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

THESEUS: Duke of Athens HIPPOLYTA: Queen of the Amazons betrothed to Theseus PHILOSTRATE: Master of the Revels to Theseus Location: Theseus's castle in Athens
           Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA,
           [PHILOSTRATE,] with others.

  1   Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
  2   Draws on apace; four happy days bring in
  3   Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow
4. lingers: delays the fulfillment of.
  4   This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires,
5. step-dame: stepmother. dowager: a widow who has rights to revenue from an estate during her lifetime.
Hippolyta and Theseus

11. solemnities: i.e., marriage rites.

13. pert: lively, brisk.

15. companion: fellow (contemptuous). pomp: ceremonial splendor.
  5   Like to a step-dame or a dowager
  6   Long withering out a young man's revenue.

  7   Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
  8   Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
  9   And then the moon, like to a silver bow
 10   New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
 11   Of our solemnities.

 11                                 Go, Philostrate,
 12   Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments;
 13   Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth;
 14   Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
 15   The pale companion is not for our pomp.

           [Exit PHILOSTRATE.]

16-17. I woo'd thee with my sword, / And won thy love, doing thee injuries: Theseus captured Queen Hippolyta during his military conquest of the Amazons.
 16   Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,
 17   And won thy love, doing thee injuries;
 18   But I will wed thee in another key,
19. triumph: public festival and spectacle.
 19   With pomp, with triumph and with revelling.

           Enter EGEUS and his daughter HERMIA
LYSANDER: loved by Hermia DEMETRIUS: suitor to Hermia
           and LYSANDER and DEMETRIUS.

Lysander and Hermia
by John Simmons 1870
 20   Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!

 21   Thanks, good Egeus: what's the news with thee?

 22   Full of vexation come I, with complaint
 23   Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
 24   Stand forth, Demetrius. My noble lord,
 25   This man hath my consent to marry her.
 26   Stand forth, Lysander: and my gracious duke,
 27   This man hath bewitch'd the bosom of my child;
 28   Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes,
 29   And interchanged love-tokens with my child:
 30   Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung,
 31   With feigning voice verses of feigning love,
32. stol'n the impression of her fantasy: stealthily and dishonestly stamped . . . more 33. bracelets of thy hair: Hair bracelets were a common love token . . . more 34. Knacks: knickknacks.

38. harshness: i.e., disobedience.
39. Be it so: if.
 32   And stol'n the impression of her fantasy
 33   With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds, conceits,
 34   Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats, messengers
 35   Of strong prevailment in unharden'd youth:
 36   With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart,
 37   Turn'd her obedience, which is due to me,
 38   To stubborn harshness: and, my gracious duke,
 39   Be it so she will not here before your grace
 40   Consent to marry with Demetrius,
 41   I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,
 42   As she is mine, I may dispose of her:
 43   Which shall be either to this gentleman
 44   Or to her death, according to our law
45. Immediately provided in that case: i.e., as the law expressly provides for in such a case.
 45   Immediately provided in that case.

46. Be advis'd: consider well.
 46   What say you, Hermia? Be advis'd fair maid:
 47   To you your father should be as a god;
 48   One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
49. a form in wax: i.e., an impression in a wax seal, of the kind that would be attached to an official document to prove its authenticity. 51. leave: i.e., leave unchanged. disfigure: obliterate.
 49   To whom you are but as a form in wax
 50   By him imprinted and within his power
 51   To leave the figure or disfigure it.
 52   Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.

 53   So is Lysander.

 53                          In himself he is;
54. in this kind: in this respect. wanting: lacking. voice: consent.
 54   But in this kind, wanting your father's voice,
 55   The other must be held the worthier.

 56   I would my father look'd but with my eyes.

 57   Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.

 58   I do entreat your grace to pardon me.
 59   I know not by what power I am made bold,
60. how it may concern: whether it befit.
 60   Nor how it may concern my modesty,
 61   In such a presence here to plead my thoughts;
 62   But I beseech your grace that I may know
 63   The worst that may befall me in this case,
 64   If I refuse to wed Demetrius.

65. die the death: be put to death by judicial sentence. abjure: to renounce on oath, forswear; to withdraw, retract, recant (a heresy or other opinion or position formerly held).
 65   Either to die the death or to abjure
 66   For ever the society of men.
 67   Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;
68. Know of your youth: inquire of your youthful feelings. blood: passions.
 68   Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
 69   Whether, if you yield not to your father's choice,
70. livery: habit, distinctive garb.
 70   You can endure the livery of a nun,
71. aye: ever. mew'd: shut up, confined.
 71   For aye to be in shady cloister mew'd,
 72   To live a barren sister all your life,
73. Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon:—Diana, the goddess of chastity, is also the moon . . . more
 73   Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
 74   Thrice-blessed they that master so their blood,
75. maiden pilgrimage: i.e., journey through life as a virgin.
 75   To undergo such maiden pilgrimage;
76. earthlier happy: happier on earth. the rose distill'd: metaphorically, a . . . more 77. thorn: a thorny stem of a rose bush. 78. single blessedness: "divine blessing accorded to a life of celibacy" (Oxford English Dictionary).
 76   But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd,
 77   Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
 78   Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.

 79   So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
80. virgin patent: ownership of myself conferred by virginity.
"unwished yoke"
81-82. whose unwished yoke / My soul consents not to give sovereignty: i.e., whose unwished union, my soul refuses his reign as husband.
 80   Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
 81   Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
 82   My soul consents not to give sovereignty.

 83   Take time to pause; and, by the next new moon—
 84   The sealing-day betwixt my love and me,
 85   For everlasting bond of fellowship—
 86   Upon that day either prepare to die
 87   For disobedience to your father's will,
88. Or: either. as he would: as he desires.
 88   Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;
89. protest: vow.
 89   Or on Diana's altar to protest
 90   For aye austerity and single life.

 91   Relent, sweet Hermia: and, Lysander, yield
92. crazed: cracked, unsound, flawed. title: claim to possession.
 92   Thy crazed title to my certain right.

 93   You have her father's love, Demetrius;
 94   Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him.

 95   Scornful Lysander! true, he hath my love,
96. render him: give to him.
 96   And what is mine my love shall render him.
 97   And she is mine, and all my right of her
98. estate unto: settle or bestow upon.
 98   I do estate unto Demetrius.

99. well deriv'd: well born.
 99   I am, my lord, as well deriv'd as he,
100. As well possess'd: endowed with equal wealth.
100   As well possess'd; my love is more than his;
101. My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd: my situation and prospects are, in every way, just as good as. 102. with vantage: better.
101   My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd,
102   If not with vantage, as Demetrius';
103   And, which is more than all these boasts can be,
104   I am beloved of beauteous Hermia:
105   Why should not I then prosecute my right?
106. head: i.e., face.
106   Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head,
107   Made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena,
108   And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,
109   Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
110. spotted and inconstant: morally stained with inconstancy.
110   Upon this spotted and inconstant man.

111   I must confess that I have heard so much,
112   And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;
113. self-affairs: my own affairs.
113   But, being over-full of self-affairs,
114   My mind did lose it. But, Demetrius, come;
115   And come, Egeus; you shall go with me,
116. schooling: admonition.
116   I have some private schooling for you both.
117. For: as for. look you arm: see that you prepare.
117   For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
118. fancies: affections, likings, thoughts of love.
118   To fit your fancies to your father's will;
119   Or else the law of Athens yields you up—
120. extenuate: mitigate.
120   Which by no means we may extenuate—
121   To death, or to a vow of single life.
122   Come, my Hippolyta: what cheer, my love?
123. go along: come with us.
123   Demetrius and Egeus, go along:
124   I must employ you in some business
125. Against: in preparation for.
125   Against our nuptial and confer with you
126. nearly that: that closely.
126   Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.

127. duty and desire: eagerness to serve.
127   With duty and desire we follow you.

           Exeunt [all but LYSANDER and HERMIA].

128   How now, my love! why is your cheek so pale?
129   How chance the roses there do fade so fast?

130. Belike: very likely.
130   Belike for want of rain, which I could well
131. Beteem: grant, afford.
131   Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.

132   Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
133   Could ever hear by tale or history,
134   The course of true love never did run smooth;
135. blood: birth, hereditary station.
135   But, either it was different in blood,—

136. cross: vexation, thwarting.
136   O cross! too high to be enthrall'd to low.

137. misgraffed: ill grafted, i.e., badly matched.
137   Or else misgraffed in respect of years,—

138   O spite! too old to be engaged to young.

139. friends: i.e., relatives.
139   Or else it stood upon the choice of friends,—

140   O hell! to choose love by another's eyes.

141. a sympathy in choice: i.e., true love between two who freely chose one another.
141   Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
142   War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
143. momentany: momentary.
143   Making it momentany as a sound,
144   Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;
145. collied: black as coal.
145   Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
146. in a spleen: i.e., as if in a sudden fit of passion or in a flash. The spleen was thought to be the seat of sudden impulsive feelings and actions. unfolds: discloses, reveals.
146   That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,
147   And ere a man hath power to say "Behold!"
148   The jaws of darkness do devour it up:
149. So quick bright things come to confusion: (1) so quickly bright things come to darkness; (2) so bright things full of light or love come to darkness and destruction.
150-151. If then true lovers . . . destiny: i.e., then if true lovers have always been thwarted, it proves that destiny is saying that our thwarted . . . more 152. teach our trial patience: i.e., discipline ourselves to meet this trial patiently.
149   So quick bright things come to confusion.

150   If then true lovers have been ever cross'd,
151   It stands as an edict in destiny:
152   Then let us teach our trial patience,
153   Because it is a customary cross,
154. As due to love as : as much love's due as melancholy moods. 155. fancy's: amorous passion's; love's.
154   As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs,
155   Wishes and tears, poor fancy's followers.

156. persuasion: opinion, doctrine.
156   A good persuasion: therefore, hear me, Hermia.
157   I have a widow aunt, a dowager
158   Of great revenue, and she hath no child:
159. seven leagues: A league is roughly equivalent to three miles. 160. respects: regards.
159   From Athens is her house remote seven leagues;
160   And she respects me as her only son.
161   There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee;
162   And to that place the sharp Athenian law
163   Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me then,
164   Steal forth thy father's house tomorrow night;
165   And in the wood, a league without the town,
166   Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
167. do observance to a morn of May: perform the ceremonies of May-day. 168. stay: wait.
167   To do observance to a morn of May,
168   There will I stay for thee.

168                                          My good Lysander!
169   I swear to thee, by Cupid's strongest bow,
170. arrow . . . head: Ovid's . . . more 171. simplicity: harmlessness, innocence. doves: i.e., those that drew Venus' chariot. 173. Carthage queen: Dido, who immolated herself on a funeral pyre after the Trojan hero Aeneas, her lover, secretly sailed away from Carthage.
170   By his best arrow with the golden head,
171   By the simplicity of Venus' doves,
172   By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,
173   And by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen,
174   When the false Troyan under sail was seen,
175   By all the vows that ever men have broke,
176   In number more than ever women spoke,
177   In that same place thou hast appointed me,
178   Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.

179   Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.

           Enter HELENA.

180   God speed fair Helena! whither away?

181   Call you me fair? that fair again unsay.
182. fair: O happy fair: beauty: O lucky fair one.
182   Demetrius loves your fair: O happy fair!
183. lode-stars: guiding stars. air: melody, music. 184. tuneable: tuneful, melodious.
183   Your eyes are lode-stars; and your tongue's sweet air
184   More tuneable than lark to shepherd's ear,
185. When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear: i.e., in the promising and beautiful springtime. 186. favor: appearance, attributes.
185   When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
186   Sickness is catching: O, were favor so,
187   Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go;
188   My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,
189   My tongue should catch your tongue's sweet melody.
190. bated: excepted.
190   Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated,
191. translated: transformed.
191   The rest I'd give to be to you translated.
192. art: i.e., magical charm.
192   O, teach me how you look, and with what art
193. sway the motion: command the desire.

197. affection: passion. move: arouse.
193   You sway the motion of Demetrius' heart.

194   I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.

195   O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!

196   I give him curses, yet he gives me love.

197   O that my prayers could such affection move!

198   The more I hate, the more he follows me.

199   The more I love, the more he hateth me.

200   His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

201   None, but your beauty: would that fault were mine!

202   Take comfort: he no more shall see my face;
203   Lysander and myself will fly this place.
204   Before the time I did Lysander see,
205   Seem'd Athens as a paradise to me:
206   O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,
207   That he hath turn'd a heaven unto a hell!

208. our minds we will unfold: our plans we will reveal.
208   Helen, to you our minds we will unfold:
209. Phoebe: Diana, the moon.
209   Tomorrow night, when Phoebe doth behold
210. glass: mirror.
210   Her silver visage in the watery glass,
211   Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass,
212. still: always.
212   A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal,
213. devis'd: decided.
213   Through Athens' gates have we devis'd to steal.

214   And in the wood, where often you and I
215. faint: pale, or faintly scented.
215   Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie,
216. counsel: secret, inmost thought.
216   Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,
217   There my Lysander and myself shall meet;
218   And thence from Athens turn away our eyes,
219. stranger companies: the company of strangers.
219   To seek new friends and stranger companies.
220   Farewell, sweet playfellow: pray thou for us;
221   And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!
222-223. Keep word: keep your promise. Starve our sight / From lovers' food: i.e., refrain from seeing each other.
222   Keep word, Lysander: we must starve our sight
223   From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight.

224   I will, my Hermia.

           Exit HERMIA.

224                                 Helena, adieu:
225   As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!

           Exit LYSANDER.

226. How happy some o'er other some can be!: how more happy (and lucky) than others some can be!
226   How happy some o'er other some can be!
227   Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
228   But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;
229. He will not know: he refuses to acknowledge.
229   He will not know what all but he do know:
230-231. And as he errs . . . qualities: i.e., and as he wanders about in a daze of love, doting on Hermia's eyes . . . more 232. holding no quantity: lacking proportion, unsubstantial, unshapely. 233. transpose: change, transform. dignity: worth.
230   And as he errs, doting on Hermia's eyes,
231   So I, admiring of his qualities:
232   Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
233   Love can transpose to form and dignity:
234   Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
235. painted blind: i.e., portrayed in paintings as being blindfolded. 236. Nor. . . taste: i.e., nor has Love, which deals in imagination's fancy, any trace of judgment or reason. 237. Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste: [Cupid's] wings and lack of sight symbolize the heedless haste [of lovers]. 240. game: fun, sport.
235   And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind:
236   Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste;
237   Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste:
238   And therefore is Love said to be a child,
239   Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
240   As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
241   So the boy Love is perjured every where:
242. eyne: eyes. --"Eyne" was archaic even in Shakespeare's time, but it rhymes with "mine" in the next line.
242   For ere Demetrius look'd on Hermia's eyne,
243   He hail'd down oaths that he was only mine;
244   And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
245   So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.
246   I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight:
247   Then to the wood will he tomorrow night
248. intelligence: information.
248   Pursue her; and for this intelligence
249-251. If . . . again: i.e., If all I get from telling Demetrius of Hermia's whereabouts is a thank-you, I will have made a costly purchase ("dear expense"), but I intend to enrich myself for my pains, by having his loving looks go to Hermia and return back to me. —Helena's plan is highly irrational, but as she has already said, love has no judgment.
249   If I have thanks, it is a dear expense:
250   But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
251   To have his sight thither and back again.