet
BOTTOM: I have a reasonable good ear in music: let us have
the tongs and the bones.
Both the tongs and the
bones were percussion instruments. The tongs were played by
them together. The bones were played the same way.]
TITANIA: Or say, sweet love, what thou desir’st to
BOTTOM: Truly, a peck of provender [dry food for
livestock]: I could munch
dry oats. Methinks I have a great desire to a bottle of hay: good hay,
sweet hay, hath no fellow.
[Methinks . . .
fellow: I think I would like a bundle of hay. Really good hay has
TITANIA: I have a venturous [adventurous] fairy that shall
The squirrel’s hoard, and fetch thee thence new
BOTTOM: I had rather have a handful or two of dried pease [peas].
But, I pray you, let none of your people stir me: I have an
or disposition for] sleep
come upon me.
TITANIA: Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my
Fairies, be gone, and be all ways away. [Exeunt
So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle
Gently entwist; the female ivy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.
O! how I love thee; how I dote on thee! [They
OBERON: [Advancing.] Welcome, good Robin. See’st thou
this sweet sight?
Her dotage [devotion to Bottom] now I do begin to pity:
For, meeting her of late behind the wood,
Seeking sweet favours for this hateful fool,
I did upbraid her and fall out with her;
For she his hairy temples then had rounded
With coronet [small crown or headband] of fresh and fragrant flowers;
And that same dew, which sometime on the buds
Was wont to swell like round and orient pearls,
Stood now within the pretty flowerets’ eyes
Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail.
[And that same
. . . bewail: And the
same dew that appears like pearls on the buds of flowers now cried
tears of shame for appearing on the coronet of this fool with the
of an ass.]
When I had at my pleasure taunted her,
And she in mild terms begg’d my patience,
I then did ask of her her changeling child;
Which straight she gave me, and her fairy sent
To bear him to my bower [residence; private chamber] in fairy land.
And now I have the boy, I will undo
This hateful imperfection of her eyes:
[This . . .
eyes: This hateful spell that made her love Bottom]
And, gentle Puck, take this
transformed scalp [this ass's head]
From off the head of this Athenian swain [fellow],
That he, awaking when the other do,
May all to Athens back again repair [go],
And think no more of this night’s accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream.
But first I will release the fairy queen. [Touching her eyes
with an herb.
Be as thou wast wont to
See as thou wast wont
Dian’s bud o’er Cupid’s
Hath such force and
. . power: This bud
that touches your eyes is from Diana, the virgin moon goddess. It
the power to undo the spell that made you love Bottom. (In ancient
mythology, Diana was the Roman name for Artemis, the Greek goddess
the moon and of virginity.)]
Now, my Titania; wake you, my
TITANIA: My Oberon! what visions have I
Methought I was enamour’d of [in love with] an ass.
OBERON: There lies your love.
[There . . .
love: The ass is right over there, sleeping.]
TITANIA: How came these things to pass?
O! how mine eyes do loathe his visage now.
OBERON: Silence, awhile. Robin, take off this
Titania, music call; and strike more dead
Than common sleep of all these five the sense.
[Robin, take .
. . sense: Robin,
remove the ass's head from that man. Titania, tell your fairies to
music. Then make those five humans sleep more deeply than is
TITANIA: Music, ho! music! such as charmeth sleep.
[Music . . .
sleep: Fairies, play music that will charm these people into a
PUCK: When thou wak’st, with thine own fool’s eyes
[When thou . .
. . peep: Puck removes
the donkey head and comments that Bottom, upon awakening, will
to being his old, foolish self.]
OBERON: Sound, music! [Still, music.] Come, my
queen, take hands with me,
And rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.
[And rock . . .
be: And let's dance in a way that rocks the ground as if it were a
cradle for these sleepers.]
Now thou and I are new in amity,
[Now . . .
amity: Now you and I are reconciled.]
And will to-morrow midnight
Dance in Duke Theseus’ house triumphantly,
And bless it to all fair prosperity.
There shall the pairs of faithful lovers be
Wedded, with Theseus, all in jollity.
PUCK: Fairy king, attend, and mark:
I do hear
the morning lark.
OBERON: Then, my queen, in silence sad,
Trip we after the night’s
We the globe can compass
Swifter than the wandering
[Then, my . . .
moon: Then, my queen,
in somber silence, let's follow the night westward. We can circle
globe more swiftly than the moon.]
TITANIA: Come, my lord; and in our flight [and during our
Tell me how it came this
That I sleeping here was
With these mortals on the
ground. [Exeunt. Horns winded within.
within: Horns played offstage.]
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, EGEUS, and Train.
THESEUS: Go, one of you, find out the
For now our observation is perform’d;
observation . . . perform'd: We have carried out the rites of May
And since we have the vaward [early part; forepart] of the day,
My love shall hear the music of my hounds.
Uncouple in the western valley; let them go:
[My love . . .
let them go: My love
shall hear the barking of my hounds as they track their prey.
them in the valley to the west.]
Dispatch [go], I say, and
find the forester.
We will, fair queen, up to the mountain’s top,
And mark the musical confusion
Of hounds and echo in conjunction.
[And mark . . .
conjunction: And listen to the musical confusion of barking hounds
and the echoes they make.]
HIPPOLYTA: I was with Hercules and Cadmus once,
Greek mythology, the son of the king of Phoenicia and founder of
the Greek city of Thebes]
When in a wood of Crete they bay’d the bear
With hounds of Sparta: never did I hear
Such gallant chiding; for, besides the groves,
The skies, the fountains, every region
Seem’d all one mutual cry. I never heard
So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.
[they bay'd . .
. thunder: They
tracked down a bear with their hounds of Sparta. Never did I hear
loud barking. The groves, the skies, the fountains, and every
near seemed to echo a single cry of baying dogs. I never heard
musical cacophony—such sweet thunder.]
THESEUS: My hounds are bred out of the Spartan
So flew’d, so sanded; and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew;
Crook-knee’d, and dew-lapp’d like
[My hounds . .
. dew: My hounds are
like the Spartan ones, having fleshy jowls (flew'd), a sandy color, and
ears so long that they sweep away the morning dew. They also have
crooked (one-syllable word, like hooked) knees and drooping folds of flesh under
the chin, like the bulls of Thessaly, in east-central Greece.]
Slow in pursuit, but match’d in mouth like
[but . . .
bells: But matched with barks that blend together like harmonizing
Each under each. A cry more tuneable
Was never holla’d to, nor cheer’d with horn,
In Crete, in Sparta, nor in Thessaly:
Judge, when you hear. But, soft! what nymphs are
EGEUS: My lord, this is my daughter here
And this, Lysander; this Demetrius is;
This Helena, old Nedar’s Helena:
I wonder of their being here together.
[I wonder . . .
together: I wonder why they are here together.]
THESEUS: No doubt they rose up early to
The rite of May [May Day celebrations], and, hearing our
Came here in grace of our solemnity.
[hearing . . .
solemnity: Hearing that I would be in this vicinity, they gathered
here to pay their respects to me.]
But speak, Egeus, is not this the day
That Hermia should give answer of her choice [select a future
EGEUS: It is, my lord.
THESEUS: Go, bid the huntsmen wake them with their
horns. [Horns and shout within. LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS,
HERMIA, and HELENA, wake and start up.
Good morrow, friends. Saint Valentine is past:
Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?
[Good morrow .
. . now: Good morning,
friends. Saint Valentine's Day, when birds mate, has come and
you lovebirds seem to be choosing each other only now.]
LYSANDER: Pardon, my lord. [He and the rest
THESEUS: I pray you all, stand up.
I know you two are rival enemies:
How comes this gentle concord in the world,
That hatred is so far from jealousy,
To sleep by hate, and fear no enmity?
[How comes . .
. enmity: How is it
that there is peace among you four? Hatred has divided you, yet
sleep next to one another without fear of trouble.]
LYSANDER: My lord, I shall reply amazedly,
Half sleep [asleep], half
waking [awake]: but as
yet, I swear,
I cannot truly say how I came here;
But, as I think,—for truly would I speak,
And now I do bethink me, so it is,—
I came with Hermia hither [here]: our intent
Was to be gone from Athens, where we might,
Without the peril of the Athenian law—
EGEUS: Enough, enough, my lord; you have
I beg the law, the law, upon his head.
They would have stol’n away; they would,
Thereby to have defeated you and me;
have robbed] You of your
wife, and me of my consent,
Of my consent that she should be your wife.
DEMETRIUS: My lord, fair Helen told me of their
Of this their purpose hither, to this wood;
And I in fury hither follow’d them,
Fair Helena in fancy following me.
[Fair . . . me:
Fair Helena, out of love for me, followed.]
But, my good lord, I wot [know] not by what power,—
But by some power it is,—my love to Hermia,
Melted as doth the snow, seems to me now
As the remembrance of an idle gaud [passing fancy;
Which in my childhood I did dote upon;
And all the faith, the virtue of my heart,
The object and the pleasure of mine eye,
Is only Helena. To her, my lord,
Was I betroth’d ere [before] I saw Hermia:
But, like in sickness, did I loathe this food;
But, as in health, come to my natural taste,
Now do I wish it, love it, long for it,
And will for evermore be true to it.
THESEUS: Fair lovers, you are fortunately
Of this discourse we more will hear anon [soon].
Egeus, I will overbear [overrule; supersede] your will,
For in the temple, by and by, with us,
These couples shall eternally be knit [be married]:
And, for the morning now is something worn,
[And, for . . .
worn: And since the morning is already about half over]
Our purpos’d hunting shall be set aside.
Away with us, to Athens: three and three,
three: Three couples—Theseus and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia,
and Demetrius and Helena]
We’ll hold a feast in great solemnity.
Come, Hippolyta. [Exeunt THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, EGEUS, and
DEMETRIUS: These things seem small and
Like far-off mountains turned into clouds.
[These things .
. . clouds: The events of this past night are like a dream.]
HERMIA: Methinks I see these things with parted
When everything seems double.
[Methinks . . .
double: I see two of everything, as if I'm still in a dream.]
HELENA: So methinks:
And I have found Demetrius, like a jewel,
Mine own, and not mine own.
DEMETRIUS: Are you sure
That we are awake? It seems to me
That yet we sleep, we dream. Do you not think
The duke was here, and bid us follow him?
HERMIA: Yea; and my father.
HELENA: And Hippolyta.
LYSANDER: And he did bid us follow to the
DEMETRIUS: Why then, we are awake. Let’s follow
And by the way let us recount our dreams.
BOTTOM: [Awaking.] When my cue comes, call me, and I
will answer: my next [next cue] is, ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho! Peter Quince!
Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout, the tinker! Starveling!
life! stolen hence, and left me asleep! [Where are they? As
God is my witness, they must have run off and left me here to
sleep.] I have had a most
I have had a dream, past the wit [ability] of man to say what dream it was: man
is but an ass, if he go about to expound [to tell people
about] this dream.
was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was,—and methought
had,—but man is but a patched fool [a fool, or jester,
often wore a coat with patches of different colors], if he will offer to say what
methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor
heart to report, what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to
ballad of this dream: it shall be called "Bottom’s Dream," because
hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the latter end of a play,
the duke: peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing
at her death [at the death of Thisbe]. [Exit.
Athens. A Room in QUINCE’S House.
Enter QUINCE, FLUTE, SNOUT, and STARVELING.
QUINCE: Have you sent to Bottom’s house? is he come home
STARVELING: He cannot be heard of. Out of doubt [no doubt] he is transported [kidnapped].
FLUTE: If he come not, then the play is marred: it goes not
forward, doth it?
QUINCE: It is not possible: you have not a man in all Athens
able to discharge Pyramus but he.
Flu No; he hath simply the best wit of any handicraft man in
QUINCE: Yea, and the best person too; and he is a very
paramour [malapropism for paragon] for a sweet voice.
FLUTE: You must say, ‘paragon:’ a paramour is, God bless us!
a thing of naught [naughtiness; impropriety].
SNUG: Masters, the duke is coming from the temple, and
there is two or three lords and ladies more [who have been
married]: if our sport [play] had
gone forward, we had all been made men [celebrities who
FLUTE: O sweet bully Bottom! Thus hath he lost [a pension of] sixpence a
day during his life; he could not have ’scaped [gotten anything
less than] sixpence a
day: an [if] the
duke had not given him sixpence a day for playing Pyramus, I’ll be
hanged; he would have deserved it: sixpence a day in Pyramus, or
BOTTOM: Where are these lads? where are these hearts [my buddies]?
QUINCE: Bottom! O most courageous day! O most happy
BOTTOM: Masters, I am to discourse wonders: but ask me not
what; for if I tell you, I am no true Athenian. I will tell you
everything, right as it fell out.
[Masters . . .
out: Masters, I am
about to speak of wonders that I experienced. But don't ask me
them; for, if I tell you, I am not a true Athenian citizen.
will tell you everything, just as it happened.]
QUINCE: Let us hear, sweet Bottom.
BOTTOM: Not a word of me. All that I will tell you is, that
the duke hath dined. Get your apparel [costumes] together, good strings to your
beards [put on your beards], new ribbons to your pumps [put new ribbons on
your shoes]; meet
presently at the palace; every
man look o’er his part; for the short and the long is, our play is
preferred [will be a hit].
In any case, let Thisby have clean linen [lingerie]; and let not him
that plays the lion pare [trim] his nails, for they shall hang out for the
lion’s claws [they should look like the lion's claws]. And, most dear actors, eat no onions
nor garlic, for we
are to utter sweet breath, and I do not doubt but to hear them
is a sweet comedy. No more words: away! go; away.
Athens. An Apartment in the Palace of THESEUS.
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, Lords, and Attendants.
HIPPOLYTA: ’Tis strange, my Theseus, that [what] these lovers speak
THESEUS: More strange than true. I never may
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
[More strange .
. . toys: Yes, strange, but not true. I don't believe any of these
old fables and fairytales.]
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,
Are of imagination all compact:
[Lovers . . .
compact: Lovers and
lunatics have such active brains. They imagine all sorts of things
a normal person cannot understand. Lovers, lunatics, and poets
be made of imagination.]
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman; the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
[One sees . . .
and a name: The madman
sees more devils than there are in hell. The lover sees in a
common Gypsy's face the beauty of Helen of Troy, the dazzling
enchantress who started the Trojan War. The poet's pen, inspired
frenzied imagination, turns airy nothingness into shapes and
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear!
HIPPOLYTA: But all the story of the night told
And all their minds transfigur’d so together,
More witnesseth than fancy’s images,
And grows to something of great constancy,
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.
[But all . . .
admirable: But they are
consistent in their accounts of what happened during the night.
Moreover, they all appear spellbound by what they heard and saw.
Therefore, I think they really did experience something strange
wonderful. They didn't just imagine everything.]
THESEUS: Here come the lovers, full of joy and
Enter LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS, HERMIA, and HELENA.
Joy, gentle friends! joy, and fresh days of love
Accompany your hearts!
LYSANDER: More than to us
Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed!
[More than . .
. bed: It is our hope
that more joy than we are experiencing awaits you and Hippolyta on
leisurely walks, at your dining table, and in your bed!]
THESEUS: Come now; what masques [amusements], what dances shall we
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between our after-supper and bed-time?
Where is our usual manager of mirth [manager of
entertainment; master of revels]?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
Call Philostrate [the master of revels].
PHILOSTRATE: Here, mighty Theseus.
THESEUS: Say, what abridgment [entertainment;
amusement] have you for
What masque? what music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?
PHILOSTRATE: There is a brief [list of] how many sports [entertainments] are ripe [ready];
Make choice of which your highness will see first. [Gives a
THESEUS: The battle with the Centaurs, to be
Greek mythology, a creature with the legs and body of a horse and
the arms, trunk, and head of a man]
By an Athenian eunuch [castrated man or boy] to the harp.
We’ll none of that: that have I told my love,
[that . . .
love: That story I have already told to Hippolyta.]
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
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
[The riot . . .
conqueror: Next on the list
is the story of the riot of the drunken women devoted to Bacchus,
god of wine. In this story, they tear to pieces the gifted
musician and poet Orpheus. (Thrace was an ancient country north of
Aegean Sea.) That's an old story that was dramatized for me after
returned from conquering the Greek city of Thebes.]
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.
[The thrice . .
. ceremony: Next is
the story of the nine Muses mourning the death of an impoverished
That sort of satire is not appropriate for a wedding
(The muses were goddesses of poetry, music, astronomy, and other
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?
[A tedious . .
. discord: Here's a
strange one: An enactment of a scene from a funny tragedy that is
but drawn out. How can a play be amusing and tragic, or short and
What are we to make of this production?]
PHILOSTRATE: 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.
THESEUS: What are they that do play it?
PHILOSTRATE: 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.
. . nuptial: They are
Athenians who work with their hands. They never did mental labor
now. They worked hard to commit their lines to their unexercised
so that they could perform their play as part of your wedding
THESEUS: And we will hear it.
PHILOSTRATE: 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 [amusement] in their intents [meager talents],
Extremely stretch’d [stretched to their limits] and conn’d [studied; learned] with cruel pain,
To do you service.
THESEUS: I will hear that play;
For never anything can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender [present; accompany] it.
Go, bring them in: and take your places, ladies. [Exit
HIPPOLYTA: I love not to see wretchedness
And duty in his service perishing.
[I love . . .
perishing: I don't like
to see ungifted people overtaxing themselves to live up to a high
standard. I feel sorry for them when they fail.]
THESEUS: Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such
HIPPOLYTA: He says they can do nothing in this
special to entertain us].
THESEUS: The kinder we, to give them thanks for
[The kinder . . . nothing: The kinder we will be if we thank them
Our sport shall be to take what they mistake:
And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect
Takes it in might, not merit.
[Our sport . .
. merit: Our
entertainment shall be to overlook their mistakes. If their acting
lacks merit, we should at least respect their efforts.]
Where I have come, great clerks have purposed [planned]
To greet me with premeditated [rehearsed] welcomes;
Where [but] I have seen them shiver and look
Make periods in the midst of sentences [fail to finish
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 [botched greeting] yet I pick’d a
And in the modesty of fearful duty
I read as much as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
[And in the
modesty . . . eloquence:
And in their modesty and fearfulness, they said as much as someone
welcomes me with bold and confident eloquence.]
Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity
In least speak most, to my capacity.
[Love . . . capacity: Those with genuine love in their hearts,
they may be tongue-tied in their simplicity, say the most even
they say the least, to my way of thinking.]
PHILOSTRATE: So please your Grace, the Prologue is
[Prologue . . .
addressed: An actor called the Prologue is ready to introduce the
THESEUS: Let him approach. [Flourish of
Enter QUINCE for the Prologue.
PROLOGUE: If we offend, it is with our good
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will. To show 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
The actors are at hand; and, by their show,
You shall know all that you are like to know.
[If we offend . . . to know: Quince means to say that he and his
actors do not wish to offend anyone. But because he pauses at the
places, he conveys the opposite meaning. For example, he pauses at
end of the first line (as indicated by the period) instead of
the first line into the second without a pause.
THESEUS: This fellow doth
not stand upon points.
[This . . .
points: This fellow apparently misuses punctuation, judging from
the way he recites his lines.]
LYSANDER: He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he
knows not the stop [he does not know when to use periods]. A good moral, my lord: it is not
enough to speak,
but to speak true.
HIPPOLYTA: Indeed he hath played on his prologue like a
a recorder [flute-like instrument]; a sound, but not in government [but not well
played; but not well executed; but not well governed].
THESEUS: 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
of a play acted without speaking; pantomime].
tradesmen's script spells the name of the lover of Pyramus as Thisby, with a y on the end.
However, the correct spelling is Thisbe, with an e on the end.]
PROLOGUE: Gentles [ladies and gentlemen], perchance you wonder at this
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
[This man . . .
sunder: This man is
rough-cast in cement so that he can play the part of the
wall that separated Pyramus and Thisbe.]
And through Wall’s chink [crack or small opening in the wall], poor souls, they are
To whisper, at the which let no man wonder.
This man, with lanthorn [lantern], dog, and bush of thorn,
Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,
By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn
To meet at Ninus’ tomb, there, there to woo.
[Ninus: Founder of Nineveh, the
capital of Assyria in ancient times. The ruins of the city are in
present-day northern Iraq.)
This grisly beast, which Lion hight [is called] by name,
The trusty Thisby, coming first by night,
Did scare away, or rather did affright;
beast . . . affright: A grisly beast called a lion scared Thisbe
And, as she fled, her mantle [cloak] she did fall [drop],
Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.
Anon [soon] comes Pyramus, sweet youth and
And finds his trusty Thisby’s mantle slain [bloodstained
Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broach’d [drove into] his boiling bloody breast;
And Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade,
His dagger drew and died. For all the rest,
[And Thisby . .
. died: And Thisbe, who was standing in the shade of a mulberry
tree, took Pyramus's dagger and killed herself.]
Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain,
At large discourse, while here they do remain. [Exeunt
PROLOGUE, PYRAMUS, THISBE, LION, and MOONSHINE.
[Let Lion . . .
remain: Let the characters playing Lion, Moonshine, and the
now play out their roles, since they are all present.]
THESEUS: I wonder, if the lion be to
DEMETRIUS: No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many asses
be no wonder if the lion could speak. After all, many people who
are asses—including the actors in this play—can speak.]
WALL: In this same interlude it doth
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam [paste used in making bricks, plaster, etc.] this rough-cast, and this stone doth
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.
THESEUS: Would you desire lime and hair to speak
[Would . . .
better: Do you really believe a wall of cement could speak any
DEMETRIUS: It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard
discourse, my lord.
[It is . . .
discourse: It is the wittiest wall that ever I heard speak.]
THESEUS: Pyramus draws near the wall:
PYRAMUS: O grim-look’d night! O night with hue so
O night, which ever art when day is not!
O night! O night! alack [alas], 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 eyne. [WALL
holds up his fingers.
Thanks, courteous wall: Jove [Roman name for the Greek deity Zeus,
king of the gods] shield
thee well for this!
But what see I? No Thisby do I see.
O wicked wall! through whom I see no bliss;
Curs’d be thy stones for thus deceiving me!
THESEUS: The wall, methinks, being sensible [sensitive; feeling
offended], should curse
PYRAMUS: No, in truth, sir, he should not. ‘Deceiving me,’
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
THISBY (THISBE): O wall! full often hast thou heard my
For parting my fair Pyramus and me:
My cherry lips have often kiss’d thy stones,
Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.
PYRAMUS: I see a voice: now will I to the
To spy an [if] I can hear
my Thisby’s face.
THISBY (THISBE): My love! thou art my love, I
PYRAMUS: Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover’s grace [I am your lover];
And, like Limander, am I trusty still.
Leander. In Greek
mythology, Leander was a youth of Abydos (a town on the Asian side
present-day Turkey) who fell in love with Hero, a priestess of
Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Hero lived in a tower on the
side of Turkey. Every night, Leander would swim across a narrow
called the Dardanelles to visit her. However, on one trip he
Hero then plunged to her death from the tower.]
THISBY (THISBE): And I like Helen, till the Fates me
[And I . . .
kill: Flute, the actor
playing Thisbe, apparently gets Hero mixed up with Helen of Troy.
line should say, "And I like Hero, till the Fates me kill." (See
the note immediately above.]
PYRAMUS: Not Shafalus
to Procrus was so true.
[Not . . .
true: The line should say,
"Not Cephalus to Procris was so true. " In Greek mythology,
was the husband of Procris, the daughter of one of the founders of
THISBY (THISBE): As Shafalus to Procrus, I to
PYRAMUS: O! kiss me through the hole of this vile
THISBY (THISBE): I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at
PYRAMUS: Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me
[Ninny: Ninus, the founder of Nineveh, the
capital of Assyria in ancient times.]
THISBY (THISBE): ’Tide life, ’tide death, I come without
delay. [Exeunt PYRAMUS and THISBE.
['Tide . . . delay: Even if my life is in jeopardy, I will come
WALL: Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged
[Thus . . . so:
I have finished reciting my part.]
And, being done, thus Wall away doth go.
THESEUS: Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.
[Now . . .
neighbours: There is no longer a wall to separate the lovers, but
they are not present to take advantage.]
DEMETRIUS: No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to
hear without warning.
[No remedy . .
. warning: That's the way it goes. The wall heard that Pyramus and
Thisbe were leaving, so it left too.]
HIPPOLYTA: This is the silliest stuff that ever I
THESEUS: The best in this kind are but shadows, and the
worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.
[The best . . .
amend them: The best
stage plays aren't real; they're just products of the imagination.
worst plays are just as good as the best, since you can use your
imagination to make them better.]
HIPPOLYTA: It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
[It must . . .
theirs: What you're saying is that your imagination is good, not
the performers and their play.]
THESEUS: If we imagine no worse of them than they of
themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here come two noble
in, a man and a lion.
[If we . . .
themselves: If we imagine that they are just as good as they think
Re-enter LION and MOONSHINE.
LION: You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do
The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on
May now perchance both quake and tremble here,
When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.
Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am
A 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.
[Then know . .
. my life: Then know
that I am not really a dangerous lion or lioness. I am a
Snug the joiner. If I were really a lion that came here to attack
you, Theseus and his men would attack me. So don't worry.]
THESEUS: A very gentle beast, and of a good
DEMETRIUS: The very best at a beast, my lord, that e’er I
LYSANDER: This lion is a very fox for his valour.
[This . . .
valour: This lion is as courageous as a fox.]
THESEUS: True; and a goose for his discretion [good judgment;
DEMETRIUS: Not so, my lord; for his valour cannot carry
his discretion, and the fox carries the goose.
[his valour . .
. goose: His
courage is not great enough to support his discretion. Moreover, a
is smarter than a goose.]
THESEUS: His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his
valour, for the goose carries not the fox. It is well: leave it to
discretion, and let us listen to the moon.
MOONSHINE: This lanthorn [lantern] doth the horned [crescent] moon present;—
DEMETRIUS: He should have worn the horns on his
THESEUS: He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible
within the circumference.
[He is . . .
circumference: He is not a crescent moon but a full moon. Thus,
it's impossible to see a crescent shape.]
MOONSHINE: This lanthorn doth the horned moon
Myself the man i’ the moon do seem to be.
THESEUS: This is the greatest error of all the rest. The
man should be put into the lanthorn: how is it else the man i’ the
[This is . . .
the moon: This is the
greatest of all the mistakes the actors have made. The man should
inside the lantern if he is to be the man in the moon.]
DEMETRIUS: He dares not come there for the candle; for, you
see, it is already in snuff.
[He dares . . .
snuff: If he dares to enter the lantern, the candle will burn
HIPPOLYTA: I am aweary of this moon: would he would
THESEUS: It appears, by his small light of discretion,
that he is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all reason, we
stay the time.
[It appears . .
. time: It appears
that his light is dimming, suggesting that his part in the play
soon end. But, out of courtesy, we must hear all that he has to
LYSANDER: Proceed, Moon.
MOONSHINE: All that I have to say, is, to tell you that the
lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this thorn-bush, my
thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog.
DEMETRIUS: Why, all these should be in the lanthorn; for
all these are in the moon. But, silence! here comes
THISBY (THISBE): This is old Ninny’s
tomb. Where is my love?
LION: [Roaring.] Oh—. [THISBE runs off, dropping
her mantle [cloak.]
DEMETRIUS: Well roared,
THESEUS: Well run, Thisbe.
HIPPOLYTA: Well shone, Moon. Truly, the moon shines with a
grace. [The LION tears THISBE’S mantle, and
[The lion . . .
exits: The lion paws and tears the dropped cloak, staining it with
blood from an animal it killed.]
THESEUS: Well moused, Lion.
[Well . . .
Lion: Lion, you're doing a good job shaking that cloak. You remind
me of a cat shaking a mouse.]
DEMETRIUS: And then came Pyramus.
LYSANDER: And so the lion vanished.
PYRAMUS: Sweet moon, I thank thee for thy sunny
I thank thee, moon, for shining now so bright,
For, by the gracious, golden, glittering
I trust to taste of truest Thisby’s sight.
But stay, O
But mark, poor
What dreadful dole [grief or sorrow;
Eyes, do you see?
How can it be?
O dainty duck! O
What! stain’d with blood!
Approach, ye Furies
ancient mythology, the
Roman name for the Erinyes, three Greek goddesses of vengeance who
pursued and punished evildoers. The Furies—whose names were
Tisiphone, and Megaera—lived in the underworld.]
O Fates, come, come,
Cut thread and thrum;
[Fates . . . thrum: In Greek and Roman mythology, the Fates were
three sister goddesses—Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis—who
fate. A person died when the Fates cut the thread of life. A thrum
a fringe trimmed from a cloth before it was removed from a loom, a
Quail [drive back;
crush, conclude, and
THESEUS: This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would
go near to make a man look sad.
HIPPOLYTA: Beshrew [curse] my heart, but I pity the man.
PYRAMUS: O! wherefore [why], Nature, didst thou lions frame [make]?
Since lion vile hath here deflower’d [malapropism for
Which is—no, no—which was the fairest dame
That liv’d, that lov’d, that lik’d, that look’d with
Come tears, confound;
Out, sword, and wound
The pap [nipple] of Pyramus:
that left pap,
Where heart doth hop:
[that left . .
. hop: The left nipple, over the beating heart]
Thus die I, thus, thus,
thus. [Stabs himself.
Now am I dead,
Now am I fled;
My soul is in the
Tongue, lose thy light [sight]!
Moon, take thy flight! [Exit MOONSHINE.
Now die, die, die, die,
DEMETRIUS: No die, but an ace, for him; for he is but
[No die . . .
one: A pun in which die
stands as the singular of dice.
In the game of dice, an ace is a thrown
die displaying a single black dot. Pyramus is an ace because he is
LYSANDER: Less than an ace, man, for he is dead; he is
THESEUS: With the help of a surgeon, he might yet recover,
and prove an ass.
HIPPOLYTA: How chance Moonshine is gone before Thisbe comes
back and finds her lover?
THESEUS: She will find him by starlight. Here she comes; and
her passion ends the play.
HIPPOLYTA: Methinks she should not use a long one [not give a long
speech] for such a
Pyramus: I hope she will be brief.
DEMETRIUS: A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus,
which Thisbe, is the better: he for a man, God warrant us; she for
woman, God bless us.
[A mote . . .
better: Who is better,
Pyramus or Thisbe? If we were to weigh them on balance scales, the
tiniest speck of dust would tip the scales in favor of one or the
LYSANDER: She hath spied him already with those sweet
DEMETRIUS: And thus she moans, videlicet [that is to say]:—
THISBY (THISBE): Asleep, my love?
What, dead, my dove?
Speak, speak! Quite dumb?
Dead, dead! A tomb
Must cover thy sweet
These lily lips,
This cherry nose,
These yellow cowslip
Are gone, are gone:
Lovers, make moan!
His eyes were green as
O, Sisters Three [Fates],
Come, come to me,
With hands as pale as
Lay them in gore,
Since you have shore [shorn, cut]
With shears his thread
of silk [thread
Tongue, not a word:
Come, trusty sword:
Come, blade, my breast
Thus Thisby ends:
Adieu [good-bye], adieu, adieu.
THESEUS: Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the
DEMETRIUS: Ay, and Wall too.
BOTTOM: No, I assure you; the wall is down that parted their
fathers [that separated Pyramus and Thisbe, as well as their
families]. Will it please
you to see the epilogue, or to hear a Bergomask
dance between two of our company?
dance: Clumsy dance that makes fun of the people of Bergamo,
Italy, noted for their clownish behavior.]
THESEUS: No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no
excuse. Never excuse; for when the players are all dead, there
none to be blamed. Marry, if he that writ it had played Pyramus,
hanged himself in Thisbe’s garter, it would have been a fine
and so it is, truly, and very notably discharged. But come, your
Bergomask: let your epilogue alone. [A
The iron tongue [bell] of midnight hath told [struck] twelve;
Lovers, to bed; ’tis almost fairy time.
I fear we shall out-sleep the coming morn,
As much as we this night have overwatch’d.
[I fear . . .
overwatch'd: I fear we shall oversleep in the morning, since we
have stayed up too late tonight.]
This palpable-gross [noticeably crude and coarse] play hath well
The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
. . . night: Served as a good way to pass the time tonight]
A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
In nightly revels, and new jollity.
[A fortnight .
. . jollity: For two weeks, we will continue to celebrate with
revels and jolly entertainments.]
PUCK: Now the hungry lion roars,
wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy
[All with . . .
fordone: After a hard day's work]
Now the wasted brands
Embers of burnt wood]
screech-owl, screeching loud,
Puts the wretch that
lies in woe
remembrance of a shroud.
[Puts . . .
shroud: Makes a bedridden sick person think about the shroud he
will be wrapped in after he dies]
Now it is the time of
graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth
church-way paths to glide:
[Now it . . .
glide: Now is the time of night when graves open and release
spirits that glide through church cemeteries.]
And we fairies, that do
In Greek mythology, Hecate was an
underworld goddess associated with witchcraft and sorcery. She was
associated with the moon. In sculptures, she is often depicted as
having three bodies and/or three faces. In this passage the
appear to be running by her in her role as a goddess of dim
From the presence of
darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic; not a
Shall disturb this
I am sent with broom
To sweep the dust
behind the door.
Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train
OBERON: Through the house give glimmering
By the dead
and drowsy fire;
[Through the .
. . fire: Let the dying embers in the fireplace throw glimmering
light throughout the house.]
Every elf and fairy
light as bird from brier;
And this ditty after
Sing and dance it
[And this . . .
trippingly: And sing this song with me while we all dance nimbly.]
TITANIA: First, rehearse your song by rote,
[by rote: From
To each word a warbling
[To each . . .
note: Sing each word with the same fluttering beauty of a warbling
Hand in hand, with
Will we sing, and bless
this place. [Song and dance.
OBERON: Now, until the break of
Through this house each
To the best bride-bed
Which by us shall
And the issue there
Ever shall be
[To the . . .
blessed be: To the best
marriage bed will Titania and I go. We will bless it. The children
create there shall always be fortunate.]
So shall all the
Ever true in loving
And the blots of
Shall not in their
[So shall . . .
stand: May the three
wedding couples (Theseus and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia,
and Helena) ever be true in their love. And may nature give them
beautiful, unblemished children.]
Never mole, hare-lip,
Nor mark prodigious,
such as are
Shall upon their
With this field-dew
Every fairy take his
And each several
Through this palace,
[With this . .
. peace: Let every fairy use holy field dew to bless each chamber
in this palace with sweet peace.]
Ever shall in safety
And the owner of it
Make no stay;
[Trip . . .
stay: Now go do your work, fairies; don't linger here.]
Meet me all by break of
day. [Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train.
PUCK: If we shadows [actors in this play] have offended,
Think but this, and all
That you have but
While these visions did
And this weak and idle
No more yielding but a
[That you . . .
dream: That you simply slept here and everything you saw was
merely a dream.]
Gentles, do not
reprehend [rebuke; find fault];
If you pardon, we will
And, as I’m an honest
If we have unearned
Now to ’scape the
We will make amends ere
[If you . . .
long: If you pardon us,
we will make it up to you. As I am honest, we will make amends to
if we have the good fortune to escape the sharp tongue of
Else the Puck a liar
So, good night unto you
Give me your hands, if
And Robin shall restore