Athens. A room in the palace of Theseus.
(Theseus; Hippolyta; Philostrate; Lords; Attendants; Lysander; Demetrius; Hermia; Helena; Quince; Bottom; Flute; Snout; Snug; Starveling; Puck; Oberon; Titania)
Theseus and Hippolyta discuss the story they have heard from the lovers, though Theseus dismisses its truth. The lovers, like their rulers now married, come in, and Theseus asks to find out what entertainment they shall have before bedtime. He dismisses many of the options, finally choosing the artisans’ play, despite Philostrate’s insistence that it is unworthy. Hippolyta wonders at Theseus’s choice, since Philostrate insists that the men can’t act, but the Duke argues that their humble willingness to try will outweigh their inadequacy. As the play begins, the audience begins to comment. Overwrought and overacted, and endlessly interrupted by the actors’ apologies to the audience, the play is unintentionally hilarious, to the delight of Theseus’s court. The comments grow crueler and crueler, but the actors are undeterred. Once the actors finish the dance that ends the play, it is midnight, and Theseus orders all to go to bed. Once the humans have left, the fairies enter, blessing the house and promising a quiet night to all its occupants. Left alone, Puck begs the audience’s forgiveness for any offense. (385 lines)
Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, and Philostrate, Lords, and Attendants.
’Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of.
More strange than true. I never may believe
These antic fables, nor these fairy toys.
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.
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 aery 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 suppos’d a bear!
But all the story of the night told over,
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.
Enter lovers, Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, and Helena.
Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.
Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days of love
Accompany your hearts!
More than to us
Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed!
Come now; what masques, what dances shall we have,
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between our after-supper and bed-time?
Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
Here, mighty Theseus.
Say, what abridgment have you for this evening?
What masque? What music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?
There is a brief how many sports are ripe.
Make choice of which your Highness will see first.
Giving a paper.
“The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.”
We’ll none of that: that have I told my love,
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
“The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.”
That is an old device; and it was play’d
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
“The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceas’d in beggary.”
That is some satire, keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
“A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.”
Merry and tragical? Tedious and brief?
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?
A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
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.
What are they that do play it?
Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never labor’d in their minds till now;
And now have toiled their unbreathed memories
With this same play, against your nuptial.
And we will hear it.
No, my noble lord,
It is not for you. I have heard it over,
And it is nothing, nothing in the world;
Unless you can find sport in their intents,
Extremely stretch’d, and conn’d with cruel pain,
To do you service.
I will hear that play;
For never any thing can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go bring them in; and take your places, ladies.
I love not to see wretchedness o’ercharged,
And duty in his service perishing.
Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.
He says they can do nothing in this kind.
The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.
Our sport shall be to take what they mistake;
And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect
Takes it in might, not merit.
Where I have come, great clerks have purposed
To greet me with premeditated welcomes;
Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
Make periods in the midst of sentences,
Throttle their practic’d accent in their fears,
And in conclusion dumbly have broke off,
Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,
Out of this silence yet I pick’d a welcome;
And in the modesty of fearful duty
I read as much as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity
In least speak most, to my capacity.
So please your Grace, the Prologue is address’d.
Let him approach.
Enter Quince for the Prologue.
If we offend, it is with our good will.
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 you,
The actors are at hand; and, by their show,
You shall know all, that you are like to know.
This fellow doth not stand upon points.
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.
Indeed he hath play’d on this prologue like a child on a recorder—a sound, but not in government.
His speech was like a tangled chain; nothing impair’d, but all disorder’d. Who is next?
Enter with a Trumpet before them Pyramus and Thisbe and Wall and Moonshine and Lion.
Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;
But wonder on till truth make all things plain.
This man is Pyramus, if you would know;
This beauteous lady Thisbe is certain.
This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present
Wall, that vile Wall, which did these lovers sunder;
And through Wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content
To whisper. At the which let no man wonder.
This man, with 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.
This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,
The trusty Thisbe, coming first by night,
Did scare away, or rather did affright;
And as she fled, her mantle she did fall,
Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.
Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,
And finds his trusty Thisbe’s mantle slain;
Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broach’d his boiling bloody breast;
And Thisbe, tarrying in mulberry shade,
His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest,
Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain
At large discourse, while here they do remain.
Exit with Pyramus, Thisbe, Lion, and Moonshine.
I wonder if the lion be to speak.
No wonder, my lord; one lion may, when many asses do.
In this same enterlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe,
Did whisper often, very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast, and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so;
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.
Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?
It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.
Pyramus draws near the wall. Silence!
O grim-look’d night! O night with hue so black!
O night, which ever art when day is not!
O night, O night! Alack, alack, alack,
I fear my Thisbe’s promise is forgot!
And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,
That stand’st between her father’s ground and mine!
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 shield thee well for this!
But what see I? No Thisbe do I see.
O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss!
Curs’d be thy stones for thus deceiving me!
The wall methinks, being sensible, should curse again.
No, in truth, sir, he should not. “Deceiving me” is Thisbe’s cue. She is to enter now, and I am to spy her through the wall. You shall see it will fall pat as I told you. Yonder she comes.
O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans,
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.
I see a voice! Now will I to the chink,
To spy and I can hear my Thisbe’s face.
My love thou art, my love I think.
Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover’s grace;
And, like Limander, am I trusty still.
And I, like Helen, till the Fates me kill.
Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.
As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.
O, kiss me through the hole of this vild wall!
I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.
Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straightway?
’Tide life, ’tide death, I come without delay.
Exeunt Pyramus and Thisbe.
Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;
And being done, thus Wall away doth go.
Now is the moon used between the two neighbors.
No remedy, my lord, when walls are so willful to hear without warning.
This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.
It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here come two noble beasts in, a man and a lion.
Enter Lion and Moonshine.
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.
Then know that I as 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.
A very gentle beast, and of a good conscience.
The very best at a beast, my lord, that e’er I saw.
This lion is a very fox for his valor.
True; and a goose for his discretion.
Not so, my lord; for his valor cannot carry his discretion, and the fox carries the goose.
His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valor; for the goose carries not the fox. It is well; leave it to his discretion, and let us listen to the Moon.
This lanthorn doth the horned moon present—
He should have worn the horns on his head.
He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible within the circumference.
This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;
Myself the man i’ th’ moon do seem to be.
This is the greatest error of all the rest. The man should be put into the lanthorn. How is it else the man i’ th’ moon?
He dares not come there for the candle; for, you see, it is already in snuff.
I am a-weary of this moon. Would he would change!
It appears, by his small light of discretion, that he is in the wane; but yet in courtesy, in all reason, we must stay the time.
All that I have to say is to tell you that the lanthorn is the moon, I the man i’ th’ moon, this thorn-bush my thorn-bush, and this dog my dog.
Why, all these should be in the lanthorn; for all these are in the moon. But silence! Here comes Thisbe.
This is old Ninny’s tomb. Where is my love?
The Lion roars. Thisbe runs off.
Well roar’d, Lion.
Well run, Thisbe.
Well shone, Moon. Truly, the moon shines with a good grace.
The Lion shakes Thisbe’s mantle.
Well mous’d, Lion.
And then came Pyramus.
And so the lion vanish’d.
Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;
I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright;
For by thy gracious, golden, glittering gleams,
I trust to take of truest Thisbe sight.
But stay! O spite!
But mark, poor knight,
What dreadful dole is here!
Eyes, do you see?
How can it be?
O dainty duck! O dear!
Thy mantle good,
What, stain’d with blood?
Approach, ye Furies fell!
O Fates, come, come,
Cut thread and thrum,
Quail, crush, conclude, and quell!
This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would go near to make a man look sad.
Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
O, wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?
Since lion vild hath here deflow’r’d my dear;
Which is—no, no—which was the fairest dame
That liv’d, that lov’d, that lik’d, that look’d with cheer.
Come, tears, confound,
Out, sword, and wound
The pap of Pyramus;
Ay, that left pap,
Where heart doth hop.
Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.
Now am I dead,
Now am I fled;
My soul is in the sky.
Tongue, lose thy light,
Moon, take thy flight,
Now die, die, die, die, die.
No die, but an ace, for him; for he is but one.
Less than an ace, man; for he is dead, he is nothing.
With the help of a surgeon he might yet recover, and yet prove an ass.
How chance Moonshine is gone before Thisbe comes back and finds her lover?
She will find him by starlight. Here she comes, and her passion ends the play.
Methinks she should not use a long one for such a Pyramus. I hope she will be brief.
A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus, which Thisbe, is the better: he for a man. God warr’nt us; she for a woman. God bless us.
She hath spied him already with those sweet eyes.
And thus she means, videlicet—
Asleep, my love?
What, dead, my dove?
O Pyramus, arise!
Speak, speak! Quite dumb?
Dead, dead? A tomb
Must cover thy sweet eyes.
These lily lips,
This cherry nose,
These yellow cowslip cheeks,
Are gone, are gone!
Lovers, make moan;
His eyes were green as leeks.
O Sisters Three,
Come, come to me,
With hands as pale as milk;
Lay them in gore,
Since you have shore
With shears his thread of silk.
Tongue, not a word!
Come, trusty sword,
Come, blade, my breast imbrue!
And farewell, friends;
Thus Thisbe ends;
Adieu, adieu, adieu.
Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.
Ay, and Wall too.
No, I assure you, the wall is down that parted their fathers. Will it please you to see the epilogue, or to hear a Bergomask dance between two of our company?
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 blam’d. Marry, if he that writ it had play’d Pyramus, and hang’d himself in Thisbe’s garter, it would have been a fine tragedy; and so it is, truly, and very notably discharg’d. But come, your Bergomask; let your epilogue alone.
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve.
Lovers, to bed, ’tis almost fairy time.
I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn
As much as we this night have overwatch’d.
This palpable-gross play hath well beguil’d
The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
In nightly revels and new jollity.
Now the hungry lion roars,
And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task foredone.
Now the wasted brands do glow,
Whilst the screech owl, screeching loud,
Puts the wretch that lies in woe
In remembrance of a shroud.
Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide.
And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecat’s team
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic. Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallowed house.
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.
Enter King and Queen of Fairies, Oberon and Titania, with all their Train.
Through the house give glimmering light
By the dead and drowsy fire,
Every elf and fairy sprite
Hop as light as bird from brier,
And this ditty, after me,
Sing, and dance it trippingly.
First, rehearse your song by rote,
To each word a warbling note.
Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.
Song and dance.
Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue, there create,
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be;
And the blots of Nature’s hand
Shall not in their issue stand;
Never mole, hare-lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be.
With this field-dew consecrate,
Every fairy take his gait,
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace, with sweet peace,
And the owner of it blest
Ever shall in safety rest.
Trip away; make no stay;
Meet me all by break of day.
Exeunt Oberon, Titania, and Train.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumb’red here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call.
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.