Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Navigator: Notable Quotes

[Click on the quote to find it in the text.]

To live a barren sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
—Theseus' warning to Hermia of what could become of her if she doesn't agree to marry the man her father has chosen for her. (A "barren sister" is a nun.)

But earthlier happy is the rose distilled
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.
—Theseus' reminder to Hermia that here on earth married women are happier than unmarried ones.

The course of true love never did run smooth.
—Lysander tells Hermia that they are not the only true lovers who have had troubles.

Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
Making it momentany as a sound,
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;
Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,
And ere a man hath power to say "Behold!"
The jaws of darkness do devour it up:
So quick bright things come to confusion.
—Lysander speaks to Hermia of the fragility of love and happiness even between two who freely choose one another (a sympathy in choice). War, death and sickness attack it, making a momentary sound that is as swift as a shadow and short as a dream: brief as lightning in the blackest night, that in a flash discloses both heaven and earth, and before a man has time to say, "Behold!" the jaws of darkness devour it up: so quick bright things come to darkness and destruction (confusion).

Masters, spread yourselves.
—Bottom's order to his mates to quit crowding around Peter Quince.

This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein.
—Having just given a sample of his ability to deliver a ranting speech, Bottom explains what kind of speech it is. ("Ercles" is Hercules.)

Nay, faith, let me not play a woman; I have a beard coming.
—Flute's reaction when he is assigned the part of Thisby.

I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you, as 'twere any nightingale.
—Bottom's explanation of how he could play the part of the Lion in such a way that it would not frighten the ladies.

a sweet-face man; a proper man, as one shall see in a summer's day.
—Peter Quince's description of Pyramus. (He is trying to persuade Bottom that only he can play the part of Pyramus.)

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere.
—A fairy's answer to Puck's question, "whither wander you?"

The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
—The fairy's fanciful description of cowslips as gentlemen who wait upon the fairy queen.

I am that merry wanderer of the night.
—Puck's answer when the fairy asks him if he is "that shrewd and knavish sprite / Call'd Robin Goodfellow."

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
—Oberon's greeting to his fairy Queen.

And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet marked 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.
—Oberon describes to Puck how the flower got its magical power to cause people to fall in love. Cupid shot his "bolt" (arrow) at the "imperial votaress," but it missed, and landed on the flower.

I'll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes.
—Puck describes the swiftness of his journey to fetch the magical flower.

my heart / Is true as steel
—Helena's description of the strength of her unswerving love for Demetrius.

Sing me now asleep;
Then to your offices and let me rest.

by Frederick Howard Michael 1897
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.
—Oberon describes Titania's bower, where she sleeps.

You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy queen.
—The opening lines of the fairy lullaby for Titania.

Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence.
—The closing lines of the fairy lullaby for Titania.

a lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing
—Bottom's comment on the problem posed by the appearance of a lion in their play.

What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here,
So near the cradle of the fairy queen?
—Puck discovers Bottom and his friends rehearsing their play.

Bless thee, Bottom! bless thee! thou art translated.
—Quince's words as he runs away from the ass-headed Bottom.

What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?
—Titania's words as Bottom's braying song awakes her.

Out of this wood do not desire to go.
—Titania's command to her new-found love—Bottom with an ass's head.

Lord, what fools these mortals be!
—Puck's gleeful comment on the fallings in and out of love of Helena, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius.

Helena: all the counsel
that we two have shared

Is all the counsel that we two have shared,
The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent,
When we have chid the hasty-footed time
For parting us, —O, is it all forgot?
All school-days' friendship, childhood innocence?
We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds,
Had been incorporate. So we grow together, 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
—Helena's description of how close she and Hermia were before all the man-trouble started.

O, when she's angry, she is keen and shrewd!
She was a vixen when she went to school;
And though she be but little, she is fierce.
—Helena describes Hermia as she pleads with the men to defend her from Hermia's jealous rage.

      night's swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora's harbinger;
At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there,
Troop home to churchyards
—Puck tells Oberon that it's almost dawn.

Cupid is a knavish lad,
Thus to make poor females mad.
—Puck's comment on the bedraggled Hermia, as she gives up the pursuit of Helena and Lysander.

Jack shall have Jill;
Nought shall go ill;
The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well.
—Puck boasts that he has fixed everything with the lovers.

I have an exposition of sleep come upon me.
—The asinine Bottom declares to Titania that he needs a nap.

My Oberon! what visions have I seen!
Methought I was enamoured of an ass.
—Titania's first words after Oberon removes the love-charm from her eyes and she awakes.

I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was.
—Bottom, his ass's head removed, awakes and tries to make sense of his experiences.

The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen,
man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive,
nor his heart to report, what my dream was.
—More confusion from Bottom about his dream.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
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 heaven;
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.
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 supposed a bear!
—Theseus' comments on the powers of the imagination.

Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is, hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
—Theseus' wonderment at the description of the play that Bottom and his friends are to perform.

                        To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
—Part of Quince's bumbling prologue to the play that his friends are about to perform before Theseus.

Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast.
—In his prologue to the play, Quince describes the death of Pyramus.

The best in this kind are but shadows, and the
worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.
—Theseus' comment on the ineptness of the actors.

The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve;
Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
—After the play is over, Theseus announces that it is past midnight.

Now the hungry lion roars,
And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task fordone.
—Puck, coming into Theseus' palace before the other fairies, describes the night.

                              not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallowed house:
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.
—Puck promises that all in Theseus' palace will have a fairy blessing.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
—The opening of Puck's epilogue.