Select Background & Text
A Midsummer-Night's Dream
by William Shakespeare
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
A Midsummer-Night's Dream
Dramatis PersonaeTHESEUS, Duke of Athens.
HIPPOLYTA, Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus.
EGEUS, Father to Hermia.
LYSANDER, In love with Hermia.
HERMIA, Daughter to Egeus, in love with Lysander, but betrothed to Demetrius.
DEMETRIUS, In love with Hermia, but loved by Helena.
HELENA, In love with Demetrius.
PHILOSTRATE, Master of the revels to Theseus.
QUINCE, a carpenter.
BOTTOM, a weaver.
SNUG, a joiner.
FLUTE, a bellows-mender.
SNOUT, a tinker.
STARVELING, a tailor.
OBERON, King of the fairies.
TITANIA, Queen of the fairies.
PUCK, Or Robin Goodfellow.
Other fairies attending their King and Queen.
Attendants on Theseus and Hippolyta.
A wood near Athens
[Enter a FAIRY at One door, and PUCK at another]
PUCK. How now, spirit! whither wander you?
How now, spirit! whither wander you?
FAIRY. Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough brier, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire, I do wander every where, Swifter than the moon's sphere; And I serve the Fairy Queen, To dew her orbs upon the green. 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. Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone. Our Queen and all her elves come here anon.
She never had so sweet a changeling
PUCK. The King doth keep his revels here to-night; Take heed the Queen come not within his sight; For Oberon is passing fell and wrath, Because that she as her attendant hath A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king. She never had so sweet a changeling; And jealous Oberon would have the child Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild; But she perforce withholds the loved boy, Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy. And now they never meet in grove or green, By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen, But they do square, that all their elves for fear Creep into acorn cups and hide them there.
And now they never meet in grove or green
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen,
But they do square
FAIRY. Either I mistake your shape and making quite, Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite Call'd Robin Goodfellow. Are not you he That frights the maidens of the villagery, Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern, And bootless make the breathless housewife churn, And sometime make the drink to bear no barm, Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm? Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck, You do their work, and they shall have good luck. Are not you he?
PUCK. Thou speakest aright: I am that merry wanderer of the night. I jest to Oberon, and make him smile When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile, Neighing in likeness of a filly foal; And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl In very likeness of a roasted crab, And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob, And on her withered dewlap pour the ale. The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale, Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me; Then slip I from her bum, down topples she, And 'tailor' cries, and falls into a cough; And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh, And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear A merrier hour was never wasted there. But room, fairy, here comes Oberon.
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm!
FAIRY. And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!
[Enter OBERON at one door, with his TRAIN, and TITANIA, at another, with hers]
OBERON. Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
TITANIA. What, jealous Oberon! Fairies, skip hence; I have forsworn his bed and company.
OBERON. Tarry, rash wanton; am not I thy lord?
TITANIA. Then I must be thy lady; but I know When thou hast stolen away from fairy land, And in the shape of Corin sat all day, Playing on pipes of corn, and versing love To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here, Come from the farthest steep of India, But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon, Your buskin'd mistress and your warrior love, To Theseus must be wedded, and you come To give their bed joy and prosperity?
OBERON. How canst thou thus, for shame, Titania, Glance at my credit with Hippolyta, Knowing I know thy love to Theseus? Didst not thou lead him through the glimmering night From Perigouna, whom he ravished? And make him with fair Aegles break his faith, With Ariadne and Antiopa?
TITANIA. These are the forgeries of jealousy; And never, since the middle summer's spring, Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead, By paved fountain, or by rushy brook, Or in the beached margent of the sea, To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind, But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport. Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain, As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land, Hath every pelting river made so proud That they have overborne their continents. The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain, The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard; The fold stands empty in the drowned field, And crows are fatted with the murrion flock; The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud, And the quaint mazes in the wanton green, For lack of tread, are undistinguishable. The human mortals want their winter here; No night is now with hymn or carol blest; Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, Pale in her anger, washes all the air, That rheumatic diseases do abound. And thorough this distemperature we see The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose; And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer, The childing autumn, angry winter, change Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world, By their increase, now knows not which is which. And this same progeny of evils comes From our debate, from our dissension; We are their parents and original.
I am the merry wanderer of the night
OBERON. Do you amend it, then; it lies in you. Why should Titania cross her Oberon? I do but beg a little changeling boy To be my henchman.
TITANIA. Set your heart at rest; The fairy land buys not the child of me. His mother was a vot'ress of my order; And, in the spiced Indian air, by night, Full often hath she gossip'd by my side; And sat with me on Neptune's yellow sands, Marking th' embarked traders on the flood; When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive, And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind; Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait Following- her womb then rich with my young squire- Would imitate, and sail upon the land, To fetch me trifles, and return again, As from a voyage, rich with merchandise. But she, being mortal, of that boy did die; 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. If you will patiently dance in our round, And see our moonlight revels, go with us; If not, shun me, and I will spare your haunts.
OBERON. Give me that boy and I will go with thee.
TITANIA. Not for thy fairy kingdom. Fairies, away. We shall chide downright if I longer stay.
We shall chide downright, if I longer stay
[Exit TITANIA with her train]
OBERON. Well, go thy way; thou shalt not from this grove Till I torment thee for this injury. My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememb'rest Since once I sat upon a promontory, And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath That the rude sea grew civil at her song, And certain stars shot madly from their spheres To hear the sea-maid's music.
To hear the sea-maid's music
PUCK. I remember.
OBERON. That very time I saw, but thou couldst not, Flying between the cold moon and the earth Cupid, all arm'd; a certain aim he took At a fair vestal, throned by the west, And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow, As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts; But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon; And the imperial vot'ress passed on, In maiden meditation, fancy-free. Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell. It fell upon a little western flower, Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound, And maidens call it Love-in-idleness. Fetch me that flow'r, the herb I showed thee once. The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid Will make or man or woman madly dote Upon the next live creature that it sees. Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again Ere the leviathan can swim a league.
Maidens call it love-in-idleness
PUCK. I'll put a girdle round about the earth In forty minutes.
[Exit PUCK ]
OBERON. Having once this juice, I'll watch Titania when she is asleep, And drop the liquor of it in her eyes; The next thing then she waking looks upon, Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, On meddling monkey, or on busy ape, She shall pursue it with the soul of love. And ere I take this charm from off her sight, As I can take it with another herb, I'll make her render up her page to me. But who comes here? I am invisible; And I will overhear their conference.
[Enter DEMETRIUS, HELENA following him]
DEMETRIUS. I love thee not, therefore pursue me not. Where is Lysander and fair Hermia? The one I'll slay, the other slayeth me. Thou told'st me they were stol'n unto this wood, And here am I, and wood within this wood, Because I cannot meet my Hermia. Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.
HELENA. You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant; But yet you draw not iron, for my heart Is true as steel. Leave you your power to draw, And I shall have no power to follow you.
DEMETRIUS. Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair? Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth Tell you I do not nor I cannot love you?
HELENA. And even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, The more you beat me, I will fawn on you. Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me, Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave, Unworthy as I am, to follow you. What worser place can I beg in your love, And yet a place of high respect with me, Than to be used as you use your dog?
DEMETRIUS. Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit; For I am sick when I do look on thee.
HELENA. And I am sick when I look not on you.
DEMETRIUS. You do impeach your modesty too much To leave the city and commit yourself Into the hands of one that loves you not; To trust the opportunity of night, And the ill counsel of a desert place, With the rich worth of your virginity.
HELENA. Your virtue is my privilege for that: It is not night when I do see your face, Therefore I think I am not in the night; Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company, For you, in my respect, are all the world. Then how can it be said I am alone When all the world is here to look on me?
DEMETRIUS. I'll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,
And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
HELENA. The wildest hath not such a heart as you. Run when you will; the story shall be chang'd: Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase; The dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind Makes speed to catch the tiger- bootless speed, When cowardice pursues and valour flies.
DEMETRIUS. I will not stay thy questions; let me go; Or, if thou follow me, do not believe But I shall do thee mischief in the wood.
HELENA. Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field, You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius! Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex. We cannot fight for love as men may do; We should be woo'd, and were not made to woo.
I'll follow thee, and make a heaven of hell, To die upon the hand I love so well.
OBERON. Fare thee well, nymph; ere he do leave this grove, Thou shalt fly him, and he shall seek thy love.
Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.
PUCK. Ay, there it is.
OBERON. I pray thee give it me. 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; There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight; And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin, Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in; And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes, And make her full of hateful fantasies. Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove: A sweet Athenian lady is in love With a disdainful youth; anoint his eyes; But do it when the next thing he espies 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. And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.
PUCK. Fear not, my lord; your servant shall do so.
Act two, Scene twoAnother part of the wood
[Enter TITANIA, with her train]
TITANIA. Come now, a roundel and a fairy song; Then, for the third part of a minute, hence: Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds; Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings, To make my small elves coats; and some keep back The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep; Then to your offices, and let me rest.
Come, now a roundel
[The FAIRIES Sing]
You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy Queen.
Philomel with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby.
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby.
Nor spell nor charm
Come our lovely lady nigh.
So good night, with lullaby.
Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence.
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail do no offence.
Philomel with melody, etc.
FIRST FAIRY. Hence away; now all is well. One aloof stand sentinel.
[Exeunt FAIRIES ]
And a fairy song[Enter OBERON and squeezes the flower on TITANIA'S eyelids]
OBERON. What thou seest when thou dost wake, Do it for thy true-love take; Love and languish for his sake. Be it ounce, or cat, or bear, Pard