A Midsummer Nights Dream simplified

Synopsis

We learn promptly in this very long ago story that Theseus is the duke of Athens and that he is preoccupied with his near-term plans to marry Hippolyta. Theseus is the city’s principal authority.  He’s judge and jury.  His wedding plans, noted early and only briefly, are not to be forgotten.  As the play opens, Theseus is approached by an angry Egeus, a father seriously upset with his daughter Hermia, who wants to marry Lysander, a ne’er-do-well in her father’s eyes.  Egeus says Lysander has had the audacity to “give her rhymes and interchange love tokens with my child, and stol’n her fantasy with bracelets, rings and other trifles.”  Egeus wants her to marry Demetrius, but for whatever reasons, Demetrius has only of late shown an interest in eye-catching Hermia. Egeus presents his case passionately and directly to Theseus.

A young woman named Helena enters. Helena and Hermia have been close friends since childhood.  However, with Demetrius’ sudden interest in Hermia, she is now quite angry and perhaps justified. She and Demetrius are engaged to be married. She is, however, envious of her beautiful friend Hermia, saying to Hermia “O, teach me how you look and with what art you sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart.”  When confronted by Theseus, Demetrius claims that he broke his engagement to Helena when he first saw Hermia.  We’re led to believe, however, that Hermia’s prosperous and well-connected father’s thoughts on this marriage-of-his-daughter matter may have influenced Demetrius’ sudden interest in Hermia.  How Demetrius could have been engaged to Helena and not been well aware of Hermia remains unaddressed.  The explosive interchange among these few leaves Helena feeling terribly deceived and betrayed not only by Demetrius, but as well by Hermia.  Helena feels that Hermia must have effectively used her charms to gain Demetrius’ sudden attention.  Understanding why Egeus believes Demetrius would make the more worthy husband for his daughter also remains a mystery.  But amidst all the verbal sparing and emotional wounds inflicted, Shakespeare leads us to believe that Hermia and Lysander are very much in love, Lysander wisely noting “the course of true love never did run smooth.” 

To escape this interference in their personal lives, Lysander and Hermia make plans to elope the next night; to leave through the woods; to travel to his aunt’s house, near Athens, where they can be married.  Being sympathetic to Helena’s dilemma, well-meaning Hermia tells Helena of their plans. Defying Hermia’s confidence, Helena lets Demetrius in on their secret plan to elope, feeling certain he will pursue them, which he does.  Helena then follows Demetrius into the woods, seeking to track him down as he chases after Hermia and Lysander.  A frightened Helena, worried for her future and the breakdown of her engagement, begs for his attention.

At about this time, deep inside the woods, we learn that Oberon, the king of the fairies, is jealous of Titania, his queen, for showing interest in an “Indian boy.”  Seriously, this is how the story goes. Upset as he is with his queen, Oberon instructs his aide, Robin Goodfellow (who is also known as Puck) to secure the flower (the pansy) with the magic “juice,” the flower Cupid’s arrow struck when his arrow missed its mark, Cupid having intended to “pierce a hundred thousand hearts.”  We believe this to be the best Cupid story ever told. 

As the story goes, when the “nectar” (the juice from the struck flower) is placed on one’s eyelids, it causes the person when wakened to instantly fall in love with the creature he or she first sees.  Oberon plans to place the pansy’s magic nectar on Titania’s eyelids, and asks Robin to place some of the nectar on Demetrius’ eyelids; romantic Oberon wanting things to work out between Helena and Demetrius.  He also wants things to work out between himself and Titania. Oberon tells Robin “Thou shalt know the man by the Athenian garments he hath on.”  As we shall see, Oberon’s instructions to Puck are not specific enough, a moment central to the story.

All the while, Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena are rushing through the woods, Lysander and Hermia eager to get to his aunt’s house.  Sometimes the four of them are together; sometimes they are alone, often exhausted.  At this time they are separated.  They lie down independently and fall asleep.  As planned, Oberon places the magic nectar on Titania’s eyelids, knowing she sleeps where “the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows.” But Robin mistakenly applies the nectar to Lysander’s eyelids, rather than Demetrius’, Oberon’s instructions having been less than clear.  Lysander wakens, sees Helena, and excessively declares his love for her, saying things like “Content with Hermia?  Who will not change a raven for a dove?  Reason says you are the worthier maid.”

Helena thinks he is taunting her and responds angrily, saying “Wherefore was I to this keen mockery born?  When at your hands did I deserve this scorn?”  She exits. Later, still under the nectar-of-the-pansy’s spell, the flower having been known as “what the maids called love-in-idleness,” (before Cupid’s arrow changed it forever) Lysander sees Hermia asleep and says to himself “Hermia, sleep thou there, and never mayst thou come Lysander near.” He moves on. Hermia soon wakens, alone in the woods and seriously frightened.

About this time, a group of tradesmen from Athens have come into the woods to practice their play-skit, named Pyramus and Thisbe; a mini-play they plan to perform at the reception following the planned wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.  Robin, puckishly, observing the men practicing their skit, believes Bottom, the weaver, to be terribly inept as an actor and converts his head to that of a jackass. Puck has great skills. Titania wakens, having been asleep where “oxlips and the nodding violet grows.”  By happenstance this flowery spot is near the spot where the tradesmen were practicing their mini-play.  She immediately falls for the very odd looking Bottom; she of course being subject to the magic nectar of the pansy. Bottom loves the attention Titania and her fairy aides’ offer, all treating him beautifully in a most charming way.  It takes a willing imagination to stay with this.

At this point Hermia and Demetrius uncomfortably find themselves together in the woods.  She angrily accuses him of slaying Lysander and then exits. Unperturbed Demetrius falls asleep. Having observed the angry outburst from Hermia towards Demetrius, Oberon says demonstratively to Robin: “This is the same Athenian.”  Robin responds “This is the woman, but not this the man.” Realizing their error, Oberon instructs Robin to apply the nectar to Demetrius’ eyelids, his original objective.  Robin does.

Helena and Lysander enter.  Demetrius wakens, sees Helena and promptly tells her how much he loves her.  A baffled Helena says to the two of them “you both are rivals and love Hermia, and now both rivals to mock Helena.  None of noble sort would so offend a poor soul’s patience, all to make you sport.” At this point Hermia enters. Feeling betrayed, she cries out at Lysander “Why unkindly didst thou leave me so?”   Helena lashes out at her, blaming her for stealing Demetrius from her, saying things like “O, she is one of this confederacy!”  The action here is quick. The women then take it out on each other, Hermia saying to Helena “you trickster, you cankerblossom, you thief of love!”  Helena comes back with “Have you no modesty, no maiden shame, no touch of bashfulness? You counterfeit, you puppet, you.”  These two are really angry with each other.

The four lovers are separated.  Overhearing the turmoil, calm and steady Oberon instructs Robin to cause a heavy fog to roll into the woods and then to apply the nectar to Lysander’s eyelids, believing that step will neutralize things.  Robin does. The four principals fall asleep; none knowing the others are nearby, being so fogged-in.

The play then shifts to Bottom who wakens and declares what a wonderful midsummer night’s dream he’s had. Oberon instructs Robin to remove the jackass head from Bottom, and he does.  Oberon places the nectar for a second time on a sleeping Titania’s eyelids.  She wakens and sees Oberon.  She’s in love. Life is good. They hold hands and dance, Oberon saying “Come, my queen, take hands with me, and rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.”

At dawn, Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus enter the woods and almost stumble over the four young people, waking them. When Lysander awakens he sees Hermia and lets her know how much he loves her.  Demetrius wakens, reaffirming his love for Helena.  Listening to these declarations, Theseus, deferring to Egeus, asks if it is okay with everybody, he’d like to have the two couples join Hippolyta and him for a common wedding ceremony in Athens.  All agree.  This is the moment of inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” opening with perhaps the most famous four notes in music. The beautiful triple wedding ceremony comes off just as planned. All three couples have an absolutely fabulous time at their reception, enjoying each other’s company and the performance of the tragedy, Pyramus and Thisbe, a skit that comes off as a silly farcical comedy, presented by the tradesmen, the wonderful amateur actors.  Puck ends the show with “So good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends.” 

Principal Characters

Hermia.  Hermia is the daughter of Egeus and is Lysander’s girlfriend.  She is a central figure in the “magic potion” issue that disrupts (and then reinforces) relations among the players throughout the comedy.  She later is described by Helena as being “little and dwarfish.”  But concerning her beauty, Helena wishes “that fault were mine.”

Lysander.  Lysander is Hermia’s boyfriend, but rejected early on by her father, Egeus, as an unsatisfactory suitor.  Egeus describes him as the man who has “bewitched his child with rhymes, love tokens, songs, rings and trifles that have filched his daughter’s heart.”   His role is limited, other than as a fiancé, true to Hermia, except when he is under the influence of the pansy’s magic power.

Helena.  Helena has been Hermia’s close friend since they were schoolmates.  She says of Hermia: “We grew together as two lovely berries molded on one stem.”  Their relationship is tested by the boyfriends and Cupid’s magic potion.  At one point she asks Hermia “Have you come by night and stol’n my love’s heart from him?”  She and Demetrius were engaged until Demetrius, seeing Hermia, broke it off.

Demetrius.  Demetrius is the “noble lord,” who Hermia’s father says “hath my consent to marry her.”  “Demetrius is a worthy gentleman,” he says.   Hermia’s reply is “So is Lysander.”  Little is known of Demetrius as a person, except that he fell for Hermia at first sight. He is a principal player, subjected to Oberon’s magic nectar, Oberon being sympathetic to Helena’s cause, a major theme in the play.

Oberon.  Oberon is king of the fairies.  He has his aide, Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, retrieve that “skewed flower” struck by Cupid’s “bolt,” the “juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid will make one madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees.”  This is a central theme of the comedy.  Oberon has great talents, has a major role and is a well-meaning guy, but one has to let reality take a step back, when it comes to Oberon, his queen Titania, and their band of fairies.   

Titania.  Titania is the queen of the fairies, who has an off-and-on relationship with Oberon. Oberon becomes jealous of her infatuation with “a boy stolen from an Indian king.”  Oberon wins her back with the nectar from the flower “maidens call love-in-idleness;” a flower converted to a pansy through Cupid’s errant arrow. 

Bottom.  Bottom is one of the tradesmen from Athens who have come into the woods to practice the play they plan to present during the reception following the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta; Theseus being the duke of Athens; Hippolyta being his fiancée. Bottom is subject to Puck’s tricks, having his head converted to one of a jackass, and then romanced by Titania and her “attending fairies.”

Robin Goodfellow.  Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, is Oberon’s aide.  Robin calls himself the “merry wanderer of the night.”  He’s a sprite (or an elf) and very loyal to Oberon.  He’s a great guy and has beautiful comments to make at the end of the play.

The Play


  • Act 1, Scene 1
  • Theseus, Duke of Athens, and his fiancée, Hippolyta, are on stage.
  • THESEUS
  • Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour draws on apace. Four happy days bring in another moon.
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • Four nights will quickly dream away the time; and then the moon shall behold the night of our solemnities.
  • Egeus, his daughter Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius enter.
  •  
  •  
  • Egeus to Theseus
  •  
  • As she is mine, your lordship, I beg the
  • Ancient privilege of Athens
  • either she
  • Marry whom I choose or she dies. Come I
  • With complaint ‘gainst Hermia, my daughter.
  • Stand forth, Demetrius. This man hath my
  • Consent to wed her. This man, Lysander,
  • Hath given her rhymes, hath interchanged love
  • Tokens with her, softly sung verses of
  • Love, and impressed her fantasy with rings
  • And trifles, messengers of prevailment
  • In unhardened youth. His crass cunning brings
  • Disobedience from her, having bent
  • My daughter’s filched heart. Please, my gracious duke,
  • Do not this forceful ancient law rebuke.
  • THESEUS
  • What say you, Hermia? Be advised, fair maid. You are but 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. I would my father looked but with my eyes.
  • THESEUS
  • Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.
  • HERMIA
  • But I beseech 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 forever the society of men. Know if you yield not to your father’s choice you can endure the livery of a nun.
  • HERMIA
  • So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord. My soul consents not to give sovereignty.
  • THESEUS
  • Take time to pause, and by the next new moon either prepare to die or else to wed Demetrius.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Relent, sweet Hermia, and Lysander, yield thy crazed title to my certain right.
  • LYSANDER
  • You have her father’s love, Demetrius. Let me have Hermia’s.
  • EGEUS
  • Scornful Lysander, true, he hath my love. And she is mine, and all my right of her I do estate unto Demetrius.
  • LYSANDER
  • I am beloved of beauteous Hermia. Why should not I then prosecute my right. Demetrius made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena, and won her soul; and she, sweet lady, devoutly dotes upon this spotted and inconstant man.
  • THESEUS
  • Demetrius, come, 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 to death or to a vow of single life.
  • All but Hermia and Lysander exit.
  • LYSANDER
  • Ay me! The course of true love never did run smooth.
  • HERMIA
  • If then true lovers have been ever crossed, it stands as an edict in destiny.
  • LYSANDER
  • Hear me, Hermia. I have a widow aunt. From Athens is her house remote seven leagues, and she respects me as her only son. There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee. Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night and in the wood a league without the town there will I stay for thee.
  • HERMIA
  • My good Lysander, tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.
  • Helena enters.
  • HERMIA
  • Godspeed, fair Helena.
  • HELENA
  • Call you me “fair”? That “fair” again unsay. Demetrius loves you fair. 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 still.
  • HELENA
  • O, that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!
  • HERMIA
  • I give him curses, yet he gives me love.
  • HELENA
  • O, that my prayers could such affection move!
  • HERMIA
  • His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.
  • HELENA
  • None but your beauty. Would that fault were mine!
  • HERMIA
  • Take comfort; he no more shall see my face. Lysander and myself will fly this place.
  • LYSANDER
  • Helena, to you our minds we will unfold. Tomorrow night through Athens’ gates have we devised to steal.
  • HERMIA
  • And in the wood where often you and I were wont to lie, there my Lysander and myself shall meet. Pray thou for us, and good luck grant thee thy Demetrius.
  • Hermia exits.
  • LYSANDER
  • Helena, adieu. As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!
  • Lysander exits.
  • HELENA
  • Through Athens I am thought as fair as she. But what of that? Demetrius thinks no so.
  •  
  •  
  • Helena to herself
  •  
  • Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind,
  • Seeing that winged Cupid is painted blind,
  • And wings with no eyes lead to heedless haste,
  • He, hailing oaths that he was only mine,
  • And my love’s judgment showing little taste.
  • Love’s a child, leaving us beguiled to whine,
  • As waggish boys in games themselves forswear,
  • Leaving boy Cupid perjured everywhere.
  • ‘Twas when he some heat from Hermia felt,
  • Her beauty a fault that I wish were mine,
  • That he dissolved and his oaths did melt.
  • Her womanly charms I wish she’d consign.
  • I’ll go tell Demetrius of her flight,
  • And then pursue him I tomorrow night.
  • Act 1, Scene 2
  • A group of six tradesmen meet in Athens.
  • QUINCE
  • Is all our company here?
  • BOTTOM
  • You were best to call them generally, man by man, according to the scrip.
  • QUINCE
  • Here is the scroll of every man’s name, which is thought fit, to play in our interlude before the Duke and the Duchess on his wedding day at night.
  • BOTTOM
  • First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on.
  • QUINCE
  • Marry, our play is “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.” You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.
  • BOTTOM
  • What is Pyramus----a lover or a tyrant?
  • QUINCE
  • A lover that kills himself most gallant for love.
  • BOTTOM
  • That will ask some tears in the true performing of it. If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes. I will move storms.
  • QUINCE
  • Flute, you must take Thisbe on you.
  • FLUTE
  • What is Thisbe----a wand’ring knight?
  • QUINCE
  • It is the lady that Pyramus must love.
  • FLUTE
  • Nay, faith, let not me play a woman. I have a beard coming.
  • QUINCE
  • You shall play it in a mask, and you may speak as small as you will. You, Snug the joiner, you the lion’s part.
  • 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, for it is nothing bur roaring.
  • BOTTOM
  • Let me play the lion too.
  • 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, a most lovely gentlemanlike man. Therefore you must need play Pyramus.
  • BOTTOM
  • Well, I will undertake it.
  • QUINCE
  • I am to entreat you by tomorrow night and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moonlight. There will we rehearse. I pray you fail me not. At the Duke’s Oak we meet.
  • They exit.
  • Act 2, Scene 1
  • A fairy and Robin Goodfellow meet on stage.
  • ROBIN
  • How now, spirit? Whither wander you?
  • FAIRY
  • Over hill, over dale, over park, over pale. Our queen and all her elves come here anon.
  • ROBIN
  • The king doth keep his revels here tonight. Take heed the queen come not within his sight. A lovely boy stolen from an Indian king; she never had so sweet a changeling. And jealous is Oberon.
  • FAIRY
  • Either I mistake your shape and making quite, or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite called Robin Goodfellow.
  • ROBIN
  • Thou speakest aright. I am that merry wanderer of the night. But room fairy. Here comes Oberon.
  • FAIRY
  • And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!
  • Oberon, King of the Fairies, and Titania, Queen of the Fairies, enter, separately.
  • OBERON
  • Ill met my moonlight, proud Titania.
  • TITANIA
  • What, jealous Oberon?
  • OBERON
  • Am not I thy lord?
  • TITANIA
  • Then I must by thy lady. But I know when thou hast stolen away from Fairyland and in the shape of Corin say all day playing on pipes of corn and versing love to amorous Phillida.
  • OBERON
  • Why should Titania cross her Oberon?
  • TITANIA
  • Set your heart at rest. The Fairyland buys not the child of me. His mother was a vot’ress of my order, and for her sake do I rear up her boy, and for her sake I will not part with him.
  • OBERON
  • How long within this wood intend you stay?
  • TITANIA
  • Perchance till after Theseus’ wedding day.
  • OBERON
  • Give me that boy and I will go with thee.
  • TITANIA
  • Not for thy fairy kingdom.
  • She exits.
  • OBERON TO TITANIA
  • Well, go thy way. Thou shalt not from this grove till I torment thee for this injury.
  • OBERON TO ROBIN
  • My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememb’rest since once I sat upon a promontory and saw a mermaid on a dolphin’s back.
  • ROBIN
  • I remember.
  •  
  •  
  • Oberon to Puck, No. 1
  •  
  • That very time when I heard that mermaid
  • Sing with such sweetness that the rude sea laid
  • Civil and stars shot madly from their spheres,
  • I saw, Puck, flying between the cold moon
  • And earth, Cupid all armed. To clear maid’s tears,
  • He loosed the fiery shaft from his bow soon
  • To miss its mark of a hundred thousand
  • Hearts. I saw that errant bolt of Cupid wend
  • Its way upon a flower, once milk-white,
  • Now purple. Puck, fetch me that skewed flower
  • With love’s wound; its juice laid on eyelids light
  • Makes one to madly dote on the creature
  • Next it sees. We’ll place what this charm doth owe
  • On the queen’s eyes and see what it doth sow.
  • ROBIN
  • I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.
  • He exits.
  • 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 that she, waking, looks upon, she shall pursue it with the soul of love. But who comes here? I am invisible, and I will overhear their conference.
  • Demetrius enters, with Helena following him.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • I love thee not, therefore pursue me not. Where is Lysander and fair Hermia? Thou told’st me they were stol’n unto this wood, and here am I. Get thee gone, and follow me no more.
  • HELENA
  • Leave me your power to draw, and I shall have no power to follow you.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair? Or rather do I not in plainest truth tell you I do not?
  • HELENA
  • And even for that do I love you the more.
  •  
  •  
  • Helena to Demetrius, No. 1
  •  
  • I am your spaniel, Demetrius. I’ll
  • Fawn on you, and though unworthy, allow
  • Me to follow you. I beg in your love,
  • And place you in respect if you but treat
  • Me as you use your dog. I pray above
  • You spurn and strike me, and the more you beat
  • Me the more you draw me, you adamant,
  • So soft and true my heart, as to torment
  • Me. Your wrongs do make for us a scandal;
  • We cannot fight for love as men do;
  • We chase as cowards with our hopes so full;
  • We should be wooed and were not made to woo.
  • I’ll follow to make a heaven of hell
  • To die upon the hand I love so well.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit, for I am sick when I do look on thee. I’ll run from thee and hide me in the thickets and leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
  • HELENA
  • The wildest hath not such a heart as you. Run when you will.
  • Demetrius and Helena exit separately. Robin enters.
  • OBERON
  • Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.
  • ROBIN
  • Ay, there it is.
  • OBERON
  • I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows. There sleeps Titania sometime of the night. With the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes and make her full of hateful fantasies. Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove.
  • He gives Robin part of the flower.
  • OBERON
  • A sweet Athenian lady is in love with a disdainful youth. Anoint his eyes, but do it when the next thing he spies 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.
  • ROBIN
  • Fear not, my lord. Your servant shall do so.
  • They exit.
  • Act 2, Scene 2
  • Titania and her train are on stage.
  • TITANIA
  • Sing me now asleep. Then to your offices and let me rest.
  • She lies down and sleeps. Oberon enters and anoints her eyelids.
  • OBERON
  • What thou seest when thou dost wake, do it for thy true love take. Love and languish for his sake.
  • Lysander and Hermia enter.
  • LYSANDER
  • I have forgot our way. We’ll rest us, Hermia, if you think it good.
  • HERMIA
  • Find you out a bed, for I upon this bank will rest my head.
  • LYSANDER
  • One turn shall serve as pillow for us both.
  • HERMIA
  • Nay, good Lysander. For my sake, my dear, lie further off yet. Do not lie so near.
  • LYSANDER
  • O, take the sense, sweet, of my innocence! Love takes the meaning in love’s conference.
  • HERMIA
  • Lysander riddles very prettily. 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!
  • LYSANDER
  • “Amen, amen” to that fair prayer, say I, and then end life when I end loyalty! Here is my bed.
  • They sleep. Robin enters and sees Lysander.
  • ROBIN
  • Night and silence! Who is here? Weeds of Athens he doth wear. This is he my master said despised the Athenian maid.
  • He anoints Lysander’s eyelids with the nectar. He exits. Demetrius and Helena enter.
  • HELENA
  • Stay, though thou kill me, sweet Demetrius.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • I charge thee, hence, and do not haunt me thus. I alone will go.
  • Demetrius exits.
  • HELENA
  • O, I am out of breath in this fond chase. 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 awakens and instantly falls for Helena.
  •  
  •  
  • Lysander to Helena
  •  
  • O Helena, sweet nature shows its art,
  • And in all its beauty I see thy heart.
  • I do repent the tedious minutes
  • I have here with Hermia spent. Even
  • Now, I’d run through fire for thy sweet sake. Let’s
  • Leave her, for who’d not exchange a raven
  • For a dove. The purpose of man is by
  • His reason swayed, and reason doth show why
  • You’re the worthier maid. All things growing
  • Are not ripe until their season, so I,
  • Still young, till now ripe not, am now touching
  • The point of skill where reason becomes my
  • Will, leading me to you, where I o’erlook
  • The best love story written in love’s book.
  • HELENA
  • Do not say so. Lysander, say not so. Yet Hermia still loves you. Then be content. Good troth, you do me wrong, good sooth, you do, in such disdainful manner me to woo. But fare you well. Perforce I must confess I thought you lord of more true gentleness. O, that a lady of one man refused should of another therefore be abused!
  • She exits.
  • LYSANDER
  • She sees not Hermia. Hermia, sleep thou there, and never mayst thou come Lysander near. The heresies that men do leave are hated most of those they did deceive.
  • He exits. Hermia awakens.
  • HERMIA
  • Lysander! What, removed? What, out of hearing? Gone? No sound, no word? Alack, where are you? I swoon almost with fear. Either death or you I’ll find immediately.
  • She exits.
  • Act 3, Scene 1
  • The tradesmen enter. Titania is still asleep on the stage.
  • QUINCE
  • And here’s a marvels convenient place for our rehearsal.
  • BOTTOM
  • Peter Quince?
  • QUINCE
  • What sayest thou, bully Bottom?
  • BOTTOM
  • First, Pyramus must draw a sword to kill himself, which the ladies cannot abide. How answer you that?
  • STARVELING
  • I believe we must leave the killing out, when all is done.
  • BOTTOM
  • Not a whit! Write me a prologue, and let the prologue seem to say we will do no harm with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed. This will put them out of fear.
  • QUINCE
  • Well, we will have such a prologue, and it shall be written in eight and six.
  • BOTTOM
  • No, make it two more. Let it be written in eight and eight.
  • QUINCE
  • We must have a wall in the great chamber, for Pyramus and Thisbe, says the story, did talk through the chink of a wall.
  • SNOUT
  • You can never bring in a wall.
  • BOTTOM
  • Some man or other person must present Wall.
  • QUINCE
  • If that may be, then all is well. Come, sit down, every mother’s son, and rehearse your parts.
  • Robin enters, invisible to those on the stage.
  • ROBIN ASIDE
  • What hempen homespuns have we swagg’ring here so near the cradle of the Fairy Queen?
  • QUINCE
  • Speak, Pyramus. Thisbe, stand forth.
  • BOTTOM AS PYRAMUS
  • Thisbe, the flowers of odious savors sweet-------odors savors sweet. So hath thy breath, my dearest Thisbe dear. But hard, a voice! Stay thou but here awhile, and by and by I will to thee appear.
  • He exits.
  • ROBIN ASIDE
  • A stranger Pyramus than e’er played here.
  • Robin converts Bottom’s head to that of a jackass. Bottom re-enters.
  • QUINCE
  • O monstrous! O strange! We are haunted. Pray, masters, fly.
  • All but Bottom and Robin exit.
  • ROBIN
  • I’ll follow you. I’ll lead you about a round, through bog, through bush, through brier.
  • He exits.
  • BOTTOM
  • Why do they run away? This is a knavery of them to make me afeard.
  • Quince enters.
  • QUINCE
  • Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee! Thou art translated!
  • He exits.
  • BOTTOM
  • This is to make an ass of me, to fright me, if they could. I will sing, that they shall hear I am not afraid.
  • Titania awakens. Four fairies join her.
  •  
  •  
  • Titania to Bottom
  •  
  • What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?
  • Mine ear much enamored with what thy said;
  • Mine eye enthralled as thou are beautiful.
  • I am a spirit of no common rate,
  • So stay here, for yet I’ve roses to cull,
  • For summer still doth tend upon my state,
  • And I do love thee. Sit with me while I
  • Thy lovely cheeks do coy, while I kiss thy
  • Ears, my gentle joy. Sleep, as I do wind
  • Thee in my arms, as ivy so enrings
  • The barky fingers of the elm. You’ve lined
  • My doting heart with tender love that brings
  • Me sweet bliss. Come, wait upon him for me,
  • And lead him to my bower silently.
  • TITANIA
  • I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again. On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.
  • BOTTOM
  • Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for that. And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays.
  • TITANIA
  • Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful.
  • BOTTOM
  • Not so neither; but if I had wit enough to get out of this wood, I would.
  • TITANIA
  • Be kind and courteous to this gentleman. Feed him with apricots and dewberries, with purple grapes, green figs and mulberries. Pluck the wings from painted butterflies to fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes. Nod to him elves, and do him courtesies.
  • They exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 2.
  • Oberon is alone on stage.
  • OBERON
  • I wonder if Titania be awaked.
  • Robin enters.
  • ROBIN
  • My mistress with a monster is in love. Near to her close bower, while she was in her sleeping hour, a crew of mechanicals met together to rehearse a play intended for great Theseus’ nuptial day. The shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort, who Pyramus presented in their sport, forsook his scene and entered a thicket when I did him at this advantage take. An ass’ noll I fixed on his head. When his friends him spy, many in sort at his sight did fly. Their sense thus weak, lost with their fears thus strong, made senseless things begin to do them wrong. I led them on in this distracted fear and left sweet Pyramus translated there. Titania waked and straightway loved an ass.
  • OBERON
  • This falls out better than I could devise. But hast thou yet latched the Athenian’s eyes with the love juice, as I did bid thee do?
  • ROBIN
  • I took him sleeping. And the Athenian woman by his side, that, when he waked, of force she must be eyed.
  • Demetrius and Hermia enter.
  • OBERON
  • Stand close. This is the same Athenian.
  • ROBIN
  • This is the woman, but not this the man.
  • They step aside.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • O, why rebuke you him that loves you so?
  •  
  •  
  • Hermia to Demetrius
  •  
  • If thou has slain Lysander in his sleep,
  • And you’re in blood, then to this secret keep,
  • Kill me too. The sun’s not so true the day
  • As he to me. Tell me he stole away
  • And I’ll believe as soon this whole earth may
  • Be bored and that the moon creep through that way.
  • Speak to me of Lysander. Where is he?
  • Ay, Demetrius, wilt thou give him me?
  • Thou driv’st me past the bounds of maiden’s
  • Patience. Hast thou slain him to be never
  • Numbered among men? An awake man fends,
  • But who doth fend for men asleep? Madder
  • I if you say as far as you can tell
  • He’s not dead; yet tell me not he is well.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • An if I could, what should I get therefore?
  • HERMIA
  • A privilege never to see me more. And from thy hated presence part I so. See me no more, whether he be dead or no.
  • She exits.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • There is no following her in this fierce vein. Here, therefore, for a while I will remain.
  • He lies down and falls asleep.
  • OBERON
  • What hast thou done? Thou hast mistaken quite and laid the love juice on some true-love’s sight.
  • ROBIN
  • Then fate o’errules, that, one man holding troth, a million fail, confounding oath on oath.
  • OBERON
  • About the wood go swifter than the wind, and Helena of Athens look thou find. Thou bring her here. I’ll charm his eyes to prepare for the time when she doth appear.
  • Robin exits. Oberon applies the nectar to Demetrius’ eyes. Robin re-enters with Helena.
  • ROBIN
  • Captain of our fairy band, Helena is here at hand. Lord, what fools these mortals be.
  • OBERON
  • Stand aside. The noise you make will cause Demetrius to awake.
  • ROBIN
  • Then will two at once woo one. And those things do best please me that befall prepost’rously.
  • They step aside. Lysander and Helena enter.
  • LYSANDER
  • How can these things in me seem scorn to you.
  • HELENA
  • These vows are Hermia’s. Will you give her o’er?
  • LYSANDER
  • I had no judgment when to her I swore.
  • HELENA
  • Nor none, in my mind, now you give her o’er.
  • LYSANDER
  • Demetrius loves her, and he loves not you.
  • Demetrius wakens and sees Helena.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • O Helena, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine! O, let me kiss this princess of pure white, this seal of bliss!
  •  
  •  
  • Helena to Demetrius, No. 2
  •  
  • Oh now I see. I see you both are bent
  • To set against me for your merriment.
  • If you gentlemen and knew courtesy,
  • You’d treat me more civilly than you do.
  • Not only do I know how you hate me,
  • But now you join to mock me too. If you
  • Were kind you’d not use a gentle maid so,
  • To swear vows and speak of me with hollow
  • Praise, when I see in your hearts how you hate
  • Me, playing a game, exposing my fears
  • Bare. This is no manly ploy when you bait
  • And exploit me for your laughs, drawing tears
  • To a poor maid’s eyes. None of noble sort
  • Would extort a virgin’s soul all for sport.
  • LYSANDER
  • You are unkind, Demetrius. Be not so, for you love Hermia; this you know I know. In Hermia’s love I yield you up my part. And yours of Helena to me bequeath, whom I do love and will do till my death.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Lysander, keep thy Hermia. I will be none. If e’er I loved her, all that love is gone. My heart to Helena is home returned, there to remain.
  • Hermia enters.
  • HERMIA TO LYSANDER
  • Why unkindly didst thou leave me so?
  • LYSANDER
  • Why should he stay whom love doth press to go?
  • HERMIA
  • What love could press Lysander from my side?
  • LYSANDER
  • Fair Helena, who more engilds the night than all yon fiery oes and eyes of light.
  • HERMIA
  • You speak not as you think. It cannot be.
  • HELENA
  • O, she is one of this confederacy!
  •  
  •  
  • Helena to Hermia, No. 1
  •  
  • Lo, I perceive you have conjoined as three
  • To fashion this false sport to spite poor me.
  • Have you, Hermia, conspired with them to
  • Bait me with this derision, after all
  • The counsel, fun and sister’s vows we two
  • Shared, crying when quick-footed time would call
  • Us from each other? Hast thou forgot? We,
  • Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
  • As if our hearts, hands, sides, minds and souls were
  • One, as if our loyalty had no end.
  • Will you tear our ancient love asunder
  • To join with men in scorning your poor friend?
  • Women will chide thee for mistreating me,
  • Though I alone do feel the injury.
  • HERMIA
  • I am amazed at your words. I scorn you not. It seems that you scorn me.
  •  
  •  
  • Helena to Hermia, No. 2
  •  
  • Have you not set Lysander to follow
  • Me and praise my face, and made this shallow
  • Demetrius call me goddess to woo
  • Me falsely? Wherefore he speaks this to her
  • He hates? And wherefore doth Lysander, who
  • Loves you, deny you his love and tender
  • Me with affection? Have you not shared that
  • By your own mean consent? Ay, do wink at
  • Each other and make demeaning faces
  • When I turn my scorned back. Since I, as you,
  • Am not hung upon with love and graces,
  • Then to you that it’s most miserable to
  • Love, yet be unloved, may be a surprise.
  • This you should pity rather than despise.
  • HERMIA
  • I understand not what you mean by this.
  • HELENA
  • But fare you well. ‘Tis partly my own fault, which death or absence soon shall remedy.
  • LYSANDER
  • Stay, gentle Helena. Hear my excuse, my love, my life, my soul, fair Helena.
  • HELENA
  • O excellent!
  • HERMIA TO LYSANDER
  • Sweet, do not scorn her so.
  • LYSANDER
  • Helena, I love thee. By my life, I do.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • I say I love thee more than he can do.
  • LYSANDER
  • If thou say so, withdraw and prove it too.
  • Hermia grabs Lysander.
  • LYSANDER
  • Away.
  • HERMIA
  • Why are you grown so rude? What change is this, sweet love?
  • LYSANDER
  • Thy love? Out! Out loathed med’cine. O, hated potion, hence!
  • HERMIA
  • Do you not jest?
  • Lysander ignores her.
  • LYSANDER TO DEMETRIUS
  • Although I hate her, I’ll not harm her.
  •  
  •  
  • Hermia to Lysander and Helena
  •  
  • What, can you do me greater harm than hate?
  • Hate? I am as fair now as I was late
  • Last night when most earnestly you did love
  • Me, yet since last night you have left me. And
  • Helena, you deceiver, you thief of
  • Love! Have you come to him by night and fanned
  • His passion, stealing my love’s heart from him?
  • Why call you me “puppet?” Is this a whim
  • To demean me? Ay, I perceive she’s made
  • Comparison between our statures and
  • Hath used her tall personage to invade
  • His heart, to grow in his esteem and band
  • Me from him. How low am I? My nail lies
  • Not so low as to reach unto thine eyes.
  • HELENA
  • I pray you, though you mock me, gentlemen, let her not hurt me. I have no gift at all in shrewishness. I am a right maid for my cowardice. Let her not strike me.
  • LYSANDER
  • Be not afraid. She shall not harm thee, Helena.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • No, sir, she shall not.
  • HELENA
  • O, when she is angry, she is keen and shrewd. She was a vixen when she went to school. And though she be but little, she is fierce.
  • HERMIA
  • “Little” again? Let me come to her.
  • LYSANDER
  • Get you gone, you dwarf, you minimus of hind’ring knotgrass made, you bead, you acorn.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Let her alone. Speak not of Helena. Take not her part.
  • LYSANDER
  • Now she holds me not. Now follow, if thou dar’st.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • “Follow?” Nay, I’ll go with thee, cheek by jowl.
  • Demetrius and Lysander exit. Helena retreats.
  • HELENA
  • I will not trust you. Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray. My legs are longer though, to run away.
  • Helena exits.
  • HERMIA
  • I am amazed and know not what to say.
  • Hermia exits. Having stepped aside, Oberon and Robin overheard the harsh conversation.
  • OBERON
  • This is thy negligence. Still thou mistak’st or else committ’st thy knaveries willfully.
  • ROBIN
  • Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook. 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 an Athenian’s eyes; and so far am I glad it so did sort, as this their jangling I esteem a sport.
  •  
  •  
  • Oberon to Puck, No. 2
  •  
  • Puck, since I in this strange affair do thee
  • Employ, do overcast the night, so we
  • May lead these testy rivals so astray
  • That they in your drooping fog feel so lost
  • As not to come within another’s way.
  • Lead from each other those with lover’s crossed
  • Till o’er their brows death-counterfeiting sleep
  • With leaden and batty wings doth creep.
  • Then crush this herb into Lysander’s eye,
  • Which hath this virtuous property to
  • Take from thence all error so he may sigh,
  • ‘Twas just a mixed-up dream, as lovers do.
  • Then from my queen’s charmed eye I will release
  • The potent juice, and all things shall be peace.
  • ROBIN
  • My fairy lord, this must be done with haste, for night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast. They willfully themselves exile from light and must for aye consort with black-browed night.
  • OBERON
  • But we are spirits of another sort. Make no delay. We may effect this business yet ere day.
  • Oberon exits.
  • ROBIN
  • Up and down, up and down, I will lead them up and down. Here comes one.
  • Lysander enters.
  • LYSANDER
  • Where are thou, proud Demetrius? Speak thou now.
  • ROBIN IN DEMETRIUS’ VOICE
  • Here, villain, drawn and ready.
  • LYSANDER
  • I will be with thee straight.
  • ROBIN IN DEMETRIUS’ VOICE
  • Follow me, then, to plainer ground.
  • Lysander exits. Demetrius enters.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Lysander, speak again. Thou coward, art thou fled?
  • ROBIN IN LYSANDER’S VOICE
  • Thou coward, art thou bragging to the stars. Come, thou clild! I’ll whip thee with a rod.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Yea, art thou there?
  • ROBIN IN LYSANDER’S VOICE
  • Follow my voice. We’ll try no manhood here.
  • They exit. Lysander enters.
  • LYSANDER
  • He goes before me and still dares me on. When I come where he calls, then he is gone. Come, thou gentle day, for if but once thou show me thy gray light, I’ll find Demetrius and revenge this spite.
  • He lies down and sleeps. Robin and Demetrius enter
  • ROBIN IN LYSANDER’S VOICE
  • Ho, ho ho! Coward, why com’st thou not?
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Abide me, if thou dar’st. Where art thou now?
  • ROBIN IN LYSANDER’S VOICE
  • Come hither. I am here.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Nay, then, thou mock’st me. By day’s approach look to be visited.
  • He lies down and sleeps. Helena enters.
  • HELENA
  • O weary night, O long and tedious night. Shine, comforts, from the east, that I may back to Athens by daylight.
  • She lies down and sleeps. Hermia enters.
  • HERMIA
  • Never so weary, never so in woe. Here will I rest me till the break of day.
  • She lies down and sleeps.
  • ROBIN
  • On the ground sleep sound. I’ll apply to your eye, gentle lover, remedy.
  • Robin applies the nectar to Lysander’s eyes.
  • ROBIN
  • When thou wak’st, thou tak’st true delight in the sight of thy former lady’s eye.
  • He exits.
  • Act 4, Scene 1
  • The four lovers are asleep on the stage. Titania, Bottom and Oberon enter, unseen by those on stage.
  • TITANIA
  • Come, sit thee down upon this flow’ry bed, while I thy amiable cheeks do coy.
  • BOTTOM
  • Where’s Peaseblossom?
  • PEASEBLOSSOM
  • Ready.
  • BOTTOM
  • Scratch my head, Peaseblossom.
  • TITANIA
  • Wilt thou hear some music, my sweet love?
  • BOTTOM
  • I have a reasonable good ear in music. Let’s have the tongs and the bones.
  • TITANIA
  • I have a venturous fairy that shall seek the squirrel’s hoard and fetch thee new nuts.
  • BOTTOM
  • I had rather have a handful or two of dried peas. I have an exposition of sleep come upon me.
  • TITANIA
  • Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.
  • The fairies exit. Bottom and Titania sleep. Robin enters.
  • OBERON
  • Her dotage now I do begin to pity. I did upbraid her and fall out with her. She in mild terms begged my patience. I then did ask of her her changeling child, which straight she gave me. And now I have the boy, I will undo this hateful imperfection of her eyes. And gentle Puck, take this transformed scalp from off the head of this Athenian swain. But first I will release the Fairy Queen.
  • He applies the nectar to her eyes.
  • OBERON
  • Now, my Titania, wake you, my sweet queen.
  • TITANIA
  • My Oberon, what visions have I seen! Methought I was enamored of an ass.
  • OBERON
  • There lies your love.
  • TITANIA
  • How came these things to pass?
  • OBERON
  • Silence awhile. Robin, take off this head.
  • Robin removes the ass-head from Bottom.
  • TITANIA
  • Music, ho, music such as charmeth sleep!
  • OBERON
  • Come, my queen, take hands with me, and rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.
  • Titania and Oberon dance.
  • ROBIN
  • Fairy king, attend and mark. I do hear the morning lark.
  • TITANIA
  • Come, my lord, and in our flight tell me how it came this night.
  • Oberon, Robin and Titania exit. Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus enter.
  • EGEUS
  • My lord, this is my daughter here asleep, and this Lysander; this Demetrius is, this Helena. I wonder of their being here together.
  • THESEUS
  • Is not this the day that Hermia should give answer of her choice?
  • EGEUS
  • It is, my lord.
  • THESEUS
  • Go, bid the huntsmen wake them with their horns.
  • Demetrius, Helena, Hermia and Lysander kneel.
  • THESEUS
  • I pray you all, stand up.
  • They rise.
  • THESEUS
  • I know you two are rival enemies. How comes that hatred is so far from jealousy to sleep and fear no enmity?
  • LYSANDER
  • My lord, I shall reply amazedly, half sleep, half waking. But as yet, I swear, I cannot truly say how I came here. I came with Hermia hither. Our intent was to begone from Athens-----.
  • EGEUS
  • Enough, enough! Demetrius, you of my consent that she should be your wife.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • I in fury followed them to this wood and my love to Hermia melted as the snow. The object and the pleasure of mine eye is only Helena. To her, my lord, was I betrothed ere I saw Hermia. Now I do wish it, love it, long for it and will forevermore be true to it.
  • THESEUS
  • Fair lovers, you’re fortunately met. Egeus, I will overbear your will, for in the temple by and by, with us, these couples shall eternally be knit. Away with us to Athens. Three and three, we’ll hold a feast in great solemnity. Come, Hippolyta.
  • Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus exit.
  • HERMIA
  • Methinks I see these things with parted eye, when everything seems double.
  • HELENA
  • And I have found Demetrius like a jewel, mine own and not mine own.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Are you sure that we are awake? Do you think the Duke was here and bid us follow him?
  • HERMIA
  • Yea, and my father.
  • LYSANDER
  • And he did bid us follow to the temple.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Let’s follow him, and by the way let us recount our dreams.
  • They exit. Bottom awakens.
  • BOTTOM
  • When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer. My next is “Most fair Pyramus.” Hey-ho! Peter Quince.
  •  
  •  
  • Bottom to himself
  •  
  • My life stolen hence and left me asleep.
  • A most rare vision I’ve had that did leap
  • Out at me in a dream, a dream beyond
  • The wit of man to say what it was. A
  • Man be must an ass to try to upon
  • This dream expound. Any man be but the
  • Fool to offer to say what methought I
  • Had. The ear of man hath not seen, the eye
  • Of man hath not heard, man’s hand not able
  • To taste, his tongue to conceive nor his heart
  • To report what I believe in my soul
  • I was. I’ll ask Quince of this dream and start
  • To write some ballads and call them in sum
  • “Bottom’s Dream,” dreaming this murky bottom.
  • Act 4, Scene 2
  • Four of the six tradesmen enter. They are worried for Bottom.
  • QUINCE
  • Have you sent to Bottom’s house? Is he come home yet?
  • STARVELING
  • He cannot be heard of.
  • FLUTE
  • If he come not, then the play is marred.
  • QUINCE
  • It is not possible. You have not a man in all Athens able to discharge Pyramus but he.
  • Snug the joiner enters.
  • SNUG
  • Masters, the Duke is coming from the temple, and there is two or three lords and ladies more married.
  • Bottom enters.
  • QUINCE
  • Bottom! O most courageous day!
  • BOTTOM
  • Masters, I am to discourse wonders. But ask me not what; for, if I tell you, I am not true Athenian.
  • 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 together. Every man look o’er his part. For the short and the long is, our play is preferred. No more words. Away!
  • They exit.
  • Act 5, Scene 1
  • Theseus, Hippolyta, Philostrate and others are on stage. Philostrate is Theseus’ manager of mirth!
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • ‘Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of.
  • THESEUS
  • More strange than true.
  •  
  •  
  • Theseus to Hippolyta
  •  
  • Lovers and madmen have such seething brains
  • Where an antique fable of fairies reigns.
  • The lunatic, lover and poet do
  • Shape more images than cool reason can
  • Comprehend. One sees devils in a stew,
  • Where lovers see the beauty of Helen
  • In a brow of Egypt. The poet’s eye
  • Glances from heaven to earth and doth lie
  • Frenzied, forming bodies of things unknown,
  • With his pen turning odd shapes from airy
  • Nothing. The mind is tricked by these thoughts sown,
  • That if to apprehend some joy must be
  • A strange bringer of that joy. It can scare
  • A soul as if a bush supposed a bear.
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • All their minds transfigured so together. But, howsoever, strange and admirable.
  • Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia and Helena enter.
  • THESEUS
  • Here come the lovers full of joy and mirth. Joy, gentle friends! What masques, what dances shall we have. Where is our usual manager of mirth? What revels are in hand? Call Philostrate.
  • PHILOSTRATE
  • Here, mighty Theseus.
  • THESEUS
  • Say, what abridgment have you for this evening, what masque, what music?
  • PHILOSTRATE
  • Make choice of which your Highness will see first.
  • Theseus reviews the list of options offered by Philostrate.
  • THESEUS
  • “A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus and his love, Thisbe, very tragical mirth.” How shall we find the concord of this discord?
  • PHILOSTRATE
  • A play there is, my lord, some ten words long. But by ten words, my lord, it is too long.
  • THESEUS
  • What are they that do play it?
  • PHILOSTRATE
  • Hard-handed men that work in Athens here, which never labored in their minds till now.
  • 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, unless you can find sport in their intent.
  • THESEUS
  • I will hear the play. Go, bring them in. And take your places, ladies.
  • Philostrate exits.
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • He says they can do nothing in this kind.
  • THESEUS
  • The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing. What poor duty cannot do, noble respect takes it in might, not merit. Trust me, sweet. Love and tongue-tied simplicity in least speak most, to my capacity.
  • Quince, the Prologue, enters.
  • PROLOGUE
  • If we offend, it is with our goodwill. 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. The actors are at hand, and by their show, you shall know all that you are like to know.
  • Prologue exits.
  • LYSANDER
  • He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he knows not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not enough to speak, but to speak true.
  • THESEUS
  • His speech was like a tangled chain, nothing impaired, but all disordered. Who is next?
  • The six actors enter.
  • PROLOGUE
  • This man is Pyramus, if you would know. This beauteous lady Thisbe is certain. Along comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall, and finds his trusty Thisbe’s mantle slain. And Thisbe, his dagger drew, and died. For all the rest, let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain at large discourse, while here they do remain.
  • THESEUS
  • I wonder if the lion be to speak.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • No wonder, my lord. One lion may when many asses do.
  • Lion, Thisbe, Moonshine and Prologue exit.
  • SNOUT AS WALL
  • I present a Wall; through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, did whisper often, very secretly.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.
  • THESEUS
  • Pyramus draws near the wall. Silence.
  • BOTTOM AS PYRAMUS
  • O night, which ever art when day is not! I fear my Thisbe’s promise is forgot. O Wall, O sweet and lovely Wall, show me thy chink to blink through with mine eyne. But what see I? No Thisbe do I see.
  • FLUTE AS THISBE
  • O Wall, full often hast thou heard my moans for parting my fair Pyramus and me. My cherry lips have often kissed thy stones.
  • BOTTOM AS PYRAMUS
  • I see a voice! Now will I to the chink to spy an I can hear my Thisbe’s face.
  • FLUTE AS THISBE
  • My love! Thou art my love, I think.
  • BOTTOM AS PYRAMUS
  • O kiss me through the hole of this vile Wall.
  • FLUTE AS THISBE
  • I kiss the Wall’s hole, not your lips at all.
  • Bottom and Flute exit.
  • SNOUT AS WALL
  • Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so, and, being done, thus Wall away doth go.
  • Snout exits.
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
  • THESEUS
  • If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men.
  • Snug and Starveling enter.
  • SNUG AS LION
  • You ladies, you whose gentle hearts do fear the smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor, may now perchance both quake and tremble here, when lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.
  • THESEUS
  • A very gentle beast, and of a good conscience.
  • LYSANDER
  • This lion is a very fox for his valor.
  • THESEUS
  • True, and a goose for his discretion. Let us listen to the Moon.
  • STARVELING AS MOONSHINE
  • Myself the man i’ th’ moon do seem to be.
  • THESEUS
  • How is it else “the man i’ th’ moon?”
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • I am aweary of this moon. Would he would change.
  • THESEUS
  • In courtesy, in all reason, we must stay the time.
  • LYSANDER
  • Proceed, Moon.
  • STARVELING AS MOONSHINE
  • I the man i’ th’ moon, this thornbush my thornbush, and this dog my dog.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • But silence. Here comes Thisbe.
  • Flute as Thisbe enters.
  • FLUTE AS THISBE
  • Where is my love?
  • SNUG AS LION
  • Roars.
  • Thisbe runs off, dropping her mantle.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Well roared, Lion.
  • THESEUS
  • Well run, Thisbe.
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • Well shone, Moon. Truly, the Moon shines with a good grace.
  • Bottom as Pyramus enters.
  • BOTTOM AS PYRAMUS
  • Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams. But stay. What dreadful sorrow is here! Eyes, do you see! How can it be! O dainty duck! Thy mantle good. What, stained with blood? Since lion vile hath here harmed my dear, which was the fairest dame that lived, that loved, that liked, that looked with cheer? Come tears, confound!
  • Pyramus stabs himself.
  • BOTTOM AS PYRAMUS
  • Thus die I, thus, thus, thus. Now am I dead. My soul is in the sky.
  • Moonshine exits and Pyramus falls.
  • THESEUS
  • With the help of a surgeon he might yet recover and yet prove an ass.
  • Flute as Thisbe enters.
  • THESEUS
  • Here she comes, and her passion ends the play.
  • HIPPOLYTA
  • I hope she will be brief.
  • LYSANDER
  • She hath spied him already with those sweet eyes.
  • FLUTE AS THISBE
  • Asleep, my love? What, dead, my dove? O Pyramus, arise! Must cover thy sweet eyes.
  • Thisbe stabs herself.
  • FLUTE AS THISBE
  • And farewell, friends. Thus Thisbe ends. Adieu, adieu.
  • Thisbe falls.
  • THESEUS
  • Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.
  • DEMETRIUS
  • Ay, and Wall too.
  • Bottom and Flute arise.
  • BOTTOM
  • Will it please you to see the Epilogue.
  • THESEUS
  • No epilogue, I pray you. For your play needs no excuse. Never excuse. For when the players are all dead, there need none to be blamed.
  • The players exit.
  • THESEUS
  • The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve. I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn as much as we this night have overwatched. Sweet friends, to bed.
  • They exit. Robin enters.
  • ROBIN
  • Not a mouse shall disturb this hallowed house. I am sent with broom before, to sweep the dust behind the door.
  • Oberon, Titania and their trains enter.
  • OBERON
  • Through the house give glimmering light, by the dead and drowsy fire. Hand in hand, with fairy grace, will we sing and bless this place. Now, until the break of day, through this house each fairy stray. So shall all the couples three ever true in loving be. And each several chamber bless, through this palace, with sweet peace. And the owner of it blest, ever shall in safety rest.
  • All but Robin exit.
  • ROBIN
  • If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended. Gentles, do not reprehend. If you pardon, we will mend. So good night unto you all, give me your hands, if we be friends.
  • He exits.

Copyright © 2010 Simplified Shakespeare

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