The Players' Reference Edition

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

Quick Start Guide
  • Epilogue
  • Quick Start Guide

    The Experiential Shakespeare operates in four basic modes. Upon opening the app a colored dot appears in the bottom right corner of the screen, which can be clicked to expand the modes menu. Clicking any one of the mode names will display the playscript in that mode. The dot will change to the color of the current mode.

    Clicked once, the red "Reader" mode provides the basic edited text. Clicking it a second time turns the mode name purple, and begins displaying the text with line numbers and interlinear textual glosses in small red type. This allows the beginning reader to get an instant sense of the content of the line without losing her place, and without resorting to modern paraphrase.

    The blue "Student" mode switches to the basic text with annotated words and phrases rendered in blue type. Notes can be accessed by clicking directly on the word or phrase. The full note will scroll up from the bottom of the page. Clicking on the [X] which appears behind the word or phrase will make the note disappear. Notes in this section include critical insights, explanations of mythological references and classical allusions, and editorial elucidations of textual variants.

    The emerald green "Performer" mode is designed to assist the oral delivery of the text by displaying significant rhythmic (scansion) issues in green text, and wherever possible indicating with typographic symbols the expansions or contractions necessary to maintain the iambic meter. As in the "Student" mode, the full note can be accessed by clicking on the word(s). Notes contain an explanation of what the scansion issue is, an indication of contemporary performance practice, a loose rendering using a dictionary-style phonetic system, and a more exact rendering in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This mode also includes indications of exemplary rhetorical devices using interlinear text like "Reader" mode. Of course, virtually every line in Shakespeare's plays employs some classical rhetorical strategy, so only a few prototypical devices can be featured, but these will serve to give a novice performer some idea of the nature of the oratorical assistance built into the speeches.

    Finally, the olive green "Practice" mode provides a basic text. Clicking once on a speech heading will highlight all of that character's lines in the entire play. Clicking twice will hide the character's lines. This mode can be used to assist the early and intermediate stages of memorizing lines.

    Clicking on the vertical black bar in the right margin will open a full Table of Contents giving access to all supporting materials, and making quick navigation possible. Clicking again will close the menu.

    To begin using the app, simply scroll down the page until the text begins. To read the prefatory materials first, click on the button below instead.

    Next: Preface - A New Kind of Edition

    Preface: A New Kind of Edition

    "Plays exist for one purpose only: to be brought to life... A performance should bring the plays, with the audience, to the highest level of life within them." Peter Brook (quoted in Rosenbaum)

    This edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, although superficially similar to other contemporary critical editions, is built on some very different concepts of what the purpose of an edition is, what an edition itself is, and even what – at the most fundamental level – the underlying work is.

    As a result, it differs markedly in tone and substance from most other editions currently available. This preface will explore in greater detail what those differences are, but in the broadest strokes these can be summarized as conceptualizing you not as a literary reader with a predisposition for silent study of a fixed artifact, but a "user" with a bias for experiential exploration of a potential performance. While it will be particularly useful for actors and theatrical practitioners, the idea behind it is that the best way for anyone to approach a Shakespearean text is by speaking it aloud and imagining its theatrical potential. With just a little guidance, even very young students can successfully explore the text and discover it not only through intellectual processes, but by feeling its rhythm, shape and power.

    "To understand any play text fully you have to speak it." (Patsy Rodenburg)

    In addition to the bibliographic concerns (stable text, apparatus, notes and glosses) this edition also extensively engages with performance issues. Those include scansion, heightened language, current performance practice, and contemporary interpretations of the play. All editions attempt to make the play more approachable by adopting printing conventions and annotations that clarify the form. This one is following that tradition but instead of seeking primarily to make it easier to read, the goal here is to make it easier to use.


    What Is an "Edition?"

    To the surprise of many a novice encountering Shakespearean editorial practice for the first time, there are no definitive versions of Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare's original handwritten manuscripts have long since disappeared and, in fact, may never have existed in the finalized and polished form modern readers imagine. We know the work only because of hugely flawed printed copies dating from before 1642. These have some claim to direct continuity with Shakespeare or his company, but are filled with so many obvious errors, omissions and contradictions, that their authority is at best uncertain.

    Adding to the confusion, texts of a single title often exist in multiple versions that differ markedly from one another. Hamlet, for example, was printed in three different versions that feature different words, lines, scenes, scene orders, and, in some cases, different character names. The longest of the three is twice the length of the shortest. King Lear exists in two versions that differ from each other in enough detail that current editorial practice is to treat them as separate plays. Other plays show clear signs of revision that complicate - literally, necessitate - the editorial task.

    An edition is simply the work of an editor (or team of editors) trying to make sense of the remaining, often conflicted, evidence in order to make the play(s) accessible to contemporary users. Individual editors try to go about this in a variety of ways, based upon their assumptions about the relationship of the printed Renaissance versions to Shakespeare's manuscripts, as well as their assumptions about the needs of current readers.

    What Is a Script?

    At the beginning of Shakespeare's career, plays occupied approximately the same "literary" position that television scripts occupy for us. The general public has an intense interest in the product, but the standard form of publication (in the most fundamental sense of "making public") is performance, not print. Despite the huge following many television programs have, most members of the audience have never seen a teleplay in print. On rare occasions some such scripts become available as books for writers and obsessive fans, but these are a specialty interest. They lack the intellectual placement as literature that novels, and even some film scripts, have. They are just a way for a small number of screenwriters at the pinnacle of the profession to make a few extra bucks off a script after it has been produced.

    There is little reason to believe that when A Midsummer Night's Dream was originally written Shakespeare had the idea that it would ever see print. When, under various circumstances it did, the main reason for the errors, omissions and problems they contain is probably that these issues were unresolved in the original manuscript. In all likelihood Shakespeare was careless, or rather open-ended, about fixing matters that would be worked out in rehearsal anyway. (It made no real difference, for example, if in Julius Caesar, he wrote, "I had rather be a dog that bays the moon," instead of "I'd rather…" because any skilled actor would scan the line and know to contract the first two words.) It is just common sense that his time was more valuably spent as an actor preparing performances, from which he made his living, or writing the next play, than diligently proofreading a play that might expect to receive under a dozen total performances even when it was a big hit!

    In short, MND was not a manuscript prepared for posterity as a record of what happened, or for enduring literary fame. This is hard for contemporary readers to grasp because our encounters with plays of all sorts, but especially those of Shakespeare, are usually in literature classes where they have become exactly the kind of historical documents they were not originally intended to be. Without necessarily intending to do so, most editions impose the role of passive observer onto the reader.


    What Is a Play?

    If not an historic record, then what is a play? Within the theatrical context, its native home, a play is a plan for a future event. It may be a very rough one, or it may be a somewhat polished one, but it is never assumed to be a finished product. It is not a map of an archeological excavation, but a blueprint for a structure still to be built. We all understand that a blueprint is not a building, it is just the directions for how to create one.

    The best reason for the roughness of plays in Shakespeare's times (like teleplays in ours) is that the initial script is just the first step in a collaborative process. A host of other people, including producers, actors, directors, designers and technicians (and not infrequently co-authors and script doctors) are involved in order to bring the script "to life." This was as true of Shakespeare as it was of other playwrights in his time, and is still true of writers of teleplays in ours. The only difference, as scholar Stephen Orgel has pointed out, is that as a co-owner of the theater company and an actor in his own plays, Shakespeare was in on more parts of the collaboration than comparable authors (Authentic Shakespeare 84).


    Where You Come In

    This edition attempts to restore the implicit assumption that the user is not a passive reader, but will become an active collaborator. It treats the theatrical event as fulfillment, not debasement, of the raw materials.

    Although the Users' Guide will explore these concepts in far greater detail, here are quick indicators of a few of the ways this edition does so:

    The elasticity of the English language is foregrounded so that the speaker (even if she is a student studying the work) can actively explore the rhythmic effect of the verse lines, and feel the actor's part in creating it. Every attempt is made to ease sight-reading the play aloud, instead of perpetuating print conventions.

    Stage directions, even historically interesting ones that possibly came directly from Shakespeare, are modified into practical and accurate modern forms. For example, the wonderfully evocative "Enter a Fairy at one door, and Robin Goodfellow at another" is changed to "Enter a Fairy and Puck from opposite directions" because modern productions are highly unlikely to have doors in their "forests."

    Notes on the text emphasize modern performance practice over historic explanation. Although it is interesting to know how early modern audiences might have experienced the plays, we cannot undo the viewpoint of audiences of our time with footnotes. This is especially true with issues of race, class and gender. For example, when Lysander spurns Hermia with the racial epithets, "Ethiope" and "tawny Tartar," many modern audience members are, justifiably, offended. How such challenges are addressed in modern performance becomes the focus of the note in this edition, rather than the usual historic contextualizing of these as mere rhetorical figures.

    Next: User's Guide - 1. Headings

    User's Guide

    SCRIPT SECTIONS AND THEIR HEADINGS

    When you open this edition to a numbered unit, you will see a section heading that looks like this:

    Unit 1 (ACT I.i.a 1-19) 19 lines, 1'15"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens

    This short expository scene establishes the impending wedding of Theseus to the Queen of the Amazons, whom he has captured in battle. The scene also introduces major thematic image bodies relating to irrationality and love.

    Section headings contain:

    The Unit Number

    Although suitable for reading or study, the unique quality of this edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream is that it is intended for use in theatrical rehearsals. Unlike traditional editions, therefore, the basic division of the script is into "French scenes" (which change whenever active characters enter or exit) rather than "English scenes" (which change only when all the actors exit and the location changes.)

    This creates shorter sections, (the traditional Act I, Scene i, is divided in this edition into five units, for example) but they are the working segments actually used in rehearsal calls. These units are numbered consecutively from 1 to 52 in this edition. A chart showing the breakdown of actors in each scene is included as Appendix 1.

    Traditional Act, Scene, and Lines Numbers; Line Count; Spoken Running Time

    Next, to provide continuity for those who want to cross-reference other editions of the play, the heading also lists the traditional act and scene designations, plus a running letter designation to show that this is a sub-unit of a traditional scene, along with inclusive running line numbers.

    Immediately behind these designations is a count of the total number of lines in the section. Finally, behind that is an approximation of the total speaking time (excluding silent stage business) for the lines in the scene.

    Location

    No descriptions of fictional locations of scenes are supplied in the quarto or folio texts of this play, so those that appear in this version are editorial. These, of course, should not be imagined as real locations, or even locations represented by realistic scenery. They are, rather, loose indications to help performers understand and play the imaginary context of the unit.

    A generalized idea of the location can usually be deduced from the lines of the play, but it is often much less exact than the designations that appear in traditional texts on the authority of Nineteenth Century editors who envisioned anachronistic, realistic scenery. In this, as in many matters, this edition emphasizes theatrical practice over editorial precedent.

    Plot Summary

    Finally, a brief editorial précis of the plot appears, as well as indications of other important aspects of the scene where applicable.

    Next: User's Guide - 2. The Edited Script

    The Edited Script

    After the section header you will find the edited text of the unit in the form of a performance script. (A longer discussion of the editorial principles used to create this script appears in the resource section following the play.)

    It is useful to be certain that you are viewing the script in landscape mode of tablets or phones, and the size of the type is adjusted so that a line of verse appears unbroken while occupying as much of the page as possible. On a laptop or desktop this will happen relatively automatically.

    You may note that the directly performable words of the play are rendered in serif type, like this:

    1. Shakespeare's words, to be spoken onstage are in this typeface.

    All other aspects of the play, like stage directions, speech headings, and section headers, (as well as the editorial essays) appear in this san serif font.

    The appearance of the section depends on the mode in which it is being viewed. Discussions of the four modes appear in the sections that follow.

    Next: User's Guide - 3. Reader Mode, with Glosses and Line Numbers

    Reader Mode, with Glosses and Line Numbers

    The simplest of the four modes available in this edition is red "Reader" mode. Clicked twice (so the block with the mode name turns purple) it contains the basic edited text with line numbers in the left margin for ease of locating specific lines. It also contains textual glosses to assist the beginning reader. When unfamiliar words or idioms appear in the text a contemporary synonym appears as an interlineal gloss in small red type for instant reference.

    Next: User's Guide - 4. Student Mode, with Notes, Mythology, and Textual Variants

    Student Mode, with Notes, Mythology, and Textual Variants

    Blue "Student" mode is designed to assist a user who has advanced beyond determining the basic meaning of the words, and is placing them in context. In this mode, some words in the text appear in blue - indicating that they are annotated. Clicking directly on the word(s) will access the note. In general, these are more interpretive in nature. Notes come in three types:

    Explanatory Notes - These notes are more informational than instantly practical, meant to bring attention to aspects like interesting interpretive possibilities in the play, topical references and specifics of production history. Where appropriate, illustrations may be provided to make the visual implications more concrete.

    Mythological References and Classical Allusions – One of the reasons that Shakespeare often seems difficult for contemporary actors and audiences to understand is the extensive references he makes to classical Greek and Roman literature, including mythology. These notes about classical allusions in the play are intended to elucidate the references, themselves, and the emotional or symbolic significance they might have held for Shakespeare's audience.

    Textual Alternatives - The final type of note is the most esoteric – the textual alternative, or variant:

    Notes with a title line of "Textual Alternative" indicate that there is a viable alternative reading available–which was not adopted for this edition–but about which the reader/performer may wish to know. The notes elucidate cases where modern editors disagree about what the original wording was, or where authorial revision might have provided another option.

    Notes about textual alternative take this form:

    wanes] Q2 & F; waves Q1

    The reading adopted in this edition is indicated in front of the square bracket. Behind the bracket is an indication of the source of this reading. After the semi-colon, the alternative reading follows, along with an indication of the Renaissance edition(s) that include(s) it. The abbreviations used in these notes are:

    Next: User's Guide - 5. Performer Mode, with Scansion and Rhetoric

    Performer Mode, with Scansion and Rhetoric

    Emerald green "Performer" mode contains scansion notes.

    SCANSION

    Before the mid-nineteenth century, virtually all Western drama was written primarily in poetic verse, meaning that the lines had a fixed length and a rhythmic regularity created by patterns of accented and unaccented syllables.

    To fully appreciate, and then perform, plays written in verse, modern students and performers need to know how to check the metrical rhythm of the line. This process is known by the very formal term "scansion." It might be much less intimidating if it were widely known by the more contemporary equivalent word, "skimming." It is just a quick perusal to be sure of the intended rhythm.

    A century ago it was common practice for editors to indicate their understandings of the spoken rhythm in the printed text. In the '60s and 70s, as fashion began to favor irregular and free verse, this practice fell out of favor in part because so many of these editorial choices provoked controversy. (Of course, there is no reason to impose rhythmic regularity where none exists, but the modern issue is the tendency to fetishize irregularity even when intended regularity is easily discernible.) Avoiding the issue may make the editor less of a target for criticism, but it leaves the actor/reader with no assistance toward learning a fundamental skill. This edition of Midsummer, therefore, assays this task while acknowledging that all scansion choices are ultimately debatable.

    This may be less of an issue with this early comedy than with many other plays in the canon because the verse is far more regular than that in later plays. The standard employed for the notes in "Performer" mode is, simply, that the choices which result in the most regular line are the options utilized. Of course, in production, less rigorous conventions might be adopted. Even in those instances, however, it is surely better to make informed choices. In the words of the great Shakespearean director Peter Hall, "The first task in approaching a speech is to make it scan, or find out why it doesn't." (loc. 315).

    The good news is that finding this rhythm is much less difficult than it is often made out to be. Armed with just a few principles, and after a little practice, it can generally be accomplished by glancing over the text, and tapping out the rhythm of any tricky lines. The responsibility for giving the lines their metric shape, remember, lies with the playwright. For the user, the responsibility is simply to understand and preserve what the playwright has done.

    Scansion can be very contestable, and there is no sense in which the scan offered in this edition (or any other) can be said to be definitive, but "Performer" mode attempts to provide identification of all instances of verse that need a performer's special attention. Words or phrases requiring a decision or an accommodation are indicated with green type. Clicking on the green text will open a note explaining the issue and how to make the words scan regularly. Theses also generally include an indication of current performance practice.

    For more information about the principles used in this edition, see the essay, "Practical Scansion" in the end matter of this edition.

    Next: User's Guide - 5. Practice Mode

    Practice Mode

    The final mode in this edition is the olive green "Practice" mode, designed to help with memorizing everything from small chunks to complete roles.

    To use this mode, click on the dot in the lower right-hand corner to expand the menu, select "Practice" by clicking on its name. Notice that when engaged the dot will turn olive green, as will all speech headings in the playscript.

    Click on a speech heading for any character once, and all the lines for that character will be highlighted. This helps with the beginning stages of memorization. Click again on any speech heading of the same character and all lines belonging to the character will be hidden. Speech headings, cues and spacing remain. This state can be used to test one's memorization.

    Preferatory materials for the edition continue with the List of Characters here.

    Next Essay: List of Characters

    For those with detailed interest in such matters, a much fuller and more technical discussion of the editorial principles used to create this edition can be found in the essay "Editorial Problems and Principles" Resources section following the play.

    List of Characters

    Neither the quartos nor the folio supplied a list of characters. This dramatis personae section is supplied by the editor. The part of the name that is generally used in the speech headings is printed in all capital letters.

    In the Court of Athens

    In the Fairy World

    The Artisans of Athens, sometimes called the "Mechanicals"

    The Rude Mechanicals

    The "Rude Mechanicals," in an illustration by Heath Robinson, 1919

    Next Essay: Doubling in MIDSUMMER

    Doubling in Midsummer

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play that seems designed for extensive doubling by actors – that is, actors playing more than one role in the play. A quick glance at the Act-Scene-Character breakdown (see Appendix 1) reveals clear patterns of character groups that disappear from the play for stretches of time, while another group of characters of almost identical configuration replaces them. These two groups may alternate scenes throughout the play, but never appear onstage together. Identification of these groupings, and how they alternate follows:

    1. Athenians/Supernaturals

    Theseus, Hippolyta and Philostrate always appear together. They are conspicuously absent during the times their supernatural counterparts – Oberon, Tytania and Puck – hold the stage. Since Peter Brook’s groundbreaking production in 1969, it has become almost traditional for Theseus/Oberon to be played by a single actor, Hippolyta/Tytania to be played by a single actor, and Philostrate/Puck to double. These pairings are both theatrically entertaining and thematically resonant. (A number of strict traditionalists insist that this could not have been Shakespeare’s original intention because Oberon and Tytania exit at the end of Unit 33 while Theseus and Hippolyta begin Unit 34. At least on paper, this seems an unmanageable costume change and reëntrance. A half century of theatrical productions have devised so many possible solutions for this problem, ranging from ingenious quick changes, to insertion of a short musical interlude, to reversing the order of Units 34 and 35, to making the change onstage in a highly theatrical manner, that this objection now seems pedantic and quaint.)

    2. Egeus/Mechanical

    As the lines are assigned in the quartos, Egeus appears only in the first scene and again briefly in the fourth act, but disappears conveniently from the play before the final act. This means that the actor playing this role is available to double one of the mechanicals, usually Quince.

    (In the Folio, Egeus is assigned all of Philostrate’s lines from the final act, but the fact that this makes this small part essentially unable to double any other roles is just one among a number of reasons for being skeptical about the authority of this change of line assignments in the Folio.)

    3. Mechanicals/Fairies

    Bottom’s four companions (Flute, Snug, Snout and Starveling) are never on stage with the four named fairies (Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mustardseed and Moth). The only reason that this is not an obvious doubling is that centuries of anachronistic practice have conditioned a modern audience to think of the fairies as female, and as children. This was not an Elizabethan idea, however. The same masque for which Inigo Jones designed an evocative Oberon costume (which can be seen in the List of Characters, above) also features a set of designs for fairies, which are quite clearly adult men. Although this masque is a separate theatrical work than Midsummer, it still shows that as late as a couple decades after Midsummer premiered “fairies” were still thought of as something like "goblins," not female children. This doubling, too, has now become rather common in twenty-first century productions.

    Adult men as fairies

    Designs by Inigo Jones for fairies in his masque, Oberon

    Note: The play contains characters called “Fairy” in Unit 7, and “First and Second Fairies” in Unit 12, as well as a non-speaking fairy identified as the “Sentinel” in Units 12/13, but there is no reason to think that these are not meant to be played by the same actors that play the named fairies that are already onstage. They are not true doublings, as much as they are simply open assignments. (That is to say, the play does not call for a minimum of eight fairies. Four fairies can do all the jobs.)

    Summary:

    Without any real issue beyond thinking through the easily-solved transition from Unit 33 to 34, the twenty-five identified characters in the cast list can be played by just 13 speaking actors using the above doublings. (Non-speaking extras are suggested at several points in the play as courtiers to Theseus and as the followers and attendants of Oberon and Tytania, but these are not strictly necessary and the play is more often produced without them that with them in the modern theatre.)

    A cast might look like this:

    More Theatrical Choices

    In his wonderful book-length discussion of doubling in Shakespeare, scholar Brett Gamboa suggests that if one is willing to be just a bit more theatrically daring, it is possible for both Hermia and Helena to also triple one of the mechanical/fairy pairings. This is possible if the production uses body doubles in the last scene of the play, as they both (conveniently) do not speak after the point that they take their places in the gallery to watch the mechanicals perform Pyramus and Thisbe. This would bring the speaking cast down to 11, although it probably still requires at least two extras.

    It is not easily possible to go further than that limit without adopting more overt theatrical conventions (such as actors playing two parts simultaneously) and/or intervening in the text much further, but it is worth noting that it is only because they have interjections in between scenes of Pyramus and Thisbe that Lysander and Demetrius cannot also triple mechanicals. Some modern productions have them do so anyway by reassigning their lines or resorting to more liberties with the traditional staging and text, bringing the speaking cast down to nine.

    At its most extreme then, a creative casting might look like this:

    Of course, a small ensemble is not always the goal. For amateur and school productions, it is often useful to have a large number of roles available and it is not necessarily desirable to use doublings with less experienced actors. Professional productions, however, usually want to do so. Although it is economically useful to employ a smaller number of speaking actors, the better reason is that the play is theatrically more interesting with virtuosic displays of acting as a result of doubling and tripling. Further the repetition of themes of the play can be highlighted by thoughtful employment of actors in related roles.

    Much about the play suggests that this was, in keeping with Elizabethan theatrical custom generally, the original practice. Modern performance history tells us that the play is now more successful and popular when performed in this manner, whether or not it was originally played this way.

    Act 1

    Unit 1 (ACT I.i.a 1-19) 19 lines, 1'15"

    Fictive location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens

    This short expository scene establishes the impending wedding of Duke Theseus to the Queen of the Amazons, whom he has captured in battle. The scene also introduces major thematic image bodies relating to irrationality and love.

    stage setting with Greek temple

    Although many other possibilities exist, the Court of Theseus is most commonly placed in a setting that references classical Greece, such as this one.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw


    [ THESEUS

    Performance History

    Although no contemporary references tell us what parts Shakespeare performed as an actor in his own plays, theatrical tradition is that he specialized in Kingly roles and chorus figures. Recent, but not uncontroversial, stylometric studies suggest that he played Duke Theseus, a finding in keeping with that tradition. It also accords with other results implying Shakespeare often delivered the exposition as the first or second speaker in numerous plays.

    The Court of Theseus. Drawing by Heath Robinson (1919)

    The Court of Theseus. Drawing by Heath Robinson (1919)

    public domain

    , HIPPOLYTA, and PHILOSTRATE enter the playing space, possibly with attendants.]

    Performance Practice: Music

    Trumpet Flourish

    In the early modern theater, plays usually began with a trumpet flourish to quiet the crowd. The formal entrance of a noble character was also usually marked with such a fanfare. This occasion, therefore, would seem doubly seem to call for a musical cue, although one is not indicated in any early text. Most modern productions insert one, however.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    Theseus

    1. Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial nup-shal

      SCANSION: Elision

      Elision: nuhp-shuhl [ˈnʌp ʃəl]

      This, like most polysyllabic words in Shakespeare’s era, has enough elasticity to be pronounced in more than one form. To this day, the word is spoken in both two and three syllable versions. In this instance, the word scans as two syllables, in the form that is most widely recognized as “proper.” There is good reason to confirm by scanning the line, however. While the three-syllable scansion – nuhp-shoo-uhl – is generally held to be a corruption, it was not uncommon in Shakespeare’s time, and it is still widely employed in everyday speech. Shakespeare, himself, uses the longer form in this play at Unit 39, line 77.

      hour wedding day
    2. Draws on apace ☛ vs. slow . approaches quickly Four happy days

      Critical Insights

      Four days. Shakespeare's plays are often said to have a "double time scheme," which is a indirect way of saying that the literal references to time often do not add up logically, but in performance this does not occur to an audience. They are not keeping track. This play actually takes place over two days and two nights, but emotionally four days seems weightier in this first scene when the implication is time is dragging. Still, it is helpful if the actors delivering such lines do not give them too much emphasis. Why draw the audience's attention to this oddity?

      bring in
    3. Another moon

      Images & Motifs

      Moon: Thematically, images of night, dreams, imagination and lunacy–all of which have strong associations with the moon—dominate this play. Shakespeare introduces this image body very quickly and it remains prominent throughout this short scene. These images are typically "target" words for actors, i.e. words that receive special emphasis and attention.

      The Moon, from Guido Bonatti's Liber Astronomiae

      The Moon, from Guido Bonatti's Liber Astronomiae

      public domain

      : 🌕 but, O, methinks, how slow ☚ vs. apace
    4. This old moon 🌕 wanes! She lingers obstructs my desires,
    5. Like Simile 𐆐 to a stepdame stepmother or a dowager
    6. Long withering out using up with'ring out

      SCANSION: Shortening

      with'ring: with-ring [ˈwɪð rɪŋ]; Reduction of "withering" by elision to two syllables

      Although appearing as a three-syllable word in almost all dictionaries, in everyday speech it is usually given only two, an effect Shakespeare uses here to achieve the meter.

      a young man's revenue inheritance rèvenue

      SCANSION: Variable Pronunciation

      rèvenue: rev-uhn-yoo [ˈrɛv ənˌyu]; First syllable accent of a word with variable pronunciation.

      Although this case uses the familiar pronunciation, Shakespeare tends to prefer the archaic alternative with the accent on the second syllable. Compare to Lysander at line 158, below. Trained Shakespeareans know to scan this word in every usage.

      .

    Hippolyta

    1. Four days ☛ vs. night will quickly steep submerge themselves in night

      Textual Alternative

      nights] F

      Most modern editions use the quarto reading, as this one does, but the Folio reading is a very sensible alternative because it makes the plural nights agree with the plural days.

      ☚ vs. days
      :
    2. Four nights will quickly dream

      Images & Motifs

      Dream: A continuation of the themes and images introduced in line 3 (and the title, of course.)

      away the time:
    3. And then the moon, 🌕 like Simile 𐆐 to a silver bow
    4. New

      Editorial Emendation

      New] Rowe; Now QF

      Because of the context, the first identifiable editor of Shakespeare's works, Nicholas Rowe, proposed that this word should be "New," although all quartos and folios say "Now." The error arose, he reasoned, because a compositor had misread the manuscript. A handwritten "e" can look very much like an "o."

      Although a few reading editions, including Chaudhuri in the Arden3, use "Now," this emendation is almost universally accepted in modern performance.

      bent in heaven, shall behold the night
    5. Of our solemnities (wedding) ceremonies

      PERFORMANCE PRACTICE

      Split line: Line eleven is a one full iambic pentameter line, but it is split between two characters. Such lines are printed (as here) with the second half indented beyond the end of the first in a convention first used by the early editor, George Steevens in 1773. For actors, the conventional wisdom is that such lines should not be "broken." In other words, the second speaker must not leave a pause or space, but begin speaking immediately after the first speaker is finished, almost overlapping.

      .

    Theseus

    1. Go, Philostrate,
    2. Stir up the Athenian th'Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening (the+vowel rule)

      th'Athenᵞan: thuh-theen-yun [ðəˈθin yən]; Both a contraction and an elision of "the Athenian."

      The+vowel rule, and elision:

      Two operations are at work here that reduce this line from 12 to 10 syllables: First, as in almost all instances where the word "the" precedes a word starting with a vowel, the two words are contracted by eliminating one of the vowels. Second, the suffix "ian" is pronounced in its one-syllable form.

      The full line is thus scanned: Stir up/ Th'Athen/ian youth/ to mer/riments

      youth to merriments,
    3. Awake the pert and nimble spirit sp'rit

      SCANSION: Shortening

      sp'rit: sprit [ˈsprɪt]; Elision of "spirit."

      The word "spirit" is often allotted only one syllable in early modern poetry. It was interchangeable with the word "sprite." In Anglican liturgy, however, particularly when referring to the Holy Spirit, it has become common to elide the word to "sp'rit." Especially in Britain, that traditional solution for reducing "spirit" to one syllable also holds sway in cases like this where the word is describing an abstract quality.

      of mirth, ☛ vs. melancholy
    4. Turn melancholy ☚ vs. mirth forth to funerals:
    5. The pale companion P                              P melancholy is not for our pomp. P             P  👱

    [Exit PHILOSTRATE]

    1. ——Hippolyta, I woo'd W thee with my sword,
    2. And won W thy love ☛ vs. injuries doing thee injuries wrongs, not literal wounds ☚ vs. love :
    3. But I will wed W thee in another key,
    4. With pomp parades , with triumph festivities , and with reveling.

    Unit 2 (ACT I.i.b 20-127) 107 lines, 7'15"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 1.0)

    Over the course of these one hundred lines, the inciting incident of the play unfolds. A citizen of Athens asks that Theseus enforce the law that allows him, as a father, to compel his daughter to marry whomever he chooses or else be put to death. Theseus adds the option that the daughter might become a vestal virgin for the rest of her life, but otherwise supports the blocking father and gives the young woman, Hermia, just four days to decide which option to accept.

    [EGEUS, HERMIA, LYSANDER, and DEMETRIUS enter the playing space.]

    Egeus

    1. Happy be Theseus, Thesᵞus

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Thesᵞus: thees-yuhs [ˈθis yəs]. Occasionally, as in this case, this character's name occupies only two syllables.

      our renowned renownèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      renownèd: ri-noun-ed [rɪˈnaʊn ɛd]; Sound the third syllable

      Although expanded endings were already falling out of fashion in his time, Shakespeare often employed them for the sake of the meter.

      They are marked throughout this edition by this typographical convention: èd

      duke!

    Theseus

    1. Thanks, good Egeus Egeus

      SCANSION: Variable Name

      Egeus: Ehd-jee-us [ɛdˈʒi ʌs]; Conventionally this name is pronounced in two syllables as eej-us, but in this play it always scans as three.

      . What's the news with thee?

    Egeus

    1. Full of vexation come I, with complaint
    2. Against my child, my daughter Hermia. 👱
    3. ——Stand forth, Demetrius. 👱

      Editorial Emendation

      "Stand forth, Demetrius" and "Stand forth, Lysander"] Rowe. These lines are rendered as stage directions in all quartos and folios, but based on scansion all modern editors agree these are lines that are to be spoken aloud.

      antithetical pair: This entire speech contrasts Demetrius and Lysander.
      ——My noble lord,
    4. This man hath my consent to marry her. 👱
    5. ——Stand forth, Lysander. 👱

      Editorial Emendation

      "Stand forth, Demetrius" and "Stand forth, Lysander"] Rowe. See previous note.

      ——And my gracious duke,
    6. This

      Textual Variant

      This] F2; "This man," in QF, but the second word is extra-metrical. Most editors believe it was incorrectly assimilated from line 25, in a section that was already confused in the compositor's mind, per the previous note. The editorial correction from the Second Folio, published in 1632, is widely accepted.

      hath bewitch'd

      Critical Insights

      We are apt to read "bewitched" as a metaphor, but Egeus' accusation is probably meant literally, whether or not it is accurate. This is just the first of many times in the play when love is thought to be caused by enchantment. Of course, in this case (as in many later ones) more mundane causes may well prove adequate explanations.

      Oberon enchanting 
                  Tytania, Classic TheaterWorks, directed by Kurt Daw

      Oberon enchanting Tytania, Classic TheaterWorks, directed by Kurt Daw

      Creative Commons 3.0

      the bosom of my child. 👱
    7. ——Thou, thou Lysander, thou hast given her giv'n her

      SCANSION: Missing V rule

      giv'n her: "Give ner" [ˈgɪv nɜr].

      Here we encounter the problematic application of a "missing v." In Shakespeare's time the words "given her" would have been shortened to "gi'n her," like "beginner" without the first syllable, but because we no longer use this elision, doing so creates issues with intelligibility in our era. Contemporary performance practice is to subtly combined "given" with the following word by saying "Give ner" [ˈgɪv nɜr].

      rhymes,
    8. And interchang'd love-tokens with my child:
    9. Thou hast by moonlight 🌕 at her window sung,
    10. With faining faint voice, verses of feigning

      Editorial Emendation

      Feigning] Brooks; Faining is used in QF for both instances in the line. This edition follows Harold Brooks in modernizing the spelling of only the second occurrence to make the punning nature clearer to the performer. (Of course, in the spoken theatre these different spellings of homophones are no longer visible and must be acted.)

      fake
      love,
    11. And stolen stol'n

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stol'n: stohln [ˈstoʊln]; Elision of "stolen" to one syllable.

      While this looks, and feels, odd at first, it is still common in everyday speech to hear this word pronounced as one syllable. Doing so creates no intelligibility problems.

      the impression th'impression

      SCANSION: Shortening

      th'impression: thim-presh-uhn [ðɪmˈprɛʃ ən]; (the+vowel rule)

      As is almost always the case when the word "the" is followed by a word that begins with a vowel sound, the two words contract together reducing their length by one syllable.

      Although the line can be, and often is, incorrectly scanned as an Alexandrine (i.e. iambic hexameter), applying the two shortenings indicated for this line will make the line scan as regular iambic pentameter:

      And stol'n/ th'impress/ion of/ her fan/tasy

      made yourself the object of her fantasy:
    12. With bracelets of thy hair, Build: ➔ rings, gauds, conceits, gaudy gifts, trinkets
    13. Knacks knick-knacks , trifles, nosegays bouquets , sweetmeats (messengers
    14. Of strong prevailment influence in unharden'd youth)
    15. With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart,
    16. Turned her obedience obedᵞence

      SCANSION: Shortening

      obedᵞence: oh-beed yuhns [oʊˈbid yəns]. Although appearing in most dictionaries as a four-syllable word, here the final two syllables bleed together.

      →☛, vs. harshness
      , which is due to me,
    17. To stubborn harshness ←☚: vs. obedience . 👱 ——And, my gracious duke,
    18. Be it Be't

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Be't: beet [bit]. Contraction: The two words occupy only one syllable.

      The early modern texts print this in a way (Be it so) that implies an anapest, a three-syllable measure consisting of two unaccented syllables followed by an accented one. Literary scholars are very reluctant to emend this to a contraction, but it is standard performance practice.

      if
      so she will not here before your grace
    19. Consent to marry with Demetrius,
    20. I beg the ancient privilege of Athens:
    21. As she is mine I may dispose of her,
    22. Which shall be either to this gentleman
    23. Or to her death

      Performance Practice

      How seriously this demand by Egeus for his own daughter's death is played determines the tone of the rest of the play. Often, it is treated as a "fairy tale" condition of comedy, and Egeus as a blustering (but unthreatening) stock figure out of Roman comedy. It was not an empty threat in Shakespeare's time, however, as can be seen by how he treats Juliet's refusal to marry Paris in another play written almost simultaneously with this one. Unfortunately, even in our time it is still not unknown for parents to wish their children were dead for seeking love from a source their parents deplore. The law no longer assists them, but parents have certainly been known to disinherit children for inter-faith, interracial, or same-sex romances with sometimes dire consequences. A range of readings, from very light to very, very dark are possible with Midsummer, but the direction is usually set in this moment.

      ←☚: vs. this gentleman
      , according to our law
    24. Immediately Immedᵞately

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Immedᵞately: ih-meed-yit-lee [ɪˈmid yɪt li]; The third and fourth syllables bleed together.

      provided a legalism meaning "that applies" in that case.

    Theseus

    1. What say you, Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      ? Be advis'd, fair maid,
    2. To you your father should be as a god,
    3. One that compos'd your beauties, yea, and one
    4. To whom you are but as a form in wax like a wax seal
    5. By him imprinted impressed , and within his power pow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pow'r: powr [paʊr]; One syllable

      This may look odd, but is (in fact) more common in everyday speech than the two-syllable pronunciation.

    6. To leave the figure, or disfigure keep, or destroy antithetical pair: leave the figure/disfigure it.
    7. Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      is a worthy gentleman.

    HERMIA

    1. So is Lysander.

    Theseus

    1. In himself he is.
    2. But, in this kind case , wanting your father's voice approval ,
    3. The other must be held the worthier.

    HERMIA

    1. I would my father look'd

      Images and Motifs

      This is the first example of what will become an extensive image body in this play related to loving and looking, of which "love is blind" is the most familiar proverbial example.

      but with my eyes 👓 .

    Theseus

    1. Rather your eyes 👓 must with his judgment look.

    HERMIA

    1. I do entreat your grace to pardon me.
    2. I know not by what power pow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pow'r: powr [paʊr]; One syllable

      This may look odd, but is (in fact) more common in everyday speech than the two-syllable pronunciation.

      I am made bold,
    3. Nor how it may concern my modesty affect my reputation
    4. In such a presence In front of royalty here to plead my thoughts:
    5. But I beseech your grace that I may know
    6. The worst that may befall me in this case
    7. If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
    Hermia begging

    "I know not by what power I am made bold..."

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    Theseus

    1. Either to die the death be executed or to abjure

      Performance Practice

      This sudden alternative (to become a nun) is evoked without explanation. Theseus seems simply to be softening the choices. In the nineteenth century Hermias often swooned after "die the death," provoking some minor mercy. In modern productions, Theseus often does so in reaction to Hippolyta's reactions instead.

    2. Forever the society of men.
    3. Therefore, fair Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      , question your desires,
    4. Know of your youth, examine well your blood passions ,
    5. Whether Wheth'

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      Wheth'; performance practice suggests hweth [ˈʰwɛð].

      The rule by which medial Vs are sometimes eliminated also occasionally applies, as here, to words with TH in the middle.

      This is the knottiest scansion problem in the act. The word "whether" occupies only one syllable, but there is no common agreement about how to make it do so. Originally, it was elided to “whe’er,” which confusingly sounds exactly like “where.” Probably just omitting the second syllable is the most intelligible for a modern audience: hweth [ˈʰwɛð]. A very common "solution," however, is to pronounce the word fully and ignore the irregularity that causes.

      (if you yield not to your father's choice)
    6. You can endure the livery liv’ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      liv’ry: liv-ree [ˈlɪv ri]; Elision of “livery” from three to two syllables.

      habit (life) of a nun,
    7. For aye ever to be in shady cloister mew'd caged ,
    8. To live a barren sister all your life,
    9. Chanting faint hymns to the cold, fruitless moon

      Images and Motifs

      As in the opening scene, the moon is here associated with the repression of desire and sexuality. Freudian readings might suggest that is the cause of its association with lunacy.

      . 🌕
    10. Thrice →☛, vs. single. The next five-line group contrasts married life to unmarried chastity. blessed blessèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      blessèd: bles-ed [ˈblɛs ɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies two syllables.

      Although still less preferred than the one-syllable alternative, this is one of the few expanded endings that have survived into modern times and is still in use.

      they that master so their blood
    11. To undergo such maiden pilgrimage lifetime of chastity,
    12. But earthlier earthlᵞer

      SCANSION: Shortening

      earthlᵞer: urth-leer [ˈɜrθ lɪər]; The final two syllables of "earthlier" bleed together.

      happy is the rose

      Critical Insights

      The image here is of the preservation of the rose beyond its natural lifetime by distilling its essence into perfume, a comparison more fully explored in Sonnet 5. The implication is that the chaste die unloved, childless and leaving no legacy.

      distill'd concentrated for perfume
    13. Than that which withering with'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      with'ring: with-ring [ˈwɪð rɪŋ]; Reduction of "withering" by elision to two syllables

      Although appearing as a three-syllable word in almost all dictionaries, in everyday speech it is usually given only two, an effect Shakespeare uses here to achieve the meter.

      on the virgin thorn,
    14. Grows, lives, and dies, in single blessedness complete celibacy ←☚: vs. thrice .

    HERMIA

    1. So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
    2. Ere I will yield my virgin patent right to remain a virgin up
    3. Unto his lordship i.e. Demetrius whose unwished unwishèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      unwishèd: uhn-wish-ed [ʌnˈwɪʃ ɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies three syllables.

      yoke
    4. My soul consents not to give sovereignty sov’reignty

      SCANSION: Shortening

      sov’reignty: sov-rin-tee [ˈsɑv·rən·ti]; Elision of “sovereignty” from four to three syllables.

      Although most dictionaries list the three-syllable pronunciation as secondary, it is overwhelmingly more common in everyday usage than the four-syllable alternative.

      .

    Theseus

    1. Take time to pause, and by the next new moon 🌕
    2. (The sealing day wedding day betwixt my love and me
    3. For everlasting bond of fellowship)
    4. Upon that day, either prepare to die →☛, vs. to wed, or to protest
    5. For disobedience disobedᵞence

      SCANSION: Shortening

      disobedᵞence: dis-oh-beed yuhns [ˌdɪs oʊˈbid yəns]; The final two syllables bleed together.

      to your father's will,
    6. Or else to wed ←☚: vs. to die Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      , as he would as your father wishes ,
    7. Or on Diana's

      Mythology and Classical Allusions

      Diana was the goddess of the hunt in Roman mythology. Shakespeare, however, is invoking her secondary associations as the goddess of the moon and the protector of chastity. Romans pronounced the name with a long i and a long a: Dahy-eyn-uh [daɪˈeɪn ə].

      The goddess Diana, copy after Leochares. Photo by Eric Gaba (Sting)

      The goddess Diana, copy after Leochares. Photo by Eric Gaba (Sting)

      Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

      altar to protest vow ←☚: a second alternative to "to die"
    8. For aye Forever austerity and single life.

    Demetrius

    1. Relent, sweet Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      , 👱 ——and Lysander yield
    2. Thy crazed crazèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      crazèd: krey-zed [ˈkreɪ zɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies two syllables.

      title unjustified claim →☛, vs. certain right
      to my certain right. ←☚: vs. crazed title

    Lysander

    1. You have her father's love, →☛, vs. Hermia's Demetrius:
    2. Let me have Hermia's Hermᵞa's

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuhz [ˈhɜrm yʌz]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      ←☚: vs. her father's love
      : Do you marry him.

    Egeus

    1. Scornful Lysander, true, he hath my love:
    2. And what is mine my love shall render him.
    3. And she is mine; and all my right of her
    4. I do estate unto bestow upon Demetrius.

    Lysander

    1. I am, my lord, as well deriv'd as he descended from equally noble bloodlines ,
    2. as well possess'd am equally wealthy ; my love is more than his:
    3. My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd,
    4. If not with 'vantage short for "advantage" , as Demetrius':
    5. And (which is more than all these boasts can be)
    6. I am belov'd of beauteous beautᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      beautᵞous: byoo-tyuhs [ˈbyu tyəs]; The final two syllables of "beauteous" bleed together.

      Hermia.
    7. Why should not I then prosecute pursue my right?
    8. Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      , I'll avouch it to his head

      Critical Insights

      The modern idiom is "say it to his face."

      ,
    9. Made love

      Critical Insights

      Although scholars are quick to point out that this phrase only implied courtship in Shakespeare's time, and did not yet have carnal connotations, actors must deal with the issue that modern audiences inevitably bring contemporary sensibilities to the occasion and hear that Helena and Demetrius were once lovers. They must either accept and incorporate this into their interpretation, or find some way of making clear the characters were not intimate without relying solely on these words.

      to Nedar's Nedar's

      SCANSION: Pronunciation

      Nedar's: Nay-Darz [ˈneɪ dɑrz]; Conventionally this name is pronounced Nay-dar. There is no absolute authority for any pronunciation, however. It is a fictional name. Presumably Nedar is Helena's father, but the play does not tell us if this is a male or a female name.

      daughter, Helena,
    10. And won her soul: and she (sweet lady) dotes, Building series: big
    11. Devoutly dotes, Building series: bigger dotes in idolatry, Building series: biggest
    12. Upon this spotted morally questionable and inconstant man.

    Theseus

    1. I must confess that I have heard so much,
    2. And with Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      thought to have t'have

      SCANSION: Contraction

      t'have: toov [tuv]; (to+vowel rule)

      As is almost always the case when the word "to" is followed by a word starting with a vowel sound, these two words contract to a single syllable. This case only appears odd because the spelling of "have" does not indicate accurately how we pronounce it in an unaccented position.

      spoke thereof:
    3. But, being overfull of self-affairs burdened with personal business ,
    4. My mind did lose forget it. 👱 ——But Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      come;
    5. And come Egeus Egeus

      SCANSION: Variable Name

      Egeus: Ehd-jee-us [ɛdˈʒi ʌs]; Conventionally this name is pronounced in two syllables as eej-us, but in this play it always scans as three.

      , you shall go with me:
    6. I have some private schooling advice for you both. 👱
    7. ——For you, fair Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      , look you arm prepare yourself
    8. To fit your fancies conform your desires to your father's will,
    9. Or else the law of Athens yields you up
    10. (Which by no means

      Critical Insights

      Oddly, when the plot conflict created by this line finally resolves at VI.i.178, Theseus does exactly what he says he cannot do here. ("Egeus, I will overbear your will") Part of the actor's task is to discover what in Theseus' (or Theseus/Oberon's) journey causes him to change his mind.

      we may extenuate I (royal we) may overrule )
    11. To death, →☛, vs. single life or to a vow of single life ←☚: vs. death . 👱
    12. ——Come, my Hippolyta: What cheer,

      Performance Practice

      This interjection ("What cheer," meaning "what's wrong?") has no obvious cause in the preceding lines, and it is notable that Hippolyta does not answer this direct question. It is usually motivated in modern production by Hippolyta's refusal to accompany Theseus out quietly, due to anger about what has transpired in the scene. While reading, Hippolyta can seem a very minor figure, but on the stage she is often a commanding presence who powerfully steers the scene (and the play) into the ensuing action.

      my love? 👱
    13. Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      , and Egeus Egeus

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Egeus: Ehd-jee-us [ɛdˈʒi ʌs]; Conventionally this name is pronounced in two syllables as eej-us, but in this play it always scans as three.

      , go along:
    14. I must employ you in some business busyness

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      busyness: biz-ee-nis [ˈbɪz i nɪs]. The printed text says "business," but the ending is expanded so that this word occupies three syllables, like "busyness."

    15. Against Preparing for our nuptial, and confer with you
    16. Of something nearly that concerns that is of personal concern to yourselves.

    EGEUS and DEMETRIUS

    1. With duty and desire we follow you.

    [Everyone exits,

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Trumpet Flourish

    The shift from a public scene to an intimate private one might be marked here by another trumpet flourish as Theseus and his party exit, bookending the one at the start of the play.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    but LYSANDER and HERMIA]


    Unit 3 (ACT I.i.c 128-178) 51 lines, 3'25"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 2.0)

    Performance History

    Location: On nineteenth century stages the couple often moved downstage and a curtain was drawn behind them to facilitate the change to the mechanical's first scene (6.0). On modern stages visuals sometimes shift almost cinematically to an exterior location around stationary actors.

    The action begins to rise as Lysander proposes to Hermia that they run away together. They plan to meet outside the city walls that night.

    Lysander

    1. How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale?
    2. How chance the roses Metaphor: The image in this section is of a parched rose garden in need of water. there do fade so fast?

    HERMIA

    1. Belike probably for want of rain, Metaphor: Hermia replies that she could water the roses with her storm of tears. which I could well
    2. Beteem give them from the tempest rainstorm (tears) of my eyes 👓 .

    LYSANDER

    1. Ay me: For aught anything that I could ever read,
    2. Could ever hear by tale or history,
    3. The course of true love never did run smooth:
    4. But either it was different diffërent

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      diffërent: dif-er-uhnt [ˈdɪf ər ənt]; With the use of a glide vowel, the word is expanded so that it occupies three syllables.

      in blood social status

    HERMIA

    1. O cross! Exclamation of vexation Too high to be enthrall'd to low.

      Editorial Emendation

      low] Theobald; love QF. Although all Renaissance editions say "love," one of the earliest editors pointed out that "low" is the logical opposite to "high." Since it is easy to see how the compositors might misread Shakespeare's handwriting, most editors have accepted this change.

    LYSANDER

    1. Or else misgrafted misgraftèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      misgraftèd: misgraf-ted [mɪsˈgræf tɛd]; This botanical metaphor is expanded so that it occupies three syllables.

      badly joined
      in respect of years

    HERMIA

    1. O spite! Too old →☛, vs. young to be engag'd to young ←☚: vs. old .

    LYSANDER

    1. Or merit

      Textual Alternative

      merit] QqF say "else it." The Folio makes a substantial correction to this line that is not easily explainable. It is not a simple misreading or compositor's error. Where Qq reads "friends," F says "merit." Brooks argues that it must be an intentional correction of the text in F by an inside source, but it feels less satisfactory than the reading in Q1. It is rarely adopted even by those who use F as a control text. Gary Taylor proposes the correction is genuine but it was mistakenly applied in F. He argues that "merit" was intended to replace "else it." Although Qq is not obviously wrong, Taylor's argument is persuasive and is adopted here.

      stood upon the choice of friends…

    HERMIA

    1. O hell! To choose love by another's eyes! 👓

    LYSANDER

    1. Or if there were a sympathy in choice, →☛, vs. war, death, sickness
    2. War, death, or sickness, ←☚: vs. sympathy in choice did lay siege to it,
    3. Making it Build (through "collied night"): long, escalating series, generally tackled in one breath momentary

      Textual Variant

      momentary] F; Qq, say momentany, a plausible reading because it was a common word in the 16th century – although Shakespeare always uses momentary in all seven other instances in the canon. The choice here is more intelligible to a modern audience, of course.

      as a sound,
    4. Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
    5. Brief as the lightning in the collied coal-black night
    6. That, in a spleen, unfolds tantrum, reveals both heaven and heav'n and

      SCANSION: Shortening

      heav'n and: hev-nand [ˈhɛv nænd]; Missing V Rule: Contraction from three to two syllables.

      In Shakespeare's time, "heaven" was usually elided to "he'n." Because we no longer use this short form, it creates intelligibility problems in performance. In this case modern practice is to bleed the word "heaven" into the next one.

      earth
    7. And ere a man hath power pow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pow'r: powr [paʊr]: One syllable.

      As noted earlier, this is very common in everyday speech.

      to say, "behold"
    8. The jaws of darkness do devour it up:
    9. So quick bright things come to confusion confusïon

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      confusïon: kuhn-fyoo-zhee-uhn [kənˈfyu ʒi ən]: Four syllables.

      Until recently, expanded endings of this type were frequently ignored in production practice, but with the growing interest in original pronunciation, it is becoming more common to observe them.

      .

    HERMIA

    1. If then true lovers have been ever cross'd thwarted
    2. It stands as an edict edíct

      SCANSION: Archaic Stress

      Archaic stress on the second syllable: i-dikt [ɪˈdɪkt]

      in destiny:
    3. Then let us teach our trial patience patïence

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      patïence: pey-see-ents [ˈpeɪ sɪ ɛnts]: Three syllables.

      There is no especially good reason for it, as it creates no comprehension problems, but this class of expansions is not always observed in modern performance.

      ,
    4. Because it is a customary cross typical burden ;
    5. As due to love as thoughts, and dreams, and sighs, Five-item build: an escalating series. small, medium, large
    6. Wishes, and tears, larger, and finally largest poor fancy's love's followers.

    LYSANDER

    1. A good persuasion principle : therefore hear me, Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      .
    2. I have a widow aunt, a dowager
    3. of great revenue revènue

      SCANSION: Archaic Stress

      revènue: re-ven-yoo [rɛˈvɛn yu].

      As is often the case with this word in Shakespeare's plays, the stress is on the second syllable.

      i.e., a rich aunt
      , and she hath no child:
    4. And she

      Editorial Emendation

      Samuel Johnson first noted that although this line and the next (lines 159-160) appear in the opposite order in QF they make much more sense, and are more easily understood by an audience, in this order. Taylor notes their position at the bottom of the page in Q1 makes them especially vulnerable during the transfer of type from the composing stick to the galley.

      respects me as considers me her only son.
    5. From Athens is her house remote

      Textual Alternative

      remote] Qq; removed F – a plausible alternative reading

      seven se'n

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      se'n: performance practice, however, is to fully pronounce "seven" or to change to "ten."

      Although simple to shorten to "s'en," that choice is not easily intelligible to modern audiences. The line is often treated as irregular. A practical performance solution is to change "s'en" to "ten" which scans correctly and can be instantly understood without substantially changing the meaning: A league is about three miles.

      leagues:
    6. There, gentle Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      , may I marry thee
    7. And to that place the sharp Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together.

      law
    8. Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest lov'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      lov'st: luhvst [lʌvst]; This shortened form of "lovest" occupies only one syllable in the verse.

      Although inauthentic, many production use the modern form, "loves."

      me then,
    9. Steal forth Sneak out from thy father's house tomorrow night:
    10. And in the wood, a league without a mile or so outside the town
    11. (Where I did meet thee once with Helena
    12. To do observance to a morn of May) To celebrate May Day
    13. There will I stay for thee.

    HERMIA

    1. My good Lysander,
    2. I swear to thee by Cupid's strongest bow, Start of an eight-line build: escalating oaths, again usually delivered on one breath
    3. By his best arrow with the golden head,

      Mythology and Classical Allusions

      In Book One of the Metamorphoses, Ovid writes that Cupid has golden-tipped arrows that make one fall in love, and lead tipped ones that cause revulsion. (See note in Unit 5 for more about Cupid, himself.) The classical author Publius Ovidius Naso, usually just called Ovid, is an important source for imagery in this play, and for much of Shakespeare's knowledge of classical mythology.

      L'Ingegno by Guiseppi Crespi

      L'Ingegno by Guiseppi Crespi

      public domain: GNU Free Documentation License

    4. By the simplicity innocence of Venus' doves

      Mythology and Classical Allusions

      In Roman mythology Venus was the goddess of love. Renaissance art sometimes pictured her as riding in a chariot pulled by doves. She was also worshipped as the mother of the Roman people because she was the mother of the Aeneas, referenced in line 174.

      (Her Greek counterpart was Aphrodite. Although supposedly Greek, the characters in this play seem, like Shakespeare himself, more conversant with Roman sources and names. These allusions seem remarkably learned to us today, but his contemporaries made gentle fun of Shakespeare because he was more self-taught than his playwriting peers, who were mostly university men. They caught such incongruities, but then as now, audiences seemed not to have minded.)

      Venus by Raphael

      Raphael, Venus in a Chariot Pulled by Doves (1517)

      public domain

    5. By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,

      Performance History

      With this line and the one preceding Shakespeare begins a section of rhyming couplets, which are unusually prominent in this play. Here the rhyme implies cleverness, but also a bit of formality, on the part of the character. It does not seem exactly spontaneous, but a profession of love she might have pre-rehearsed according to popular romantic formulae of the time.

    6. And by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen

      Mythology and Classical Allusions

      Hermia vows to faithfully meet Lysander by, perhaps ironically, invoking the most famous victim of faithlessness from classical antiquity.

      Dido was the founding queen of Carthage who fell in love with Aeneas - the false Trojan of line 174 - when he visited in the aftermath of the Trojan War. When the gods charged him to become the founder of Rome he had to abandon Dido to do so. She committed suicide by immolating herself. (This story is beautifully told in the earliest masterpiece of English opera, Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.) There is a darkly punning joke in Hermia's reference to the fire that burned Dido, as it could be both her burning passion for Aeneas and the flames of her funeral pyre. Throughout the play, Shakespeare relentlessly portrays love as having a dual nature – ennobling and potentially destructive.

      Venus by Raphael

      Aeneas tells Dido the misfortunes of the Trojan city. Pierre-Narcisse Guèrin

      public domain

    7. When the false Trojan under sail was seen,
    8. By all the vows that ever men have broke,
    9. (In number more than ever women spoke)
    10. In that same place thou hast appointed me,
    11. Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.

    LYSANDER

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

    Unit 4 (ACT I.i.d 180-225) 45 lines, 3'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 3.0)

    After deciding to elope, Hermia and Lysander reveal their plan to their friend, Helena, in part to cheer her up because her boyfriend, Demetrius, (as we learned earlier) has abandoned her to pursue Hermia.

    [Enter HELENA]

    HERMIA

    1. God speed, fair Helena: Whither away? Where are you going?

    HELENA

    1. Call you me " fair beautiful ?" That "fair" again unsay.
    2. Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      loves your fair: O happy fair!
    3. Your eyes 👓 are lodestars, and your tongue's sweet air tune, aria
    4. More tunable harmonious than lark to shepherd's ear,
    5. When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
    6. Sickness is catching: O, were favor luck and/or looks so
    7. Yours would

      Editorial Emendation

      Yours would] Hanmer; Your words QF – Although all Renaissance texts say that these two words should be "your words," an early editor, Thomas Hanmer, suggested that "yours would" makes more sense here, and could easily have been misread by a compositor reading a handwritten manuscript.

      I catch, fair Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      , ere I go.
    8. My ear should catch your voice, Start of an three-item build: escalating series my eye 👓 your eye 👓
    9. My tongue should catch your tongue's sweet melody.

      Critical Insights

      This scene is entirely rendered in rhyming couplets, but here at line 189 we encounter a line that does not seem to fit. "Melody," however, is an historic rhyme, i.e. a word that was pronounced differently in Shakespeare's time and was a legitimate rhyme in his era. Like many words that ended with a "y," the final syllable was pronounced in long form "ahy" [aɪ], as we still do with "sky" and "fry." Deciding what to do in contemporary performance about historic rhymes involves some aesthetic choices. It is common to use current pronunciations (and avoid the rhyme) most of the time, but supernatural characters, mythological figures and roles that benefit from an archaic impression often retain the original pronunciation because the estranging effect of the early modern sound works in their favor.

    10. Were the world mine, Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      being bated excepted
    11. The rest I'd

      Editorial Emendation

      I'd] Hanmer; I'll QF – It was again Hanmer who noted that "I'd" (short for "I would") is far more grammatically sensible than "I'll" in this place, even though all Renaissance texts agree on the latter reading.

      give to be to you translated.

      Images and Motifs

      Lines 190-191 roughly mean, "If I had everything in the world except Demetrius, I would trade it all away to be transformed into you, Hermia." (Because Hermia has Demetrius' devotion.) "Translation" was a word commonly used in Shakespeare's time for "metamorphosis." This will become a major theme in this play with the alteration of Bottom into a half-man/half-ass, but it is worth noting that Helena's wish in this line is granted and she becomes the love object of both Demetrius and Lysander later in the play – although when it happens she is confused instead of gratified.

      Apollo and Daphne by Bernini

      Apollo and Daphne by Bernini. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, a favorite source for Shakespeare, Daphne is "translated" into a laurel tree to escape the advances of Apollo.

      public domain

    12. O, teach me how you look; and with what art
    13. You sway the motion of Demetrius' Demetr'us'

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      heart.

    HERMIA

    1. I frown upon him, yet he loves me still. Stichomythia: this couplet (and the next three) constitute a section of rapidly alternating witty remarks

    HELENA

    1. O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill. Stichomythia: Note each couplet also contains an antithetical pairing.

    HERMIA

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

    HELENA

    1. O that my prayers could such affection move

      Critical Insights

      This is another historic rhyme. Both words – love and move - were pronounced slightly differently than they are now, and their sound met somewhere in the middle, providing a solid rhyme.

      !

    HERMIA

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

    HELENA

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

    HERMIA

    1. His folly, Helen

      Editorial Emendation

      Helen] Gary Taylor; Helena QF. The variable name rule would suggest this elision, which was far more Shakespeare's habit than intentional extra-metricality. It is the first instance of the shortened name form in the text and the compositor may have "corrected" what he read, assuming it was a mistake in manuscript.

      , is no fault of mine.

    HELENA

    1. None, but your beauty: Would I wish that fault were mine!

    HERMIA

    1. Take comfort, he no more shall see my face:
    2. Lysander and myself will fly flee from this place.
    3. Before the time I did Lysander see
    4. Seem'd Athens as a paradise to me.
    5. O then, what graces in my love do dwell
    6. That he hath turn'd a heaven unto heav'n unto

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      heav'n unto: hev-nuhn-too [ˈhɛv nʌn tu]. Although authentic Elizabethan practice would be to say "hen unto", modern practice is to bleed the two words together. Retaining the "v" sound helps intelligibility.

      a hell!

    LYSANDER

    1. Helen, to you our minds we will unfold:
    2. Tomorrow night when Phoebe

      Mythology and Classical Allusions

      Phoebe (Pronounced Fee-bee) was another name for the goddess Diana, and is used here as a reference to the moon, which is personified as a woman seeing her "silvery" face reflected in a smooth lake or pond acting like a mirror.

      Victorian Brooch of Diana, Argonaut Museum

      Victorian Brooch of Diana, Argonaut Museum

      public domain

      doth behold
    3. Her silver visage in the watery wat'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wat'ry: waw-tree [ˈwɔ tri]; The middle syllable is eliminated.

      glass mirror ,
    4. Decking with liquid pearl Placing dew on the bladed grass,
    5. (A time that lovers' flights doth still always conceal)
    6. Through Athens' gates have we devis'd to steal planned to escape .
    Hermia and Lysander with Helena

    "To you our minds we will unfold..."

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    HERMIA

    1. And in the wood where often you and I
    2. Upon faint pale primrose beds were wont accustomed to lie,
    3. Emptying Empt'ying

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Empt'ying: empt-ying [ˈɛmpt yɪŋ]. The middle syllable is eliminated. This is also an example of the trochaic inversion of the first foot.

      our bosoms of their counsel sweet

      Editorial Emendation

      sweet] Theobald; swelled QF – This uncontroversial change, suggested by one of the earliest editors, restores an obvious rhyme.

      ,
    4. There my Lysander and myself shall meet,
    5. And thence from Athens turn away our eyes, 👓
    6. To seek new friends and stranger companies

      Editorial Emendation

      stranger companies] Theobald; strange companions QF – This new reading, meaning "the company of foreigners" was also suggested by Theobald, and also restores a rhyme, but is far less obvious as a correction for the very odd (and unmetrical) reading in the Renaissance editions. Nonetheless, it has been almost universally adopted in both modern print editions and performances.

      .
    7. Farewell, sweet playfellow: pray thou for us,
    8. And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius.
    9. ——Keep word, Lysander: we must starve our sight
    10. From lovers' food view of each other 'til morrow deep midnight.

    LYSANDER

    1. I will, my Hermia.

    [Exit HERMIA]

    1. ——Helena, adieu:
    2. As you on him, Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      dote on you!

    [Exit LYSANDER]


    Unit 5 (ACT I.i.e 226-251) 25 lines, 1'40"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 4.0)

    The scene traditionally labeled I.i finishes with a soliloquy

    Performance Practice

    All of Unit 5 is a soliloquy, which on the modern stage is often played as a character talking to herself, but in Shakespeare's era would have been played as direct address to the audience. In this case, it provides an important shift of gears. Up until this moment the play has seemed like a quite traditional comedy with the happiness of a young couple being blocked by a patriarchal figure. Helena's situation presents a different angle on the complications of love. The man she adores, quite simply, does not love her back. This more cerebral issue needs a different mode of performance. The shift from representational acting to presentational address helps alert the audience that something unusual is going on in the comedy.

    in which Helena tells us that she knows love makes people (presumably including her) act foolishly. Nevertheless, she plans to tell Demetrius of Lysander and Hermia's secret plan to elope in hopes of gaining his gratitude. Her musings summarize the major themes of the play about the complications of love.

    HELENA

    1. How happy some antithetical pair: some/other some over o'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]; This is a case we are used to seeing, because (for no obvious reason) when "over" (and also "ever") occur in poetry the contraction is conventionally marked in modern editions. Why these should be the only cases so treated is murky.

      other some compared to others
      can be!
    2. Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
    3. But what of that? Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      thinks not so;
    4. He →☛, vs. all but he will not know what all but he ←☚: vs. he do know.
    5. And, as he →☛, vs. I errs, doting on Hermia's Hermᵞa's

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuhz [ˈhɜrm yʌz]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      →☛, vs. his qualities
      eyes, 👓
    6. So I, ←☚: vs. he admiring of his qualities. ←☚: vs. Hermia's eyes
    7. Things base and vile, →☛, vs. form and dignity holding no quantity out of all proportion ,
    8. Love can transpose alter to form order ←☚: vs. things base and vile and dignity.
    9. Love looks not with the eyes, →☛, vs. mind but with the mind; ←☚: vs. eyes
    10. And therefore is wing'd Cupid

      Mythology and Classical Allusions

      Throughout this section, Love is personified. Helena makes the identification with Cupid explicit in line 235. Cupid is the best known of all mythological figures. His name in Latin (Cupido) literally means desire. In Greek mythology he was called Eros, from which we can easily deduce he was the god of erotic love. He was never independently worshipped in his own temples, as many other gods, but was associated with his mother Venus, and her cult. In Greek art of the classical period he is pictured as an adolescent male, but by the Hellenistic period (the time of Alexander the Great) he was already beginning to be figured as a chubby, prepubescent boy. He is associated with the bow-and-arrow, a blatant phallic symbol, the wound from which caused uncontrollable passion. In the Renaissance he served as a complex allegorical symbol, as often destructive as romantic.

      Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All) by Shakespeare's contemporary, Caravaggio

      Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All) by Shakespeare's contemporary, Caravaggio

      public domain

      painted blind.
    11. Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste any trace of good judgment ;
    12. Wings, and no eyes, 👓 figure unheedy haste symbolize recklessness :
    13. And therefore is Love said to be a child,
    14. Because in choice he is so oft beguil'd cheated .
    15. As waggish boys in game themselves forswear naughty boys cheat at sports ,
    16. So the boy Love is perjur'd everywhere: Simile: Cupid lies like schoolboys compulsively cheating to win at sports
    17. For ere Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      look'd on Hermia's Hermᵞa's

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuhz [ˈhɜrm yʌz]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      eyne

      Critical Insights

      This is the archaic plural of "eye." Using it was already quaint in Shakespeare's time. Helena may be being caustic.

    18. He hail'd down oaths poured down oaths like a hail storm that he was only mine;
    19. And when this hail some heat Antithetical pair with alliteration: hail/heat from Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      felt,
    20. So he dissolv'd lost his resolve , and showers show'rs

      SCANSION: Shortening

      show'rs: shourz [ʃaʊrz]; One syllable. Like "power" this word is frequently pronounced in a short form in everyday speech, but its spelling blinds us to this fact.

      of oaths did melt.
    21. I will go tell him of fair Hermia's Hermᵞa's

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuhz [ˈhɜrm yʌz]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      flight:
    22. Then to the wood will he tomorrow night
    23. Pursue her; and for this intelligence information
    24. If I have thanks, it is a dear pun: costly or precious expense.
    25. But herein mean I to enrich my pain make it worth the cost ,
    26. To have his sight thither and that was gone Antithetical pair: thither/back again back again.

    [Exit HELENA]


    Unit 6 (Act I.ii.1-90) 86 lines, 6'

    Location: Unspecified interior, but often a cottage

    The second scene of the play introduces a new set of characters, a group of working class men, traditionally called "Rude Mechanicals," who decide to put on a play for the Duke's wedding. Parts are assigned and they agree to meet in the forest to rehearse unobserved after work.

    QUINCE, SNUG, BOTTOM, FLUTE, SNOUT, and STARVELING enter the playing space.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Rustic Theme

    In modern performance the entering workmen are often introduced by a few measures of a rustic and comic theme to set the tone for the coming scene.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    Quince

    1. Is all our company here?

    BOTTOM

    1. You were best to call them generally malaprop: He means "individually" , man by man, according to the scrip'.

    QUINCE

    1. Here is the scroll of every man's name, which is thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude one-act play before the Duke and Duchess on his wedding day at night.

    BOTTOM

    1. First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on; then read the names of the actors; and so grow to a point.

    QUINCE

    1. Mary

      Critical Insights

      "Mary" means little more than "oh my goodness" but is the mildly controversial remnant of an oath – "I swear by the Virgin Mary." Amusingly, most editions still use "Merry," or "Marry," the Elizabethan equivalent of printing "sh*t," to thinly disguise the blasphemy and make it less offensive.

      , our play is The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe.

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Pyramus and Thisbe is a Romeo and Juliet-like story from Ovid's Metamorphoses. For Shakespeare's audience Pyramus and Thisbe would be a much more recognizable reference to a romantic pair beset by tragedy. The full (ridiculous) title of this playlet is a parody of an actual title from the period, Thomas Preston's Cambyses: A lamentable tragedy full of pleasant mirth.

      Pyramus and Thysbe from an ancient mosaic found on Cyprus

      Pyramus and Thysbe from an ancient mosaic found on Cyprus

      public domain

    BOTTOM

    1. A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry. ——Now, good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the scroll. ——Masters, spread yourselves Spread out, quit crowding .
    Bottom and the Mechanicals

    "Masters, spread yourselves"

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    QUINCE

    1. Answer, as I call you. ——Nick Bottom, the weaver.

    BOTTOM

    1. Ready. Name what part I am for, and proceed.

    QUINCE

    1. You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.

    BOTTOM

    1. What is Pyramus? A lover, or a tyrant?

    QUINCE

    1. A lover, that kills himself most gallantly for love.

    BOTTOM

    1. 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

      TEXTUAL ALTERNATIVE

      storms] QF; stones, Taylor – Although "move storms" is a perfectly sensible phrase implying eliciting tears from the audience, Taylor argues that Hercules was associated with feats of strength and would be more likely to move boulders. Several modern editors have adopted this plausible alternative reading.

      : I will condole from "condolence" but not a word in some measure. To the rest. Yet my chief humour talent is for a tyrant: I could play 'Erc'les Hercules rarely well , or a part to tear a cat in to "chew the scenery" in , to make all split to be side-splittingly funny :
    2.       " The raging rocks This small bit of alliterative verse is reminiscent of medieval plays.
    3.       And shivering shiv'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Except for this very brief section (lines 23-30), this scene is in prose and, therefore, has no scansion issues. This short section is in iambic dimeter, a childishly simple metrical form. "Shivering" is the only word in that needs to be modified - by eliminating the middle syllable - but is often performed with Bottom determinedly pronouncing all three syllables and thereby (hilariously) mangling the meter.

      shocks
    4.       Shall break the locks
    5.             Of prison gates,
    6.       And Phibbus' car

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      "Phibbus' car" is a reference to the chariot of Phœbus Apollo, the sun god. In classical Greek mythology, Phœbus Apollo was said to ride across the sky daily in his gleamingly bring golden chariot, an allegory for the movement of the sun from east to west.

      Apollo accompanied by the Hours by John Singer Sargent

      Apollo accompanied by the Hours by John Singer Sargent

      public domain

    7.       Shall shine from far
    8.       And make and mar
    9.             The foolish Fates."

      Critical Insights

      These silly verses are, surprisingly, a remarkably erudite parody of actual lines from John Studley's 1581 translation of Seneca's Hercules Oetaeus.

    10. This was lofty. ——Now name the rest of the players. ——This is 'Erc'les'

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Hercules was a well-known classical hero and demi-god, renowned for his strength. He was called Heracles in Greek. Hercules was the subject of plays by both Euripides in ancient Greece and Seneca in ancient Rome. Shakespeare is parodying a (terribly overwrought) translation of Hercules on Oeta by John Studley in the verse lines that precede this one. The translation was published in 1581, fifteen or so years before Midsummer was written. The implication is that Bottom's taste is drama is very old fashioned and melodramatic.

      vein, a tyrant's vein. A lover is more condoling. lamenting, but still not a real word

    QUINCE

    1. Francis Flute, the bellows-mender.

    FLUTE

    1. Here, Peter Quince.

    QUINCE

    1. Flute, you must take Thisbe on you. play the part of Thisbe

    FLUTE

    1. What is Thisbe? A wand'ring knight? a knight on a quest?

    QUINCE

    1. It is the lady that Pyramus must love.

    FLUTE

    1. Nay, faith, let not me play a woman.

      PRODUCTION HISTORY

      In the early modern period, young men always played the women's roles in theatrical productions. Although not actually illegal, social prohibition against English women appearing on stage was very effective until after the Restoration in 1660.

      I have a beard… coming.

    QUINCE

    1. That's all one; That is irrelevant you shall play it in a mask, and you may speak as small as you will. perform using as high of a falsetto as you want

    BOTTOM

    1. An If I may hide my face, let me play Thisbe too: I'll speak in a monstrous malaprop: meaning minute little voice;-- "Thisne, Thisne!" a pet name, or just confused ——"Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear; thy Thisbe dear and lady dear!"

    QUINCE

    1. No, no, you must play Pyramus; ——and Flute, you Thisbe.

    BOTTOM

    1. Well, proceed.

    QUINCE

    1. Robin Starveling, the tailor.

    STARVELING

    1. Here, Peter Quince.

    QUINCE

    1. Robin Starveling, you must play Thisbe's mother. ——Tom Snout, the tinker.

    SNOUT

    1. Here, Peter Quince.

    QUINCE

    1. You, Pyramus' father; myself, Thisbe's father.

      CRITICAL INSIGHTS

      When we finally see the playlet in Act V, these are not the roles the men play, but to an audience these are details long forgotten by the time the performance takes place.

      ——Snug, the joiner, you the lion's part; ——and, I hope, here is a play fitted.

    SNUG

    1. Have you the lion's part written? Pray you, if it be, give it me, for I am slow of study. a slow learner

    QUINCE

    1. You may do it extempore, Latin: improvising for it is nothing but roaring.

    BOTTOM

    1. Let me play the lion too. I will roar that I will do any man's heart good to hear me; I will roar that I will make the Duke say "Let him roar again, let him roar again."

    QUINCE

    1. An If you should do it too terribly, you would fright the Duchess and the ladies,

      CRITICAL INSIGHTS

      Shakespeare is probably making fun of an actual historical incident related to the baptismal feast of Prince Henry in 1594 in which a last minute decision was reached to substitute a human for a tamed lion to pull a chariot for a spectacular entrance, for fear that control of the beast might be lost.

      that they would shriek; and that were enough to hang us all.

    ALL

    (ad libbing individually, something like:)

    1. That would hang us every mother's son.

    BOTTOM

    1. I grant you, friends, if you should fright the ladies out of their wits, they would have no more discretion but to hang us: but I will aggravate malaprop: moderate my voice so, that I will roar you as gently as any sucking

      CRITICAL INSIGHTS

      Bottom is characteristically confusing things. He probably means "sitting," i.e. nesting, doves. "Sucking" denoted unweaned offspring of mammals, especially lambs, but birds do not nurse their young.

      dove; I will roar you an 'twere as if it were any nightingale.

    QUINCE

    1. You can play no part but Pyramus; for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man; a proper handsome man, as one shall see in a summer's day; a most lovely gentlemanlike man; therefore you must needs play Pyramus.

    BOTTOM

    1. Well, I will undertake it. What beard were I best to play it in?

    QUINCE

    1. Why, what you will. whatever one you want

    BOTTOM

    1. I will discharge perform it in either your straw-color beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-color beard: your perfect yellow

      CRITICAL INSIGHTS

      Bottom is demonstrating professional knowledge as a dyer of the terminology for various colors used in fabrics. Hilariously, however, none of them is anything like a natural hair color. Interestingly, Chaudhuri, editor of the Arden3, retains the antique form "perfit" for the penultimate word.

      .

    QUINCE

    1. Some of your French crowns have no hair at all,

      CRITICAL INSIGHTS

      This is a very rude joke about the loss of hair that accompanies syphilis, which the English called the "French disease."

      and then you will play bare faced. ——But, masters, here are your parts: and I am to entreat you, request you, and desire you, to con memorize them by tomorrow night; and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without outside the town, by moonlight; there will we rehearse: for if we meet in the city, we shall be dogg'd with company, and our devices trade secrets known. In the meantime I will draw a bill of properties, such as our play wants. I pray you, fail me not.

    BOTTOM

    1. We will meet; and there we may rehearse most obscenely malaprop for "seemly" and courageously. Take pains; be perfect; learn your lines word perfectly adieu.

    QUINCE

    1. At the Duke's oak we meet.

    BOTTOM

    1. Enough; hold, or cut bow-strings.

      CRITICAL INSIGHTS

      It is clear from the context this line generally means "keep (hold to) our agreement to meet, or suffer the consequences" but no one knows definitively what metaphor is being invoked.

      Some scholars speculate that it comes from archery where, perhaps, the actual penalty for missing target practice was to have your bow string cut. An equally plausible explanation is that it is a euphemism, perhaps inserted by a censor, for an archaic expression "Hold, or cut cod-piece point" which much more obscenely suggested that if you failed live up to your commitments, when you were next off your guard in public your cod-piece would be pulled off, like the modern schoolboy prank called "pantsing."

    [Everyone Exits]


    Act 2

    Unit 7 (ACT II.i.a 1-58) 58 lines, 4'

    Location: A wood near Athens

    This scene serves as a transition to the woods, and to night. In it we are introduced to a third set of characters, supernatural fairies and goblins. A puck and a fairy anticipate the next scene's conflict between their respective rulers. The first twelve lines of the scene are written in iambic tetrameter, giving the scene a distinctly different sound from the verse that has preceded it.

    Puck appearing

    The woods may be represented in a variety of ways but in contemporary productions it is often more a dreamscape than a forest.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw


    [Enter a fairy

    Performance Practice

    In professional production, one of the four named fairies almost always doubles this role.

    and PUCK from opposite directions.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Fairy Theme

    The shift from the mortal world to the fairies' supernatural one is often accomplished with the help of an otherworldly musical theme. Such a musical cue is not explicitly called for in the script, but is in keeping with both Elizabethan and modern practice.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    ]

    Puck

    1. How now, spirit sprite

      SCANSION: Shortening

      This line is an example of iambic tetrameter, eight syllables long, once the elision in "sprite" is observed.

      sprite: [spraɪt]; In early modern verse our two syllable word "spirit" was commonly shortened to a single syllable, interchangeably pronounced "sprit" or "sprite." (See line 31 in this scene for an example where Q2 and the Folio spell the word "spirit" although it clearly rhymes with "quite.")

      ? Whither wander you? Where are you going?

    FAIRY

    1. Over O'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      O'er: awr [ɔr]; As noted earlier in the play, this is a conventional elision of "over." It applies to both instances in this line.

      hill, over o'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]; see previous note.

      dale, valley through

      Textual Alternative

      through] Q2F; thorough Q1 – During the early modern period "thorough" and "through" were interchangeable in both meaning and pronunciation. Most modern editions retain the Q1 spelling "thorough" for all four occurrences in the first two lines, and several explicitly state that a two-syllable pronunciation is correct. For reasons detailed in a separate note about lineation, this editor finds these arguments unpersuasive.

      bush, through briar

      Textual lineation

      1. The beginning of this speech is usually printed in a very different lineation (see below), first proposed by poet Alexander Pope in his edition of 1723, which unnecessarily confuses scansion. The speech is written in iambic tetrameter (switching to pentameter in the final three lines), although it employs two variations (discussed below) that complicate easy recognition. Shakespeare frequently uses this meter for the speech of supernatural characters, especially when they are casting magic spells.

      After applying ordinary scansion rules, the first two lines can be scanned as eight–not twelve, as Pope would have it–syllables each.

      (At least one reason for assuming that Pope–and almost all subsequent editions–was wrong about the meter is that it is a close paraphrase of clearly iambic line from Spenser's The Faerie Queene, a recognized source for MND:

      "Through hils and dales, through bushes and through breres" 6.8.32)

      Six times in the speech (lines 4-6, 9-11) Shakespeare utilizes the variation of the "headless" line, in which the line lacks the first syllable of the first iamb, a silent off-beat known by the technical name "catalexis."

      The final two of those, however, also have a "tail" (feminine ending) and are often identified as trochaic tetrameter. There is little practical point in the debate about the "proper" designation, since in a functional sense those are two different ways of describing the same sound.

      The speech is much more easily delivered, and for that matter read, when it is interpreted and arranged as using a unified meter than the very complicated pattern implied in Pope's lineation that would suggest the speech employs five different meters (two of them highly unusual) in fifteen lines.

      2. Pope's arrangement (utilized in most modern editions) of the first two lines is as follows:

        Over hill, over dale,

            Thorough bush, thorough brier

        Over park, over pale,

            Thorough flood, thorough fire;

    2. Over O'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      O'er: awr [ɔr]; Just as with the previous line, this is a conventional elision of "over." It applies to both instances in this line.

      park, over o'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]; see previous note.

      pale, pasture through flood, through fire,
    3. I (x) I

      SCANSION: Headless Line

      This line is an example of a headless line, with an initial catalexis. In this variation the poet leaves the first syllable of the first iamb empty. Performance practice is for the actor, feeling the pulse of the iambic rhythm, to leave a pause (like a musical rest) and then hit the next syllable with a "jolt."

      do wander everywhere,
    4. Swifter (x) Swifter

      SCANSION: Headless Line

      Another catalexis.

      than the moon's moonës

      SCANSION: Expansion

      moonës: moo nuhs ['mu nəs]

      George Steevens first proposed (in his 1773 edition) that the archaic two-syllable possessive was implied here, in order to understand the line as metrically regular. Most modern editors accept this emendation. Those that do not just ignore the resulting irregularity and associated performance issues.

      The exception, Harold Brooks, implies that two "beats" should be filled by stretching the thematically important word "moo-oonnnn's" to twice its normal length rather than employing two syllables. His rationale for this is not clear, aside from a reluctance to introduce any changes to the quarto text, but his solution works very well in performance.

      sphere:

      Classical Allusions

      Before modern astronomy explained the motions of the planets and stars, most people believed the Greek mathematician Ptolemy's theory that heavily bodies were attached to concentric spheres of clear crystal that surrounded the earth.

      A map of the crystal spheres

      Thomas Digges' 1576 Copernican heliocentric model of the celestial orbs. Public Domain.

    5. And (x) And

      SCANSION: Headless Line

      another catalexis

      I serve the fairy queen,
    6. To dew her orbs upon the green. to place dewdrops on the grass of the village lawn
    7. The cowslips spotted primroses tall her pensioners pensh'ners

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pensh'ners: pen-shnerz [ˈpɛn ʃnərz]; The word "pensioners" loses its middle syllable by elision. As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      bodyguards
      be:
    8. In (x) In

      SCANSION: Headless Line

      Another catalexis.

      their gold coats petals spots you see:
    9. Those (x) Those

      SCANSION: Headless Line

      This is another headless line of iambic tetrameter, but this is disguised because it also has a soft "feminine" ending variation. In other words, it looks and sounds the same as a line of trochaic tetrameter.

      be rubies, fairy favors, gifts from fairies
    10. In (x) In

      SCANSION: Headless Line

      This is another headless line of iambic tetrameter, but like in the previous line, this is disguised because it also has a soft "feminine" ending variation.

      those freckles spots live their savors: fragrances
    11. I must go seek some dewdrops here
    12. And hang a pearl dewdrop in every cowslip's ear.
    13. Farewell, thou lob oaf of spirits, I'll be gone:
    14. Our queen and all her elves come here anon. soon

    PUCK

    1. The king doth keep his revels hold a party here tonight.
    2. Take heed the queen come not within his sight,
    3. For Oberon is passing fell exceptionally touchy and wrath, wrathful
    4. Because that she, as her attendant, hath
    5. A lovely boy stolen stol'n

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stol'n: stohln [ˈstoʊln]; Elision of "stolen" to one syllable.

      While this looks, and feels, odd at first, it is still common in everyday speech to hear this word pronounced as one syllable. Doing so creates no intelligibility problems.

      from an Indian Indᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Indᵞan: in dyuhn [ˈɪn dyən]; Blended into two syllables.

      The two-syllable pronunciation is common in British dialects.

      king.
    6. She never had so sweet a changeling: changëling:

      SCANSION: Expansion

      changëling: cheyn-juh-ling [ˈtʃeɪn dʒə lɪŋ]; Trisyllabic through the addition of a glide vowel.

      child exchanged for a fairy
    7. And jealous Oberon would have the child
    8. Knight of his train, posse to trace crisscross the forests wild.
    9. But she perforce forcibly withholds the loved lovéd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      lovéd: luh-vid [ˈlʌ vɪd]; Occupying two syllables.

      boy,
    10. Crowns him with flowers flow'rs

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'rs: flourz [flaʊrz]; One syllable.

      Because of its spelling we think of "flower" as a two syllable word, but we think of its homonym, "flour," as just one syllable. It is easily contracted.

      and makes him all her joy:
    11. And now they never meet in grove or green,
    12. By fountain clear, pure spring or spangl'd starlight sheen, sparkling starlit sky
    13. But they do square, square off; argue that all their elves for fear
    14. Creep into acorn cups and hide them there.

    FAIRY

    1. Either I Eith'r I

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Eith'r I: ahy-thrahy [aɪ ˈðraɪ]; These two words bleed together and lose the middle syllable to contraction.

      This contraction is almost universal in everyday speech, but only a superior ear recognizes this and builds it into the meter.

      mistake your shape and making quite,
    2. Or else you are that shrewd and knavish mischievous sprite
    3. Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are not you he
    4. That frights the maidens of the villagery,
    5. Skim milk, Steals the cream and sometimes labor in the quern occasionally assist with milling wheat
    6. And bootless make the breathless housewife churn; frustrate the housewife's attempt to make butter
    7. And sometime make the drink to bear no barm, ruin the fermentation of beer so that it has no foam
    8. Mislead night wanderers, wand'rers,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wand'rers, won-drerz [ˈwɒn drərz]; Bisyllabic, through elision of the middle vowel. As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      laughing at their harm?
    9. Those that "hobgoblin" call you and "sweet puck,"
    10. You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
    11. Are not you he?
    alternate forest staging

    Puck, in an acrylic forest designed by Ming Chen.

    Courtesy of Classic TheaterWorks, production directed by Kurt Daw

    PUCK

    1. Thou speak'st aright: You are correct
    2. I am that merry wanderer wand'rer

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wand'rer, won-drer [ˈwɒn drər]; Bisyllabic, through elision of the middle vowel.

      of the night.
    3. I jest to Oberon and make him smile
    4. When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile, lure off course
    5. Neighing in likeness of a filly foal: by imitating the distressed cry of the mare's young colt
    6. And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
    7. In very likeness of a roasted crab, in the shape of a baked crabapple
    8. And when she drinks, against her lips I bob
    9. And on her wither'd dewlap loose neck skin, like a cow's pour spill the ale.
    10. The wisest aunt, old lady telling the saddest tale
    11. Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me.
    12. Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
    13. And "tailor"

      Folklore?

      Scholars don't know exactly what this exclamation means.

      Some accept Samuel Johnson's otherwise unsupported explanation that it references the cross-legged manner in which stitchers would sit on the floor to do their work, since this is the position the "wisest aunt" might have ended in after she fell off her stool.

      More recent editors think it may pun on "tail," meaning backside, with a last second euphemistic addition meaning something like Oh, my butt-er!

      cries, and falls into a cough;
    14. And then the whole choir hold their hips and "loffe, laugh (dialect)
    15. And waxen in their mirth and 'neeze" then laugh more, and sneeze. (Puck is making fun of their country accents.) and swear
    16. A merrier merr'yer,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      merr'yer: mer-yer [ˈmɛr yər]; Bisyllabic, through elimination of its middle vowel. As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      hour was never wasted there.
    17. But make room,

      Editorial Emendation

      make room] Pope; room QqF – This line presents a probable corruption in the transmission of the text. As printed in all early modern editions this irregular line has only nine syllables, with an awkwardly placed hole in the pattern.

      1. Early editor Alexander Pope suggested the addition of the word "make," or "give" to regularize the meter, which is the solution accepted here. ("Make Room" appears three other times in the canon, but this is the only instance of "room" as a command.) Some editors also adopt "But room now..." Pope's emendation was widely accepted for well over a hundred years but has more recently fallen out of favor. Contemporary scholars are very reluctant to adopt such changes but their editorial concern is far more bibliographic than performative. Many simply ignore the irregularity.

      2. It is possible, of course, that the line was intended to have a catalexis at the caesura. For this solution to make metrical sense the line must be re-punctuated: "But room. (x) Fairy, here comes Oberon."

      3. Another performance alternative comes from Harold Bloom who, in his usual manner for solving metrical problems, proposes that the line is correct in QqF, but "roooommm" should be commandingly stretched to fill the usual space of two syllables. This frequently adopted solution is effective in performance.

      Fairy. Here comes Oberon.

    FAIRY

    1. And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!

    Unit 8 (ACT II.i.b 59-145) 84 lines, 5'30"

    Location: Continuing from previous unit

    The king and queen of fairies quarrel over possession of a young human boy, the orphaned son of a servant of Tytania's. They also accuse each other of having romantic infatuations with the humans, Theseus and Hippolyta.

    [Enter OBERON

    Performance Practice

    All early modern editions of the play indicate that Oberon is also accompanied by a train of followers, but they play no part in the scene and are given no exit. In contemporary production he is rarely accompanied.

    from one direction, and TYTANIA from the opposite direction followed by a train of fairies.

    Performance Practice: Music or Sound Effect

    Optional Trumpet Flourish, or alternatively, Thunder

    The entrance of the King and Queen of Fairies, like the entrance of mortal kings and queens, was probably emphasized by some sort of musical cue or sound effect, although the original text does not specify one. A trumpet flourish like that used at the start of the play would be appropriate, but thunderclaps are sometime introduced here instead.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    ]

    OBERON

    1. Ill met by moonlight, proud Tytania.

    TYTANIA

    1. What, jealous Oberon? ——Fairy,

      Textual Alternative

      Fairy] QqF; Fairies Theobald – Because Tytania commands fairies (plural) to exit at the end of this scene (line 86), most editors since Lewis Theobald (in 1733) have assumed this instance should also be plural. Gary Taylor, however, argues that Tytania is only addressing the fairy who has been speaking with Puck here.

      In practical terms, this debate can be best settled based on how the previous scene is played. If the encounter between Puck and the fairy is somewhat flirtatious, for example, then Tytania's use of the singular reads as a corrective to behavior that she finds too familiar in the current strained circumstances. If the scene is played as a tense encounter, then it works better for Tytania to command all her followers to move away from Puck and Oberon.

      skip hence. move away
    2. I have forsworn formally rejected his bed and company.

    OBERON

    1. Tarry, Wait rash wanton: headstrong rebel am not I thy lord? husband, expecting obedience

    TYTANIA

    1. Then I must be thy lady: wife, expecting fidelity But I know
    2. When thou hast stolen stol'n

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stol'n: stohln [ˈstoʊln]; Elision of "stolen" to one syllable.

      (See previous instances of this word.)

      snuck off
      away from fairyland,
    3. And in the shape of Corin disguised as a simple shepherd sat all day
    4. Playing on pipes of corn rustic flutes and versing love spouting poetry
    5. To amorous am'rous,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      am'rous: am-ruhs [ˈam-rəs]: Bisyllabic, through elision of the middle vowel of "amorous."

      As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      Phillida. a lovesick shepherdess Why art thou here,
    6. Come from the farthest distant mountain slope steep

      Textual Variant

      steep] Q2,F; steppe (step) Q1 – According to the OED, there was no available sense of "step" that fit this context in Shakespeare's era, but Gabriel Egan argues that it might simply mean "walk one would take." It is, therefore, a plausible alternative.

      of India,
    7. But that, forsooth, in truth the bouncing Amazon, i.e. Hippolyta
    8. Your buskin'd boot wearing mistress and your warrior warrᵞor

      SCANSION: Shortening

      warrᵞor: wahr-yer [ˈwɔr yər]. Bisyllabic elision of "warrior."

      As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a vowel, it can be elided to fit the meter. Another example can be found in the previous note, at line 67 of this scene.

      love,
    9. To Theseus Thesᵞus

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Thesᵞus: thees-yuhs [ˈθis yəs]. Occasionally, as in this case, this character's name occupies only two syllables.

      must be wedded, and you come
    10. To give their bed joy and prosperity. To bless their marriage and encourage procreation
    Oberon meets Tytania

    Oberon accuses Tytania of protecting philandering Theseus.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    OBERON

    1. How canst thou thus, for shame, Tytania,
    2. Glance at my credit with Hippolyta, Sneer at my good name by invoking Hippolyta
    3. Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?
    4. Didst not thou lead him through the glimmering glimm'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      glimm'ring: glim-ring [ˈglɪm rɪŋ]; "Glimmering" becomes bisyllabic through elimination of its middle vowel.

      This is another example of the central syllable of a three-syllable word, comprised only of a schwa [ə], being elided to fit the meter.

      night
    5. From Perigenia,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      In this speech Oberon quickly lists four young women that, in alternative versions of the same basic story, Theseus was said to have seduced and abandoned. Perigenia, (pronounced Pair-ə-jen-yə) whose name is more often spelled Perigune, was the daughter of the murderous bandit Sinis. Theseus killed Sinis, and later found Perigenia hiding in nearby rushes.

      Aegles (EE-gləs) was a nymph, for whom Theseus left Ariadne, (Air-ee-add-nee) the daughter of the Cretan King. Ariadne had given Theseus a skein of thread to find his way out of the labyrinth after he killed the minotaur, in expectation that she would become his wife. Antiopa, (An-tie-oh-pa) the final of the four abandoned lovers, was an Amazon like Hippolyta. (In fact, although Shakespeare clearly believes them to be separate people, in most tellings Antiopa is another name for Hippolyta.)

      Shakespeare treats the mytheme as four separate incidents, but his original contribution to the story is to suggest that Theseus' motivation for abandoning them, in all cases, was an overriding passion for Tytania-which she vehemently denies.

      whom he ravished ravishéd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      ravishéd: ra-vish-ed [ˈræ vɪʃ ɛd]. The past tense is sounded as an extra syllable.

    6. And make him with fair Aegles

      Editorial Emendation

      Aegles] Chambers; Eagles QqF – This is simply the modernized spelling of this name, pronounced (EE-gləs), utilized mainly to avoid confusion with raptors. Shakespeare's source, Thomas North's Plutarch, used this form.

      break his faith, promises
    7. With Ariadne and Antiopa?

    TYTANIA

    1. These are the forgeries of delusions caused by jealousy:
    2. And never, since the middle summer's spring, early summer
    3. Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead, meadow
    4. By paved pavéd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      pavéd: pay-ved [ˈpeɪ vɛd]; The past tense is sounded as an extra syllable.

      fountain, or by rushy brook,
    5. Or in

      Textual Alternative

      in] QqF; on – The modern form would be "on the margin" and some editors adopt this variation for clarity, although without claiming textual corruption in the original.

      the beached beachéd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      beachéd: bee-ched [ˈbi tʃɛd]; The past tense is sounded as an extra syllable.

      margin

      Textual Alternative

      margin] modern spelling; Margent QqF. Although clearly meaning the same thing as "margin," margent was Shakespeare's preferred spelling which a surprising number of recent editors, including some that modernize liberally, retain.

      of the sea,
    6. To dance our ringlets circle dances to the whistling musical wind,
    7. But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
    8. Therefore the winds, piping playing music to us in vain,
    9. As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
    10. Contagious fogs, which, falling in the land,
    11. Hath every pelting puny river made so proud
    12. That they have overborne their continents: flooded over their banks
    13. The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
    14. The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn wheat
    15. Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard: before its seed heads have matured
    16. The fold livestock pen stands empty in the drowned drownéd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      drownéd: drou-ned [ˈdraʊ nɛd]; The past tense is sounded as an extra syllable.

      field,
    17. And crows are fatted with the murrion flock: sheep dead from hoof-and-mouth disease
    18. The nine men's morris game field, something like a modern baseball field is fill'd up with mud;
    19. And the quaint ancient mazes in the wanton green, lush lawn
    20. For lack of tread, use by walkers are undistinguishable undistinguish'ble

      SCANSION: Shortening

      undistinguish'ble: un-di-sting-gwi shbul [ʌn dɪˈstɪŋ gwɪ ʃbəl]; The penultimate syllable is elided.

      overgrown and invisible
    21. The human mortals want their winter cheer

      Editorial Emendation

      cheer] Hamner; here QF. The Q1 reading makes semantic sense, but seems to imply the opposite of the rest of the speech. Thomas Hamner's emendation in his 1743 edition, is more contextually appropriate. An easy error could have been responsible for the loss of the beginning "c" in Q1. Chaudhuri, in the Arden3, however, argues that it is midsummer so a wish for winter cheer makes little sense. He retains "here" and paraphrases the line as meaning "The summer is so bad, that men wish it were winter."

    22. No night is now with hymn or carol bless'd:
    23. Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
    24. Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
    25. That rheumatic rhéumatic

      SCANSION: Archaic Accentuation

      rhéumatic: ru-muh-tic [ˈrʊ mə tɪk]; Although accented on the second syllable in modern usage, this word has an archaic first syllable stress in this case.

      diseases do abound: are epidemic
    26. And thorough thórough

      SCANSION: Expansion

      thórough: thuh-roh [ˈθʌ roʊ]; As noted at Unit 7, line 2, Shakespeare used "through" and "thorough" interchangeably depending on his metrical needs. Here the scansion calls for two syllables, but the meaning is clearly that of the one syllable word, i.e. a preposition meaning "by way of"

      this distemperature bad weather we see
    27. The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
    28. Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose;
    29. And on old Hiem's winter personified thin

      Editorial Emendation

      thin] Tyrwhitt; chin, QF; Modern editors conjecture a compositorial error, mistaking a handwritten "t" for a "c". It is hard to see how the wreath could encompass a crown and a chin.

      and icy crown
    30. An odorous od'rous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      od'rous: Oh-druhs [ˈəʊd rəs]; Bisyllabic elision of "odorous."

      As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      chaplet fragrant wreath of sweet summer buds
    31. Is, as in mockery, mock'ry,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      mock'ry: mok-ree [ˈmɑk ri]; Bisyllabic elision of "mockery."

      As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter. See previous line for another example.

      set: the spring, the summer,
    32. The childing fertile autumn, angry winter, 'change i.e. exchange
    33. Their wonted liveries; usual uniforms and the 'mazed 'mazéd

      SCANSION: Expanded ending after an elision.

      'mazéd: mey-zed [ˈmeɪ zɛd]; The word "amazed" would scan as a trochee, but because an iamb is needed Shakespeare elided the first syllable then expanded the ending.

      i.e. amazed world,
    34. By their increase, seasonal products now knows not which is which.
    35. And this same progeny of evils set of consequences comes
    36. From our debate, constant squabbling from our dissension: dissensíon:

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      dissensíon: dih-sen-see uhn [dɪˈsɛn si ən]; The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation is divided into two syllables in Elizabethan practice. This is generally honored in contemporary production, because it presents no comprehension difficulties.

    37. We are their parents and original. cause

    OBERON

    1. Do you amend it, then: You should fix it, then: It lies in you. It is in your power.
    2. Why should Tytania cross oppose her Oberon?
    3. I do but beg ask for a little changeling chang'ling

      SCANSION: Shortening

      chang'ling: cheynj-ling [ˈtʃeɪndʒ lɪŋ]; A great example of the elasticity of English pronunciation. Although we have seen a trisyllabic usage at Unit 7, line 21, here it is bisyllabic.

      boy
    4. To be my henchman. page boy.
    an adolescent changeling

    The changeling is usually represented as an infant, but recently some productions have played him as an adolescent.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    TYTANIA

    1. Set your heart at rest: You can forget that.
    2. The fairyland buys not the child of me. Your whole kingdom could not bribe me to turn him over to you.
    3. His mother was a votaress vot'ress

      SCANSION: Shortening

      vot'ress: voh-tris [ˈvoʊ trɪs]; Bisyllabic elision of "votaress."

      As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter. This scene contains several examples.

      priestess
      of my order:
    4. And, in the spiced spicéd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      spicéd: spahy-sed [ˈspaɪ sɛd]: The past tense is sounded as an extra syllable.

      Indian Indᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Indᵞan: in dyuhn [ˈɪn dyən]; Blended into two syllables.

      The two-syllable pronunciation is common in British dialects.

      air, by night,
    5. Full often hath she gossip'd by my side,
    6. And sat with me on Neptune's

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Neptune was the Roman god of water, being invoked here especially as the ruler of the seas. His Greek name was Poseidon.

      mosaic of Neptune

      "Triumph of Neptune standing on a chariot pulled by two sea horses". Mosaic d'Hadrumète (Sousse) the mid-third century AD. Musée archéologique de Sousse. Asram at fr.wikipedia

      Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license

      yellow sands,
    7. Marking Observing the embarked th'embarkéd

      SCANSION: Elision (the+vowel rule), and Expanded Ending

      th'embarkéd: them-bahr-ked [ðɛmˈbɑr kɛd]; The vowels of the two words contract together eliminating a syllable, and the past tense is expanded.

      rich merchant ships traders on the flood: ocean
    8. When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive, swell, as if pregnant
    9. And grow big-bellied with the wanton lusty wind,
    10. Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait "pregnant" walk
    11. Following Foll'wing

      SCANSION: Probable Shortening

      Foll'wing: fol-wing [ˈfɒl wɪŋ] This word is usually scanned as bisyllabic, using the principle by which when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      It is possible to read it, alternatively, as a feminine ending at the caesura, but that is rhythmically difficult for both speaker and listener.

      copying
      (her womb then rich with my young squire) (being pregnant at the time with the changeling boy)
    12. Would imitate and sail upon the land,
    13. To fetch me trifles and return again,
    14. As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.
    15. But she, being b'ing

      SCANSION: Shortening

      b'ing: bing [bɪŋ]: Monosyllabic. Although this may, at first, seem odd, if you listen to real people speak you will notice that this word is usually reduced to a single syllable.

      mortal, of that boy did die, died in childbirth
    16. And for her sake do I rear up raise; parent her boy:
    17. And for her sake I will not part with him.

    OBERON

    1. How long within this wood intend you stay?

    TYTANIA

    1. Perchance 'til Perhaps until after Theseus' Thesᵞus'

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Thesᵞus: thees-yuhs [ˈθis yəs]. Occasionally, as in this case, this character's name occupies only two syllables. Here it is possessive, but it does not gain another syllable.

      wedding day.
    2. If you will patiently dance in our round,
    3. And see our moonlight revels, nighttime celebrations go with us.
    4. If not, shun me, and I will spare your haunts. avoid your usual hangouts

    OBERON

    1. Give me that boy and I will go with thee.

    TYTANIA

    1. Not for thy fairy Not even if you gave me everything you own. kingdom.

      A Note on the Verse

      This eleven syllable line is "regular" because it has a soft (feminine) ending, but it is hard to scan because it occurs at the caesura rather than the line end.

      Such complicated metrics become fairly common in Shakespeare's late plays, but are rare in MND and other early works.

      If you scan it once saying only "king" you will immediately hear that "dom" is the extra syllable.

      ——Fairies, away:
    2. We shall chide downright have a big fight if I longer stay.

    [Exit TYTANIA with her followers.]


    Unit 9 (ACT II.i.c 146-189) 43 lines, 2'45"

    Location: Continuing from previous unit

    Oberon vows to avenge himself on his rebellious queen, then sends Puck to fetch a flower with magical properties.

    OBERON

    1. Well, go thy way: thou shalt not from this grove you will not exit this wood
    2. 'Til I torment thee punish you for this injury. insult
    3. ——My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememberest rememb'rest

      SCANSION: Shortening

      rememb'rest: ri-mem-brest [rɪˈmɛm brɛst]; This word loses its penultimate syllable through elision.

    4. Since When once I sat upon a promontory, bluff above the sea
    5. And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
    6. Uttering Utt'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Utt'ring: uht-ring [ˈʌt rɪŋ]; Bisyllabic elision of "uttering." This is yet another example of a three-syllable word, which loses its central schwa [ə] through elision. See the previous unit for numerous examples.

      such dulcet sweet and harmonious harmonᵞus

      SCANSION: Shortening

      harmonᵞus: hahr-moh-nyuhs [hɑrˈmoʊ nyəs]; Trisyllabic after blending of the penultimate syllable.

      breath sounds
    7. That the rude sea grew civil at her song
    8. And certain several stars shot madly from their spheres, fell down from their places in the sky
    9. To hear the sea-maid's music?

    PUCK

    1.         I remember.

    OBERON

    1. That very time I saw (but thou could'st not),
    2. Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
    3. Cupid

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Cupid is the god of erotic love. He is discussed in a longer note in Unit 5, line 239.

      all arm'd: a certain accurate aim he took
    4. At a fair vestal virgin throned thronèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      thronèd: throh-ned [ˈθroʊ nəd]; The past tense ending is sounded as a separate syllable.

      by the

      Textual Variant

      the] F; omit, Qq; This word does not appear in either of the quartos. In both, the line is nine syllables long. The correction in the First Folio seems to be repairing an obvious omission.

      west,
    5. And loos'd shot his love-shaft magic arrow smartly from his bow,
    6. As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts. with enough force to make millions fall in love
    7. But I might could see young Cupid's fiery fi'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      fi'ry: fai-ree [ˈfaɪ ri]; Bisyllabic after elision of the central schwa [ə] in "fiery."

      shaft
    8. Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery wat'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wat'ry: waw-tree [ˈwɔ tri]; Bisyllablic.

      As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      moon,
    9. And the imperial votaress imperᵞal vot'ress

      SCANSION: Shortenings

      imperᵞal vot'ress: im-peer-yuhl [ɪmˈpɪər yəl], voh-tris [ˈvoʊ trɪs]; Both words are shortened by one syllable.

      passed passéd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      passéd: pa-sed [ˈpæ səd]; The past tense is sounded as a separate syllable.

      on,
    10. In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
    11. Yet mark'd I I noticed where the bolt arrow of Cupid fell.
    12. It fell upon a little western flower,
    13. Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
    14. And maidens call it "love-in-idleness."

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      The flower we now call a "pansy" or "heartsease." Shakespeare seems to have borrowed the idea that it got its purple color from Cupid's arrow from Ovid, who described the formerly-white mulberry as taking its color from Pyramus' blood.

      photo of flower

      A Wild Pansy

      Photo © Dr Richard Murray

      This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

    15. Fetch me that flower: flow'r:

      SCANSION: Shortenings

      Monosyllabic, like flour: flouuhr [flaʊər]

      the herb I show'd thee once:
    16. The juice nectar of it on sleeping eyelids laid applied
    17. Will make or either man or woman madly dote
    18. Upon the next live creature that it sees.
    19. Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again
    20. Ere before the leviathan

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Mentioned in the Bible, Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have understood a leviathan to be a gigantic sea-creature: a whale.

      can swim a league.

    PUCK

    1. I'll put a girdle run a circle round about the earth
    2. In forty minutes.

    [PUCK Exits]

    OBERON

    1. Having once this juice,

      Performance Practice

      This eleven-line speech is the second soliloquy in the play. In Shakespeare's age this speech would be treated as direct address to the audience rather than as Oberon's private musings to himself. It is almost universal in contemporary performance to employ this convention and "break the fourth wall" when delivering early modern soliloquies.

    2. I'll watch Tytania when she is asleep,
    3. And drop the liquor essence of it in her eyes.
    4. The next thing then she waking looks upon she sees when she awakes
    5. (Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,
    6. On meddling monkey, or on busy ape)
    7. She shall pursue it with the soul of love. complete devotion
    8. And ere I take this charm magic spell from off

      Textual Variant

      off] F; of, Qq; Both quartos say "of," which could be a variant spelling, but is more likely an incidental oversight.

      her sight,
    9. (As I can take it with another herb)
    10. I'll make her render up her page give the changeling boy to me.
    11. But who comes here? I am invisible,

      Performance Practice

      This line often gets one of the largest laughs in the show when delivered as a matter-of-fact. The assertion, itself, renders Oberon invisible to the entering humans. However, in the inventory of a competing theatrical company during Shakespeare's era was "a robe for to go invisible," suggesting that invisibility may originally have been marked by a costuming convention. Perhaps this line had an accompanying action of donning a symbolic robe or cape.

    12. And I will overhear their conference. confërence.

      SCANSION: Expansion

      confërence: kon-fe -ruhns; [ˈkɒn fə rəns]; Trisyllabic by addition of a glide vowel.


    Unit 10 (ACT II.i.d 190-248) 58 lines, 4'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 9)

    Oberon observes as Demetrius, who has come to the woods in search of Hermia, tries (unsuccessfully) to intimidate Helena so that she will stop following him. Oberon concludes the scene by indicating he will reverse this power dynamic.

    Enter Demetrius, Helena following him.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.
    2. Where is Lysander and fair Hermia?
    3. The one I’ll slay,

      Editorial Emendation

      slay] Theobald; stay QF

      All early editions of the play contain this puzzling reading, which Theobald first conjectured was a misreading of the handwriting in the manuscript.

      While many contemporary editions defend the original reading, they do not agree who is then being "stayed" and who is "staying" Demetrius. Demetrius could be saying that Lysander is delaying (staying) him from reaching Hermia, whose attractions stop (stayeth) him in his tracks.

      He could also be saying that his intent is to stop (stay) Lysander from eloping with Hermia, but his fondness for her is delaying (staying) him from taking effective action. Theobald's alternative reading is widely adopted in current performance practice not least because its meaning is instantly clear.

      the other slayeth

      Editorial Emendation

      slayeth] Theobald; stayeth QF

      See previous note for a full explanation of the variants in this line.

      me.
    4. Thou told'st told'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      told'st: tohldst [toʊldst]; Told'st is elided to a single syllable, as opposed to "toldest".

      This shortening appears in the original texts where it is spelled "toldst" without the apostrophe. In contemporary performance, although derided by purists, the modern form "told" is sometimes substituted.

      me they were stolen eloped stol'n stol'n

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stol'nunto: stohl nuhn-too [ˈstoʊl nʌn tu]; Stol'n is shortened to a single syllable, a elision spelled "stolne" in the printed Quarto. In contemporary performance practice the final "n," is blended into the next word.

      unto this wood
    5. And here am I - and wood mad; blockheaded within this wood -
    6. Because I cannot meet my Hermia:
    7. Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.

    HELENA

    1. You draw attract me, you hard-hearted adamant: magnet
    2. But yet you draw not iron, for my heart
    3. Is true as steel. Leave youforego your power pow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pow'r: powr [paʊr]: One syllable.

      As noted in previous instances, this is very common in everyday speech.

      to draw
    4. And I shall have no power pow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pow'r: powr [paʊr]: One syllable.

      to follow you.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair? praise you
    2. Or rather do I not in plainest truth
    3. Tell you I do not nor

      Textual Variant

      nor] F; Not Qq

      The Folio reading of this line is a simple correction of the nonsensical quartos, probably resulting from a foul case error.

      I cannot love you?

    HELENA

    1. And even for that do I love you the more:
    2. I am your spaniel, pet dog and, Demetrius,
    3. The more you beat me I will fawn on you.
    4. Use me but as your spaniel: Treat me like your dog spurn me, strike me,
    5. Neglect me, lose me - only give me leave
    6. (Unworthy as I am) to follow you.
    7. What worser lower place can I beg in your love –
    8. And yet a place of high respect with me –
    9. Than to be used usèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      usèd: yoo zuhd [yu zɛd]; The past tense is sounded so that "used" occupies two syllables in this line.

      as you use your dog?

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit,
    2. For I am sick when I do look on thee.

    HELENA

    1. And I am sick when I look not on you.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. You do impeach your modesty disgrace your reputation too much
    2. To leave the city and commit yourself
    3. Into the hands of one that loves you not,
    4. To trust the opportunity of night dangerous darkness
    5. And the ill counsel of a desert deserted place
    6. With the rich worth of your virginity.

    HELENA

    1. Your virtue is my privilege. privïlege.

      SCANSION: Expansion

      privïlege: priv-uh -lij [ˈprɪv ə lɪdʒ]; Trisyllabic through addition of a glide vowel.

      provides protection
      For that Because
    2. It is not night when I do see your face,
    3. Therefore I think I am not in the night –
    4. Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company:
    5. For you in my respect judgment are all the world. that matters
    6. Then, how can it be said I am alone
    7. When all the world is here to look on me?

    DEMETRIUS

    1. I’ll run from thee and hide me in the brakes bushes
    2. And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.

    HELENA

    1. The wildest hath not such a heart as you.
    2. Run when you will, the story shall be chang'd:
    3. Apollo flies and Daphne holds the chase,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      The story of Apollo and Daphne is an ancient Greek myth, recounted most famously in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

      Apollo, the god that drives the sun across the sky, and a great warrior, mocked Cupid for his un-warlike use of bow and arrows. Cupid, angered, shot two arrows—one of gold at Apollo, to inspire love, and one of lead, at Daphne, a nymph, to inspire hate. The arrows had their full effect; Apollo, seized with love, pursued Daphne, begging for her to stay, while she ran from him. While fast, she could not outrun the god, and so called upon her father, a river god, to save her in whatever way he could. Her father transformed her into a laurel tree. Apollo, since he could not have her as a wife, vowed to tend the tree. He cast a spell upon the leaves so that they would never decay and declared that they would crown the heads of leaders and victors.

      Shakespeare’s inverts the traditional imagery; it is the woman who pursues the man. This reversal cleverly alludes to other parts of Midsummer, especially love/hate relationships and transformations.

      Apollo & Daphne

      Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apollo_by_Bernini_01.jpg#/media/File:Apollo_by_Bernini_01.jpg

      "Apollo by Bernini 01" by Antoine Taveneaux

    4. The dove pursues the griffin,

      Mythology and Classical Allusions

      Also commonly spelt “griffon” or “gryphon,” from the Greek γρύφων (grýphōn). It is a legendary creature of Greek myth with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion, and the head, wings, and talons of an eagle.

      The griffin is associated with majesty, wealth, and the divine, and is well known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions. Later on, during the medieval period, it became a symbol often seen on the heraldry of noble houses, signifying boldness and power.

      Because of the fact that the symbol of the griffin would have waved in war, the imagery of it running from the dove, a symbol of peace (not to mention a fraction of the size) is an intense inversion.

      Rhetoric note: this is a fine example of Shakespeare’s use of images aimed at different audience members—the myth, the heraldry, and the basic comparison of the deer and tiger make sure that no audience member misses what he’s trying to say because of lack of learning.

      Griffin

      "Wenceslas Hollar - A griffin" by Wenceslaus Hollar - Artwork from University of Toronto Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection, Scanned by University of Toronto

      Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

      the mild hind gentle deer
    5. Makes speed to catch the tiger… bootless pointless speed
    6. When cowardice pursues and valor flies! when the weak give chase and the strong run away

    DEMETRIUS

    1. I will not stay wait for thy questions – let me go:
    2. Or if thou follow me, do not believe
    3. But I shall do thee mischief harm you somehow in the wood.

    Demetrius exits.

    HELENA

    1. Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field,
    2. You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius!
    3. Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex: demean all women
    4. We cannot fight for love as men may do.
    5. We should be woo'd and were not made to woo.
    6. I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of heav'n of

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      heav'n of: hev-nuv [ˈhɛv nʌv]; In Elizabethan speech this word was shortened to "hea'en" by eliminating the central consonant, rendering a pronunciation like "hen." Because this is no longer decodable by a modern audience, performance practice is now to retain the "v" but bleed the final "n" into the next word, "of," reducing three syllables to two.

      hell
    7. To die upon the hand I love so well.

    Helena exits.

    OBERON

    1. Fare thee well, nymph: beautiful girl Ere he do leave this grove,
    2. Thou shalt fly run from him and he shall seek thy love.

    Unit 11 (ACT II.i.e 249-271) 22 lines, 1'30"

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 10)

    The puck returns with the flower he was sent to fetch in Unit 9. Oberon divides it, telling Puck to enchant the eyes of an Athenian youth with his share, while Oberon says he will seek out Tytania to cast a spell on her with his portion.

    Puck returns with the prop flower.

    OBERON

    1. ——Hast thou the flower flow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'r: flour [flaʊr]

      : One syllable

      Because of its spelling we think of "flower" as a two syllable word, but we think of its homonym, "flour," as just one syllable. It is easily contracted.

      there? Welcome, wanderer.

    PUCK

    1. Ay, there it is.

    OBERON

    1.                           I pray thee give it me.

    Puck gives him the flower.

    OBERON

    1. I know a bank river bank where the wild th'wild

      SCANSION: Elision (the+vowel rule)

      th'wild: thwyld [ðwaɪld]; The liquid "w" acts as a vowel in this combination (as it does in the English word "thwart") allowing contraction of the two words and elimination of a syllable.

      This line is cast in iambic tetrameter, but the rest of the speech shifts to pentameter.

      thyme

      Botany

      Thyme is an herb widely used in cooking, medicine and ornamental gardening. It was used as incense by the ancient Greeks and was spread through Europe by the Romans. Because it grows in large mounds, often called "beds," Shakespeare is possibly invoking an association with sleep.

      photo

      Photo (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man)

      This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

      blows, blooms
    2. Where oxlips

      Botany

      Oxlips are a hybrid between the primrose and the cowslip, producing larger flowers.

      oxlips

      The New Botanical Garden Book (1812)

      Public Domain

      and the nodding

      Botany

      Nodding violtet: A common flower, now a popular houseplant, so named because the flowers seem to droop. Shakespeare is again using an association with sleep or with being in a trance.

      photo

      "Streptocarpus 'Anderson's Mr Currie' hybrid flowers" by Nzfauna

      Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

      violet vi'let

      SCANSION: Shortening

      vi'let: vahy-lit [ˈvaɪ lɪt]; Bisyllabic elision of "violet."

      As is still common in colloquial speech, this flower's name loses its middle syllable to fit the meter.

      grows,
    3. Quite overcanopied withCompletely shaded by a canopy made of luscious woodbine

      Botany

      Woodbine is the common name for what we now call European honeysuckle, a fragrant vine.

      photo

      Photo by Wikipedia user: Sannse

      This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

    4. With sweet muskroses,

      Botany

      Muskrose is also called sweetbriar. It is a fragrant species of rose. Although Shakespeare lists them separately in this sentence, it is the same thing as eglantine.

      photo

      Photo by Wikimedia Commons user: HitroMilanese

      This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

      and with eglantine. sweetbriar
    5. There sleeps Tytania sometime of during the night,
    6. Lull'd in these flowers flow'rs

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'rs: flourz [flaʊrz]; One syllable.

      As noted at the beginning of this scene at line 249, this word is often shortened in Shakespeare, and in everyday speech.

      with dances and delight.
    7. And there the snake throws sheds her enamel'd skin,

      Biology

      Snakes periodically outgrown their outer skin, which they then shed whole. Such skins can appear iridescent which Shakespeare compares to the bright colors of enamels.

      dried

      Photo by Neil Cummings

      This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

    8. Weed a garment wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
    9. And with the juice nectar of this I’ll streak her eyes
    10. And make her full of hateful nightmarish fantasies.
    11. Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove.

    He gives Puck part of the flower.

    OBERON

    1. A sweet Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      lady is in love
    2. With a disdainful youth. Anoint his eyes,
    3. But do it when the next thing he espies
    4. May be the lady. Thou shalt know the man
    5. By the thee

      SCANSION: Long Vowel

      thee: thee [ði]; One would expect the application of the The+Vowel Rule here, but for purposes of preserving the meter "the" is given its own syllable in this one case. To prevent it bleeding into the next word, the vowel is lengthened to its long form.

      Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan:uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]. As in the previous use at line 263, the word is here shortened to three syllables.

      garments he hath on.
    6. Effect it with some care, that he may prove
    7. More fond on her than she upon her love. More in love with her than she with him.
    8. And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.

    PUCK

    1. Fear not, my lord. Your servant shall do so.

    They exit.


    Unit 12 (Act II.ii.a 1-25) 10 lines, less than 1 minute, + song

    Location: Tytania's bower in the wood near Athens

    Because the stage completely clears at the end of the previous unit, this is traditionally considered the start of a new scene, II.ii. Tytania's attendants sing her to sleep with a lullaby/incantation against poisonous insects and animals. While the rest of the fairies depart to run errands for her, one fairy is left behind to stand guard over the sleeping queen.

    Enter Tytania, Queen of Fairies, with her train.

    TYTANIA

    1. Come, now a roundel round dance and a fairy song:
    2. Then, for the third part of a minute, hence—
    3. Some to kill cankers caterpillars in the muskrose buds,
    4. Some war with reremice bats for their leathern wings
    5. To make my small elves coats, and some keep back
    6. The clamorous clam'rous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      clam'rous: klam-ruhs

      [ˈklæm rəs]; Bisyllabic elision of "clamorous." Many words with a central syllable consisting of only one vowel sound were, in Elizabethan English, interchangeably pronounced as trisyllabic or (by losing their middle vowel) bisyllabic. (The word "violet" at line 253 in the previous unit is another example.) The scansion tells us the latter is the case here.

      owl that nightly hoots and wonders
    7. At our quaint peculiar spirits. Sing me now asleep,
    8. Then to your offices and let me rest.

    She lies down, and the fairies sing and dance around her.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Song and Dance

    As commanded by Tytania, at this point the fairies sing a song which is accompanied by a dance. This is one of the major musical incidents in the play. It is discussed at length in the essay, "Music and Dance in Midsummer" in the Resources section following the play.

    Because only a few line pass before this song begins, musical underscoring often starts at the top of the scene and segues into song at this moment. The start of the cue, therefore, may be earlier than indicated here.

    FAIRY

    1.       You spotted snakes with double tongue,

      A Note on the Verse

      As with the fairy's speech that opened this act (Unit 7), the fairies' song is written in iambic tetrameter, with alternating lines beginning with a catalexis (an "empty" first syllable, like a musical rest.)

    2.           Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen.
    3.      Newts and blindworms, legless lizard do no wrong,
    4.           Come not near our Fairy Queen.

    [Chorus]

    1.      Philomel,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      The story of Philomela being turned into a nightingale is an ancient Greek myth, retold most famously in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

      Philomela was a princess of Athens, and the younger of two daughters. Her sister Procne married Tereus, the king of Thrace and a son of Ares. After five years of marriage, Procne wished to see her sister and asked her husband to allow a visit. Tereus agreed and went to Athens to escort Philomela to Thrace. However, the moment he saw her he began to lust for her. After they arrived in Thrace, he took her into a lodge in the woods and raped her. Tereus threatened her and told her not to tell. When she vehemently refused, he cut out her tongue so she could not speak of the rape and abandoned her. Because she could not speak, she instead wove a tapestry that told the story and sent it to Procne. Procne, enraged, killed the son she and Tereus had together, boiled him, and served him as a meal to her husband. After Tereus finished eating, the two sisters presented the severed head of his son. He took up an axe and chased them. As they fled, they prayed to the gods to be turned into birds to escape his wrath. Procne was transformed into a swallow, and Philomela into a nightingale.

      The nightingale is associated with the escape from sorrow and violence. Here, the fairies may be invoking her name in reference to the troubles Tytania is having with Oberon.

      This myth in particular is cited quite often by Shakespeare. Heavy allusions or direct references exist in Titus Andronicus, The Rape of Lucrece, Cymbeline, and Sonnet 102.

      Philomela

      Rape of Philomela by Tereus. Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid's Metamorphoses Book VI, 519-562. Fol. 80 r, image 6.

      Public Domain

      with melody
    2.      Sing in our sweet lullaby.
    3.      Lulla, lulla, lullaby,
    4.      Lulla, lulla, lullaby.
    5.      Never harm, nor spell nor charm
    6.      Come our lovely lady nigh.
    7.      So good night, with lullaby.

    FAIRY

    1.      Weaving spiders, come not here.
    2.           Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence.
    3.      Beetles black, approach not near.
    4.           Worm nor snail, do no offence.

    [Chorus repeats]

    Tytania falls asleep.

    FAIRY

    1. Hence, away: Now all is well.
    2. ——One aloof stand sentinel. guard

    All Fairies – except the guard – exit, leaving Tytania sleeping.


    Unit 13 (ACT II.ii.b 26-33) 7 lines, 30"

    Location: Tytania's bower (continues from Unit 12)

    In this very short scene Oberon enters with his magic flower and, after overpowering or evading the fairy sentinel, anoints Tytania's eyes so that she will fall in love with the first living thing she encounters upon waking.

    OBERON enters. Some business to neutralize the sentinel happens, then he enchants TYTANIA.

    OBERON

    1. What thou seest when thou dost wake,

      A Note on the Verse

      Oberon's incantation is written in seven "headless" iambic tetrameter lines. Each begins with an "empty" beat called a catalexis, giving it an edgy, anxious rhythm.

    2. Do it for thy true love take.
    3. Love and languish for his sake.
    4. Be it ounce lynx or cat, or bear,
    5. 'Pard, leopard or boar with bristl'd hair,
    6. In thy eye that shall appear
    7. When thou wak'st, wak'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wak'st: waykst [weɪkst]; "Wakest" is elided to a single syllable here by eliminating the final vowel sound.

      it is thy dear…
    8. Wake when some vile thing is near.

    He exits.

    Oberon enchants Tytania's eyes

    The enchantment of Tytania.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw


    Unit 14 (ACT II.ii.c 34-64) 30 lines, 2'

    Location: In the woods near Tytania's bower (continues from Unit 3.0)

    While Tytania continues to sleep in her bower, Lysander and Hermia arrive nearby – apparently lost. In a dialogue consisting mostly of rhymed couplets, they decide to get some rest and continue in the morning. Lysander would like to sleep beside Hermia, but she insists that he separate himself further.

    Enter Lysander and Hermia.

    LYSANDER

    1. Fair love, you faint with wandering wand'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wand'ring: wond ring [ˈwɒnd rɪŋ]. This elision is very common in everyday speech, and was so common in Elizabethan England that the word is actually spelled "wandring" in QF.

      in the wood,
    2. And, to speak truth, I have forgot our way.
    3. We’ll rest us, Hermia, Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      if you think it good,
    4. And tarry for the comfort of the day. wait until the safety of morning [to continue.]

    HERMIA

    1. Be it Be't

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Because of their adjacent vowels, these two words contract together, into a single syllable: beet [bit]

      Q1 prints "Bet it" in this location, which Q2 and F correct to "Be it." Because of the scansion needs, however, "Bet" was probably intended to indicate the contraction, with subsequent editors correcting the wrong problem.

      so, Lysander: Find you out a bed,
    2. For I upon this bank mound will rest my head.

    LYSANDER

    1. One turf grass pile shall serve as pillow for us both:
    2. One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth. vow

    HERMIA

    1. Nay, good

      Textual Alternative

      god] Q1. Our reading comes from Q2, F.

      Although Q1 offers a recognizable word here, no editor (not even among the Folio purists) argues that it is anything more than a typographical error.

      Lysander: For my sake, my dear,
    2. Lie further off yet. Do not lie so near.

    LYSANDER

    1. O, take the sense, sweet, of my innocence! interpret my meaning chastely
    2. Love takes the meaning in love’s conference. confërence.

      SCANSION: Expansion

      confërence: kon-fe -ruhns [ˈkɒn fə rəns]; Trisyllabic through addition of a glide vowel

      When sweethearts speak they must intrepret each other lovingly
    3. I mean that my heart unto yours is knit,
    4. So that but one heart we can make of it:
    5. Two bosoms interchained interchainèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      interchainèd: in-ter-chey-ned [ˈɪn tərˌtʃeɪ nɛd]; The past tense is separately sounded as a syllable.

      with an oath—
    6. So then two bosoms and a single troth. our two hearts are bound together by a single pledge
    7. Then by your side no bed-room me deny,
    8. For lying so, Hermia, Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      I do not lie. I don't intend anything ungentlemanly

    HERMIA

    1. Lysander riddles very prettily. argues ingeniously
    2. Now much beshrew denounce my manners and my pride
    3. If Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      meant to say Lysander lied.
    4. But, gentle friend, for love and courtesy,
    5. Lie further off – in human modesty.
    6. Such separation, as may well be said,
    7. Becomes a virtuous virt(w)ous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      virt(w)ous: vur-chwuhs [ˈvɜr tʃwəs]. The liquid "w" sound is acting as a vowel in the word "virtuous," allowing the final two syllables to elide together into one.

      bachelor and a maid.
    8. So far be distant – and good night, sweet friend.
    9. Thy love never ne'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      ne'er: nair [nɛər]; Utilizing the common poetic convention of eliminating the middle V sound the word "never" is reduced to a single syllable. (In Q1, it is spelled "nere," making clear the application of the "Missing V" rule.)

      alter till thy sweet life end!

    LYSANDER

    1. “Amen, amen” to that fair prayer, say I –
    2. And then end life when I end loyalty!
    3. Here is my bed: Sleep give thee all his rest!

    HERMIA

    1. With half that wish the wisher’s eyes i.e. Lysander's be press'd! feel heavy

    They sleep.


    Unit 15 (ACT Ii.ii.d 65-82) 17 lines, 1'5"

    Location: Somewhere near Tytania's bower (continues from Unit 14)

    In his search for the "Athenian youth" whose eyes he is to anoint, Puck stumbles upon the sleeping Lysander and (as he tells the audience in soliloquy) he decides this must be the person upon whom Oberon wants him to cast the spell. He places the magic nectar on the sleeping Lysander's eyes, and then exits.

    Enter Puck

    PUCK

    1. Through the forest have I gone,

      A Note on the Verse

      The puck is again using his preferred meter – iambic tetrameter, frequently employing "headless lines." Lines with this variation have a silent syllable (formally called a "catalexis") at the beginning of the line.

    2. But Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Elision

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      found I none
    3. On whose eyes I might approve test
    4. This flower’s force in stirring artifically inciting love.

    He spots Lysander.

    PUCK

    1. Night and silence! Who is here?
    2. Weeds Clothing of Athens he doth wear.
    3. This is he my master said
    4. Despised Despisèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      Despisèd: dih-spahy-zed [dɪˈspaɪ zɛd]. The past tense is separately sounded as a syllable.

      the thee

      SCANSION: Long Vowel

      thee: thee [ði]; One would expect the application of the The+Vowel Rule here, but for purposes of preserving the meter "the" is given its own syllable in this one case. To prevent it bleeding into the next word, the vowel is lengthened to its long form.

      Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; As at line 66, shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      maid.
    5. And here the maiden, sleeping sound
    6. On the dank and dirty ground.
    7. Pretty soul, she durst dares not lie
    8. Near this lack-love, this kill-courtesy – court'sy

      SCANSION: Shortening

      court'sy: kurt-see [ˈkɜrt si]; Bisyllabic, "courtesy" occupies only two syllables in the scansion. Many words with a central syllable consisting of only one vowel sound were, in Elizabethan English, interchangeably pronounced as trisyllabic or (by losing their middle vowel) bisyllabic. (The quarto uses the spelling "curtsie" in some locations.) The scansion tells us the latter is the case here.

      It is also a case of "historic rhyme," as in Shakespeare's era it rhymed with "lie." This practice is not usually observed in performance, but the historic rhymes are sometimes observed by the supernatural characters in MND to give them a distinctive quality.

    9. Churl, Rude jerk upon thy eyes I throw
    10. All the power pow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pow'r: powr [paʊr]: One syllable.

      this charm doth owe. own

    He drops the nectar into Lysander's eyes.

    PUCK

    1. When thou wak’st, let Love forbid Cupid block
    2. Sleep his seat on thy eyelid. your ability to get back to sleep
    3. So, awake when I am gone,
    4. For I must now quickly go to Oberon.

    He exits.


    Unit 16 (ACT II.ii.e 83-143) 60 lines, 4'

    Location: Near Tytania's bower, where Lysander and Hermia lie sleeping (continues from Unit 15)

    Still fleeing from Helena, Demetrius leads her back to the site of Tytania's bower, and then again abandons her. Helena soliloquizes about her exhaustion and her despair before discovering Lysander asleep nearby. Now under a magic spell, Lysander awakens and is instantly infatuated with Helena. She is utterly confused by his behavior, believing him to be mocking her, and exits. Lysander renounces Hermia and sets off in pursuit of Helena.

    Enter Demetrius and Helena, running.

    HELENA

    1. Stay, Wait though thou kill me, despise me sweet Demetrius.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. I charge order thee, hence, get away from me and do not haunt stalk me thus.

    HELENA

    1. O, wilt thou darkling leave me? abandon me in the dark Do not so.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Stay, on thy peril. or accept the consequences I alone will go.

    Demetrius exits.

    HELENA

    1. O, I am out of breath in this fond foolish chase.
    2. The more my prayer, the lesser is my grace. reward
    3. Happy is Hermia, Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      wheresoever wheresoe'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      "Ever" becomes "e'er": air [ɛər].

      Utilizing the common poetic convention of eliminating the middle V sound "ever" is reduced to a single syllable, even sometimes (as here) when it is part of a larger word.

      she lies,
    4. For she hath blessed blessèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      blessèd: bles-ed [ˈblɛs ɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies two syllables.

      Although still less preferred than the one-syllable alternative, this is one of the few expanded endings that have survived into modern times and is still in use.

      and attractive eyes.
    5. How came her eyes so bright? Not with salt tears —
    6. If so, my eyes are oftener oft'ner

      SCANSION: Shortening

      oft'ner: awf-nur [ˈɒf nɜr]. This is another example of the Elizabethan habit of eliminating the middle syllable of a three-syllable word when it consists only of a vowel sound.

      wash'd than hers. I cry far more often than she does
    7. No, no, I am as ugly as a bear,
    8. For So much that beasts that meet me run away for fear.
    9. Therefore no marvel though It is no wonder then, that Demetrius
    10. Do, as a monster, like the beasts fly my presence thus. also runs away from me
    11. What wicked and dissembling glass lying mirror of mine
    12. Made me compare with compare myself to Hermia's Hermᵞa's

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuhz [ˈhɜrm yʌz]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      sphery eyne? heavenly eyes
    13. ——But who is here? Lysander, on the ground!
    14. Dead or asleep? I see no blood, no wound.
    15. ——Lysander, if you live, good sir, awake.

    LYSANDER

    waking

    1. And run through fire I will for thy sweet sake.
    2. Transparent Radiant Helena! Nature shows art, Nature is acting magically
    3. That through thy bosom makes me see thy heart. (metaphorically) I can see into your heart
    4. Where is Demetrius? Demetr'us?

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      O, how fit a word
    5. Is that vile name to perish on my sword!

    HELENA

    1. Do not say so. Lysander, say not so.
    2. What though he love yourJust because he loves Hermia? Hermia? Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      Lord, what though? so what?
    3. Yet Hermia, Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      still loves you. Then be content.

    LYSANDER

    1. Content with Hermia?

      Critical insights

      In this speech Lysander argues that until now he has not been mature enough to appreciate Helena's gifts, but with his newfound wisdom he is overruling his old, purely emotional attachment to Hermia. This rationalization for his behavior is broadly comic not just because the audience knows (under the spell of Puck's enchantment) he is acting entirely irrationally, but because they recognize such blindness to one's passions is all too common.

      No, I do repent renounce
    2. The tedious tedᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      tedᵞous: tee-juhs [ˈti dʒəs]

      The final two syllables bleed together.

      minutes I with her have spent.
    3. Not Hermia, but Helena I love.
    4. Who will not change a raven for a dove?
    5. The will of man is by his reason sway'd,
    6. And reason says you are the worthier worthᵞer

      SCANSION: Shortening

      worthᵞer: worth-yuhr [ˈwɜrð yər]

      The final two syllable bleed together.

      maid.
    7. Things growing are not ripe until their season;
    8. So I, being b'ing

      SCANSION: Shortening

      b'ing: bing [bɪŋ]

      Although this may, at first, seem odd, if you listen to real people speak you will notice that this word is usually reduced to a single syllable.

      young, till now ripe not to reason.
    9. And touching now the point of human skill,
    10. Reason becomes the marshal to my will
    11. And leads me to your eyes, where I overlook o'erlook

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      "Over" becomes "o'er": awr-look [ɔrˈlʊk] It is a conventional contraction to shorten "over" to "o'er," even when (as here) it appears as part of a longer word.

    12. Love’s stories written in love’s richest book.

    HELENA

    1. Wherefore Why was I to this keen cruel mockery mock'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      mock'ry: mok-ree [ˈmɒk ri]

      This is yet another example of a trisyllabic word that loses its middle syllable in Elizabethan speech because it is composed of a single vowel sound.

      born?
    2. When at your hands from you did I deserve this scorn?
    3. Is it Is't

      SCANSION: Contraction

      Is't: ist [ɪst]

      "Is it" is here contracted to a single syllable. We know this is the intent from the Q1 spelling "ist." This applies to both instances in the line.

      not enough, is it is't

      SCANSION: Contraction

      Is't: ist [ɪst]

      "Is it" is here contracted to a single syllable. See the example earlier in the line.

      not enough, young man,
    4. That I did never, no, nor never can
    5. Deserve a sweet look from Demetrius' Demetr'us'

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. Although it is possessive here, it does not gain another syllable.

      eye,
    6. But you must flout my insufficiency? make fun of me?
    7. Good troth, Truly you do me wrong, good sooth, really you do,
    8. In such disdainful manner me to woo.
    9. But fare you well. Perforce I must I have to confess
    10. I thought you lord of more true gentleness. brought up better than to act like this.
    11. O, that a lady of one man refus'd
    12. Should of another therefore be abus'd!

    Helena exits.

    LYSANDER

    1. She sees not Hermia. Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      —— Hermia, Hermᵞa,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      sleep thou there,
    2. And never mayst thou come Lysander near.
    3. For, as a surfeit overload of the sweetest things
    4. The deepest loathing to the stomach brings, makes you sick to your stomach
    5. Or as the heresies that men do leave renounce
    6. Are hated most of those they did deceive, are most persecuted by former believers
    7. So thou, my surfeit and my heresy, i.e. Hermia
    8. Of By all be hated, but the most ofby me!
    9. And, all my powers, address your love and might
    10. To honor Helen and to be her knight.

    Lysander exits.


    Unit 17 (ACT II.ii.f 144-155) 11 lines, about a minute

    Location: Near the bower where Tytania still lies sleeping (continues from Unit 16)

    Hermia awakens from a nightmare to discover that Lysander has gone, and decides (despite the danger) to try to find him.

    HERMIA

    1. Help me, Lysander, help me! Do thy best
    2. To pluck this crawling serpent snake from my breast.
    3. Ay me, for pity! What a dream was here!
    4. Lysander, look how I do quake with fear.
    5. Methought I thought a serpent ate my heart away,
    6. And you sat smiling at his cruel prey. attack
    7. Lysander! What, remov'd? missing Lysander, lord!
    8. What, out of hearing? too far away to hear me? Gone? No sound, no word?
    9. Alack, where are you? Speak, an if emphatic if you hear.
    10. Speak, of all loves! for love's sake I swoon faint almost with fear —
    11. No? Then I well perceive you are not nigh. near
    12. Either Eith'

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      Eith': ee-th, or ahy-th [ið, or ˈaɪð] The rule by which medial Vs are sometimes eliminated also occasionally applies, as here, to words with TH in the middle.

      This is the trickiest scansion problem in the second act. The word "either" occupies only one syllable, but there is no common agreement about how to make it do so in contemporary performance. In Shakespeare's time it was elided to “ei’er,” which sounded like “ire.” Probably just omitting the second syllable is the most intelligible for a modern audience: ee-th, or ahy-th [ið, or ˈaɪð]. A very common "solution," however, is to pronounce the word fully and ignore the irregularity that causes.

      death or you I’ll find immediately.

    Hermia exits.

    Act 3

    Unit 18 (ACT III.i.a 1-58) 58 prose lines, 8'30"

    Location: In the woods near where Tytania is sleeping (continues from Unit 17)

    The earnest working men from the first act arrive in the woods to rehearse their play in secret. After discussing their concerns that the audience will not be able to understand that the play is not real, and determining to spell out the fictive nature of the enterprise in prologues, they begin rehearsing. Puck arrives on the scene and decides to have fun of his own by turning Bottom's head into an asshead. Bottom's cast mates flee in terror.

    Enter Bottom, Quince, Snout, Starveling, Snug, and Flute.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Rustic Music

    If a rustic theme song is employed at the beginning of Unit 6, it often returns again here.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    BOTTOM

    1. Are we all met?

    QUINCE

    1. Pat, pat: Right on time And here’s a marvel's marvelously marvails

      Dialect

      "marvails" for "marvelously." Frequently in this scene the "mechanicals" speak in a rural dialect, used for a humorous effect. This is not a scansion issue as the scene is written in prose, but dialect is used to convey the lack of sophistication of the characters.

      convenient place for our rehearsal.

      Meta-Theatricality

      Throughout this speech, Shakespeare is exploiting meta-theatricality for humorous effect, as Quince is pointing at an actual stage when he states that the "green plot shall be our stage" and is standing in front of an actual 'tiring house (i.e. "attiring house" or in modern terms, the backstage area and dressing rooms) when he says that the hawthorn brake will have to serve that function. While his cast is called upon to use their imaginations to see a stage where a clearing is located and a dressing room where a hawthorn grove is situated, we (to our amusement) are forced to do the opposite.

      This green plot clearing shall be our stage, this hawthorn brake thicket our 'tiring-house, dressing room and we will do it in action rehearse it as we will do it before perform it for the Duke.

    BOTTOM

    1. Peter Quince?

    QUINCE

    1. What sayest thou, bully buddy Bottom?

    BOTTOM

    1. There are things in this comedy

      Genre

      The story of Pyramus and Thisbe, as related in Ovid, is tragic. Like Romeo, Pyramus kills himself because he mistakenly believes that his true love is dead. Thisbe, like Juliet, discovers her dead lover and likewise kills herself. The play by the "rude mechanicals" does turn out to be hilarious, but not because it was intended to be. Bottom misunderstands from the start.

      of Pyramus and Thisbe that will never please. First, Pyramus must draw a sword to kill himself, which the ladies cannot abide. How answer you that?

    SNOUT

    1. By our la'kin, Mild oath: By our ladykin By'r lakin,

      Dialect

      This is a very mild oath, literally a mumbled version of "By our ladykin," but meaning little more than "Goodness gracious."

      a parlous dialect: perilous fear.

    STARVELING

    1. I believe we must leave the killing out, when all is done.

    BOTTOM

    1. Not a whit: I have a device trick to make all well. Write me a prologue an introduction and let the prologue seem to say convey we will do no harm with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed, and, for the more better

      Character notes

      Bottom's grammar, even for Shakespeare's time, is deplorable. This double superlative is not Elizabethan so much as it is just Bottom's typical excess.

      assurance, reassurance tell them that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver: this will put them out of alleviate their fear.

    QUINCE

    1. Well, we will have such a prologue, and it shall be written in eight-and-six.

      Poetic Forms

      Peter Quince is referring to the poetic form he will use for the prologue he has just agreed to write. Many scholars think he is referencing a common form for songs in which lines of eight syllables alternate with lines of six. (Bottom will sing just such a song in the unit that follows this.)

      It is more likely, however, that he is referring to the sonnet form which opens with two quatrains (a stave of "eight") which establish and build a situation, followed by a quatrain and a couplet (a stave of "six") that provide a clever reversal. Shakespeare used just such a form for the prologue of Romeo and Juliet, a play written immediately before A Midsummer Night's Dream, and which is obviously being parodied at many points in this play. In either case, Bottom's response is not literary (or even sensible), but simply his knee-jerk reaction in favor of excess. "More is better," could be his motto.

      When we finally hear this prologue in Unit 42, it is neither in ballad form nor in the form of a sonnet - although it is much closer to the latter - but is comprised of just two quatrains and a couplet (eight-and-two?).

    BOTTOM

    1. No, make it two more: Let it be written in eight-and-eight.

    SNOUT

    1. Will not the ladies be afeard afraid of the lion?

    STARVELING

    1. I fear it, I promise you.

    BOTTOM

    1. Masters, Gentlemen you ought to consider with yourself,

      Textual Alternative

      yourselves] F

      The Folio corrects Bottom's grammar so that "yourselves" agrees with the plural addressees, but the editor may just have missed the joke.

      to bring in (God shield us!) a lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing. For there is not a more fearful wildfowl

      Malaprop

      Wildfowl literally means "wild bird." Bottom means "wildlife," but as usual he gets it wrong.

      than your lion living, and we ought to look to't. watch out

    SNOUT

    1. Therefore another prologue must tell he is not a lion.

    BOTTOM

    1. Nay, you must name his name, and half his face must be seen through the lion’s neck, and he himself must speak through, saying thus, or to the same defect:

      Malaprop

      Bottom means "effect."

      “Ladies,” or “Fair ladies, I would wish you,” or “I would request you,” or “I would entreat you not to fear, not to tremble! My life for yours. I swear on my life If you think I come hither as a lion, it were pity of my life. would be a terrible mistake No, I am no such thing, I am a man as other men are.” And there indeed let him name his name and tell them plainly he is Snug the joiner.

    QUINCE

    1. Well, it shall be so. But there is two hard things: that is, to bring the moonlight into a chamber, for you know Pyramus and Thisbe meet by moonlight.

    SNUG

    1. Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?

    BOTTOM

    1. A calendar, a calendar! Look in the almanac. Find out moonshine, if the moon shines find out moonshine.

    An almanac is found and consulted.

    Performance Practice

    This bit of necessary stage business is usually accomplished with a considerable amount of comic confusion and slapstick while the "rude mechanicals" search their belongings and their persons to come up with an almanac. Intriguingly, for no apparent reason the Folio gives Puck an entrance here–much earlier than is needed for his first speech in the scene. Many modern productions, based on this clue alone (which does not even appear in the Quartos) introduce Puck–apparently invisible-into this scene and let him serve as the ultimate source of the almanac.

    QUINCE

    1. Yes, it doth shine that night.

    BOTTOM

    1. Why, then may you leave a casement section of the great chamber window, where we play, open, and the moon may shine in at the casement.

    QUINCE

    1. Ay, or else one must come in with a bush of thorns and a lantern

      Folklore

      Man-in-the-Moon

      Many cultures around the world "see" patterns in the dark and light areas of the moon's surface. It is common for contemporary viewers in the Northern Hemisphere to see a face, which is called the "Man-in-the-Moon." Elizabethans, however, saw a man with a load of wood (bush of thorns) on his back accompanied by a pet. They added the idea that he must be carrying a lantern with him, causing the moon's bright glow.

      The Man-in-the-Moon

      Licensed as Creative Commons – Attribution, Share-Alike 3.0 Unported

      Modified from D.Helber at en.wikipedia — partially based on an earlier version from Pietz at de.wikipedia. - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Cépey using CommonsHelper.

      and say he comes to disfigure

      Malaprop

      Bottom means "figure," that is, portray.

      or to present the person of Moonshine. Then there is another thing: 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

    1. You can never bring in a wall. ——What say you, Bottom?

    BOTTOM

    1. Some man or other must present portray Wall, and let him have some plaster, or some loam, clay or some roughcast stucco about him to signify wall, or let him hold his fingers thus,

      Performance Practice

      At this point in the line, Bottom demonstrates some manner of holding his hand, often by making a circle with his thumb and first finger as in the "okay" sign. This generally passes almost unnoticed, but will become very important later, as it sets up an extended joke about the "wall's hole" during the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe in Act 5.

      and through that cranny shall Pyramus and Thisbe whisper.

    QUINCE

    1. If that may be, we can work that out then all is well. Come, sit down, every mother’s son, and rehearse your parts. ——Pyramus, you begin: when you have spoken your speech, enter into that brake thicket — and so everyone according to his cue. so on, as specified in the script

    Puck enters

    PUCK

    1. What hempen homespuns country bumpkins have we swaggering swag'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      swag'ring: swa gring [ˈswæ grɪŋ].

      Bisyllabic: As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      here
    2. So near the cradle bed of the Fairy Queen?
    3. What, a play toward? about to start t'ward

      SCANSION: Shortening

      t'ward: twohrd [twoʊrd]. The preferred pronunciation of "Toward" is one syllable. It is necessary here for the scansion.

      I’ll be an auditor— audience member
    4. An actor too perhaps, if I see cause…a reason, opportunity

    QUINCE

    1. Speak, Pyramus. ——Thisbe, stand forth. beside him

    BOTTOM

    1. Thisbe, the flowers flow'rs

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'rs: flourz [flaʊrz]

      As noted in previous uses in the play, this word is often shortened in Shakespeare, and in everyday speech.

      have odious

      Textual Crux

      Bottom's line, with Quince's correction, forms a famous textual crux. Almost all editors agree that the sequence (as printed in the Quartos and unsatisfactorily corrected in the Folio) is corrupt. The basis of the joke is clearly that Bottom has confused the word odious, which mean "disgusting," with the word odorous, which means "fragrant." It takes a good deal of editorial emendation to produce a satisfactory reading, however.

      Bottom's line (in the original spelling) reads:

      "Thisby, the flowers of odious sauors sweet"

      To which Quince responds "Odours, odorous" in the Quartos and "Odours, odours" in the Folio.

      The meaning of Bottom's line is hard to parse, even with Quince's correction, but this edition accepts the paraphrase, "the flowers have strong, sweet fragrances." This is using the same sense of "savors" as employed by the fairy in Unit 7, line 11. "Odorous" must then mean "strong smelling." To get to that understanding, one must accept that "of" means "have." Those two words sound the same when in an unstressed position. We still find this confusion in rapid contemporary speech where people say (and sometimes also write) "could of," when they mean "could have."

      Quince's response as indicated in the Quarto text might be interpreted to mean, "From the root word 'odors,' the correct word is 'odorous,'" but that is a difficult stretch requiring the performance of a great deal of sub-text on the part of the actor and implies more etymological knowledge than Quince otherwise seems to possess. The Folio seems clearer, with Quince stating and then reiterating the correct word is "odors." The problem is that, once odious is corrected to odors, Bottom's line does not render a sensible meaning.

      This edition has adapted a bold emendation that is widely employed in modern performance practice. "Of" is modernized to "have." Quince's response is expanded so that he first reacts incredulously, implying "Did you just say odious?" He then supplies the correct reading – "odorous."

      This edition leaves unchanged Bottom's response, "odors," assuming that even after correction, he still gets it wrong.

      savors sweet—

    QUINCE

    1. "Odious?" O-dor-ous!

    BOTTOM

    1. …odors savors sweet.
    2. So hath thy breath, my dearest Thisbe dear.
    3. But hark, a voice! Stay thou but here awhile,
    4. And by and by shortly I will to thee appear. return to you.

    Bottom exits.

    Pyramus 'sees' Thisbe's voice

    Pyramus hears Thisbe's voice.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    PUCK

    1. A stranger Pyramus than e’er played here.

      Textual Variant

      PUCK] F; QUINCE Qq

      Both Quartos assign this speech to Quince. In modern performance this assignment is sometimes retained. The line can work as a frustrated aside. When played this way, Puck usually gets the idea to fix the asshead on Bottom after overhearing this line.

    Puck exits.

    FLUTE

    1. Must I speak now?

    QUINCE

    1. Ay, Mary,

      Critical Insights

      "Mary" means little more than "oh my goodness" but is the mildly controversial (because it was once thought blasphemous) remnant of an oath – "I swear by the Virgin Mary."

      must you, for you must understand he goes but to see a noise that he heard and is to come again.

    FLUTE

    1. Most radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of hue,

      A Note on the Verse

      Thisbe's quatrain is written in iambic hexameter, or Alexandrine, verse. This twelve-syllable verse line was common in English drama before Marlowe (and subsequently Shakespeare) popularized the use of blank verse. The implication is that Quince's play is very old-fashioned.

      Technically, "radiant" should be bisyllabic: rey-dyuhnt [ˈreɪ dyənt], but in modern performance it rarely is, in order to convey Flute's lack of experience with verse.

      The quality of the verse is, for satiric effect, wretched. Pyramus is described both as being "lily-white" and "the color of the red rose." A rosebush is said to be "triumphant," although in what sense is unfathomable. "Brisky," which is not a word, is employed (instead of brisk) simply in order to add a needed syllable, and the already archaic form "eke," meaning also, is likewise padding. The most ridiculous part of the speech describes Pyramus as a "most lovely Jew," even though he was not at all Jewish (and for that matter is not lovely either), apparently in order to provide a rhyme for "hue." The bizarre image as being "true as the truest horse" is already absurd, without the additional description as being one that would never tire – a silly postscript again used simply to provide a rhyme.

    2. Of color like the red rose on triumphant briar,
    3. Most brisky juvenal and eke also most lovely Jew,
    4. As true as truest horse that yet would never tire.
    5. I’ll meet thee, Pyramus, at Ninny’s tomb.

    QUINCE

    1. "Ninus'

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Ninus was the mythical founder of the city of Ninevah in ancient Assyria, who was buried near the city of Babylon. Ovid set the story of Pyramus and Thisbe's untimely deaths near this site. Flute, obviously, has no idea who Ninus was.

      Portrait of Ninus

      Published by Guillaume Rouille (1518?-1589) - "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "

      Public Domain

      tomb,” man! Why, you must not speak that yet. That you answer to Pyramus. (You speak all your part at once, cues and all.)

      Early Modern Performance Practice

      In the early modern (i.e. Shakespearean) theatre, actors were not given complete scripts of the play. Because scripts had to be hand-copied that would be far too expensive. They were, instead, given a scroll that contained only their lines and their cues – the two or three words they would hear from their scene partners just it is time for them to speak. These were wrapped around a dowel creating a "roll" from which we now take the word "role," meaning the actor's part.

      Quince is muttering under his breath that Flute does not understand how his script works and seems to have a tendency to read both his lines and the short cues indiscriminately. Although that may have occurred in some past rehearsal, it is not what has happened in this case, where Flute has apparently just skipped ahead to his next speech without pausing for Bottom to re-enter and speak.

      ——Pyramus, enter. Your cue is past. It is “never tire.”

    FLUTE

    1. Oh…
    2. As true as truest horse, that yet would never tire.

    Puck re-enters leading Bottom whose head is now turned into that of an ass.

    BOTTOM

    1. If I were fair, fair

      Editorial Emendation

      fair] Rowe; the word is absent from QF

      As printed in all early editions, this line is only nine syllables long. A long series of editors has deduced that it must be corrupt, and accepted the emendation adopted here on the grounds that a compositor might fail to pick up the repeated word. The tide turned, however, with Brooks in his 1979 Arden edition. In his usual contrarian manner, he asserted that the line is correct without the added word, but the first "fa-ir" should be sounded (in thick rustic dialect) as two syllables. Since Brooks, many contemporary editors have acted as if the line is not corrupt so they leave it alone, but with very dubious supporting arguments, or no commentary at all.

      Thisbe, I were only thine.

    QUINCE

    1. O monstrous! O strange! We are haunted. Pray masters— fly run away masters—help!

    Quince, Flute, Snout, Snug, and Starveling flee in multiple directions.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional "Chase" Music, and Possible Dance

    The frantic comings-and-goings of Bottom's terrified friends are sometimes accompanied by music. Puck's line that he will lead them "about a round" literally means that he will lead them in a round dance, but he may be speaking metaphorically.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    PUCK

    1. I’ll follow you. I’ll lead you about 'bout

      SCANSION: Shortening

      'bout: Monosyllabic; the first vowel sound is simply omitted. This is extremely common in everyday speech.

      a round, in a circle
    2. Through bog, through bush, through brake, through briar.

      Poetic Meter

      Puck's speech is written in iambic pentameter except for this line, which is in the meter he uses for casting magic spells – iambic tetrameter. Perhaps the implication is that he is manipulating the mechanicals' behavior magically with this line.

    3. Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound,
    4. A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire,
    5. And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,
    6. Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn.

    Puck exits.

    BOTTOM

    1. Why do they run away? This is a knavery of them practical joke by them to make me afeard. scare me

    Enter Snout.

    SNOUT

    1. O Bottom, thou art chang'd. What do I see on thee?

    BOTTOM

    1. What do you see? You see an ass-head of your own, do you?

    Snout exits.

    Enter Quince.

    QUINCE

    1. Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee! Thou art translated. transformed

    Quince exits.


    Unit 19 (ACT III.i.b 59-116) 57 mixed prose and verse lines, 5'

    Location: Tytania's bower (continues from Unit 18)

    Having been transformed into a monster with the head of an ass, and abandoned by his terrified friends, Bottom sings to calm himself. His song awakens the enchanted Tytania, who (under the spell cast by Oberon) immediately falls in love with him. She orders her fairy train to wait on him, and to carry him to her bed.

    BOTTOM

    1. I see their knavery. trickery This is to make an ass of me, humiliate me to fright frighten me, if they could: But I will not stir from this place, do what they can. I will walk up and down here, and I will sing, that they shall hear I am not afraid…

    He sings.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Song

    Bottom brays out a song to calm himself at this point, which in modern performance is not always the one indicated in the text as almost any pop song will work here. "The Ousel Cock" was apparently a well-known song in the Elizabethan period, which owed its comic popularity to the similarity in sound between the call of the cuckoo and the word "cuckold."

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    1. The ousel cock, male blackbird so black of hue,
    2.      With orange-tawny bill,
    3. The throstle thrush with his note so true,
    4.      The wren with little quill— high pitched notes

    TYTANIA

    1. What angel wakes me from my flowery flow'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'ry: flou-ree [ˈflaʊ ri]

      The root of this word, flower, is often shortened in Shakespeare, and in everyday speech. This principle is extended here to the adjectival form.

      bed?

    BOTTOM

    1. The finch, the sparrow, and the lark,
    2.      The plainsong cuckoo gray,
    3. Whose note full many a man doth mark Whose song (saying "cuckold") many men hear
    4.      And dares not answer “nay”— deny
    5. …for, indeed, who would set his wit to so foolish a bird? argue with a stupid bird Who would give the bird the lie accuse a bird of lying 'though he cry “cuckoo” never so? although he keeps saying "cuckold" instead of "cuckoo."

    TYTANIA

    1. I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.
    2. Mine ear is much enamor'd of thy note, charmed by your singing
    3. So is mine eye enthralled enthrallèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      enthrallèd: en-thraw-led [ɛnˈθrɔ lɛd]. The past tense is separately sounded as a syllable.

      to thy shape,
    4. And thy fair virtue’s force—perforce—doth move me good qualities - strongly - excite me
    5. On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.

    BOTTOM

    1. Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for that: and yet to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays. The more the pity that some honest neighbors will not make them friends. Nay, I can gleek tell jokes upon occasion.

    TYTANIA

    1. Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful.

    BOTTOM

    1. Not so neither: Not really but if I had wit enough enough good sense to get out of this wood,

      Critical Insights

      Elizabethans used metaphors concerning wood to describe states of stupidity or madness. (We still retain some of these in formulations like, "blockheaded" and "knotheaded.") Demetrius makes just such a joke in Unit 10, line 194, when he says that he is "wood within this wood," i.e. being driven mad in the forest. Here Bottom is literally saying he needs to get out of the forest, but he is also punning on his desire to shake off the crazy nightmare he seems to be having.

      I have enough to serve mine own turn. take care of myself

    TYTANIA

    1. Out of this wood do not desire to go:

      Performance Practice

      Although this couplet does not use the meter associated with magic spells in this play, in contemporary performance Bottom almost always attempts to leave and is "magically" prevented from doing so at this point

    2. Thou shalt remain here whether wheth'

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      wheth': hweth [ˈʰwɛð]; The rule by which medial Vs are sometimes eliminated also occasionally applies, as here, to words with TH in the middle.

      The word "whether" occupies only one syllable, but there is no common agreement about how to make it do so in contemporary performance practice. Originally, it was elided to “whe’er,” which confusingly sounds exactly like “where.” Probably just omitting the second syllable is the most intelligible for a modern audience. A very common "solution," however, is to pronounce the word fully and ignore the irregularity that results.

      thou wilt or no.
    3. I am a spirit of no common rate: no ordinary fairy
    4. The summer still doth tend upon my state, Nature waits upon me because of my rank
    5. And I do love thee: Therefore go with me.
    6. I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee:
    7. And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep ocean
    8. And sing while thou on pressed pressèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      pressèd: pre-sed [ˈprɛ sɛd]; The final two letters are separately sounded as a syllable.

      flowers flow'rs

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'rs: flourz [flaʊrz]

      As noted previously, this word is often shortened in Shakespeare, and in everyday speech.

      dost sleep:
    9. And I will purge thy mortal grossness remove your human limitations so
    10. That thou shalt like an airy spirit flying fairy go.
    11. ——Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mote, and Mustardseed!

    Four fairies enter

    Fairies

    1. Ready. And I. And I. Where shall we go?

      Textual Alternatives

      In early editions, this line contains one more "And I." This twelve-syllable line is not divided in the Quartos or the Folio, but almost all modern editions divide the line among the four speakers. The most popular division, first established by Rowe, goes:

      PEASEBLOSSOM: Ready.

      COBWEB: And I.

      MOTE: And I.

      MUSTARDSEED: And I.

      ALL: Where shall we go?

      ***

      The slightest variation on this has Mote and Mustardseed speak at the same time, thus restoring the iambic pentameter:

      PEASEBLOSSOM: Ready.

      COBWEB: And I.

      MOTE and MUSTARDSEED: And I.

      ALL: Where shall we go?

      ***

      In contemporary performance practice, the lines are often divided in a way that has each fairy speak only once:

      PEASEBLOSSOM: Ready.

      COBWEB: And I.

      MOTE: And I.

      MUSTARDSEED: Where shall we go?

    TYTANIA

    1. Be kind and courteous curtᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      curtᵞous: kur-tyuhs [ˈkɜr tyʌs]; Bisyllabic. the word "courteous" occupies only two syllables in the scansion. Many words with a central syllable consisting of only one vowel sound were, in Elizabethan English, interchangeably pronounced as trisyllabic or (by losing their middle vowel) bisyllabic. (The word "violet," at line 253 in Unit 11, is another example.) The scansion tells us the latter is the case here.

      to this gentleman.
    2. Hop in his where he walks and gambol in his eyes: leap when he looks at you
    3. Feed him with apricots and dewberries,
    4. With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.
    5. The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees, bumble-bees
    6. And for night-tapers candles crop their waxen thighs use their wax covered legs
    7. And light them at the fiery fi'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      fi'ry: fai-ree [ˈfaɪ ri]; Bisyllabic after elision of the central schwa [ə] in "fiery."

      glowworms’ eyes
    8. To have help my love to bed and to arise:
    9. And pluck the wings from painted butterflies
    10. To fan the moonbeams brush away disturbing light from his sleeping eyes.
    11. Nod Bow to him, elves, and do him courtesies.

    PEASEBLOSSOM

    1. Hail, Hai-uhl

      SCANSION: Expansion

      Hai-uhl: hey-uhl [heɪ əl].

      The greetings of the four fairies together make up one iambic pentameter line, because (in all four cases) "hail" is pronounced as a two syllable word. In modern performance practice, however, this is frequently ignored without much negative effect.

      mortal!

    COBWEB

    1.                                 Hail! Hai-uhl

      SCANSION: Expansion

      Bisyllabic: hey-uhl [heɪ əl].

    MOTE

    1.                                              Hail! Hai-uhl

      SCANSION: Expansion

      Bisyllabic: hey-uhl [heɪ əl].

    MUSTARDSEED

    1.                                                                   Hail! Hai-uhl

      SCANSION: Expansion

      Bisyllabic: hey-uhl [heɪ əl].

    BOTTOM

    1. I cry your worships mercy, beg your pardon heartily. ——I beseech your worship’s would like to know your name.

    COBWEB

    1. Cobweb.

    BOTTOM

    1. I shall desire you of more acquaintance, I'd like to get to know you better good Master Cobweb: If I cut my finger, I shall make bold with you.

      Folklore

      Before the advent of adhesive bandages, minor cuts were wrapped in sticky cobwebs to bind the wound and stop the bleeding. Bottom is joking that he will utilize Cobweb's medical skills when needed.

      ——Your name, honest gentleman?

    PEASEBLOSSOM

    1. Peaseblossom.

    BOTTOM

    1. I pray you, commend me to Mistress Squash, your mother, and to Master Peascod, your father. Good Master Peaseblossom, I shall desire you of more acquaintance, too. ——Your name, I beseech you, sir?

    MUSTARDSEED

    1. Mustardseed.

    BOTTOM

    1. Good Master Mustardseed, I know your patience good qualities well. That same cowardly, giantlike ox-beef hath devoured many a gentleman of your house. Grazing cattle have eaten a lot of mustard plants I promise you, your kindred hath made my eyes water ere now. I desire you of

      Editorial Emendation

      of] Dyce ; omit QF

      This word does not appear in any of the early texts, but it is part of a formula that is repeated with each fairy, so it seems likely that it was an inadvertant omission rather than an intentional variation.

      more acquaintance, good Master Mustardseed.
    Bottom is led to the bower

    In contemporary productions, an interval (intermission break) is often inserted at the end of this scene.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    TYTANIA

    1. Come, wait upon him, lead him to my bower.
    2. The moon,

      Imagery

      The image body relating to the moon continues here, where the gathering fog is described as if the moon were an eye brimming with tears. When the moon weeps, i.e. when it rains, then the plants also cry - because the rain drops fall off them. Tytania imagines they are crying because they are forcibly separated from their lovers - an idea that tells us more about her than about the flowers.

      methinks, looks with a watery wat'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wat'ry: waw-tree [ˈwɔ tri]; Bisyllablic.

      As is often the case with Shakespeare, when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      eye:
    3. And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,
    4. Lamenting some enforced enforcèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      enforcèd: en-fawr-sed [ɛnˈfɔr sɛd]; The final two letters are separately sounded as a syllable

      chastity.
    5. Tie up my love's

      Editorial Emendation

      love's] Pope; lover's QF

      In all the early editions this word is "lover's," which is extrametrical. Pope proposed that the one-syllable form was what was always intended, and most modern editors have accepted this emendation.

      tongue. Bring him silently.

    Everyone exits.

    Performance Practice

    In the contemporary theatre this play is usually presented in two acts with the interval (or intermission) placed here.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Recessional

    The bland stage direction that the stage clears at this point fails to suggest how elaborate this exit can be in modern production. Bottom is often led away in an almost Dionysian parade. Music is frequently used to build a climactic moment just before intermission.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.


    Unit 20 (ACT III.ii.a 1-42) 42 lines, 3'

    Location: A wood near Athens

    Puck describes how he transformed Bottom into a monster, then how Tytania saw him and instantly fell in love. Puck confirms that he carried out the order to cast a spell on an Athenian but when Demetrius enters with Hermia, Puck realizes that he enchanted the wrong man.

    Oberon enters.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Trumpet Flourish or Fairy Music

    If an intermission is taken just before this scene, then a musical start to the second half is frequently employed here. Whatever choice is made for this cue is usually related the optional music at the start of Unit 8.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    OBERON

    1. I wonder if Tytania be awak'd,
    2. Then, what it was that next came in her eye she saw
    3. Which she must dote on in extremity. fall in love with

    Seeing Puck entering

    OBERON

    1. Here comes my messenger. ——How now, mad spirit sprite

      SCANSION: Shortening

      sprite: [spraɪt]; In early modern verse our two syllable word "spirit" was commonly shortened to a single syllable, interchangeably pronounced "sprit" or "sprite." (See Unit 7, lines 1 and 31 for other examples.)

      This line is regular once the elision to "sprite" is observed. It is, of course, possible to treat the second syllable of "spirit" as a feminine ending, but this is a case where "sprite" is more evocative of contemporary meaning, as well as historically more likely.

      ?
    2. What night-rule mischief now about have you done in this haunted grove?

    PUCK

    1. My mistress with a monster is in love.
    2. Near to her close secluded and consecrated bower,
    3. While she was in her dull sluggish and sleeping hour
    4. A crew of patches, clods rude mechanicals, crude workmen
    5. That work for bread earn their livings upon Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      stalls stores
    6. Were met together to rehearse a play
    7. Intended for great Theseus’ nuptial day.
    8. The shallowest shall'west

      SCANSION: Shortening

      shall'west: shal-west [ˈʃæl wɛst]

      Trisyllabic words, like "shallowest," often lose their middle syllable, as here, when it consists only of a vowel sound.

      thick-skin numbskull of that barren sort, unproductive type
    9. Who Pyramus presented in their sport, entertainment
    10. Forsook Exited from his scene and enter'd in a brake:
    11. When I did him at this advantage take take advantage of his situation
    12. An ass’s noll noggin; head I fixed fixèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      fixèd: fik-sed [ˈfɪk sɛd]; The past tense is sounded as an extra syllable.

      on his head.
    13. Anon Shortly his Thisbe must be answered answerèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      answerèd: an-se-red [ˈæn sə rɛd]; The final two letters are separately sounded as a syllable.

    14. And forth my mimic

      Textual Variant

      Mimic] F; Minnick, minnock Qq

      Apparently unfamiliar with the word "mimic," meaning "actor," the compositor of Q1 mistook the handwritten "m" in the mansucript for "nn." Most modern editors accept this emendation as an non-substantive incidental, although Chaudhuri retains Q1's reading.

      comes. When they him spy, his friends see him
    15. As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye, see the sneaking hunter
    16. Or russet-pated choughs, grey-headed jackdaws many in sort, many in number
    17. (Rising Flying away and cawing at the gun’s report) sound
    18. Sever themselves Split up and madly sweep the sky,
    19. So at his sight seeing Bottom away his fellows fly friends flee
    20. And, at our stamp,

      Textual Alternative

      a stump] Johnson

      In folklore, pucks were renowned for their earth-shaking foot stomps, but because the plural "our" does not seem correct, many editors have suspected corruption in the text. "A stump," could easily trip up a terrified man.

      here over o'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]

      Spelled "ore" in the Quarto, this is a certain shortening which applies to both instances in the line.

      and over o'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]

      one falls.
    21. He “murder” cries and help from Athens calls.
    22. Their sense thus weak, lost with their fears thus strong,
    23. Made senseless things Inanimate objects begin to do them wrong:
    24. For briars and thorns at their apparel snatch,
    25. Some sleeves, some hats, from yielders fleeing cowards all things catch.
    26. I led them on in this distracted fear
    27. And left sweet Pyramus translated transformed there:
    28. When in that moment, so it came to pass,
    29. Tytania waked and straightway loved an ass.

    OBERON

    1. This falls out better than I could devise.
    2. But hast thou yet latch'd moistened the thee

      SCANSION: Long Vowel

      thee: thee [ði]; One would expect the application of the The+Vowel Rule here, but for purposes of preserving the meter "the" is given its own syllable in this case. To prevent it bleeding into the next word, the vowel is lengthened to its long form.

      Athenian's Athenᵞan's

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan's: uh-theen-yuhnz [əˈθin yənz]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      eyes
    3. With the love juice, magic flower's nectar as I did bid ordered thee do?

    PUCK

    1. I took found him sleeping (that is finish'd too)
    2. And the thee

      SCANSION: Long Vowel

      thee: thee [ði]; One would expect the application of the The+Vowel Rule here, but for purposes of preserving the meter "the" is given its own syllable in this case. To prevent it bleeding into the next word, the vowel is lengthened to its long form.

      Sometimes, in performance, Puck seems to mock Oberon's use of the long "thee" in the previous speech.

      Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      woman by his side,
    3. That, when he wak'd, of force inevitably she must be eyed. seen

    Demetrius and Hermia enter.

    OBERON

    1. Stand close: this is the same Athenian.

    ROBIN

    1. This is the woman: but not this the man.

    They move to a different part of the stage.


    Unit 21 (ACT III.ii.b 43-87) 44 lines, 3'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 20)

    As Oberon and his puck look on unobserved, Hermia firmly rejects Demetrius' suit and tries to determine if he is somehow responsible for Lysander's disappearance. Getting no satisfactory answer, she departs. Demetrius (sometimes through Oberon's magical intervention) decides to lie down and get some rest.

    Demetrius and Hermia continue their entrance, taking center stage.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. O, why rebuke you him do you reject (me) that loves you so?
    2. Lay breath so bitter on Instead, speak harshly to your bitter foe.

    HERMIA

    1. Now I but chide: speak harshly but I should use thee worse do worse than that
    2. For thou, I fear, hast given gi'n

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      gi'n: treat as giv nmee [ˈgɪv nmi]; In Shakespeare's era this word would have been shorted to a single syllable that sounded like the final one of "begin" [gɪn].

      Like many applications of the "Missing V Rule," this one is problematic because a modern audience can no longer easily understand what word is meant by that pronunciation. In this particular case, modern performance practice is usually to retain all the sounds, but to group them differently. Think "give nme." (This takes a little practice, not because the sounds can't be arranged into two syllables, but because we are not used to the "nm" combination in English.) giv nmee [ˈgɪv nmi].

      me cause to curse...
    3. If thou hast slain killed Lysander in his sleep,
    4. Being B'ing

      SCANSION: Shortening

      B'ing over: bing oh-vuhr [bɪŋˈoʊ vər]; The four syllable phrase "Being over" occupies the space of only three syllables in this line. Spelling in Q1 would indicate fully pronouncing the first word and making the second subject to the application of the "Missing V Rule": bee-ing awr [ˈbɪ ɪŋ ɔr]. One can't be sure whose decision that was, however, because spelling of early modern texts was determined by the compositor setting the type for the printed edition. It was not necessarily the same as the manuscript.

      The rhythm works better and the line is slightly more intelligible to audience members if the first word becomes monosyllabic and the second is fully pronounced, and such is usual modern performance practice.

      over shoes in blood, plunge in the deep
    5. And kill me too.

      A Note on the Verse

      This line is only four syllables long. Modern performance practice for a short line like this is to assume that something should happen physically that fills the space of the other six syllables, although there is no authority that asserts this until the modern era. Hermias frequently challenge Demetrius here, by taking (or attempting to take) his sword.

    6. The sun was not so true unto more dependable to the day
    7. As he to me. Would he have stolen away stol'n away

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stol'n away: stohln [ˈstoʊln]. This contraction is exceptionally easy to accomplish, simply by moving the sound of the final "n" to the start of the next word. Think: stole naway.

    8. From sleeping Hermia? Hermᵞa?

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      I’ll believe as soon
    9. This whole Earth may be bor'd, and that the moon
    10. May through the center creep and so displease
    11. Her brother’s noontide with the th'

      SCANSION: Elision (the+vowel rule)

      th'Antipodes: than-ti-puh-deez [ðænˈtɪ pəˌdiz]. The word "the" elides into the next word, as is natural in everyday speech, because it starts with a vowel sound.

      Antipodes.

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      In modern parlance, the Antipodes are the direct opposite points on the globe. A secondary definition extends to those peoples who dwell on the other side of the globe (people whose feet are literally planted in direct opposition). It can also mean the exact opposite of a person or thing.

      In this case, Hermia is utilizing about every available definition of the word: geographical (the opposite sides of the globe), chronological (midnight/noon), visual (light/dark) and metaphorical (feminine/masculine). The moon is considered feminine because it is domain of the goddess Diana, and the sun the domain of her brother, the god Apollo.

      Antipodes

      Photo by Sailko of a column top in the Cathedral of Mantua

      This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

    12. It cannot be but The only explanation is that thou hast murder'd him.
    13. So should a murderer murd'rer

      SCANSION: Shortening

      murd'rer: mur-drer [ˈmɜr drər]. As often happens with trisyllabic words with a schwa in the middle, the schwa is dropped making the pronunciation bisyllabic.

      look, so dead, deadly so grim.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. So should the murder'd look, and so should I,
    2. Pierced through the heart with your stern cruelty.
    3. Yet you, the murderer, murd'rer,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      murd'rer: mur-drer [ˈmɜr drər]. This is exactly the same case as Hermia's speech just three lines earlier.

      look as bright, as clear,
    4. As yonder Venus

      Mythology/Astronomy

      Here, Demetrius is referring to the planet Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love, which apart from the Sun and Moon is the brightest light in the sky. The phrase “in her glimmering sphere” refers not to the shape of the planet, but its orbit. Until about the 17th century, most educated Europeans were familiar with the Ptolemaic model (originally conceived of by Plato) of a perfect spherical orbit of heavenly objects.

      photo

      "Venus-pacific-levelled" by Brocken Inaglory

      Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

      in her glimmering glimm'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      glimm'ring: glim-ring [ˈglɪm rɪŋ]; "Glimmering" becomes bisyllabic through elimination of its middle vowel.

      This is another example of the central syllable of a three-syllable word, comprised only of a schwa [ə], being elided to fit the meter.

      sphere.

    HERMIA

    1. What's this to my What does that have to do with Lysander? Where is he?
    2. Ah, good Demetrius, Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      wilt thou give him me? to me?

    DEMETRIUS

    1. I had I'd

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Contraction to I'd: ahyd [aɪd]. Although not formally notated in the Quartos or the Folio, the first two words occupy only one syllable. This is the kind of rhythmic implication an actor was expected to hear and apply from the scansion.

      rather give his carcass to my hounds.

    HERMIA

    1. Out, dog! Out, cur! mutt Thou driv'st, driv'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      driv'st: drahyvst [draɪvst]. "Drivest" is contracted to a single syllable here by eliminating the final vowel sound.

      me past the bounds
    2. Of maiden's a polite girl's patience. Hast thou slain him, then?
    3. Henceforth If so, from now on be never numbered among men. be banished from mankind
    4. O, once tell true! for once speak truthfully Tell true, even e'en

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      e'en: een [in] In a contraction familiar from poetry and literature, even is shortened to a single syllable.

      for my sake!
    5. Durst thou have look'd upon him, Would you have dared face him being b'ing

      SCANSION: Shortening

      b'ing: bing [bɪŋ]. Although this may, at first, seem odd, if you listen to real people speak you will notice that this word is usually reduced to a single syllable.

      awake?
    6. And hast thou kill'd him sleeping? O brave touch! (ironcially) that was brave!
    7. Could not a worm, snake an adder, do so much?
    8. An adder did do it, It was a snake for with doubler tongue a tongue more forked
    9. Than thine, thou serpent, never adder stung. no snake ever bit

    DEMETRIUS

    1. You spend your passion waste your anger on a mispris'd mood: mistaken assumption
    2. I am not guilty of Lysander's blood harming Lysander
    3. Nor is he dead for aught that I can tell. as much information as I have.

    HERMIA

    1. I pray thee, tell me then that he is well.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. And if I could, what should I get therefor?

    HERMIA

    1. A privilege, privïlege,

      SCANSION: Expansion

      privïlege: pri-vuh-lij [ˈprɪ vəlɪdʒ]; We are used to hearing this word as bisyllabic, but-for emphasis-Hermia is fully pronouncing it here

      never to see me more.
    2. And from thy hated presence part I so:

      Editorial Emendation

      so] Pope; omit QF

      In the Quartos and Folio, this line is only nine syllables long, and is missing the rhyme to its couplet. Pope first suggested this obvious correction.

    3. See me no more, whether wheth'

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      wheth': hweth [ˈʰwɛð]; The rule by which medial Vs are sometimes eliminated also occasionally applies, as here, to words with TH in the middle.

      The word "whether" occupies only one syllable, but there is no common agreement about how to make it do so in contemporary performance practice. Originally, it was elided to “whe’er,” which confusingly sounds exactly like “where.” Probably just omitting the second syllable is the most intelligible for a modern audience. A very common "solution," however, is to pronounce the word fully and ignore the irregularity that results.

      he be dead or no.

    Hermia exits.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. There is no following foll'wing

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Foll'wing: fol-wing [ˈfɒl wɪŋ] This word becomes bisyllabic, using the principle by which when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      her in this fierce vein. when she is this angry
    2. Here, therefore, for a while I will remain.
    3. So sorrow's heaviness

      Images and Motifs

      Demetrius is making an elaborate pun on "heaviness," meaning both sadness and exhaustion. He suggests that sorrow gets worse when sleep, like a person who is bankrupt, cannot pay its debts - that is, fails to refresh. He is planning to lie down and wait for sleep to make an offer (a tender) for at least part of the deficit.

      doth heavier heavᵞer

      SCANSION: Shortening

      heavᵞer: he-vyuhr [ˈhɛ vyɜr]; The final two syllables of this word are smoothed together.

      grow
    4. For debt that bankrupt sleep

      Editorial Emendation

      sleep] Rowe; slip QF

      Both Quartos and the Folio read "slippe" at this location, which is plausibly a different word but most likely is just a variant spelling. Rowe first emended the line.

      doth sorrow owe,
    5. Which now in some slight measure it will pay,
    6. If for his tender here I make some stay.

    Demetrius lies down and sleeps.


    Unit 22 (ACT III.ii.c 88-101) 14 lines, 1'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 21)

    Oberon upbraids the puck for casting his spell on the wrong man. He orders Puck to find Helena and lure her to this spot. In the meantime, he will enchant Demetrius so that when he wakes and looks on Helena, he will fall in love with her.

    OBERON

    1. What hast thou done? Thou hast mistaken quite gotten confused
    2. And laid the love juice on some true-love’s sight: faithful man's eyes
    3. Of thy misprision From your mistake must perforce ensue the inevitable result will be
    4. Some true-love turn'd, A messy break-up and not a false turn'd true. new love match

    PUCK

    1. Then fate overrules intervenes o'errules

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      "Over" becomes "o'er": awr-roolz [ɔrˈrulz]. It is a conventional contraction to shorten "over" to "o'er," even when it appears as part of a longer word.

      that, one man holding troth, because for every man that is faithful
    2. A million fail, cheat confounding oath on oath. breaking promise after promise

    OBERON

    1. About the wood go swifter than the wind,
    2. And Helena of Athens look thou find:
    3. All fancy-sick love-sick she is and pale of cheer faced
    4. With sighs of love that costs the fresh blood dear. cause her to look anemic
    5. By some illusion see thou bring her here:
    6. I’ll charm his eyes against she do appear. in preparation for her appearance

    PUCK

    1. I go, I go – look how I go –

      A Note on the Verse

      This line of Puck's is once again in iambic tetrameter, the alternate verse form that Shakespeare frequently employs in this play when indicating that magic is involved.

    2. Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow.

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      “Tartar” was a name attributed to certain tribes by the Europeans and Russians during the rise of the Mongolian Empire, such as the Turks, Mongols, and Manchus. The name is derived from the Tatar tribal confederation of the Mongols, which were subjugated by Ghengis Khan and made part of his conquest. The name was later broadly applied to any Turkish-speaking person. They were considered savage warriors and famed for their considerable skill with bows.

      Tartar bowman

      Image from The Chinese War by Lt. John Ouchterlony, Madras Engineers (1844)

      Public Domain

    Puck exits.


    Unit 23 (ACT III.ii.d 102-109) 8 lines, less than a minute

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 22)

    Oberon enchants Demetrius' eyes so that he will adore Helena when he next looks on her.

    OBERON

    1. Flower of this purple dye,

      A Note on the Verse

      All eight lines of this short speech are cast in iambic tetrameter, as is typical in this play for magic spells, and all eight begin with a silent syllable, called a "catalexis." Originally all eight lines also rhymed, because the final y in almost all words was pronounced in its long form during the Elizabethan era. These historic rhymes are sometimes preserved in modern performance to give Oberon's magic an ancient feel.

    2. Hit with Cupid’s archery,
    3. Sink in apple of his eye.
    4. When his love he doth espy, first sees
    5. Let her shine as gloriously glorᵞously

      SCANSION: Shortening

      glorᵞously: glawr-yuhs-lee [ˈglɔr yəs li]. The first "ee" sound in this word is converted to a "y" and blended into the following syllable.

    6. As the Venus of the sky.
    7. ——When thou wakest, wak'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wak'st: weykst [weɪkst]. In a commonly employed contraction, "wakest" is shortened to a single syllable.

      if she be by,
    8. Beg of her for remedy. relief

    Unit 24 (ACT III.ii.e 110-121) 12 lines, less than a minute

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 23)

    The puck lures Helena and Lysander to where Demetrius is sleeping. Puck and Oberon anticipate the effect of their waking him.

    PUCK

    1. Captain of our fairy band,

      A Note on the Verse

      All twelve lines of this short scene are cast in iambic tetrameter couplets, and all except Oberon's second line (#117) begin with a silent syllable, called a "catalexis."

    2. Helena is here at hand,
    3. And the youth, mistook by me,
    4. Pleading for a lover’s fee. reward
    5. Shall we their fond pageant ridiculous actions see?
    6. Lord, what fools these mortals be!

    OBERON

    1. Stand aside – The noise they make
    2. Will cause Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      to awake.

    PUCK

    1. Then will two at once woo one:
    2. That must needs be sport will be fun alone,
    3. And those things do best please me
    4. That befall preposterously. prepost'rously.

      SCANSION: Shortening

      prepost'rously: pri-po-struh-slee [prɪˈpɒ strə sli]; This word is elided by combining two central syllables.

    Oberon and Puck again move aside to make room for entering actors.


    Unit 25 (ACT III.ii.f 122-177) 55 lines, 4'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 24)

    As predicted, Lysander and Helena wake Demetrius and both men woo her. Helena, however, believes that they are mocking her.

    Lysander enters following Helena.

    LYSANDER

    1. Why should you think

      A Note on the Verse

      The verse form shifts to a complicated rhyme scheme at this point. Lysander begins with a quatrain followed by a couplet, ABABCC, which Helena then mirrors exactly. They then trade a pair of lines that form another couplet. At that point, Lysander has another line which we might expect Helena to again answer with a rhyming line, but Demetrius awakens before she can speak.

      A significant number of editors suspect corruption here, and believe that Helena has a missing line, but the surprise effect of Demetrius popping awake early is powerful and may well be intentional.

      that I should woo in scorn? am faking my love
    2. Scorn and derision never come in are never accompanied by tears:
    3. Look when I vow, I weep; and vows so born
    4. In their nativity from their inception all truth appears. reveal their truthfullness
    5. How can these things in me seem scorn to you,
    6. Bearing the badge of faith When I am obviously crying to prove them true? which is proof I am not lying

    HELENA

    1. You do advance reveal; show your cunning more and more.
    2. When truth "truthiness" kills truth, O devilish dev'lish

      SCANSION: Shortening

      dev'lish: dev-lish [ˈdɛv lɪʃ]. Often in three-syllable words, where the central syllable consists only of a schwa, the word is shortened by eliminating it. Such is the case here.

      holy fray! fight
    3. These vows are Hermia's Hermᵞa's

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuhz [ˈhɜrm yʌz]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      – will you give reject her over? o'er?

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]

      The rhyme with "more" makes this a certain shortening.

    4. Weigh oath with oath, Balance your oath to her against the one to me and you will nothing weigh: find both empty
    5. Your vows to her and me, put in two scales,
    6. Will even weigh, balance and both as light as tales. because both are insincere words.

    LYSANDER

    1. I had no judgment when to her I swore.

    HELENA

    1. Nor none, in my mind, now you give reject her over. o'er.

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]

      The rhyme with "swore" makes this a certain shortening.

    LYSANDER

    1. Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      loves her, and he loves not you.

    Hearing his name, Demetrius wakes up.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. O Helen, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine!

      A Note on the Verse

      From this point on, the unit proceeds in rhymed couplets. (The only exception is a quick aside at line 168, where Helena tosses in a triplet.)

    2. To what, my love, shall I compare thine eyne? your eyes
    3. Crystal is muddy. O, how ripe in show bright red
    4. Thy lips, those kissing cherries, tempting grow!
    5. That pure congealed congealèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      congealèd: kuhn-jeel-uhd [kənˈdʒil əd]; The past tense is sounded as a separate syllable:

      white, high Taurus’

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      The Taurus Mountains are a high mountain range that divides southern Turkey from central Anatolia. In ancient-times, they were associated with storms and storm-gods, which were depicted as bulls.

      Mountaintops used to hold great symbolic significance as pure places untouched by human hands, as well as being close to the heavens. Their significance has lessened considerably during our time. Over the course of the Enlightenment, mountain climbs became increasingly popular. The 19th century in particular saw a huge burst of first-time climbs to mountaintops. However, during Shakespeare’s life, mountains still held an insurmountable quality. Only seventeen mountains were recorded as having been scaled to their peaks. To reach a mountaintop was a rare and noteworthy feat.

      Photo

      "Demirkazik Crest of Aladag Mountains in Nigde Turkey" by Zeynel Cebeci

      Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

      snow,
    6. Fanned with the eastern wind, turns to a crow appears almost black
    7. When thou holdest hold'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      hold'st: hohldst [hoʊldst]. Although inauthentic practice, this word is sometimes simply shortened to its modern form, "hold," for clarity.

      up thy hand. O, let me kiss
    8. This princess of pure white, i.e. your hand this seal of bliss! i.e. your lips

    HELENA

    1. O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent inclined
    2. To set against me gang up on me for your merriment.
    3. If you were civil and knew courtesy
    4. You would not do me thus much injury. treat me disrespectfully
    5. Can you not hate me, as I know you do,
    6. But you must join in souls conspiritorially to mock me too?
    7. If you were men, as men you are in show, outwardly appear
    8. You would not use treat a gentle lady so:
    9. To vow and swear and superpraise my parts,
    10. When I am sure you hate me with your hearts.
    11. You both are rivals and love Hermia,
    12. And now both rivals to mock Helena.
    13. A trim "noble" exploit, a manly enterprise,
    14. To conjure tears up in a poor maid’s eyes
    15. With your derision! abuse None of noble sort
    16. Would so offend a virgin and extort strain
    17. A poor soul’s patience, all to make you sport. entertain yourselves

    LYSANDER

    1. You are unkind, Demetrius. Demetr'us.

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      Be not so –
    2. For you love Hermia, Hermᵞa,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      this you know I know.
    3. And here with all goodwill, with all my heart,
    4. In Hermia's Hermᵞa's

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuhz [ˈhɜrm yʌz]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      love I yield you up give to you my part.
    5. And yours of Helena to me bequeath, give to me
    6. Whom I do love and will do till my death.

    HELENA

    1. Never did mockers waste more idle breath. empty words

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Lysander, keep thy Hermia: Hermᵞa:

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      I will none. don't want her
    2. If ever e'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      e'er: air [ɛər]. Utilizing the common poetic convention of eliminating the middle V sound this word is reduced to a single syllable. (In Q1, it is spelled "ere," making clear the application of the "Missing V" rule.)

      I lov'd her, all that love is gone.
    3. My heart to her but as guest-wise sojourn'd, only visited temporarily
    4. And now to Helen is it home return'd,
    5. There to remain.

    LYSANDER

    1. Helen, it is not so.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Disparage not the faith fidelity thou dost not know. of which you are incapable
    2. Lest to thy peril thou aby it dear… pay dearly for it
    3. Look where thy love comes: Yonder is thy dear.

    Unit 26 (ACT III.ii.g 178-351) 173 lines, 12'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 25)

    In this, the longest unit in the play, Hermia arrives and the confusion among the four lovers intensifies into a quarrel.

    Enter Hermia and immediately upon seeing Lysander speaks to him.

    HERMIA

    1. Dark night, that from the eye his function takes, makes it so one cannot see
    2. The ear more quick of apprehension makes: but compensates by improving one's hearing
    3. Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense, the ability to see
    4. It pays the hearing double recompense. doubles the power to hear
    5. ——Thou art not by mine eye, Lysander, found;
    6. Mine ear, I thank it, brought me to thy sound.
    7. But why unkindly didst thou leave me so?

    LYSANDER

    1. Why should he stay whom love doth press to go?

    HERMIA

    1. What love could press Lysander from my side?

    LYSANDER

    1. Lysander’s love, that would not let him 'bide, abide; stay
    2. Fair Helena, who more engilds outshines the night
    3. Than all yon fiery fi'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      fi'ry: fai-ree [ˈfaɪ ri]; Bisyllabic after elision of the central schwa [ə] in "fiery."

      oes and eyes i.e. stars of light.
    4. Why seekest seek'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      seek'st: seekst [sikst]. Although inauthentic practice, this word is occasionally shortened to its modern form, "seek," in performance for clarity.

      thou me? Could not this make thee know
    5. The hate I bear thee made me leave thee so?

    HERMIA

    1. You speak not as you think. It cannot be.

    HELENA

    1. Lo, she is one of this confederacy! conspiracy confed'racy

      SCANSION: Shortening

      confed'racy: kuhn-fe-druh-see [kənˈfɛ drə si]; As with many words containing an isolated vowel sound (or r-influenced vowel sound in this case) as a central syllable, the vowel is sometimes elided. Such is the case here.

    2. Now I perceive they have conjoin'd all three all three colluded
    3. To fashion this false sport in spite to make fun of me.
    4. ——Injurious ——Injurᵞus

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Injurᵞus: in-joor-yuhs [ɪnˈdʒʊər yəs]; Typical of the more clipped pronunciation associated with British dialects, the final two syllables of this word are elided together.

      Hermia, Hermᵞa,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      most ungrateful maid,

      A Note on the Verse

      With this line the verse in this unit shifts from rhymed couplets into blank verse, bringing a new gravity to Helena's fears and the rest of the scene.

    5. Have you conspir'd, have you with these contriv'd,
    6. To bait torment me with this foul derision? derisïon?

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      derisïon: dih-rih-zhee-uhn [dɪˈrɪ ʒi ən]; The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation was divided into two syllables in Elizabethan speech.

      Until recently, expanded endings of this type were frequently ignored in production practice, but with the growing interest in original pronunciation, it is becoming more common to observe them.

    7. Is all the counsel trust that we two have shar'd,
    8. The sisters’ vows, the hours that we have spent
    9. When we have chid scolded the hasty-footed time time for passing quickly
    10. For parting us — O, is all quite

      Editorial Emendation

      quite] Taylor; omit QF

      This troubling line is only nine syllables long in all three Renaissance editions. The vast majority of editors accept the diagnosis of corruption, although it is occasionally argued as intentional, and that in performance the space of one syllable should be occupied by a shrug or a search for a word.

      A number of emendations have been suggested, including a plausible insertion of "now" at this point. Gary Taylor argues in the Oxford edition that Shakespeare modified "forgot" with "quite" ten times in the canon, far more than any other choice, and that is the most likely remedy here.

      forgot?
    11. All schooldays’ friendship, childhood innocence?
    12. We, Hermia, Hermᵞa,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      like two artificial gods,
    13. Have with our needles neelds

      SCANSION: Shortening

      neelds: In the rural dialect of Shakespeare's youth, the word "needles" was pronounced: neeldz [nildz]; He apparently favored this inversion into his adulthood, as the line is metrically bizarre otherwise. In his 1979 edition for Arden, Harold Brooks asserted that even at that late date this pronunciation was still common.

      created both one flower,
    14. Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
    15. Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
    16. As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds
    17. Had been incorporate. united incorp'rate

      SCANSION: Shortening

      incorp'rate: in-kawr-prit [ɪnˈkɔr prɪt]; This is yet another case where a word with a centrally isolated vowel sound is treated as elastic, and the syllable is eliminated.

      So we grew together
    18. Like to a double cherry, seeming parted, apparently separate
    19. But yet an

      Textual Alternative

      a] F

      The Folio adopts the more modern convention here, and it is often utilized in performance.

      union unity in partition, partitïon,

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      partitïon: pahr-ti-see-uhn [pɑrˈtɪ si ən]; The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation is divided into two syllables in Elizabethan practice.

      Until recently, expanded endings of this type were frequently ignored in production practice, but with the growing interest in original pronunciation, it is becoming more common to observe them.

    20. Two lovely berries molded formed on one stem;
    21. So with two seeming apparent bodies but one heart,
    22. Two of the first, like

      Editorial Emendation

      first, like] Theobald; first life QqF

      Most modern editions accept Theobald's suggestion that the original compositor misread the manuscript, which is easily possible given the similarity of form of the cursive letters "f" and "k." Gabriel Egan suggests the original, however, is a simile from heraldry and might be correct.

      coats coats-of-arms in heraldry,
    23. Due but to Combined into one, and crowned crownèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      crownèd: krou-ned [ˈkraʊ nɛd]; Bisyllabic, as the past tense is treated as a separate syllable.

      with one crest.
    24. And will you rent tear our ancient love asunder, apart
    25. To join with men in scorning your poor friend?
    26. It is not friendly, ’tis not maidenly.
    27. Our sex, All women as well as I, may chide rebuke you for it –
    28. Though I alone do feel the injury.

    HERMIA

    1. I am amazed amazèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      amazèd: uh-mey-zed [əˈmeɪ zɛd]; The past tense is sounded.

      at your passionate

      Textual Variant

      passionate] F; omit Qq

      The Folio emendation of this line is uncontroversial. In the quartos the line is only eight syllables long, and the correction is not easily imagined as uninformed editorial guesswork. Most editors agree it was corrected from the promptbook. It requires a two-syllable pronunciation: pass'nate.

      words.
    2. I scorn you not – it seems that you scorn me.

    HELENA

    1. Have you not set Lysander, as in scorn,
    2. To follow me and praise my eyes and face,
    3. And made your other love, Demetrius,
    4. Who even e'en

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      In a contraction familiar from poetry and literature, even is shortened to a single syllable: een [in]

      but now just now did spurn shove me with his foot,
    5. To call me goddess, nymph,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONSs

      In Greek and Roman mythology, nymphs were semi-divine spirits; they were young, beautiful maidens that lived in particular natural locations and helped animate them—rivers and woods, primarily. As divine beings, they could mate with gods and give birth to immortal children. They could not die of old age or illness, but were beholden to death by the hands of greater powers or magic.

      Hylas

      "Hylas and the Nymphs" by John William Waterhouse

      Public Domain

      divine and rare,
    6. Precious, celestial? celestᵞal?

      SCANSION: Shortening

      celestᵞal: suh-les-chuhl [səˈlɛs tʃəl]. This is actually the preferred pronunciation, but is less common than the four-syllable expansion in many parts of the US.

      Wherefore speaks he this Why would he say this
    7. To her he hates? And wherefore why doth Lysander
    8. Deny your love (so rich within his soul)
    9. And tender offer me, forsooth, truly affection, affectïon,

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      affectïon: uh-fek-see-uhn [əˈfɛk si ən]; The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation is divided into two syllables in Elizabethan practice

      Until recently, expanded endings of this type were frequently ignored in production practice, but with the growing interest in original pronunciation, it is becoming more common to observe them.

    10. But by your setting on, encouragement by your consent?
    11. What though I be not so in grace favor as you,
    12. So hung doted upon with love, so fortunate,
    13. But Instead, I am miserable mis-er-a-ble

      SCANSION: Expansion

      mis-er-a-ble: In this case, all four syllables are fully and separately pronounced: mi-zer-uh-buhl [ˈmɪ zər ə bəl]. This is usually played as Helena being comically self-pitying at this moment.

      most, to love unlov'd? unrequitedly
    14. This you should pity rather than despise.

    HERMIA

    1. I understand not what you mean by this.

    HELENA

    1. Ay, do. Persevere, Perséver,

      SCANSION: Archaic Accentuation

      Perséver: pur-sev-er [pɜrˈsɛv ər] A relatively small number of words have shifted accentuation since Shakespeare's time, but this is one that regularly appears in the canon and frustrates scansion. In this case the accent belongs on the second syllable. This is still observed in some British dialects.

      counterfeit fake sad looks,
    2. Make mouths upon me faces behind me when I turn my back,
    3. Wink each at other, hold the sweet jest up. maintain the joke
    4. This sport, prank well carri'd, well executed shall be chronicl'd. will become legendary
    5. If you have any pity, grace, or manners,
    6. You would not make me such an argument. a subject (of ridicule)
    7. But fare you well: ’Tis partly my own fault,
    8. Which death or absence soon shall remedy.

    LYSANDER

    1. Stay, gentle Helena. Hear my excuse,
    2. My love, my life, my soul, fair Helena.

    HELENA

    1. O excellent!

    HERMIA

    1. Sweet, do not scorn her so.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. If she cannot entreat, plead I can compel. force

    LYSANDER

    1. Thou canst compel no more than she entreat.
    2. Thy threats have no more strength than her weak prayers

      Editorial Emendation

      prayers] Theobald; praise QF

      One of Shakespeare's earliest editors suggested that Helena's "praise" cannot be sensibly described as "weak." He proposed that the reading should be "prayers," which certainly makes more sense.

    3. Helen, I love thee – by my life, I do.
    4. I swear by that which I will lose for thee, that I would give up my life for you
    5. To prove him false a liar that says I love thee not.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. I say I love thee more than he can do.

    LYSANDER

    1. If thou say so, withdraw and prove it too. let's go off and fight

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Quick, come.

    HERMIA

    1. Lysander, whereto tends all this?

    Hermia grabs onto Lysander.

    LYSANDER

    1. Away, you Ethiop!

      Performance Practice

      The play specifies that Hermia is shorter and darker in coloring than Helena, which Elizabethans thought less attractive than that of "fair-skinned" and "fair-haired" individuals. Lysander is referencing this fact by using an ethnic slur for someone from Africa. Few modern performances retain this pointedly offensive racial comment. Sometimes a three-syllable replacement is found, but usually this line and Demetrius' grammatically and metrically confused reply are simply cut.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. (speaking to Hermia) No, no. He'll He will

      SCANSION: Expansion

      Many editors have found this line very troubling because (as originally printed) Lysander's half line and Demetrius' half line combined still only constitute nine syllables. Although many explanations have been put forth, the simplest one is that the marked contraction is not trustworthy. The line should read, "He will."

      Rodney Stenning Edgecombe suggests a much more complicated solution to this crux which holds some interest. He proposes that Demetrius' full line should read "No, no--a Helen! | (To Lysander) You seem to break loose..." He believes the compositor did not understand the chivalric implication of Demetrius' reference to Helen of Troy, and changed "Helen" to "heele" on his own volition.

    2. Seem to break loose. (To Lysander.) Take on Rage on, as you would follow but follow me
    3. But yet come not. You are a tame man, coward go!

    LYSANDER

    1. Hang off, Let go thou cat, thou burr! Vile thing, let loose,
    2. Or I will shake thee from me like a serpent.

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      This is most likely a biblical allusion. Lysander is calling Hermia treacherous and sly, like the snake in the Garden of Eden. There is the imagery of sin and lust; Lysander is indirectly calling his former love for Hermia a passing lust and no true love.

      This is also a staging clue suggesting Hermia is attempted to soothe Lysander by pressing herself to him.

    HERMIA

    1. Why are you grown so rude? What change is this,
    2. Sweet love?

    LYSANDER

    1. Thy love? Out, tawny Tartar, out!

      Performance Practice

      This line is again an ethnic slur referencing Hermia's dark coloring. Because Lysander's reply makes sense if he begins with "Out, loathed medicine," the entire line is frequently cut in modern performance.

    2. Out, loathed loathèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      loathèd: loh-thed [ˈloʊ ðɛd]; The past tense is sounded.

      medicine! med'cine!

      SCANSION: Shortening

      med'cine: med-suhn [ˈmɛd sən]. As is still common in British usage this word is bisyllabic in this line.

      O,

      SCANSION: Alternative Scansion

      This metrically complex line has eleven syllables, even after accommodating the necessary expansion of "loathèd," and elision of "med'cine." It is usually assumed that it should be scanned as an epic ceasura, meaning it has a "tail" but located at the central full stop rather than the line end.

      The medial "O" adds nothing to the sense of the line, however, and is frequently omitted in performance, which makes the line regular.

      hated potion,

      Textual Alternative

      poison] Q2F

      Although the Q1 reading is the more sensible, Q2's alternative "poison" is perfectly compatible with Shakespeare's practice with equating medicines and poisons.

      hence!

    HERMIA

    1. Do you not jest? Are you joking?

    HELENA

    1. Yes, sooth: truly and so do you.

    LYSANDER

    1. Demetrius, Demetr'us,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      I will keep my word with thee.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. I would I had your bond. signed contract For I perceive
    2. A weak bond attachment holds you. I’ll not trust your word.

    LYSANDER

    1. What? Should I hurt her, strike her, kill her dead?
    2. Although I hate her, I’ll not harm her so.

    HERMIA

    1. What, can you do me greater harm than hate?
    2. Hate me? Wherefore? Why? O me, what news, what's changed my love?
    3. Am not I Hermia? Hermᵞa?

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      Are not you Lysander?
    4. I am as fair now as I was erewhile. a while ago
    5. Since Last night you lov'd me– yet since night you left me.
    6. Why, then, you left me (O, the gods forbid!)
    7. In earnest, shall I say?

    LYSANDER

    1. Ay, by my life,
    2. And never did desire to see thee more.
    3. Therefore be out of hope,

      A Note on the Verse

      This twelve-syllable line is composed of six regular iambics. It seems intentionally extra-metrical giving emphasis to the double ending "of questíon, of doubt."

      Unless John Dover Wilson's speculation is correct (see next note) it is not a classically balanced Alexandrine, but no edition has argued that it is corrupt. It is one of the few times in Midsummer that the verse seems purposely to deviate from iambic pentameter for a single line to make an interpretive point.

      of question, questïon,

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      questïon: kwes-chee-uhn [ˈkwɛs tʃi ən]; The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation is divided into two syllables in Elizabethan practice.

      Until recently, expanded endings of this type were frequently ignored in production practice, but with the growing interest in original pronunciation, it is becoming more common to observe them.

      of

      Textual Alternative

      of question or doubt] Wilson

      All three Renaissance editions agree in the reading "of," but John Dover Wilson pointed out this twelve syllable line would be a perfectly balanced Alexandrine if it used the more familiar phrase "question OR doubt."

      doubt
    4. Be certain, nothing truer: ’tis no jest
    5. That I do hate thee and love Helena.

    Hermia releases him.

    HERMIA

    1. O me! (To Helena.) You juggler conman juggaler,

      SCANSION: Expansion

      juggaler: juh-guh-ler [ˈdʒʌ gə lər]; As is common in everyday speech a "glide-vowel" is inserted in the middle of this word making it trisyllabic.

      you cankerblossom, destroyer of beauty
    2. You thief of love! What, have you come by night
    3. And stolen stol'n

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stol'n: stohln [ˈstoʊln]

      my love’s heart from him?

    HELENA

    1. Fine, i'

      Performance Practice

      This contraction was extremely common in Shakespeare's time, but it does not affect the scansion (except when preserving an archaic sound) so the word "in" is often fully pronounced in modern performance.

      faith.
    2. Have you no modesty, no maiden shame,
    3. No touch of bashfulness? What, will you tear
    4. Impatient answers from my gentle tongue?
    5. Fie, fie, you counterfeit, fake you puppet, you!

    HERMIA

    1. “Puppet?” Why so? Ay, that way goes the game.
    2. Now I perceive that she hath made compare
    3. Between our statures; she hath urg'd her height,
    4. And with her personage, pers'nage,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pers'nage: purs-nij [ˈpɜrs nɪdʒ]; By eliminating a central syllable consisting of an isolated schwa sound the word becomes bisyllabic. Notice that this does not apply to the second occurance in the line where the word is fully (and emphatically) trisyllabic.

      her tall personage,
    5. Her height, forsooth, she hath prevail'd with him. won over Lysander
    6. ——And are you grown so high in his esteem
    7. Because I am so dwarfish and so low?
    8. How low am I, thou painted maypole

      Folklore

      This is a double-insult. A maypole is a tall wooden pole used in various folk festivals around Europe. Here Hermia is calling Helena awkwardly tall and gangly. Painted is an allusion to the heavy use of make-up.

      Speak!
    9. How low am I? I am not yet so low
    10. But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes.

    HELENA

    1. I pray you, though you mock me, gentlemen,

      Textual Variant

      gentlemen] Q2F; gentleman Q1

      Q2's correction from the singular to the plural is uncontroversial.

    2. Let her not hurt me. I was never curst: quarrelsome
    3. I have no gift at all in talent for shrewishness. arguing
    4. I am a right maid typical woman for my cowardice. unwillingness to fight
    5. Let her not strike me. You perhaps may think,
    6. Because she is she's

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Because only one syllable is alloted, "she is" becomes contracted to "she's." This is not marked in the original texts, but is the sort of detail a trained actor was expected to be able to scan for themselves.

      something lower shorter than myself,
    7. That I can match her.

    HERMIA

    1. “Lower”? Hark, again!

    HELENA

    1. Good Hermia, Hermᵞa,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      do not be so bitter with me.
    2. I evermore did love have always loved you, Hermia,
    3. Did ever keep your counsels, secrets never wrong'd you:
    4. Save that, Except for in love unto Demetrius, because I love Demetrius
    5. I told him of your stealth unto eloping into this wood.
    6. He follow'd you: for love I follow'd him.
    7. But he hath chid me hence ordered me to go home and threaten'd me
    8. To strike me, spurn me, nay, to kill me too.
    9. And now, so if you will let me quiet go,
    10. To Athens will I bear my folly foolishness back
    11. And follow you no further. Let me go.
    12. You see how simple and how fond silly and foolish I am.

    HERMIA

    1. Why, get you gone. Who is it is't

      SCANSION: Shortening

      is't: ist [ɪst]. This common contraction is marked in all three early modern editions, making the scansion certain.

      that hinders you?

    HELENA

    1. A foolish heart that I leave here behind.

    HERMIA

    1. What, with Lysander?

    HELENA

    1. With Demetrius.

    LYSANDER

    1. Be not afraid. She shall not harm thee, Helena.

      A Note on the Verse

      This line is twelve syllables long, but not in the classically balanced form of an Alexandrine. No major editor has suggested corruption of the original, but since both extrametrical syllables are unstressed that suggests the line might well be incorrect. Perhaps the shortened form of the name, "Helen," was intended, in which case the line would be regular with a tail. A busy compositor might well have overlooked this detail and added a final "a" that was not in the manuscript.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. No, sir, she shall not, though you take her part.

    HELENA

    1. O, when she is she's

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Because only one syllable is alloted, "she is" becomes contracted to "she's."

      angry, she is keen and shrew'd. malicious
    2. She was a vixen hothead when she went to school,
    3. And though she be but little, she is fierce.

    HERMIA

    1. “Little” again? Nothing but “low” and “little.”
    2. ——Why will you suffer allow her to flout insult me thus?
    3. Let me come to her.

    LYSANDER

    1. Get you gone, you dwarf,
    2. You minimus tiny creature of hindering hind'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      hind'ring: hin dring [ˈhɪn drɪŋ]: This word follows the frequently observed principle that isolated schwa sounds can be eliminated in the middle of words

      knotgrass made,
    3. You bead, you acorn—

    DEMETRIUS

    1. You are too officious officᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      officᵞous: uh-fi-shuhs [əˈfɪ ʃəs]

    2. In her behalf that scorns your services. i.e. Helena, who rejects Lysander's suit
    3. Let her alone. Speak not of Helena.
    4. Take not her part. For if thou dost intend
    5. Never so little Even the slightest show of love to her,
    6. Thou shalt aby regret it.

    LYSANDER

    1. Now she holds me not.
    2. Now follow, if thou darest, dar'st,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      dar'st: dairst [dɛərst]. Although inauthentic practice this word is sometimes shortened to its modern form, "dare," for clarity in modern performance.

      to try whose right to fight over who has the best claim
    3. of thine or mine, yours or mine is most in to pursue Helena.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. “Follow”? Nay, I’ll go with thee, cheek by jowl. side by side

    Demetrius and Lysander exit.


    Unit 27 (ACT III.ii.h 352-358) 7 lines, 30 seconds

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 26)

    This extremely short scene (sometimes considered part of Unit 26) finishes the quartet, as Helena flees from Hermia.

    HERMIA

    1. You, mistress, all this coil is long trouble is because of you.

    Helena backs away.

    HERMIA

    1. Nay, go not back. No, don't try to escape

    HELENA

    1. I will not trust you, I,
    2. Nor longer stay in your curst hostile company.
    3. Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray: more ready to fight
    4. My legs are longer though, to run away.

    Helena exits.

    HERMIA

    1. I am amaz'd and know not what to say.

    Hermia exits.


    Unit 28 (ACT III.ii.j 359-409) 50 lines, 3'20"

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 27)

    Oberon orders Puck to create a fog in which to confuse and exhaust the dueling men. Once they fall asleep he is to use an herb that will act as an antidote to the magic spell previously placed on Lysander. Meanwhile Oberon intends to seek out Tytania and ask again for the changeling boy.

    OBERON

    1. This is thy negligence: Still thou mistakest mistak'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      mistak'st: mi-steykst [mɪˈsteɪkst]. Bisyllabic by elision of the final vowel.

    2. Or else committest committ'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      committ'st: kuh-mitst [kəˈmɪtst]. This is another one of those words that is occasionally (and inauthentically) shortened to its modern form, "commit," for clarity.

      thy knaveries knav'ries

      SCANSION: Shortening

      knav'ries: neyv-reez [ˈneɪv riz]; The isolated central schwa is eliminated to make this word, meaning "tricks," bisyllabic.

      willfully. purposely

    PUCK

    1. Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook:
    2. Did not you tell me I should know the man
    3. By the Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      garments he had on?
    4. And so far blameless proves my enterprise am I for my work

      A Note on the Verse

      With this line the unit shifts from blank verse into rhymed couplets.

    5. That I have 'nointed i.e. annointed an Athenian's Athenᵞan's

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      eyes:
    6. And so far am I glad it so did sort, turn out
    7. As this (their jangling) discord I esteem a sport. take for entertainment

    OBERON

    1. Thou seest these lovers seek a place to fight:
    2. Hie Hurry therefore, Robin, overcast the night,
    3. The starry welkin sky cover thou anon at once
    4. With drooping fog as black as Acheron,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Acheron is river in Greece that in classical mythology leads into the underworld, like the river Styx in Roman mythology. The dead were ferried across it by Charon in order to reach the Underworld.

      Charon

      Illustration by Gustave Dore for Dante's Inferno

      Public Domain

    5. And lead these testy rivals so astray
    6. As one come not within another’s way.
    7. Like to Imitating Lysander sometime frame thy tongue, ventriloquize
    8. Then stir Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      up with bitter wrong strong insults
    9. And sometime rail rant thou like Demetrius,
    10. And from away from each other look thou lead them thus,
    11. Till over o'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]

      Spelled "ore" in the Quarto, this is a certain shortening.

      their brows death-counterfeiting sleep deep, deep sleep
    12. With leaden legs and batty fluttering wings doth creep.
    13. Then crush this herb into Lysander’s eye,
    14. Whose liquor juice hath this virtuous virt(w)ous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      virt(w)ous: vur-chwuhs [ˈvɜr tʃwəs]. The liquid "w" sound is acting as a vowel in the word "virtuous," allowing the final two syllables to elide together into one.

      property:
    15. To take from thence away from him all error with his might power
    16. And make his eyeballs roll with wonted normal sight.
    17. When they next wake, all this derision derisïon

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      derisïon: dih-rih-zee-uhn [dɪˈrɪ zi ən]; The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation was divided into two syllables in Elizabethan speech.

      Until recently, expansions of this type were frequently ignored in production practice but with the growing interest in original pronunciation it is becoming more common to observe them.

    18. Shall seem a dream and fruitless insubstantial vision visïon

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      visïon: vih-zee-uhn [ˈvɪ zi ən]: The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation was divided into two syllables in Elizabethan speech.

      This word completes a couplet. It must rhyme with the preceding line, so whatever practice is followed there must be utilized here also.

    19. And back to Athens shall the lovers wend, proceed
    20. With league whose date till death shall never end. United in a life-long compact of friendship
    21. Whiles I in this affair do thee employ,
    22. I’ll to my queen go to Tytania and beg her Indian Indᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Indᵞan: in dyuhn [ˈɪn dyən]; Blended into two syllables.

      The two-syllable pronunciation is common in British dialects.

      boy,
    23. And then I will her charmed charmèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      charmèd: chahr-med [ˈtʃɑr mɛd]; The final two letters are separately sounded as a syllable.

      eye release
    24. From monster's view From her crush on Bottom and all things shall be peace. peaceful

    PUCK

    1. My fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
    2. For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast, cross the sky quickly
    3. And yonder shines Aurora’s

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn, who would fly across the sky and announce the arrival of the Sun.

      The actual object Puck is referring to is most likely the planet Mercury, which appears in the east just before sunrise.

      Painting

      "Apollo and Aurora" by Gerard de Lairesse (1671)

      Public Domain

      harbinger,
    4. At whose approach, ghosts wandering wand'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wand'ring: wahn dring [ˈwɑn drɪŋ]. This contraction is very common in everyday speech, and was so common in Elizabethan England that the word is actually spelled "wandring" in QF.

      here and there
    5. Troop home to churchyards. Damned Damnèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      Damnèd: dam-ned [ˈdæm nɛd]. The past tense is separately sounded as a syllable.

      spirits all,
    6. That in crossways and floods have burial,

      Folklore

      Here, Puck is differentiating between two different kinds of ghosts: those who have simply wandered from their graves and those who have no proper resting place. The latter are victims of natural disasters (thus “buried” in the water) and suicides (who were often buried at crossroads and not at churches). In particular, crossroads have long been associated with uneasiness where unnatural things might occur. They later became the place for the outcast and restless dead.

      Shakespeare emphasizes the difference between these darker spirits and the fairies that exist in the play.

    7. Already to their wormy beds are gone.
    8. For fear lest day should look their shames upon,
    9. They willfully themselves exile from light
    10. And must for aye consort with must always associate only with black-brow'd night.

    OBERON

    1. But we are spirits of another sort:
    2. I with the Morning’s love have oft made sport have flirted with Aurora, goddess of morning, herself.
    3. And, like a forester, the groves may tread
    4. Even E'en

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      In a contraction familiar from poetry and literature, even is shortened to a single syllable: een [in]

      'til the eastern gate, sky where the sun rises all fiery fi'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      fi'ry: fai-ree [ˈfaɪ ri]; Bisyllabic after elision of the central schwa [ə] in "fiery."

      red,
    5. Opening Op'ning

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Op'ning: ohp ning [ˈoʊp nɪŋ]. This is yet another case when the word becomes bisyllabic when the isolated central schwa is eliminated.

      on Neptune i.e. the ocean with fair blessed blessèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      blessèd: bles-ed [ˈblɛs ɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies two syllables.

      Although still less preferred than the one-syllable alternative, this is one of the few expanded endings that have survived into modern times and is still in use.

      beams
    6. Turns into yellow gold his salt-green streams.
    7. But notwithstanding, haste – make no delay.
    8. We may effect this business yet ere day. before dawn

    Oberon exits.


    Unit 29 (ACT III.ii.k 410-429) 19 lines, 1'15"

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 28)

    Puck stirs up a thick fog. Alternately imitating the voices of the two young men, he lures them into chasing shadows and wearing themselves down.

    PUCK

    1. Up and down, up and down,

      A Note on the Verse

      Puck slips again into his preferred form for magical incantations, iambic tetrameter, which begins each line with a silent beat (catalexis). In fact, the first line contains two of them, one before each "up." He finishes with a short prose line.

      Once Lysander enters, the unit returns to blank verse but with an exceptionally large number of shared lines and an odd line with a "tail" at 425.

      Performance Practice: Music

      Optional Song, or "Confusion Music"

      Nothing in the Elizabethan texts for this play indicate that Puck is singing here, but a popular song from the period with almost identical lyrics suggests that it is possible. Whether or not Puck sings, musical underscoring often used to suggest the fog rolling in and the comic confusion of the young men.

      A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    2. I will lead them up and down.
    3. I am fear'd in field and town:
    4. Goblin, Puck, himself lead them up and down.
    5. Here comes one.

    Enter Lysander.

    LYSANDER

    1. Where art thou, proud Demetrius? Demetr'us?

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      Speak thou now.

    (Imitating Demetrius’ voice)

    PUCK

    1. Here, villain, drawn and ready. with my sword prepared Where art thou?

    LYSANDER

    1. I will be with thee straight.

    (Imitating Demetrius’ voice)

    PUCK

    1. Follow me, then
    2. To plainer ground. an open space

    As Lysander exits, Demetrius enters.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Lysander, speak again.
    2. Thou runaway, thou coward, art thou fled?
    3. Speak! In some bush? Where dost thou hide thy head?

    (Imitating Lysander’s voice)

    PUCK

    1. Thou coward, art thou bragging to the stars,
    2. Telling the bushes that thou lookest look'st,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      look'st: lookst [lʊkst]; Monosyllabic. Although inauthentic, and scorned by purists, this word is sometimes shortened to its modern form, "look," for clarity in modern performance.

      for wars,
    3. And wilt not come? Come, recreant. coward recr'ant.

      SCANSION: Shortening

      recr'ant: rek rant [ˈre krənt]. "Recreant" loses its middle vowel through elision. Because this is difficult for a modern audience to parse, however, some productions leave it at full length then compensate by cutting one of the next two words. Of course, many productions simply ignore the problem.

      Come, thou child!
    4. I’ll whip thee with a rod. switch He is defil'd
    5. That draws a sword on thee. That would duel with a baby like you

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Yea, art thou there?

    (Imitating Lysander’s voice )

    PUCK

    1. Follow my voice: We’ll try no manhood fight no duels here.

    Both exit.


    Unit 30 (ACT III.ii.l 430-437) 8 lines, 30"

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 29)

    In rhyming couplets Lysander tells us (in soliloquy) that he is exhausted. He is giving up the fight until morning and is going to sleep.

    LYSANDER

    1. He goes before me and still dares me on.
    2. When I come where he calls, then he is gone.
    3. The villain is much lighter-heel'd quicker than I.
    4. I follow'd fast, but faster he did fly, run off
    5. That fallen fall'n

      SCANSION: Shortening

      fall'n: fawln [fɔln]; Monosyllabic. Although this may, at first, seem odd, it is quite common in hurried everyday speech.

      am I in dark uneven way, into a confusing, dark place
    6. And here will rest me. Come, thou gentle day,
    7. For if but once thou show me thy gray light,
    8. I’ll find Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      and revenge this spite. insult

    He lies down and sleeps.


    Unit 31 (ACT III.ii.m 437-482) 45 lines, 3'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 30)

    Puck lures Demetrius back again, where (like Lysander) he decides to give up on the fight and sleep. Shortly after, Helena and Hermia in turn, arrive and also fall asleep. Puck ends the act by applying the antidote to Lysander's eyes.

    Enter Puck, luring Demetrius with an imitation of Lysander's voice.

    PUCK

    1. Ho, ho, ho! Coward, why comest thou not?

      A Note on the Verse

      All early editions, and virtually all modern editions, print this as a nine-syllable line with "com'st" contracted. It seems unlikely that it was intended as a prose line, however, as it forms part of a couplet.

      All three lovers speak rhymed iambic pentameter in this unit, with both couplets and quatrains utilized.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Abide me, Wait for me if thou darest, dar'st,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      dar'st: dairst [dɛərst]. Although inauthentic practice this word is sometimes shortened to its modern form, "dare," for clarity in modern performance.

      for well I wot know
    2. Thou runnest runn'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      runn'st: runst [rʌnst]. Like "dar'st" in the previous line this word is sometimes shortened to its modern form, in this case "run," for clarity in modern performance.

      before me, shifting every place,
    3. And darest, dar'st,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      dar'st: dairst [dɛərst]. Whatever choice made with the occurrence of this word two lines earlier should be repeated here.

      not stand nor look me in the face.
    4. Where art thou now?

    PUCK

    1. Come hither. I am here.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Nay, then, thou mockest mock'st,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      mock'st: mokst [mɒkst]. As with the two previous cases in this unit, although inauthentic this word is occasionally shortened to its modern form, "mock," for clarity.

      me. Thou shalt buy this dear pay for this
    2. If ever I thy face by daylight see.
    3. Now go thy way. Faintness constraineth me
    4. To measure out my length stretch out on this cold bed.
    5. By day's approach When morning comes look to be visited.

    Demetrius lies down and sleeps.

    Enter Helena.

    HELENA

    1. O weary night, O long and tedious tedᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      tedᵞous: tee-juhs [ˈti dʒəs]

      The final two syllables bleed together.

      night,
    2. Abate Shorten thy hours! Shine, comforts, i.e. the sunrise from the east,
    3. That I may back go back to Athens by daylight
    4. From Leaving these that my poor company detest.
    5. And sleep, that sometimes shuts up sorrow's eye, provides a break from crying
    6. Steal me awhile from mine own company. Allow me to forget my troubles for a while.

    Helena lies down and sleeps.

    PUCK

    1. Yet but three? Come one more.

      A Note on the Verse

      Puck is again speaking in iambic tetrameter, utilizing a beginning catalexis, and sometimes a second one at the caesura.

    2. Two of both kinds makes up four.
    3. Here she comes, curst and sad.
    4. Cupid is a knavish lad
    5. Thus to make poor females mad.

    Enter Hermia.

    HERMIA

    1. Never so weary, never so in woe,
    2. Bedabbl'd Sprinkled with the dew and torn with briars,
    3. I can no further crawl, no further go.
    4. My legs can keep no pace with my desires.
    5. Here will I rest me till the break of day.
    6. Heavens Heav'ns

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      Heav'ns: hevnz [ˈhɛvnz]; In Elizabethan speech this word was shortened to "hea'ens" by eliminating the central consonant, rendering a pronunciation like "hens." Because this is no longer easily decodable by a modern audience, performance practice is now to retain the "v."

      Because of the difficulty of this contraction, it is not always observed in performance.

      shield Lysander if they mean a fray! to duel

    Hermia sleeps.

    During the speech, Puck applies the nectar to Lysander’s eyes.

    PUCK

    1. On the ground,

      A Note on the Verse

      This the only sustained speech in the play that is not written in an iambic meter. The first seven lines of this speech are in the very unusual anapestic dimeter–composed of two feet, each made up of two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed one. This is not easily apparent, however, because Shakespeare employs numerous variations throughout the speech. The first and fourth lines are headless (i.e. contain an empty beat called a catalexis) immediately after the caesura, while the third, sixth and seventh have mid-line tails (epic caesuras)–meaning they have feminine endings attached to their first anapest.

      The eighth through twelfth lines shift into Puck's familiar meter for incantations, iambic tetrameter. The third one of those lines uses heads (trochaic inversions) for both the first and third feet, however, which gives it a very different feeling.

      The final line of the speech returns to anapestic dimeter, starting with a catalexis. The net effect is dazzling rhythmic variety while actually using only two basic meters.

      That can be difficult to visualize, so the full speech is laid out below with accented syllables in bold; headless lines (i.e. catalexes) marked with this convention (X); and tails (feminine endings) marked by enclosing the syllable in square brackets []. The end of a foot is marked with a single stroke |, while a caesura is marked by a double stroke ‖.

      On the ground, ‖ (X) sleep sound. |

      I'll ap-ply ‖ to your eye, |

      Gen-tle lov[er], ‖ rem-e-dy. |

      When thou wak'st, ‖ (X) thou tak'st |

      True de-light ‖ in the sight |

      of thy for[mer] | la-dy's eye. |

      And the coun[try] | poverb known,

      That ev |'ry man | should take | his own,

      (X) In | your wa |king shall | be shown. |

      "Jack shall | have Jill; ‖ naught shall | go ill;"

      The man | shall have | his mare | again,

      (X) and all | shall be well.

      sleep sound.
    2. I’ll apply, to

      Textual Variant

      To] Q2F; omit Q1

      Missing in Q1, the addition of this word from Q2 is uncontroversial.

      your eye,
    3. Gentle lover, remedy.
    4. When thou wak'st, wak'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wak'st: waykst. [weɪkst] "Wakest" is contracted to a single syllable here by eliminating the final vowel sound.

      thou tak'st, tak'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      tak'st: taykst. [teɪkst] "takest" is contracted to a single syllable here by eliminating the final vowel sound.

    5. True delight in the sight
    6. Of thy former lady’s eye.
    7. And the country proverb known,
    8. That every man should take his own,
    9. In your waking shall be shown.
    10. "Jack shall have Jill; naught nothing shall go ill;"
    11. The man shall have his mare again,
    12. and all shall be well.

    Puck exits, leaving the four lovers asleep on the stage.


    Act 4

    Unit 32 (ACT IV.i.a 1-26) 14 verse lines and 12 prose speeches, 2'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 31)

    With the lovers still asleep onstage, Tytania enters with Bottom and lulls him to sleep with the assistance of her fairies. Original stage directions indicate that Oberon watches this scene silently in the background, although he plays no part in it.

    Tytania and Bottom enter with a train of fairies.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Fairy Theme

    If a musical theme is played at the top of Units 7 and 12, it is often used again here.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    TYTANIA

    1. Come sit thee down upon this flowery flow'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'ry: flou-ree [ˈflaʊ ri]

      The root of this word, flower, is often shortened in Shakespeare, and in everyday speech. This principle is extended here to the adjectival form.

      bed
    2. While I thy amiable adorable cheeks do coy caress
    3. And stick muskroses in on thy sleek smooth head
    4. And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.

      A Note on the Verse

      This speech by Tytania is in the form of a rhyming quatrain (ABAB). Throughout the rest of the scene she speaks in blank verse while Bottom answers her in prose.

    Tytania stroking Bottom's ears

    Bottom's "fair large ears"

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    BOTTOM

    1. Where’s Peaseblossom?

    PEASEBLOSSOM

    1. Ready.

    BOTTOM

    1. Scratch my head, Peaseblossom. ——Where’s Monsieur Cobweb?

    COBWEB

    1. Ready.

    BOTTOM

    1. Monsieur Cobweb, good monsieur, get you your weapons in your hand and kill me a red-hipp'd humble-bee bumblebee on the top of a thistle, and good monsieur, bring me the honey-bag.

      Biology

      Bees do not actually have a "honey-bag," but they can become thoroughly coated with pollen creating the impression they do.

      bee

      Melissodes druriella, F, Side, VA, Norfolk_2014-04-13-11.31.28 ZS PMax

      Public Domain

      Do not fret yourself too much in the action, monsieur, and good monsieur, have a care the honey-bag break not: I would be loath to have you overflown smothered with a honey-bag, signior. ——Where’s Monsieur Mustardseed?

    MUSTARDSEED

    1. Ready.

    BOTTOM

    1. Give me your neaf, hand Monsieur Mustardseed. Pray you, leave your courtesy don't treat me so formally good monsieur.

    MUSTARDSEED

    1. What’s your will?

    BOTTOM

    1. Nothing, good monsieur, but to help Cavalery soldier Cobweb to scratch. I must to the barber’s, monsieur, for methinks I am marvellous marvels

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Although this word occurs in a prose line, so is not subject to metrical adjustment, all early modern printings of the play indicate that Bottom speaks in dialect here using a shortened form of the word.

      hairy about the face and I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch.

    TYTANIA

    1. What, wilt thou hear some music, my sweet love?

    BOTTOM

    1. I have a reasonable good ear in music. Let’s have the tongs and the bones.

      Musical Instruments

      The tongs were a musical instrument comparable to the modern triangle, while the bones were clappers something like modern castanets. Bottom must not have as much affinity for music as he claims, as both of these are rhythm instruments that provide no tune. It is notable that Tytania seems to quickly distract him.

      tongs

      L'Allegra by Angelica Kauffman

      Public Domain

      Performance Practice: Music

      Optional Incidental Music

      Bottom is indicating music here, and the Folio (but not the quartos) has a stage direction calling for it to be played. This music is only rarely used in modern performance, and when it is it is often quickly interrupted.

      A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    TYTANIA

    1. Or say, sweet love, what thou desirest desir'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      desir'st: dih-zahyrst [dɪˈzaɪrst]. "Desirest" is elided by a syllable here through eliminating the final vowel sound.

      to eat.

    BOTTOM

    1. Truly, a peck of provender. lot of food I could munch your good dry oats. Methinks I have a great desire to a bottle handful of hay. Good hay, sweet hay, hath no fellow. comparison

    TYTANIA

    1. I have a venturous vent'rous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      vent'rous for "venturous": ven-chruhs [ˈvɛn tʃrəs]. This is yet another case of a word with a central schwa that can be isolated, where the sound is simply eliminated.

      fairy that shall seek
    2. The squirrel’s hoard and fetch thee off

      Editorial Emendation

      off] Taylor; omit QF

      In the Quartos and Folio, this line is only nine syllables long. Many modern editors suspect corruption. Taylor's emendation has been widely adopted. (Other suggestions have included "fetch thee thence" and "fetch for thee.") His idea seems more plausible than the alternative suggestion that "new" should be bisyllabic.

      new nuts.

    BOTTOM

    1. I had rather have a handful or two of dried peas. But, I pray you, let none of your people stir me: I have an exposition malaprop for disposition of sleep come upon me.

    TYTANIA

    1. Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.
    2. Fairies, begone, and be all ways away. scatter in all directions

    Fairies exit

    TYTANIA

    1. So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle

      Critical Insights

      This simile has long concerned critics because woodbine and honeysuckle, which seem here to be intertwining as Tytania and Bottom as about to, are two names for the same climbing vine. One way of understanding this line would be that "the sweet honeysuckle" is a parenthetic phrase renaming and defining "woodbine." Tytania is then saying that she is like "woodbine, i.e. honeysuckle."

      The more probable explanation, however, is simply that Shakespeare thought they were different plants.

    2. Gently entwist; the female ivy so
    3. Enrings Wraps around the barky fingers branches of the elm.
    4. O, how I love thee! How I dote on thee!

    Bottom and Tytania fall asleep.


    Unit 33 (ACT IV.i.b 27-84) 57 lines, 4'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 32)

    Oberon tells Puck that his quarrel with Tytania has ended, as she has surrendered the changeling boy to him. He orders Puck to restore Bottom to his human state, while he releases Tytania from her enchantment. Tytania wakes and is reconciled to Oberon.

    Puck enters.

    OBERON

    1. Welcome, good Robin. Seest thou this sweet sight?
    2. Her dotage infatuation now I do begin to pity:
    3. For, meeting her of late recently behind the wood just outside the forest
    4. Seeking sweet favors for this hateful fool,
    5. I did upbraid lecture her and fall out disagree with her.
    6. For she his hairy temples then had rounded crowned
    7. With coronet a wreath of fresh and fragrant flowers;
    8. And that same dew, which sometime formerly on the buds
    9. Was wont to swell like round and orient orᵞent

      SCANSION: Shortening

      orᵞent: ohr-yent [ˈoʊr yɛnt]: In this case we have yet another word-meaning "oriental"-in which the central, isolatable vowel is eliminated.

      pearls,
    10. Stood now within the pretty flowerets' flow'rets'

      SCANSION: Shortening

      flow'rets': floh-rets [ˈfloʊ rets]. This word, meaning "small flowers," uses the same principle as that which regularly makes the root word, "flower," sound more like "flour."

      eyes
    11. Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail. weep for
    12. When I had at my pleasure taunted her,
    13. And she in mild terms begg'd my patience, patïence,

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      patïence: pey-see-ents [ˈpeɪ sɪ ɛnts]. This is not always observed in modern performance, but it does not present intelligibility problems when it is.

    14. I then did ask of her her changeling child,
    15. Which straight immediately she gave me, and her fairy sent
    16. To bear him to my bower bow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      bow'r: bour [baʊr]. Like "flower," this word is usually truncated.

      in Fairyland.
    17. And now I have the boy, I will undo
    18. This hateful imperfection distorted hallucination of her eyes.
    19. And gentle Puck, take this transformed transformèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      transformèd: trans-fawr-med [trænsˈfɔr məd]; The past tense ending is sounded as a separate syllable.

      scalp head
    20. From off the head of this Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Elision

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      swain, yokel
    21. That he, awaking when the others

      Textual Alternative

      others] modern performance practice: other QF

      Almost all modern editions gloss that this singular reference should be understood to mean the plural, i.e. others. In modern performance, it is usually simply made so, as here.

      do,
    22. May all to Athens back again repair return
    23. And think no more of this night’s accidents
    24. But as the fierce vexation of a dream: vague anxiety after a nightmare
    25. But first I will release the Fairy Queen.

    Incanting as he applies the antidote to her eyes.

    OBERON

    1. Be as thou wast wont to be.

      A Note on the Verse

      For this incantation, Oberon uses the typical verse form utilized in this play for such actions: iambic tetrameter. The first, second, and fourth lines are "headless."

    2. See as thou wast wont to see.
    3. Dian's bud

      Mythology/Horticulture

      Dian's bud is the herb Artemisia, a species of wormwood. The goddess Diana (known to the Greeks as Artemis) is the protectress of virginity, and the flower sacred to her (according to what Oberon is saying) can counteract the erotic power of the love potion created from the flower struck by Cupid's arrow.

      Artemisia

      Artemisia absinthium plate 587 in: Otto Wilhelm Thomé: Flora von Deutschland, Österreich u.d. Schweiz, Gera (1885)

      This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

      over o'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      o'er: awr [ɔr]

      Cupid’s flower
    4. Hath such force and blessed blessèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      blessèd: bles-ed [ˈblɛs ɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies two syllables.

      Although still less preferred than the one-syllable alternative, this is one of the few expanded endings that have survived into modern times and is still in use.

      power.
    5. Now, my Tytania, wake you, my sweet queen.

    TYTANIA

    1. My Oberon, what visions have I seen!
    2. Methought I was enamor'd of in love with an ass.

    OBERON

    1. There lies your love.

    TYTANIA

    1. How came these things to pass?
    2. O, how mine eyes do loath his visage detest his face now!

    OBERON

    1. Silence awhile. ——Robin, take off this head.
    2. ——Tytania, music call, and strike more dead enchant more deeply
    3. Than common sleep of all these five the sense. the senses of these four lovers and Bottom.

    TYTANIA

    1. Music, ho, music such as charmeth sleep!

      Performance Practice: Music

      Etherial Music and Dance

      This is one of the central musical incidents in the play. There is some flexibility to what exactly happens in response to her call for music, (see the essay "Music and Dance in Midsummer" for details) but music clearly plays from an unseen source at this point, or when Oberon repeats the command two lines later. After some dialogue, they then dance, symbolically signaling their new-found harmony.

      A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    PUCK

    1. Now, when thou wakest, wak'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      wak'st: weykst [weɪkst]. In a commonly employed contraction, "wakest" is shortened to a single syllable.

      with thine own fool’s eyes peep. see

    OBERON

    1. Sound Play music. Come, my queen, take hands with me
    2. And rock the ground whereon these sleepers be. shake the ground with our dancing

    Tytania and Oberon dance.

    Oberon and Tytania dance

    Oberon and Tytania "rock the ground."

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    OBERON

    1. Now thou and I are new in amity, accord
    2. And will tomorrow midnight solemnly
    3. Dance in Duke Theseus' Thesᵞus'

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Thesᵞus': thees-yuhs [ˈθis yəs]. Occasionally, as in this case, this character's name occupies only two syllables. Here it is possessive, but it does not gain another syllable.

      house triumphantly,
    4. And bless it to all fair prosperity.
    5. There shall the pairs of faithful lovers be
    6. Wedded, with Theseus, Thesᵞus,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Thesᵞus: thees-yuhs [ˈθis yəs]. Occasionally, as in this case, this character's name occupies only two syllables.

      all in jollity.

    PUCK

    1. Fairy king,

      A Note on the Verse

      Puck shifts into "headless" iambic tetrameter with this couplet. Oberon and Tytania each have a subsequent speech (both made of two couplets) using the same meter as Puck.

      attend and mark: notice
    2. I do hear the morning lark.

    OBERON

    1. Then, my queen, in silence sad serious
    2. Trip Seek we after night's nightës

      SCANSION: Expansion

      nightës: nahyt tuhs ['naɪ təs]; Bisyllabic. George Steevens first proposed (in his 1773 edition) that the archaic two-syllable possessive was implied here in order to understand the line as metrically regular. Most modern editors accept this emendation. Those who do not just ignore the resulting irregularity and associated performance issues. See a similar case in Unit 7 at line 5.

      shade:
    3. We the globe can compass circle soon,
    4. Swifter than the wand’ring moon.

    TYTANIA

    1. Come, my lord, and in our flight
    2. Tell me how it came this night
    3. That I sleeping here was found
    4. With these mortals on the ground.

    Oberon, Puck, and Tytania exit

    Performance Practice

    In productions which double Oberon/Theseus and Tytania/Hippolyta, this exit can provide a challenge because the actors must immediately re-enter in their alternate identities. Many modern productions provide a small musical interlude or add a sunrise lighting effect here to cover, while others openly and theatrically stage a full costume change in front of the audience.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Incidental Music

    If the actors play Oberon and Tytania are doubling Theseus and Hippolyta, there may be a need for a brief musical interlude here to cover their off-stage (or on-stage) change of costume. This may bleed into the flourish indicated at the top of the next scene.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    leaving the lovers asleep onstage.


    Unit 34 (Act IV.i.c 85-184) 99 lines, 6'30"

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 33)

    As dawn breaks, Theseus and Hippolyta come across the sleeping lovers while they are out hunting. Egeus revives his complaint against Hermia, but Demetrius clarifies that he is now back in love with Helena and wants no part of the suit. Theseus overrules Egeus, blessing the engagement between Lysander and Hermia, and invites the two couples to be married at the same time he is joined with Hippolyta. The lovers briefly wonder if they are still asleep and dreaming before deciding that the Duke's offer must be real.

    Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus and their followers enter.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Horn Flourish

    The early texts call for a horn (rather than trumpet) flourish at this entrance, indicating that Theseus is out hunting rather than making a formal entrance into court. If a musical interlude is used as a transition between scenes, this is often the finish of it as opposed to a separate cue.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    The lovers are still asleep onstage.

    THESEUS

    1. Go, one of you, find out locate the forester, park ranger
    2. ——For now our observation celebration of May Day is perform'd,
    3. And, since we have the vaward of the day rest of the morning (available)
    4. My love shall hear the music of my hounds.

      Aristocratic Pastimes

      Hounds are a special breed of dog used for hunting in packs. This was a very popular sport in Shakespeare's time, and continued to fascinate the British aristocracy well into the Twentieth Century in the form of the fox hunt.

      hunting dogs

      "La vénerie" by Jacques du Fouilloux, 1560

      Public Domain

    5. ——Uncouple Unleash (the pairs) in the western valley,

      Scansion - Double Tails

      Taking into account the allowable variations, this is actually a regular line, but it employs a tail both here at the caesura and the line end so it has twelve syllables and a difficult rhythm. Late in Shakespeare's career such complicated metrics become common, but this is very unusual in this early play.

      let them go:
    6. ——Dispatch, Go quickly I say, and find the forester.

    An attendant exits.

    THESEUS

    1. We will, fair queen, up go to the mountain’s top
    2. And mark the musical confusion confusïon

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      confusïon:Kuhn-fyoo-zee-uhn [kənˈfyu zi ən]; The final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation was divided into two syllables in Elizabethan speech.

      Until recently, expansions of this type were frequently ignored in production practice but with the growing interest in original pronunciation it is becoming more common to observe them.

    3. Of hounds and echo in conjunction. conjunctïon.

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      conjunctïon: Kuhn-jungk-see-uhn [kənˈdʒʌŋk si ən]; As in the previous rhyming line, the final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation was divided into two syllables in Elizabethan speech.

      Because this is the second line of a couplet, whatever decision is made with the previous line should be matched here.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. I was with Hercules and Cadmus once,
    2. When in a wood of Crete they bay'd cornered the bear

      Aristocratic Pastimes

      Bear-baiting was a popular and violent form of the hunt in which a pack of dogs tracked, cornered and killed a bear. The dogs were much admired for their bravery in attacking and conquering a larger and stronger animal, and watching them was thought to provide instruction in courage.

      bear-baiting

      Painting by Abraham Hondius, 1650

      Public Domain

    3. With hounds of Sparta: Never did I hear
    4. Such gallant chiding, barking for, besides the groves,
    5. The skies, the fountains, every region near
    6. Seem'd

      Textual Variant

      Seem'd] F2; Seem QF

      All modern editions accept this correction to the past tense from the Second Folio.

      all one mutual unified mut'al

      SCANSION: Shortening

      mut'al: myoo-chwuhl [ˈmyu tʃwəl]; The final two syllables are blended in the manner still common in British dialects.

      cry. I never heard
    7. So musical a discord, noise such sweet thunder.

    THESEUS

    1. My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind: lineage
    2. So flew'd, So shaped so sanded, so colored and their heads are hung
    3. With ears that sweep away the morning dew,
    4. Crook-kneed, With strong legs and dewlapp'd with chin folds like Thessalian Thessálᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Thessálᵞan: the-sey-lyuhn [θɛˈseɪ lyən]; The final two syllables of this adjective are blended together.

      bulls,
    5. Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouth sound like bells,
    6. Each under each. Harmonizing in tone A cry more tunable melodious
    7. Was never hallo'd hollered to nor cheer'd with horn
    8. In Crete, in Sparta, nor in Thessaly.
    9. Judge when you hear. But soft, be quiet what nymphs creatures are these?

    EGEUS

    1. My lord, this is my daughter here asleep –
    2. And this Lysander – this Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      is –
    3. This Helena, old Nedar’s Helena.
    4. I wonder of their being here how it is they are here together.

    THESEUS

    1. No doubt they rose up early to observe
    2. The rite of May,

      Folklore

      May Day was the observance of the first day of summer, deriving from ancient pagan fertility festivals. By Shakespeare's time, the phallic procession had been tamed into a relatively benign dance around a pole, but it still held associations with fertility, which Theseus is slyly winking at in this line.

      May Day

      "May Day with people around the May Pole, 1920 (5857870435)" by OSU Special Collections & Archives : Commons - May Day with people around the May Pole, 1920

      Licensed under No restrictions via Wikimedia Commons

      and hearing our intent, plans
    3. Came here in grace of our solemnity. to celebrate with us
    4. But speak, Egeus. Is not this the day
    5. That Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      should give answer of her choice?

    EGEUS

    1. It is, my lord.

      A Note on the Verse

      This four syllable response cannot be connected to any other line to fill it out, as full iambic pentameter lines surround it. It is a true "short" line. Performance practice is to allow a pause, the length of six missing syllables, to be utilized after the line. It is a moment of great tension, and works very well in performance.

    THESEUS

    1. Go, bid the huntsmen wake them with their horns.

    A messenger exits.

    After a short pause, horns sound.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Horn Flourish

    The horns again sound here, startling the young lovers. This returns them to the waking world of mortals, after having been lulled to sleep by supernatural music.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    The lovers wake up, startled by the fanfare.

    THESEUS

    1. Good morrow, morning friends. Saint Valentine Valentine's Day is past.
    2. Begin these woodbirds but to couple now? Are these lovebirds just now, months late, beginning to find a mate?

    The lovers kneel.

    LYSANDER

    1. Pardon, my lord.

    THESEUS

    1. I pray you all, stand up.

    The four lovers rise.

    THESEUS

    1. I know you two are rival enemies.
    2. How comes this gentle concord agreeability in the world
    3. That hatred is so far from jealousy
    4. To sleep by hate an enemy and fear no enmity?

    LYSANDER

    1. My lord, I shall reply amazedly, amazèdly

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      amazèdly: uh-mey-zed-lee [əˈmeɪz ɛd li]; The past tense is sounded as a separate syllable.

    2. Half sleep, half waking: But as yet, I swear,
    3. I cannot truly say how I came here.
    4. But, as I think — for truly would I speak —
    5. And now I do bethink me, so it is:
    6. I came with Hermia Hermᵞa

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

      hither. Our intent
    7. Was to be gone from Athens, where we might,
    8. Without the peril of Beyond the enforceable range the Athenian th'Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Contraction andElision (the+vowel rule)

      th'Athenᵞan: thuh-theen-yun [ðəˈθin yən]; Both a contraction and an elision of "the Athenian."

      The+vowel rule, and elision:

      Two operations are at work here that reduce this line from 12 to 10 syllables: First, as in almost all instances where the word "the" precedes a word starting with a vowel, the two words are contracted by eliminating one of the vowels. Second, the suffix "ian" is pronounced in its one-syllable form.

      law…

    EGEUS

    1. Enough, enough! My lord, you have enough.
    2. I beg the law, the law upon his head.
    3. ——They would have stolen stol'n

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stol'n: stohln [ˈstoʊln]

      As is always the case in this play, Shakespeare treats "stolen" and monosyllabic.

      away, they would, Demetrius, Demetr'us,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

    4. Thereby to have defeated cheated you and me:
    5. You of your wife and me of my consent,
    6. Of my consent that she should be your wife.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. My lord, fair Helen told me of their stealth, elopement
    2. Of this their purpose hither coming here to this wood,
    3. And I in fury hither follow'd them,
    4. Fair Helena in fancy in love following foll'wing

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Foll'wing: fol-wing [ˈfɒl wɪŋ] This word becomes bisyllabic, using the principle by which when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      me.
    5. But, my good lord, I wot know not by what power
    6. (But by some power pow'r

      SCANSION: Shortening

      pow'r: powr [paʊr]; As is always the case in this play, Shakespeare treats this word as monosyllabic.

      it is) my love to Hermia, Hermᵞa,

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Hermᵞa: hurm-yuh [ˈhɜrm yʌ]; As here, this character's name often occupies only two syllables.

    7. Melted as the snow,

      Textual Alternatives

      "Is melted as the snow"] Rowe, or "Melted as melts the snow"] Wilson

      Most editors and dramaturgs interpret this nine syllable line as a headless line, or catalexis, correct as printed.

      "(X) Melted as the snow, seems to me now"

      However, Shakespeare's first editor, Rowe, assumed that a missing word should occupy the space of the catalexis and supplied "Is."

      In the Twentieth Century, John Dover Wilson also assumed textual corruption but could not accept Rowe's grammar. He, instead, suggested "Melted as melts…"

      seems to me now
    8. As the rememberance distant memory of an idle gaud worthless trinket
    9. Which in my childhood I did dote upon:
    10. And all the faith, the virtue of my heart,
    11. The object and the pleasure of mine eye,
    12. Is only Helena. To her, my lord,
    13. Was I betroth'd ere before I saw

      Editorial Emendation

      saw] Steevens; see QF

      The vast majority of modern editors accept the past tense as correct here.

      Hermia.
    14. But like a sickness

      Textual Alternative

      "in sickness," or "a sick man"] Rowe

      This is a difficult phrase, but makes grammatical sense if Demetrius is personifying his former sickness as his entire self. Many editors, from the very first editions, have wondered if the text is corrupt and the implication of "sick man" is the intended reading. Because it is easier for the audience to parse, this alternative is often adopted in contemporary performance. Others have simply preferred making the phrase parallel to that in the next line.

      did I loathe this food,
    15. But (as in health) come returned to my natural taste,
    16. Now I do wish it, love it, long for it,
    17. And will forevermore be true to it.
    Demetrius and Helena

    Demetrius and Helena are reconciled.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    THESEUS

    1. Fair lovers, you are fortunately met.
    2. Of this discourse strange story we more will hear anon. soon
    3. ——Egeus, I will overbear your will,

      Critical Insights

      At this moment, when Theseus simply overrules Egeus, he is doing what he said he could not do in Unit 2, at line 122. It is not uncommon for comedies to resolve suddenly in favor of what feels right socially even if there is little legal basis. Perhaps Theseus is not acting as a judge at this moment but is saving Egeus' dignity by taking responsibility instead of pointing out that, without Demetrius, his case has embarrassingly dissolved.

    4. For in the temple, by and by, with us,
    5. These couples shall eternally be knit. be joined forever, i.e. married
    6. And, for the morning now is something worn, mostly passed
    7. Our purpos'd planned hunting shall be set aside.
    8. Away with us to Athens. Three and three,
    9. We’ll hold a feast in great solemnity.
    10. ——Come, Hippolyta.

      A Note on the Verse

      This is another true "short" line, standing alone with only five syllables. If interesting business occurred in Unit 2, at line 124, the audience will find this a moment of great tension wondering what Hippolyta will do. It is a very effective moment to delay with a pause.

    Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus exit with their followers,

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Horn Flourish

    If a trumpet flourish signals Theseus' exit at the end of Unit 2, then a consistent choice might use a horn flourish for his exit here.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    leaving the lovers onstage.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. These things Recent events seem small and undistinguishable, undistinguish'ble,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      undistinguish'ble: uhn-dih-sting-gwish-bool [ʌn dɪˈstɪŋ gwɪʃ bʊl]; The final two syllables of this very long construction are elided.

    2. Like far-off mountains turned turnèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      turnèd: turn-ed [ˈtɜr nəd]; The past tense is sounded as a separate syllable.

      into clouds.

    HERMIA

    1. Methinks I see these things with parted eye crossed eyes
    2. When everything seems double.

    HELENA

    1. So methinks:
    2. And I have found Demetrius Demetr'us

      SCANSION: Variable Name Rule

      Demetr'us: dih-mee-truhs [dɪˈmi trəs]; As here, this character's name often occupies only three syllables. This is more common in the play than the four-syllable form.

      like a jewel,
    3. Mine own and not mine own. Once lost, but now found.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. It seems to me

      Textual Alternative

      Just before this line, many editions include a longer start to this speech. Both quarto editions begin with a half-line:

      "Are you sure"

      "That we are awake?" begins the next line before concluding with the text in this edition.

      On the basis of the metrical irregularity caused in both lines, Gary Taylor argues (and this edition accepts) that this alternative was a false start by the author in composition, and that it was intended to be deleted as—in fact—it is in the First Folio. Since the speech makes sense without this beginning, his logic seems impeccable.

      Editors who use the quarto reading ignore the resulting lack of metricality.

    2. That yet we sleep, we dream. we are still asleep and dreaming ——Do not you think
    3. The Duke was here and bid us follow him?

    HERMIA

    1. Yea, and my father.

    HELENA

    1. And Hippolyta.

    LYSANDER

    1. And he did bid us follow to the temple.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Why then we are awake. Let’s follow him,
    2. And by on the way let us recount our dreams.

    The lovers exit, leaving Bottom still asleep onstage.


    Unit 35 (ACT IV.i.d 185) 1 prose speech, 2'

    Location: A wood near Athens (continues from Unit 34)

    As the stage clears, Bottom wakes up. In direct address to the audience he tells us that he believes all that happened to him was just a dream, but a wonderful one that should be commemorated in a ballad.

    Bottom slowly wakes up.

    BOTTOM

    1. When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer. My next next line is “Most fair Pyramus.” ——Hey-ho. Peter Quince? ——Flute the bellows-mender? ——Snout the tinker? ——Starveling? ——God's my life! Oath: God save my life. Stolen hence and left me asleep? I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream… past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was… there is no man can tell what. Methought I was… and methought I had… but man is but a patch'd fool i.e. a jester if he will offer to say what methought I had. 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. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be call'd “Bottom’s Dream” because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the latter end of a play, before the Duke. Peradventure, Perhaps, maybe to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.

    Bottom exits.


    Unit 36 (Act IV.ii.a 1-9) 9 prose lines, 1'

    Location: Unspecified interior, but usually the same scenery as Unit 6

    Bottom's friends wonder where he is and worry about him. They lament that without him they cannot perform their play, which would have earned them all a tidy reward. Snug is sure that Bottom would have been rewarded with a lifelong pension.

    Quince, Flute, Snout and Starveling enter.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Rustic Music

    If a rustic theme song is employed at the beginning of Unit 6, it often returns again here.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    QUINCE

    1. Have you sent to Bottom’s house? Is he come home yet?

    STARVELING

    1. He cannot be heard of. There is no news of him. Out of doubt Undoubtedly he is transported. spirited away

    FLUTE

    1. If he come not, then the play is marr'd: ruined It goes not forward, doth it?

    QUINCE

    1. It is not possible. You have not a man in all Athens able to discharge perform Pyramus but he.

    FLUTE

    1. No, he hath simply the best wit of any handicraftman in Athens.

    QUINCE

    1. Yea, and the best person too, and he is a very paramour for a sweet voice.

    FLUTE

    1. You must say “paragon.” A paramour is (God bless us) a thing of naught. a naughty thing

    Enter Snug.

    SNUG

    1. Masters, the Duke is coming from the temple, and there is two or three lords and ladies more married. If our sport entertainment had gone forward, we had all been made men. become rich

    FLUTE

    1. O, sweet bully buddy Bottom! Thus hath he lost six pence a day a pension of six cents per day during his life. He could not have 'scap'd avoided six pence a day. An If the Duke had not given him six pence a day for playing Pyramus, I’ll be hang'd. He would have deserv'd it. Six pence a day in Pyramus, or nothing!

    Unit 37 (ACT IV.ii.b 10-14) 5 prose speeches, 1'

    Location: An interior (continues from Unit 36)

    Bottom arrives to tell his friends that he will not speak of his experiences in the woods, but the Duke has selected their play and they must get ready.

    Bottom enters.

    BOTTOM

    1. Where are these lads? Where are these hearts? hearty friends

    QUINCE

    1. Bottom! O most courageous day! O most happy hour!

    BOTTOM

    1. Masters, I am to discourse wonders: But ask me not what, for, if I tell you, I am not true Athenian… I will tell you everything right as it fell out.

    QUINCE

    1. Let us hear, sweet Bottom.

    BOTTOM

    1. Not a word of me. All that I will tell you is that the Duke hath din'd. Get your apparel together – good strings to your beards, new ribbons to your pumps – meet presently at the palace. Every man look o’er his part. For the short and the long is, our play is preferr'd. In any case, let Thisbe have clean linen, and let not him that plays the lion pare his nails, for they shall hang out for the lion’s claws… And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath, and I do not doubt but to hear them say it is a sweet comedy. No more words… Away. Go, away!

    Everyone exits.


    Act 5

    Unit 38 (ACT V.i.a 1-27) 27 verse lines, 2'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (This unit usually employs the same scenery as Unit 1.)

    In a brief dialogue reminiscent of Unit 1, Theseus and Hippolyta discuss the oddity of the lovers' recollection of their night in the woods, which Hippolyta believes and Theseus doubts.

    Theseus, Hippolyta, and Philostrate enter, possibly with additional attendants.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Optional Trumpet Flourish

    If a trumpet flourish signals Theseus' entrance at the top of the show, then it might be repeated again here.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. ’Tis strange, my Theseus, that what these lovers speak of.

    THESEUS

    1. More strange than true. I never may believe
    2. These antique ántique

      SCANSION: Archaic Stress

      First syllable stress, like "antic": an-tik [ˈæn tɪk]. Q2 and the Folio spell the word "anticke."

      fables, nor these fairy toys. tales
    3. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
    4. Such shaping creative fantasies, that apprehend imagine
    5. More than cool reason ever comprehends:
    6. The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
    7. Are of imagination all compáct. alike
    8. One sees more devils than vast hell can hold:
    9. That is the madman.

      Scansion - Double Tails

      Taking into account the allowable variations, this is actually a regular line, but it employs a tail both here at the caesura and at the line end so it has twelve syllables and a difficult rhythm. Late in Shakespeare's career such complicated metrics become common, but this is very unusual in this early play.

      The lover, all as frantic, just as crazy
    10. Sees Helen’s beauty

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Helen (of Troy) was, according to legend, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her abduction by the Trojan prince, Paris, was allegedly the cause of the Trojan War.

      This semi-mythological figure was a character of much fascination for the Elizabethan audience. At roughly the same time as Shakespeare was writing Midsummer, her mesmerizing beauty was celebrated in biggest hit on the London stage, Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, with the line “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?”

      Ironically, Theseus may know exactly whereof he speaks because an alternate legend holds that in his youth, like Paris, he also attempted to abduct her with the intent to make her his wife, although his effort was ultimately foiled.

      Guido Reni painting

      "The Rape of Helen" (detail), by Guido Reni. Photo by Wikimedia User Coyau

      This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.

      in a brow of Egypt. an average face
    11. The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
    12. Doth glance from heaven heav'n

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      heav'n: hevn [ˈhɛvn]; In Elizabethan practice this word was shortened to "hea'en" by eliminating the central consonant, rendering a pronunciation like "hen." Because this is no longer easily decodable by a modern audience, performance practice is now to retain the "v" but bleed the final "n" into it.

      1. Because that is difficult to do, some actors choose to scan the line, "Doth glance from heaven t'Earth." This is not authentic practice, as the pattern of stressed syllables is amiss, but it is a practical solution sometimes adopted for the sake of clarity.

      2. This shortening probably applies to the repeated appearance of the word at the end of the line, but it is alternatively possible to scan the line as having a "tail," and for clarity sake that is the usual performance practice in contemporary productions.

      to Earth, from Earth to heaven,
    13. And as imagination bodies forth creates bodies for
    14. The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
    15. Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
    16. A local habitation form and a name.
    17. Such tricks hath strong imagination imaginatïon

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      imaginatïon: ih-ma-juh-ney-see-uhn [ɪˌmæ dʒəˈneɪ si ən]; For the sake of the meter, the final syllable of the contemporary pronunciation is divided into two syllables, following occasional Elizabethan practice.

      This is not always observed in contemporary production, but with the renewed interest in original pronunciation it is becoming more common.

    18. That, if it would but apprehend imagination wants to feel some joy,
    19. It comprehends invents some bringer of that joy.
    20. Or in the night, imagining some fear,
    21. How easy is a bush suppos'd mistaken for a bear.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. But all the story of the night told over,
    2. And all their minds transfigur'd so together, transformed in the same way
    3. More witnesseth Testify to more than fancy's images hallucinations
    4. And grows to something of great constancy, consistency
    5. But howsoever, in any case strange and admirable. adm'rable.

      SCANSION: Shortening

      adm'rable: ad-mruh-buhl [ˈæd mrə bəl]; The two central syllables are elided, as is still common in many British dialects


    Unit 39 (ACT V.i.b 28-109) 81 lines, 5'20"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 38)

    The lovers (now married) join Theseus and Hippolyta. Theseus selects Pyramus and Thisbe, the play by the rude mechanicals, for the evening's entertainment despite Hippolyta's concerns and Philostrate's strong objections.

    Lysander with Hermia, and Demetrius with Helena, enter.

    THESEUS

    1. Here come the lovers full of joy and mirth.
    2. ——Joy, gentle friends! Joy and fresh days of love
    3. Accompany your hearts!

    LYSANDER

    1. More than to us More good things than you wish for us
    2. Wait in Attend you in your royal walks, your board, your bed!

    THESEUS

    1. Come now, what masques

      Theatre History

      The masque was a royal entertainment, in the form of an elaborate pageant, popular in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. The line between audience and participants was blurred, as the royal patrons often participated as dancers in these spectacular musical allegories.

      Originally a kind of impromptu variety show built around a theme introduced by a masked figure (hence the name) consisting mostly of standard songs and dances fitting with the evening’s classical subject, by Shakespeare’s time these had developed elaborate theatrical plots with original songs, dances and musical interludes.

      Shakespeare’s contemporary, Ben Jonson, wrote a number of these for the English court, which were designed by Inigo Jones. Of particular interest is one called Oberon, the Faery Prince, in which Crown Prince Henry played the title role. (The design for his costume can be seen in the List of Characters.)

      In Oberon the masque opens in front of a rocky outcropping. This was the original design:

      Inigo Jones design

      Inigo Jones design

      This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.

      This painting split apart to reveal a scrim showing the exterior of Oberon’s palace:

      Inigo Jones design

      Inigo Jones design

      This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.

      This was subsequently backlit, rendering it transparent, to show the interior of the palace. It was on this final set that the evening ended with a dance featuring Prince Henry and his mother, Queen Anne.

      Inigo Jones design

      Inigo Jones design

      This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.

      Short versions of masques are inserted in many plays of the period, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Henry VIII and the one that concludes Midsummer.

      what dances shall we have
    2. To wear away fill up this long age of three hours
    3. Between our after-supper and bedtime?
    4. Where is our usual manager of mirth? entertainment supervisor
    5. What revels entertainments are in hand? Is there no play
    6. To ease the anguish of a torturing tort'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      tort'ring: tawr-chring [ˈtɔr tʃrɪŋ]; This is yet another case where the isolated middle schwa is eliminated.

      hour?
    7. Call Philostrate.

      Textual Alternative

      Egeus] F

      In the Folio, this line is changed to "Call Egeus," and throughout the rest of this scene all of Philostrate's lines are assigned to him. This alternative is discussed in the essay, "About the Text."

    PHILOSTRATE

    1. Here, mighty Theseus.

    THESEUS

    1. Say what abridgment ways to make the time pass have you for this evening,
    2. What masque, what music? How shall we beguile
    3. The lazy time if not with some delight?

    PHILOSTRATE

    1. There is a brief list of how many sports diversions are ripe: ready
    2. Make choice of which your Highness will see first.

    THESEUS

      (possibly shared with one or more respondents)

      Textual Alternative

      Reassignment of speeches] F

      In the Folio text Egeus (in the role that this edition assigns to Philostrate) hands the list of entertainments to Lysander to read. All the titles that appear in this speech in bold type are read aloud by Lysander, with Theseus commenting on them, rather than Theseus doing both tasks himself. In modern production, it is common to reassign the titles to one or more speakers. A longer discussion of this change appears in the discussion of editorial principles.

    1. “The battle with the centaurs,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Centaurs are mythical beasts, half horse and half human. A story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells of drunken centaurs trying to kidnap the bride of the king of the Lapith people from her own wedding, but the Lapith men fought them off. Although the mechanicals may have picked a poor subject for a wedding celebration, this one would have been even worse.

      Centaur

      A metope from the Parthenon, now in the British Museum

      Photo by the editor. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

      to be sung
    2. By an Athenian Athenᵞan

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Athenᵞan: uh-theen-yuhn [əˈθin yən]; Shortened to three syllables by bleeding the last two syllables together. This is the usual form of this frequently-used word in this play.

      eunuch to the harp.”
    3. We’ll none of that. That have I told my love promised Hippolyta
    4. In glory of deference to my kinsman Hercules.
    5. “The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      In yet another case of an inappropriate subject for a wedding entertainment, again taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, this references the story of the death of Orpheus at the hands of the ecstatic followers of Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) for rejecting the worship of their god and declining the love of women.

      drawing

      Albrecht Dürer, The Death of Orpheus, pen and ink drawing, 1494 (Kunsthalle, Hamburg).

      This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.

    6. Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.”
    7. That is an old device, skit and it was play'd
    8. When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
    9. “The thrice-three Muses

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      The nine (= thrice three) muses were the inspirational goddesses of the arts. Even today the practice of the arts is associated with poverty, and apparently Theseus (who, according to the mechanicals, intends to reward the performers at his wedding feast well) does not wish to be lectured on the lack of support for the arts.

      Muses

      The nine muses on a Roman sarcophagus (second century AD) — Louvre, Paris

      Photo released to the public domain by its creator, Wikimedia user Jastrow (Marie-Lan Nguyen).

      mourning for the death
    10. Of learning, late deceas'd in beggary.”
    11. That is some satire, keen and critical,
    12. Not sorting with appropriate for a nuptial ceremony.
    13. “A tedious tedᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      tedᵞous: tee-juhs [ˈti dʒəs]

      The final two syllables bleed together.

      brief scene of young Pyramus
    14. And his love Thisbe, very tragical mirth.”
    15. Merry and tragical? Tedious Tedᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Tedᵞous: tee-juhs [ˈti dʒəs]

      The final two syllables bleed together.

      and brief?
    16. That is hot ice and wondrous wondërous

      SCANSION: Expansion

      wondërous: wuhn-der-uhs [ˈwʌn dər əs]; Utilizing a pronunciation that possibly derives from Shakespeare's rural roots, this word gains a medial glide vowel and expands to three syllables.

      strange

      Textual Alternatives

      strange black] Taylor; sable] McDonald; swarthy] Dyce

      In the Oxford Shakespeare, Gary Taylor considers, but rejects, the three-syllable pronunciation of "wondrous" this edition adopts because at all other points in the canon this word is bisyllabic. (Using an alternative pronunciation is well within Shakespeare's standard practice, however.) Taylor instead diagnoses corruption of the text and proposes a word is missing in the line. After listing a range of possibilities he settles on "black," even though it disturbs the meter. (This solution dates back as far as Edward Capell, but Taylor makes the modern case.)

      Russ McDonald (Pelican) makes a similar emendation by replacing "strange," with the two-syllable word, "sable." Because it is metrical, this solution works better in performances.

      Chaudhuri (Arden3) accepts Alexander Dyce's emendation to "swarthy" for similar reasons.

      snow!
    17. ——How shall we find the concord of unity in this discord? set of opposites

    PHILOSTRATE

    1. A play there is, my lord, some ten words long
    2. (Which is as brief as I have known a play)
    3. But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
    4. Which makes it tedious, tedᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      tedᵞous: tee-juhs [ˈti dʒəs]

      The final two syllables bleed together.

      for in all the play,
    5. There is not one word apt, one player fitted: appropriately cast actor
    6. And tragical, my noble lord, it is,
    7. For Pyramus therein doth kill himself,
    8. Which, when I saw rehears'd, I must confess,
    9. Made mine eyes water, but more merry tears
    10. The passion of loud laughter never shed.

    THESEUS

    1. What are they that do play it?

      A Note on the Verse

      As frequently happens in later plays, but only very rarely in early plays like this, Shakespeare has inserted a short, blunt prose line in the middle of a long passage of verse. (Because this line is seven syllables long, a few scholars scan this as another case of headless iambic tetrameter, and relate it to Theseus' doppelgänger, Oberon's, use of that form. The rhythm does not scan evenly, however, and it is unlikely that was the intent.)

    PHILOSTRATE

    1. Hardhanded men Manual laborers that work in Athens here,
    2. Which never labor'd in their minds till now,
    3. And now have toil'd taxed their unbreath'd unused memories
    4. With this same play, against in time for your nuptial. nuptuäl.

      SCANSION: Expansion

      nuptuäl: nuhp-shoo-uhl [ˈnʌp ʃu əl]; Having warned against the common three-syllable corruption several times earlier in the text, here it must be acknowledged that the scansion indicates that it should, indeed, be used.

    THESEUS

    1. And we will hear it.

    PHILOSTRATE

    1. No, my noble lord,
    2. It is not for you. I have heard it over,
    3. And it is nothing, nothing in the world:
    4. Unless you can find sport in their intents,
    5. Extremely stretch'd and conn'd memorized with cruel pain,
    6. To do you service.

    THESEUS

    1. I will hear that play,
    2. For never anything can be amiss
    3. When simpleness and duty tender it.
    4. Go bring them in, ——and take your places ladies.

    Philostrate exits.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. I love not to see wretchedness poor wretches overcharg'd o'ercharg'd

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      "Over" becomes "o'er": awr-chahrjd [ɔrˈtʃɑrdʒd]. It is a conventional contraction to shorten "over" to "o'er," even when it appears as part of a longer word.

    2. And duty in his service perishing.

    THESEUS

    1. Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. He says they can do nothing in this kind. in these circumstances

    THESEUS

    1. The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.
    2. Our sport pleasure shall be to take accept what they mistake,
    3. And what poor duty cannot do,

      A Note on the Verse

      In all early versions of the text, the first two words of the next line - "noble respect" - are appended here, making this an Alexandrine, but making the next line completely irregular. This edition agrees with the editors who propose treating this line as regular tetrameter, and the next line as regular with a "tail," as the most metrically clear presentation of these complicated, and possibly corrupt, lines.

    4. Noble respect Our respectful attitude takes it in might, not merit. grades for effort, not effect
    5. Where I have come, great clerks have purposed purposèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      purposèd: pur-puh-sed [ˈpɜr pə sɛd]; The past tense is sounded as a separate syllable.

    6. To greet me with premeditated welcomes prepared speeches
    7. Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
    8. Make periods perᵞods

      SCANSION: Shortening

      perᵞods: peer-yuhdz [ˈpɪər yədz]. Bisyllabic.

      in the midst of sentences,
    9. Throttle their practic'd accent Choke (literally and figuratively) in their fears,
    10. And in conclusion dumbly have broke off, fall silent
    11. Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,
    12. Out of this silence yet I pick'd a welcome,
    13. And in the modesty of fearful awed, frightened duty,
    14. I read infer as much as from the rattling tongue
    15. Of saucy snarky and audacious over-confident eloquence.
    16. Love, therefore, and tongue-ti'd simplicity
    17. in least By their silence speak most, to my capacity. way of thinking

    Unit 40 (ACT V.i.c 110-121) 11 lines, 1'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 39)

    Peter Quince begins the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe by reading a prologue. Unfortunately, he confuses the phrasing in such a way as to change his intented meanings to their opposites.

    Philostrate enters.

    PHILOSTRATE

    1. So please your Grace, the Prologue first actor is address'd. ready

    THESEUS

    1. Let him approach.

      A Note on the Verse

      This four syllable line is free-standing, presumably to allow time for Quince to make a comic entrance in the space of the "empty" six syllables.

    Peter Quince enters to deliver the prologue to his play.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Trumpet Flourish

    In keeping with standard theatrical practice in the actual playhouse, a Folio-only stage direction tells us the Mechanicals have a trumpet flourish to start their performance, which (of course) may not be as competent as the real one at the play’s start.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    QUINCE

    1. If we offend,

      Critical Insights

      This speech is punctuated on the page in the manner in which Quince "incorrectly" delivers it with pauses in all the wrong places. To help clarify the nature of his comic mistakes, Harold F. Brooks printed the "correctly" punctuated speech thus:

      "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:

      This 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..."

      it is with our goodwill.
    2. That you should think we come not to offend,
    3. But with goodwill. To show our simple skill,
    4. That is the true beginning of our end. purpose
    5. Consider, then, we come but in despite.
    6. We do not come, as minding intending to content you,
    7. Our true intent is. All for your delight
    8. We are not here. That you should here repent you,
    9. The actors are at hand, and, by their show,
    10. You shall know all that you are like to know.

    Quince exits.


    Unit 41 (ACT V.i.d 122-125) 4 prose speeches,

    A Note on the Prose

    Throughout the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe the onlookers comment on the verse play in prose asides. This cleverly reverses the usual formula where noble speakers use verse and common characters speak in prose.

    less than 1'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 40)

    As the cast of Pyramus and Thisbe prepares to enter, the observers comment on Peter Quince's bungled prologue.

    THESEUS

    1. This fellow doth not stand upon points. observe punctuation marks

    LYSANDER

    1. He hath rid his prologue like a rough an unbroken colt; he knows not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not enough to speak, but to speak true.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. Indeed he hath play'd on this prologue like a child on a recorder: a sound, but not in government. tune

    THESEUS

    1. His speech was like a tangl'd chain: nothing impair'd, but all disorder'd. Who is next?

    Unit 42 (ACT V.i.e 126-152) 26 lines, 2'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 41)

    As Peter Quince narrates in verse with a dubious rhyme scheme, the cast mimes the plot of Pyramus and Thisbe. This "dumbshow" serves as a kind of preview.

    The cast enters.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Trumpet Flourish

    In another Folio-only stage direction, a trumpet flourish is again indicated here. In modern performance, the flourish is sometimes played at Unit 40, or played here, but rarely both. The quartos do not indicate either instance.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    Bottom is playing Pyramus, Flute is playing Thisbe, Snout is dressed as a wall, Starveling is carrying several symbols associated with the moon, and Snug is dressed as a lion. Peter Quince continues in his role as Prologue.

    QUINCE

    1. Gentles, perchance perhaps you wonder at this show,
    2. But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.
    3. This man is Pyramus, if you would know:
    4. This beauteous beautᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      beautᵞous: byoo-tyuhs [ˈbyu tyəs]; The final two syllables of "beauteous" bleed together.

      lady Thisbe is certain, certaín.

      SCANSION: Comic Emphasis

      The emphasis is on the second syllable, but this is not (as commonly supposed) an archaic accent. It is just a joke about how the rhyme is being forced by a poor writer.

    5. This man with lime and roughcast grout doth present
    6. Wall, that vile wall which did these lovers sunder: separate
    7. And through Wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content
    8. To whisper, at the which let no man wonder.
    9. This man, with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn,
    10. Presenteth Moonshine, for, if you will know,
    11. By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn
    12. To meet at Ninus’ tomb, there, there to woo:
    13. This grisly beast (which Lion hight is called by name)
    14. The trusty Thisbe coming first by night
    15. Did scare away, or rather did affright:
    16. And, as she fled, her mantle scarf she did fall, drop
    17. Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.
    18. Anon Soon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,
    19. And finds his trusty Thisbe’s mantle slain.
    20. Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
    21. He bravely broach'd his boiling bloody breast.
    22. And Thisbe, tarrying in mulberry mulb'ry

      SCANSION: Shortening

      mulb'ry: muhl-bree [ˈmʌl bri]. As is still common in many British dialects, this word is bi–, rather than tri–, syllabic.

      shade,
    23. His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest,
    24. Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain
    25. At large length discourse, speak while here they do remain.
    The cast of the dumb show

    The entire plot of Pyramus and Thisbe is presented in dumb show (pantomime) before it is acted out.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    THESEUS

    1. I wonder if the lion be to speak.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. No wonder, my lord: One lion may when many asses do.

    Snug (Lion), Flute (Thisbe), Starveling (Moonshine), and Quince exit.


    Unit 43 (ACT V.i.f 153-165) 12 lines, 1'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 42)

    Snout, playing a speaking wall, begins the play by telling the audience in couplets he represents the fence that divided Pyramus and Thisbe. The nobles make fun of him in prose asides.

    SNOUT

    1. In this same interlude it doth befall
    2. That I, one Snout by name, present a wall:
    3. And such a wall as I would have you think
    4. That had in it a cranni'd hole or chink
    5. Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe,
    6. Did whisper often, very secretly...
    7. This loam, this roughcast, and this stone doth show
    8. That I am that same wall. The truth is so.
    9. And this the cranny is, right and sinister, siníster

      SCANSION: Comic Emphasis

      The emphasis falls here on the second syllable for comic effect. The line also puns on the double meaning of "sinister," because it is the Latin word for "left."

    10. Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.

    THESEUS

    1. Would you desire lime and hair the ingredients of mortar to speak better?

    DEMETRIUS

    1. It is the wittiest partition wall that ever I heard discourse, give a speech my lord.

    THESEUS

    1. Pyramus draws near approaches the wall. Silence.

    Unit 44 (ACT V.i.g 166-179) 13 lines, 1'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 43)

    Playing the part of Pyramus, Bottom delivers a terrible bit of doggerel verse addressed to the wall. Theseus pokes gentle fun at him, but Bottom utterly fails to get the joke and instead reassures him that the play is scripted.

    Bottom

    1. O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black!
    2. O night, which ever art when day is not:
    3. O night, O night, alack, alack, alack,
    4. I fear my Thisbe’s promise is forgot.
    5. ——And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,
    6. That standest stand'st

      SCANSION: Shortening

      stand'st: standst [stændst]; Monosyllabic after the final vowel sound is eliminated.

      between her father’s ground and mine,
    7. Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,
    8. Show me thy chink to blink through with mine eyne. eyes
    9. Thanks, courteous curtᵞous

      SCANSION: Shortening

      curtᵞous: kur-tyuhs [ˈkɜr tyʌs]; Bisyllabic. the word "courteous" occupies only two syllables in the scansion. Many words with a central syllable consisting of only one vowel sound were, in Elizabethan English, interchangeably pronounced as trisyllabic or (by losing their middle vowel) bisyllabic. (The word "violet," at line 253 in Unit 11, is another example.) The scansion tells us the latter is the case here.

      wall. Jove shield thee God reward you well for this.
    10. But what see I? No Thisbe do I see.
    11. O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss,
    12. Curs'd be thy stones

      Bawdy

      This scene will repeatedly pun on the Elizabethan use of "stones" as slang for "testicles."

      for thus deceiving me!

    THESEUS

    1. The wall, methinks, being sensible, apparently alive should curse again. back at Pyramus

    BOTTOM

    1. 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 turn out as I told you. Yonder she comes.

    Unit 45 (ACT V.i.h 180-198) 18 lines, 1'10"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 44)

    Flute, playing the role of Thisbe, enters and continues the play-within-the-play. In it, Pyramus and Thisbe are frustrated by the wall that separates them, and agree to meet at Ninus' tomb.

    Flute enters, costumed as Thisbe.

    FLUTE

    1. O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans
    2. For parting my fair Pyramus and me.
    3. My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones,

      Bawdy

      The bawdy implication of "stones" to suggest "testicles" continues here, probably because Snout is creating the "chink" by holding his fingers somewhere near his groin. This low humor will reach its peak at "kissed the wall's hole" at line 194, and sometimes continues with "discharged my part" at line 197.

    4. Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.

      Textual Variant

      up in thee] F ; now again Qq

      The reading from the quartos is nonsense, and does not rhyme. All editors accept the Folio's correction.

    BOTTOM

    1. I see a voice: Now will I to the chink
    2. To spy an see if I can hear my Thisbe’s face.
    3. Thisbe?

    FLUTE

    1. My love! Thou art my love, I think.

    BOTTOM

    1. Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover’s grace,
    2. And, like Limander,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Bottom is mispronouncing the name Leander, the protagonist of yet another myth retold by Ovid. The myth was a particularly popular and recognizable in Shakespeare’s time due to a recent (and racy) narrative poem by Christopher Marlowe on the subject.

      Marlowe’s poem in mostly concerned with the seduction of a priestess of Venus, named Hero, by a lusty young man who would swim the Hellespont nightly to make forbidden love to her. The myth ends tragically, when Leander gets disoriented on a stormy night and drowns after losing his way. Hero throws herself from high tower to join him in death. Shakespeare’s joke is that as references in the wedding play, and as subjects of romantic pledges, they are completely inappropriate.

      Hero laments the dead Leander. Painting by Jan van der Hoecke.

      Hero grieving over the dead Leander. Painting by Jan van der Hoecke.

      This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less. This photographic reproduction is also considered to be in the public domain in the United States.

      am I trusty still.

    FLUTE

    1. And I like Helen,

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Flute’s reply is probably meant to reference Hero, Leander’s beloved. She instead, however, says “Helen,” invoking thoughts of Helen of Troy who was notoriously unfaithful to her husband, Menelaus, and whose infidelity caused the Trojan war. The implication is exactly the opposite of the faithfulness Thisbe is pledging.

      Detail of an Attic red-figure krater c. 450–440 BC

      Helen and Menelaus depicted on a red-figure krater, c.450-440 BCE, now located in the Lourve.

      After the end of Trojan War, Menelaus is reunited with Helen. He intends to kill her for her infidelity, but struck by her beauty he drops his sword, making the entire war pointless. A flying Eros and Aphrodite watch.

      This photograph was released into the public domain by its creator, Wikimedia contributor Jastrow

      till the Fates me kill.

    BOTTOM

    1. Not Shafalus to Procrus

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Bottom is again mangling the names (and significance) of a mythological couple drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Flute will repeat the mistake in the very next line.

      Quince’s play is citing Cephalus and Procris, a mythological pair whose relationship had many missteps. Cephalus was abducted by Eos, goddess of the dawn, with whom he had an extended affair – and a child – before returning to his wife. As Cephalus was leaving her, Eos planted the idea that Procris had probably not waited faithfully for his return. Worried by this slander, Cephalus tested Procris’ fidelity by attempting to seduce her in disguise: She immediately succumbed.

      After reconciling yet again, Procris developed doubts of her own about her husband’s fidelity when he proposed a hunting trip, so she followed and spied on him. Seeing a rustling behind a bush, Cephalus thought he was throwing his spear at wild game, but instead impaled and killed his wife. In short, they are a terrible example by which to swear one’s love.

      A Satyr mourning over a Nymph, c.1495, Piero di Cosimo

      A Satyr mourning over a Nymph, c.1495, Piero di Cosimo

      In a version of the myth, a satyr found and mourned over the dead Procris, and this is probably the subject of this painting.

      Photo by the editor.

      was so true.

    FLUTE

    1. As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.

    BOTTOM

    1. O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.

    FLUTE

    1. I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.

    BOTTOM

    1. Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straightway?

    FLUTE

    1. 'Tide Come life, 'tide come death, I come without delay.

    Bottom and Flute exit.

    SNOUT

    1. Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged dischargèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      dischargèd: dis-chahr-jed [dɪsˈtʃɑr dʒɛd]; The past tense is sounded as a separate syllable.

      so,
    2. And, being done, thus Wall away doth go.

    Snout exits.


    Unit 46 (ACT V.i.j 199–204) 6 prose lines, less than a minute

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 45)

    In this short prose interlude, the courtiers discuss the progress of the play with Theseus pleading for patience on behalf of the incompetant players.

    THESEUS

    1. Now is the wall down

      Editorial Emendation

      wall down] Mowat; Moon used Qq, moral down F

      Both the reading from the quartos and the Folio correction are corrupt. That it is the wall and not the moon being discussed seems obvious from Demetrius' reply. The Folio reading of the second word at least makes sense when paired with wall. It is not easy to see how anyone could have mistaken "wall down" for the words "moon used," even given terrible handwriting, but no plausible suggestion has come forward to explain the quartos' bizarre wording.

      between the two neighbors.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. No remedy, my lord, when walls are so willful to hear without warning. to listen without permission

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.

    THESEUS

    1. The best in this kind actors are but shadows, fictions and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend repair them.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. It must be your imagination, then, and not theirs.

    THESEUS

    1. 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.

    Unit 47 (ACT V.i.k 205-230) 25 lines mixing verse and prose, 2 minutes

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 46)

    The play-within-the-play continues with Snug saying that he is not a real lion, and Starveling explaining that he represents moonlight. The royal audience heckles them until Starveling loses his patience.

    Snug, costumed as a lion, and Starveling, carrying symbols associated with the moon, re-enter.

    SNUG

    1. You ladies, you whose gentle hearts do fear
    2. The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor
    3. May now perchance perhaps both quake and tremble here
    4. When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.
    5. Then know that I, as Snug the joiner, am
    6. A lion fell, cruel nor else but otherwise no lion’s dam: mother
    7. For if I should as lion come in strife
    8. Into this place, ’twere pity on my life. a stain on my honor

    THESEUS

    1. A very gentle beast, and of a good conscience.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. The very best at a beast, my lord, that ever e'er

      SCANSION: Missing V Rule

      Monosyllabic: air [ɛər]. Utilizing the common poetic convention of eliminating the middle V sound this word is reduced to a single syllable. (In Q1, it is spelled "ere," making clear the application of the "Missing V" rule, but since this is a prose line it makes little difference and is not always observed.)

      I saw.

    LYSANDER

    1. This lion is a very fox for his valor.

    THESEUS

    1. True, and a goose for his discretion.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Not so, my lord, for his valor cannot carry his discretion, and the fox carries the goose.

    THESEUS

    1. 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.

    STARVELING

    1. This lantern doth the horned hornèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      hornèd: hawr-ned [ˈhɔr nɛd]; The past tense is sounded.

      moon present.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. He should have worn the horns on his head.

    THESEUS

    1. He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible within the circumference.

    STARVELING

    1. This lantern doth the horned hornèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      hornèd: hawr-ned [ˈhɔr nɛd]; The past tense is sounded.

      moon present.
    2. Myself the man-in-the inth'

      SCANSION: Shortening

      inth': inth [ɪnθ]. These two words contract into a single syllable.

      -moon do seem to be.

    THESEUS

    1. This is the greatest error of all the rest; the man should be put into the lantern. How is it else “the man-in-the-moon”?

    DEMETRIUS

    1. He dares not come there for the candle, for you see, it is already in snuff. angry

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. I am aweary of this moon. Would he would change.

    THESEUS

    1. It appears by his small light of discretion that he is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all reason, we must stay use up the time.

    LYSANDER

    1. Proceed Moon.

    STARVELING

    1. All that I have to say is to tell you that the lantern is the moon, I the man-in-the-moon, this thornbush my thornbush, and this dog my dog.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Why, all these should be in the lantern, for all these are in the moon. But silence. Here comes Thisbe.

    Unit 48 (ACT V.i.l 231-236) 1 verse and 5 prose lines, less than 30 seconds

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 47)

    The play-within-the-play continues with Thisbe entering. The lion frightens her away, but she drops her mantle as she flees and the lion toys with it briefly. The onlookers cheer them on.

    Flute (playing Thisbe) enters.

    FLUTE

    1. This is old Ninny’s tomb. Where is my love?

    SNUG

    1. Oh!

    The Lion roars.

    Thisbe exits, dropping her mantle as she goes.

    Thisbe frightened by the Lion

    Thisbe frightened by the lion, in whimsical designs by Ming Chen.

    Courtesy of Classic TheaterWorks, production directed by Kurt Daw

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Well roar'd, Lion.

    THESEUS

    1. Well run, Thisbe.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. Well shone, Moon. ——Truly, the Moon shines with a good grace.

    Lion mauls the mantle, making it bloody.

    THESEUS

    1. Well mous'd, shaken Lion.

    Unit 49 (ACT V.i.m 237-301) 64 lines of mixed prose and verse, 5'30"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 48)

    The play-within-the-play continues with Pyramus finding Thisbe's bloody mantle. He jumps to the wrong conclusion and kills himself. Thisbe returns and finding him dead, kills herself. The actors conclude their ridiculous performance with a dance, and Theseus sends everyone to bed.

    Bottom (playing Pyramus) enters.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. And then came Pyramus…

    Lion exits.

    LYSANDER

    1. And so the lion vanish'd.

    BOTTOM

    1. Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams.
    2. I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright.
    3. For by thy gracious, golden, glittering, glitt'ring,

      SCANSION: Shortening

      glitt'ring: gli-tring [ˈglɪ trɪŋ]. As is still common in everyday usage, the middle vowel is eliminated.

      gleams,

      Editorial Emendation

      gleams] Staunton; beams QqF

      All early versions of this play repeat the word "beams" from two lines earlier here. The Victorian editor Charles Knight suggested that even when writing imitation "bad" verse, Shakespeare would not have done so. "Gleams" both rhymes and furthers the alliteration. Samuel Weller Singer first accepted this suggestion, which is now widely incorporated.

    4. I trust to take of truest Thisbe sight.
    5. But stay, O spite!

      A Note on the Verse

      From this point on Pyramus and Thisbe is mostly written in a very old-fashioned verse style, iambic heptameter, commonly referred to as "fourteeners," as each line has fourteen syllables. This was the predominate verse mode before Shakespeare and his contemporary, Christopher Marlowe, made blank verse the medium of English drama. In this scene, it is being used for the purposes of parody, as it was hopelessly out of fashion by the time Midsummer was written.

      When arranged into a quatrain, as it is here, it is separated into alternating lines of eight and then six syllables. This form is also called "ballad stanza" or "common meter." Shakespeare's contemporaries sometimes called it "eight-and-six."

      But mark, poor knight,
    6.           What dreadful dole sorrow is here!
    7. Eyes, do you see? How can it be?
    8.           O dainty duck, O dear!
    9. Thy mantle good, What, stain'd with blood?
    10.           Approach, ye Furies

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      This reference is to the mythological incarnations of fate as three sisters (known in Greek as the Moirai, usually translated in English as the "furies", or as the "fates" as they are in the very next line. Flute will refer to them, more abstractly as the "Sisters Three" at line 294 in this scene).

      The first is Clotho, whose name means “spinner,” who creates the “thread of life” at her spinning wheel. The second is Lachesis (allotter), who measures the length of one’s life, and the final one is Atropos (inevitability) who cuts the thread, metaphorically causing death.

      Grave of Alexander von der Mark by Johann Gottfried Schadow

      The three Moirai. Relief, grave of Alexander von der Mark (de) by Johann Gottfried Schadow. Old National Gallery, Berlin.

      Placed in the public domain by photographer Andreas Praefcke.

      fell! fierce
    11. O Fates, come, come. Cut thread and thrum, tufts
    12.           Quail, Destroy crush, conclude, and quell! kill

    THESEUS

    1. This passion (and the death of a dear friend) would go near to make a man look sad.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. Beshrew Curse my heart but I pity the man.

    BOTTOM

    1. O wherefore, why Nature, didst thou lions frame, create
    2. Since lion vile hath here deflower'd malaprop: devoured my dear,
    3. Which is—no, no—which was the fairest dame
    4. That liv'd, that lov'd, that lik'd, that look'd with cheer?
    5. Come, tears, confound! Out, sword, and wound
    6.           The pap breast of Pyramus;
    7. Ay, that left pap, where heart doth hop. beat

    Pyramus stabs himself.

    BOTTOM

    1.           Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.
    2. Now am I dead, now am I fled,
    3.           My soul is in the sky.
    4. Tongue, lose thy light! Moon, take thy flight!

    Moonshine exits.

    1.           Now die, die, die, die, die.

    Pyramus (finally) dies.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. No die, dice, singular but an ace for him, for he is but one.

    LYSANDER

    1. Less than an ace, man, for he is dead, he is nothing.

    THESEUS

    1. With the help of a surgeon he might yet recover and yet prove an ass. pun on ace

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. How chance Moonshine is Why has Moonshine gone before Thisbe comes back and finds her lover?

    THESEUS

    1. She will find him by starlight: Here she comes, and her passion ends the play.

    Enter Flute, as Thisbe.

    HIPPOLYTA

    1. Methinks she should not use a long one for such a Pyramus: I hope she will be brief.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. A mote will turn the balance, A small bit could change the balance which Pyramus, which Thisbe whether Pyramus or Thisbe is the better: best actor he for a man,

      Textual Alternative

      omit all to the end of the speech] F

      The Folio deletes everything in this speech from this point on, presumably because the 1606 law against using blasphemy on stage was being violated.

      God warrant protect us; she for a woman, God bless us.

    LYSANDER

    1. She hath spied seen him already with those sweet eyes.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. And thus she means, laments videlicet: "as you will see"
    Thisbe laments

    Thisbe starts into her lament.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw

    FLUTE

    1. Asleep, my love? What, dead, my dove?
    2.           O Pyramus arise!
    3. Speak, speak. Quite dumb? silent Dead, dead? A tomb
    4.           Must cover thy sweet eyes.
    5. These lily lips, this cherry nose,
    6.           These yellow cowslip cheeks
    7. Are gone, are gone. Lovers make moan:
    8.           His eyes were green as leeks.
    9. O Sisters Three, come, come to me
    10.           With hands as pale as milk.
    11. Lay them in gore, since you have shore cut
    12.           With shears his thread of silk. life line
    13. Tongue, not a word! Come, trusty sword,
    14.           Come, blade, my breast imbrue… pierce

    Thisbe stabs herself.

    FLUTE

    1. And farewell, friends: Thus Thisbe ends:
    2.           Adieu, Goodbye adieu, adieu.

    Thisbe dies.

    THESEUS

    1. Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.

    DEMETRIUS

    1. Ay, and Wall too.

    Bottom and Flute jump up.

    BOTTOM

    1. 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 comic dance between two of our company?

    THESEUS

    1. 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. Mary, if he that writ it had play'd Pyramus and hang'd himself in Thisbe’s garter mantle it would have been a fine tragedy: and so it is, truly, and very notably discharg'd… performed But, come, your Bergomask: Let your epilogue alone.

    The players dance a jig.

    Performance Practice: Music

    Bergomask, a Rustic Dance

    In another of the major musical incidents of the play, the mechanicals perform a folk dance or a jig at this point. They sometime supply their own accompaniment, which may be a simple as rythmic clapping, but the dance is usually energetic and successfully entertaining.

    A more extended discussion of this and all music cues in the play can be found in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    The players exit.

    THESEUS

    1. The iron tongue bell of midnight hath told struck twelve.
    2. ——Lovers, to bed: ’Tis almost fairy time.
    3. I fear we shall outsleep oversleep the coming morn
    4. As much as we this night have overwatch'd. stayed up too late
    5. This palpable-gross obviously boring play hath well beguil'd
    6. The heavy gait slow pace of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
    7. A fortnight For two weeks hold we this solemnity celebration
    8. In nightly revels parties and new jollity.

    Everyone exits.


    Unit 50 (ACT V.i.n 302-321) 20 verse lines, 1'15"

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 49)

    The puck re-enters, telling us that the fairies are coming.

    Puck enters.

    PUCK

    1. Now

      A Note on the Verse

      This twenty line speech is rendered in the style which Shakespeare uses most often in the play for the puck: iambic tetrameter. All but the last line also begin with the characteristic silent beat called a catalexis. The palpable tension this causes, and the sense of relief and finality when the speech resolves with a line containing all eight beats, is demonstrated here as clearly as anywhere in the canon.

      the hungry lion

      Editorial Emendation

      lion] Rowe; lions QF

      Shakespeare's earliest editor noted that the plural makes little sense here, and no modern editor now disputes it.

      roars,
    2. And the wolf behowls

      Editorial Emendation

      behowls] Theobald; beholds QF

      Although the version of the text printed in all early modern editions makes sense, one of the earliest textual scholars, Lewis Theobald, surmised that Shakespeare had coined a new word—behowls—which was "corrected" at some point. His view has won wide acceptance.

      the moon,
    3. Whilst the heavy plowman sleeping farmer snores,
    4. All with weary task by hard work fordone. exhausted
    5. Now the wasted brands burned logs do glow,
    6. Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,
    7. Puts the wretch poor person that lies in woe
    8. In remembrance In a state reminding them of a shroud. the inevitability of death
    9. Now it is the time of night
    10. That the graves, all gaping wide,
    11. Every one lets forth his sprite its spirit
    12. In the church-way paths to glide.
    13. And we fairies, that do run
    14. By the triple Hecate's

      MYTHOLOGY AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS

      Hecate (pronounced as two syllables here: (/ˈhɛkɪt/) is the goddess with a triple form known as Proserpina when she is in Hades, Diana when she is on earth, and Phoebe when she is in the heavens. Especially in those latter two forms, she is closely associated with Tytania throughout this play.

      Hecate, marble representation

      Triple-formed representation of Hecate. Marble, Roman copy after an original of the Hellenistic period.

      Released into the Public Domain by photographer identified as Jastrow on Wikimedia.

      team
    15. From the presence of the sun,
    16. Following Foll'wing

      SCANSION: Shortening

      Foll'wing: fol-wing [ˈfɒl wɪŋ] This word becomes bisyllabic, using the principle by which when the central syllable of a three-syllable word is comprised only of a schwa [ə], it can be eliminated to fit the meter.

      darkness like a dream,
    17. Now are frolic. free to party Not a mouse
    18. Shall disturb this hallow'd house.
    19. I am sent with broom before,
    20. To sweep the dust behind the door.
    Puck behowls the moom

    Puck "beholds" or "behowls" the moon.

    Courtesy of SUNY-New Paltz, production directed by Kurt Daw


    Unit 51 (ACT V.i.o 322-353) 31 verse lines, 2'

    Location: The royal court of Theseus, Duke of Athens (continues from Unit 50)

    Oberon, Tytania, and their followers conclude the play by blessing the house.

    Oberon and Tytania, with their followers, enter.

    OBERON

    1. Through the house

      A Note on the Verse

      Like Unit 50, this scene is rendered in the style which Shakespeare uses most often in the play for supernatural beings: iambic tetrameter. The vast majority of lines in the unit also begin with the characteristic silent beat called a catalexis.

      give glimmering glimm'ring

      SCANSION: Shortening

      glimm'ring: glim-ring [ˈglɪm rɪŋ]; "Glimmering" becomes bisyllabic through elimination of its middle vowel.

      This is another example of the central syllable of a three-syllable word, comprised only of a schwa [ə], being elided to fit the meter.

      light,
    2. By the dead and drowsy fire.
    3. Every elf and fairy sprite,
    4. Hop as light as bird from briar,
    5. And this ditty after me,
    6. Sing and dance it trippingly.

    TYTANIA

    1. First rehearse your song by rote,
    2. To each word a warbling note.
    3. Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
    4. Will we sing and bless this place.

    Tytania and Oberon leads the Fairies in a song and a stately dance.

    Performance Practice: Music and Dance

    Masque

    The play concludes with a ceremony of blessing in the form of a theatrical masque, or pageant. The fairies, now in harmony with each other, gather to bless the marriages of the three couples. This is the most complex music and dance sequence in the play, with multiple options about how it might be accomplished.

    See the extended discussion of this section of the text, and its many possibilities, found in the essay "Music and Dance in Midsummer" in the "Resources and References" section following the play.

    OBERON

    (probably shared with others)

    Textual Alternative

    Reassignment of speeches] F

    In the Folio text, all the material in this speech is labeled "The Song." It is not assigned to any particular singer. In performance now it is usually shared by the full company, as it probably was in the original performances. A longer discussion of the redistribution appears in the section on Editorial Principles.

    1. Now, until the break of day,
    2. Through this house each fairy stray. roam
    3. To the best bride-bed will we, Tytania and I will go
    4. Which by us shall blessed blessèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      blessèd: bles-ed [ˈblɛs ɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies two syllables.

      Although still less preferred than the one-syllable alternative, this is one of the few expanded endings that have survived into modern times and is still in use.

      be,
    5. And the issue children there create conceived
    6. Ever shall be fortunate.
    7. So shall all the couples three
    8. Ever true in loving be,
    9. And the blots of Nature's hand birth defects
    10. Shall not in their issue stand. children occur
    11. Never mole, harelip, nor scar,
    12. Nor mark prodigious, abnormal such as are
    13. Despised Despisèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      Despisèd: dih-spahy-zed [dɪˈspaɪ zɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies three syllables.

      in nativity,
    14. Shall upon their children be.
    15. With this field-dew consecrate consecrated (holy) water
    16. Every fairy take his gait, place
    17. And each several chamber separate room bless,
    18. Through this palace, with sweet peace.
    19. And the owner of it blest,

      Textual Alternative

      Although sense can be made of this and the following line, the grammar is troubling. Staunton (after Singer) and many subsequent critics remove the stop at the end of the previous line, then reverse the order of this and the following line. It is, in fact, easier to follow in performance with this change.

    20. Ever shall in safety rest.
    21. Trip away. Make no stay.
    22. Meet me all by break of day.

    Everyone exits.


    Epilogue

    Unit 52 (Epilogue.1-16) 16 verse lines, 1'

    Location: In neutral space, outside the play

    Puck asks the audience to applaud the play.

    Puck enters.

    PUCK

    1. If we shadows actors have offended,
    2. Think but this and all is mended: repaired
    3. That you have but slumber'd slept here
    4. While these visions did appear.
    5. And this weak and idle theme, play
    6. No more yielding but productive than a dream,
    7. Gentles, do not reprehend.
    8. If you pardon, we will mend. improve
    9. And as I am an honest Puck,
    10. If we have unearned unearnèd

      SCANSION: Expanded Ending

      unearnèd: uhn-urn-ned [ʌnˈɜr nɛd]; The ending is expanded so that this word occupies three syllables.

      luck
    11. Now to 'scape escape the serpent's tongue, audience's hissing
    12. We will make amends ere before long.
    13. Else the Puck a liar call.
    14. So good night unto you all.
    15. Give me your hands, Applaud for me if we be friends,
    16. And Robin shall restore amends.

    Editorial Problems and Principles

    The major editorial principles of this edition:

    More complete explanations of these points appear below:

    Editorial Aim: A Working Script, Not A Reading Text

    This experimental text is an attempt to create, not just a new edition, but a new kind of edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is also, like all acts of textual and/or literary criticism, an attempt to understand the work of art better, and to help others understand it better. Those things, however, don’t mean that all editions have the same goals, or even the same audiences.

    This edition attempts to understand the text as a performance script, rather than a literary text, as has been the de facto case for all other editions since at least the eighteenth century, and arguably from the earliest quarto printings. Some recent editions of MND have been more open to the possibility that the text might serve as a memento of a performance or contain some kind of—at least partial—performance record. Although moving closer to the aims of this edition, these approaches are not the same as looking at the text as (to use an imprecise but useful metaphor) a blueprint for a future performance.

    By contrast to existing editions which aim to recover Shakespeare's literary manuscript, the explicit aim of this edition is the historical recovery of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a script, primarily to serve as the basis for new theatrical productions, along with related creative activities, like classroom performance approaches.

    Although there is no serious opposition to the idea that Shakespeare’s play was initially created as a script, there is no extant manuscript evidence for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or (for that matter) any Shakespeare play. The original form of that script must be inferred from extant historical evidence of non-Shakespeare plays (such as rough drafts, scribal copies, backstage “platts” to guide performance, actors' parts in the form of cue scripts, approved books to license production, and working promptbooks) which has been vastly undervalued; and from clues in the early print copies, which likely have been misinterpreted by editors with little or no theatrical experience.

    Platt of Seven Deadly Sins

    A backstage "platt," or plot, used to indicte the running order of the show.

    Wanting to recover the performance script, however complicated by missing evidence that might be, should not be controversial in that no one denies that there once was such a performance script with a material manifestation.

    Such an edition has been heavily theorized, especially by the late Barbara Hodgdon, M.J. Kindnie, and others, but no critical edition has undertaken this task.* All editions, in a tradition that dates to the First Folio in 1623, explicitly refer to their audiences as “readers.” This is not just convention. Both the text and apparatus of previous critical editions are designed for literary study (even those versions that have been called “performance editions”) rather than as a basis for new production.†

    This is not to suggest that there is anything illegitimate with the aim of these existing literary editions. This edition, in fact, builds on this long tradition in some significant ways. It is to say, however, that it is regrettable that, at present, all critical editions are designed to serve readers rather than practitioners. This is probably what David Scott Kastan was getting at when he wrote that "There are good reasons… for many kinds of editions, though probably not very good reasons for as many of the same kinds of editions as indeed we have… Shakespeare should be available in editions that take the theatrical auspices of the play seriously, recognizing that primary among Shakespeare’s intentions was the desire to write something that could be successfully played.” (p. 123)

    Of course, there are many reasons that all critical editions of Shakespeare have been readerly but in the particular case of MND a prominent one is a wide-spread assumption that the literary copy was the same as the theatrical copy.‡ Historically speaking, this is beyond unlikely, so it is to this matter, after a brief detour, that we must next turn.

    The Question of Copy-Text

    In a departure from what has become standard editorial procedure in the last seventy years this new critical edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was edited without a designated copy-text. Instead, for reasons to be elaborated below, it follows the counterproposals of G. Thomas Tanselle, made in his essay, “Editing without a Copy-Text.” §

    This edition, therefore—in yet another way it is unlike those currently in print—is, as Tanselle suggests it should be, “a constructed text and not an emended one.” (Millennium, p. 71)**

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream may seem a perverse choice for abandoning copy-text editing. It is, after all, a play where the copy-text of choice (Q1) has been nearly unanimously adapted since Edward Capell’s edition of 1768, even by the often contrarian Wells and Taylor Oxford Shakespeare (1986). While over the last fifty years, controversy has engulfed theoretical discussions about exactly what aims editors should—and are even able to—serve, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has for the most part escaped any involvement in the practical implications of this discussion. This is because there is a clear genetic line among the early witnesses with Q1 at its head, followed by a derivative Q2 with no independent authority, and then the Folio text which is set from an annotated copy of Q2 incorporating minor changes apparently from a theatrical manuscript. It has not been considered a difficult play.

    Mostly, however, it is the conviction that that Q1 was set directly from authorial papers that most insulated it from intense editorial introspection. The various aims of editors (and even uneditors) essentially converge if the copy-text is a reasonably accurate transmission of the author’s final manuscript, particularly if the Folio can then be interpreted as affirming that only limited changes were later made in the playhouse. But what a wealth of unlikely assumptions are buried in those beliefs.††

    Now, twenty-first century scholarship has upset the consensus around both the editorial ability to discern the nature of printer’s copy which lies behind this genetic line and “the rationale of the copy-text.” These uncertainties substantially change the editorial assumptions at play and suggest the need for reëxamining the work from a broader perspective.

    The Nature of the Printer’s Copy

    The most substantial belief needing reëxamination is the nearly universal hypothesis that the printer’s copy underlying Q1 was Shakespeare’s holograph (foul papers) manuscript. The recent New Oxford Shakespeare (2016), in a typical example, phrases the belief like this: “It has been widely agreed that 1BRADOCK [i.e. Q1] was set from the author's papers. Nothing points to a specifically theatrical manuscript; there are no actors' names, no duplicated stage directions.” (p. 863)

    What this wording makes clear is the assumption, relying on a bifurcated categorization system established by W.W. Greg, that if the printer’s copy was not what we would now call a "promptbook," then the only alternative was that it must be authorial papers. Almost from publication of Greg’s theory in his Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses in 1931, prominent peers, especially R. B. McKerrow—who imagined, at minimum, eighteen possibilities for kinds of printer’s copy where Greg saw only two—raised concerns that Greg had created a false dichotomy. Even Greg, himself, noted that his categorization scheme was “perhaps a rash venture.” (p. 191)

    But Greg’s “rash” conception became widely accepted, based on the weight of his reputation rather than the evidence he presented, and it heavily influenced editorial assumptions well into the current century. Paul Werstein, building on work by William B. Long, has now thoroughly discredited Greg’s classification system by demonstrating there was never any valid evidentiary basis behind it, but the full implications of this are only beginning to be understood (Early Modern Theatrical Manuscripts).

    Theatrical and Literary Manuscripts

    The New Oxford Shakespeare’s wording reveals another curious assumption. It is not at all clear why its editors, along with almost all other modern editors, suppose—following Greg—that the basic form of Shakespeare’s rough draft would have been a literary manuscript, rather than a performance script for his company. Tiffany Stern’s Documents of Performance in Early Modern England demonstrates what also seems intuitively obvious, that the standard format for plays in this period was as scripts; and probably not even “finished” and artistically unified ones in any modern sense, but assemblages of prologues, epilogues, scenes, and songs, plus prop letters and pronouncements that were literally read on stage. Far from the finely polished product we now imagine, these scripts retained considerable flexibility about how they were introduced, concluded, and even what events and speeches any given performance might include and to whom they might be assigned.

    While the lack of evidence of a bookholder’s (i.e. prompter's) annotation, such as duplicate stage directions or insertion of actors’ names, noted by the NOS editors might suggest that the printer’s copy was not what is now called a promptbook (although Werstine has shown that the surviving evidence of theatrical manuscripts does not support even this conclusion) there is no historic reason for imagining that Shakespeare’s draft was therefore not a theatrical manuscript. Not even Lucas Erne, whose Shakespeare as a Literary Dramatist has vigorously reässerted the literary intentions of the author, suggests that the plays were first drafted in the form in which they would ultimately be printed then later back-engineered into playing scripts.‡‡

    Sonia Massai has compellingly reasoned that early modern plays were extensively (although anonymously) edited for print, which has not been readily apparent only because they were “informed by radically different views about what constituted an ‘authoritative’ text.” (p. 2) Andrew Murphy, in a way that implies he is simply stating the obvious, makes a similar, though understated, assertion that “Every text that came to print in quarto needed some element of preparation before it reached publication…” (p. 93)

    The most definitive statement of the now questionable view that Q1 represents an almost pure authorial draft is found in the 1994 Oxford Shakespeare individual edition of the play, edited by Peter Holland. Referring to the printer, he flatly states that “Bradock’s compositor(s) worked with a manuscript in Shakespeare’s hand, effectively his rough draft, while fair copy made from the draft stayed with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.” (Introduction, p. 113). The long shadow of Greg’s false dichotomy is clearly visible, in that Holland again imagines only two possible manuscripts, a rough draft that served as printer’s copy and a theatrical copy that became the company promptbook. This, however, is only a link in a long chain of editors, from John Dover Wilson, Harold Brooks, and R.A. Foakes, to Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor and Terri Bourus who have cited essentially the same evidence but progressively changed their degree of certainty from speculation into possibility, then probability and, with Holland, into statement of fact.§§

    Holland’s argument (which he says is just a simple summary of extensive previous discussion) relies on the identification of “incomplete and inconsistent” stage directions that he believes (following Greg) “the bookholder, or prompter, at the theatre would have needed to be more exact.” (Introduction, p. 114) But this is the very evidence about which Werstine has shown Greg was simply wrong. Surviving theatrical manuscripts are messy and contain many of the characteristics of Shakespeare's printed plays. In fact, MND is the play Werstine uses to demonstrate his point (p.130-3).

    Holland’s summary of secondary support for the definitive identification of authorial copy rests on a number of putatively distinct Shakespeare spellings in Q1, an argument that has always seemed, at best, inconclusive once subjected to rigorous statistical analysis, but also has been recently fatally undercut by James Purkis on logical grounds (Chap. 5).*** As Purkis has observed, “If Shakespeare’s plays were transcribed before they reached print, unraveling the Shakespearean from the non-Shakespearean, or the preferred spelling of one agent from another, promises to be a barren task. Moreover, it is not necessary to assume that Shakespeare’s plays were transcribed fully before printing to pause over attributing an ‘abnormal’ printed spelling to Shakespeare.” (p. 219)

    The conclusion that spelling evidence can be used to definitively identify holograph copy has never been sound, however, unless Shakespeare’s distinctive spellings were just idiosyncratic enough to influence compositors setting the play from holograph papers, but not odd enough to survive intermediate stages of transmission, like scribal copies and theatrical promptbooks.†††

    In summary, the wide-spread certainty in the editorial tradition that the text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has come to us almost unmediated from Shakespeare’s holograph draft is left not only unsupported, but unsupportable. There is, in fact, little reason to believe the quarto (nor, for that matter, the folio) text of the play represents even “a close approach to the author’s manuscript,” as McKerrow warned us nearly a century ago (p. 7).

    And there are a lot of historical reasons to suspect that it does not. Compared to the extant manuscript evidence, like scribal copies of Middleton’s Game of Chess vs. Heywood’s holograph theatrical copy of The Captives, it certainly looks a lot more like it was made from a copy prepared for a patron/reader than from a manuscript that saw practical use in the theatre. This unmooring from the dubious authority of the copy-text of choice, and the generally untheatrical assumptions hidden behind it, support Tanselle’s procedure of constructing a new critical edition from the ground up, not least because it allows a fresh look at a significant number of issues of interest to both scholars and practitioners.‡‡‡

    (ASIDE) Putting the Principles into Practice: A Specific Example

    It is easy to get caught up in the minutia of theoretical quibbles, but these two overarching principles (no designated copy text combined with the aim of recovering the work as a theatrical script) make very real differences to this edition. As an example, take Unit 39, lines 46-62:

    1. “The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
    2. By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.”
    3. We’ll none of that. That have I told my love
    4. In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
    5. “The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
    6. Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.”
    7. That is an old device, and it was play'd
    8. When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
    9. “The thrice-three Muses mourning for the death
    10. Of learning, late deceas'd in beggary.”
    11. That is some satire, keen and critical,
    12. Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
    13. “A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
    14. And his love Thisbe, very tragical mirth.”
    15. Merry and tragical? Tedious and brief?
    16. That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow!
    17. How shall we find the concord of this discord?

    These lines consist of a series of titles being read off a scroll that has been presented to Theseus by the Master of the Revels, and his evaluations of the suitability of each as wedding entertainments.

    The bibliographic record from Q1 and F1 is clear, and uncontroversial. In Q1—the nearly universal choice for the copy-text—the entire selection is assigned to Theseus. He reads the titles aloud, and then comments on each one in turn. F1 prints exactly the same words but distributes all the lines that contain titles to Lysander, leaving only the commentary on them to Theseus. Since Q1 is perfectly clear, and is not obviously in error, according to the standard application of the “rationale of the copy-text” this is the solution the editor must mechanically accept to avoid falling into the trap of eclectic editing, or mere subjectivity.§§§ Indeed, several prominent editors (Foakes, Holland, Chaudhuri) explicitly state in their annotations that the alternative found in F1 is more theatrically effective, and probably authorial, but nonetheless reject it in adherence to copy-text editing practices since it was not (in their opinion) the original form.

    A Comparison of the sizes of the Folio and Quarto

    A 14" tall Folio, next to a Quarto, an Octavo and 2 rare smaller sizes.

    A small number of editors accept F1’s redistribution of the lines, reasoning they result from a theatrical revision that Shakespeare made or approved, which de facto makes F1 their copy-text. Whether one treats the section as monologue or dialogue, however, is still dependent on a theory of textual transmission underlying the choice of copy-text that holds the authorial papers come in a literary form and that theatrical choices are the product of later revision.

    Both editing without a copy-text and rejecting the identification of the copy for Q1 as authorial holograph challenge that theory. Freed from the “tyranny of the copy-text,” in two senses, the focus of editorial judgement shifts from authority to purpose.

    Thinking about what the work is trying to accomplish (as opposed to what text carries the most authority) can clarify that the long-standing binary options are not the only two alternatives. Imagining Shakespeare’s draft as a script opens another possibility: both witnesses might be attempts to reflect an important flexibility of the underlying work that is hard to capture in print and might even be pointless in a literary edition.

    The first sixteen lines might have been composed as a unit, earlier than the part of the scene that it now follows, without definitive decisions about how it would eventually be allocated to speakers. This is, in fact, a perfectly common way for both historic and contemporary playwrights—who do not sit down and write their plays straight through from beginning to end—to work. Once fitted into the scene, it might have been clear that the unit was going to function as dialogue, but there would still be no need to specify exactly who feeds the titles to Theseus for his commentary, as it makes little difference who reads them to him. (Nothing about them makes them character specific: they are not even the “thoughts” of a character but just items from a list prepared by someone else.)

    In Elizabethan practice, this open-endedness could be maintained even after the cue scripts were prepared, since the crucial lines can be literally read off a prop scroll. A decision could wait until after the show was cast, the circumstances of production known, and the rehearsal process begun. While such ambiguity serves no useful literary purpose, from a theatrical point of view such flexibility is a feature, not a bug.

    As to a theory of textual transmission that would explain the witnesses, I propose that Q1 was set from a manuscript with these sixteen lines on a discrete page or slip that had no speech headings at all.**** (This might have been in Shakespeare’s hand, but it is impossible to say since it would look no different if it was a transcription.) Even vague familiarity with the plot—or just mythology—would be enough for the Q1 compositor to surmise that Theseus is the speaker of the commentaries and to provide the speech heading, but in the absence of any stage direction it would not be enough to make clear that the titles could or should be read by someone else. The compositor could easily overlook that the unit is dialogue. If this is the case then, although not obvious on its surface, Q1 is in error.

    It is uncontroversial that F1 records a specific theatrical staging by Shakespeare’s company at some point in which Lysander read the titles to Theseus. I do not believe that it records a revision from monologue into dialogue, however. In my judgment the selection was always intended as an exchange with one or more of the lovers, but having conceptualized it that far, the script was as “finished” as the author needed, and perhaps wanted, it to be.

    If the essential quality of the exchange is its playful nature and the building of anticipation surrounding the selection of Pyramus and Thisbe, then being more specific might even work against the intended effect. The open-ended state of the text might well be intentional, in order to foster an element of spontaneity in performance.

    If this is true, what does it authorize? Possible theatrical solutions are that the Master of the Revels hands the scroll to Lysander, or for that matter, to any one of the lovers, to read the first title. That actor might read all four titles, or s/he could pass the scroll on to a different actor to read the second title, who might similarly keep or pass it. Given that there are four titles proposed and four lovers, it does not require a great leap of imagination to envision the possibility that each of them reads one. All of these options are controlled by the simple passing of a scroll, so it would not have to be worked out in advance and would not need to be the same in every performance.

    In fact, redistributing lines is rather standard theatrical practice for this section of the play. All of these arrangements of lines have been used effectively in numerous stagings. But the thesis here is not that these possibilities can work, it is that this is how the script (as opposed to a literary text for readers) is supposed to work. It is a textual argument that the original, authorial form of the play is as a working model that invites and even requires theatrical collaboration, and that the more determined, specified texts are later literary adaptations for readers. The editorial tradition has the direction of revision backwards.

    The Extended Implications

    This lengthy discussion of just a few lines of text would be unjustified if it did not have larger implications, as the actual effect on the text of the edition is confined to one stage direction and one brief note. Thinking theatrically has ripples throughout the edition, however. To give just a few quick examples:

    Oral Works and Written Texts

    All of the above points and discussion point to a consideration that should now be made explicit. It is important to establish the relationship of texts to the underlying work.

    The work of art is the performed (that is, spoken and acted) play. It is meant to be communicated orally/aurally in the live theater. It is frustratingly complicated to say, conceptually, what any given printed text is in relation to that.†††† We can easily start, however, by saying text and work are not identical in the same way that we might say a musical score is not a symphony, or a screenplay is not a movie.

    Although the cases of musical works and films seem clearer cut to most of us than plays, because they do not simultaneously enjoy separate status as works of literature, they are closely related. Printed texts of plays are, like them, incomplete, as opposed to texts of poems or novels. They are an attempt to encode and transmit a framework for the play in writing, not to replace it.

    Although it is not a precise designation (because plays also contain embodied performances, designed sets and costumes, etc.) for the purposes of editing a performance script it is useful to approach the work as an oral text. The words and lines to be spoken are fundamentally different, and require different treatment, than many other formal elements of a written play.

    (As a though experiment, imagine that we had access to a videotape of one of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s performances, which we are asked to transcribe. The spoken words we could recover directly with little disagreement, but things like stage directions and speech headings, as opposed to stage action and speech assignments, have no material presence in performance. They have to be inferred, and might vary widely—especially in form—from one transcriber to the next.)

    Stage Directions

    Stage directions are among the most problematic parts of Shakespearean plays. Having no manuscripts from the author we are not sure what Shakespeare wrote when drafting his plays, but he seems to have thought them out only loosely and may not have included anything but the barest indications of actions.

    Ironically, those few directions about which editors generally agree are authorial are supported with the argument that they are wrong or misleading—placing entrances incorrectly, for example. One such case is Q1's entrance for Helena at the same time that Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius first enter, although she plays no part in the ensuing scene. The logic is that only the author still in the throes of composition would have created mistaken directions.

    Although occasionally illuminating about the creative process if this was a conclusive argument, and it is not, preserving errors—even authorial ones—in no way assists production so this edition does not do so.

    Bookholders (the term for stage managers in the period), printers and later editors have all created layers of emendation to stage directions, some of which have become traditional. These have more accuracy but no authority.

    In keeping with the general principle that this edition should be a practical realization of Shakespeare's intent for the stage (as opposed to being bibliographic scholarship of its printed history) all stage directions have been rethought from scratch. Although quarto or folio directions are sometimes used, stage directions should be considered editorial.

    Although this is a departure from standard editorial practice, it is not nearly as radical as it may seem. As far back as the eighteenth-century, editors have expressed concern about the ability to assess the provenance of the stage directions we have. The recent tendency to treat those paratextual elements of the early quartos and folios with the same degree of deference as the textual elements, in case they might preserve something authorial, is unwarranted. It is their function, and not their form, that is their essence.

    Speech Headings

    Speech headings throughout the play have been silently regularized. There are some interesting variations in the early printed editions, such as “Tyt.” and “Quee.” or “Queene” to designate Tytania, but the idea that these are psychologically telling about authorial intent—a theory very popular in the late twentieth century—now seems unlikely. Printing studies show that type shortages, especially of lower case ys and upper case Qs forced compositorial choices about speech headings. As the case for Q1 being set from holograph papers has fallen apart, it also seems less likely that the variations are authorial. Maintaining confusing variations in speech headings appears pointless outside of documentary editions. Again, it is their function, and not their form, that is their essence.

    Spelling and Orthography

    This is a modern spelling rendition, using standard American spelling. A number of orthographical considerations come into play, however, about how to render rhythmically and metrically important elements of the text on paper. These have led to some departures from a typical stylesheet. Even in “Reader Mode” distinctions between sounded (ed) and unsounded (‘d) past tense verb endings are preserved. Although once very common, this practice has generally fallen out of favor. (Modern editions have tended to ignore eighteenth and nineteenth century orthography precedent and opt for ease of reading.) It is helpful to reassert precedent for the purposes of this edition, however.

    Performer mode directly confronts the problem of how best to represent an oral text in print. In “Performer Mode” every effort is made to indicate orthographically all elisions and contractions with apostrophes. Sounded past tense verb endings get an additional accent mark (èd), as do any unusual accentuations. Expanded endings and glide vowels are marked with a dieresis, as in (ïon) endings, words like (confërence) when the meter calls for added syllables, and a couple of archaic possessives (moonës, nightës). The greatest departure is to repurpose this symbol, a superscript gamma, (ᵞ) in places where words—especially names—are combining syllables that are sometime separated in modern usage, like (Hermᵞa) and (Thesᵞus). While it is common to treat Hermia and Theseus as three-syllable names, they are usually—although not always—treated as two in this play.

    Two other kinds of orthographic rendering have been added, inspired by Edward Capell's innovative edition of 1768, which sought to include at least some indications of stage business symbolically. Changes of address with speeches are marked with a double m-dash (——). Text in bold italic indicates a thing or person "pointed to" or indicated. Capell also included a category for props delivered, but these are incorporated into the stage directions in this edition.

    The directly performable words of the play are rendered in serif type, like this:

    1. "Shakespeare's words, to be spoken onstage, are in this typeface."

    All other aspects of the play, like stage directions, speech headings, and section headers, appear in this san serif font.

    Punctuation

    Punctuation has been modernized in this edition, also.

    Punctuation in all early modern texts, was inserted by the printing house and not by the author. (Indeed, the one fragment of a play that some scholars argue is in Shakespeare's handwriting—the "Hand D" section of Sir Thomas More—has virtually no punctuation at all.) Grammatical rules for consistent practice did not yet exist, so it is relatively arbitrary.

    The Hand D addition to SIR THOMAS MORE

    A brief addition to Sir Thomas More controversially argued to be in Shakespeare's hand.

    The usefulness of consulting the quarto and folio editions of the play is that their punctuation tends toward the rhetorical and is far less fussy than is modern practice.

    Although this edition has silently modernized punctuation throughout, it has done so with a bias toward preserving the longer rhetorical phrases, which are so useful to actors, over shorter phrases which are intended to illuminate the grammatical structure. The semicolon is not the actor's friend. No hesitation has been felt about bending modern rules if the resulting choices assist actors to see and feel the performance arc of a speech.

    Structural Divisions

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream has an easily discernable three-part organic structure: what happens before the woods, what happens in the woods, and what happens after the woods. Traditional act and scene distinctions beyond that are simply navigational conveniences to assist with identifying specific moments in the work or specific places in the text, and not properties of the work itself.

    For convenience, almost all printed editions of the text incorporate the act designations from F1, which were added long after the play was first performed, possibly marking pauses used during a revival in a candle-lit indoor venue. While these might have been necessary to trim candle wicks at some point, these performance breaks are no longer needed, or used, in the modern theater. (In modern performance, the play is commonly performed in two parts with an intermission—a.k.a. interval—usually taken in the middle of Act III.)

    Most print editions also follow a further division into scenes first used in ROWE, which (in the case of MND, not always perfectly) happen whenever there is a full clearing of the stage by all actors.

    So long as these divisions are recognized as artificial navigation aids and place markers, they are useful. Throughout this edition these traditional markers are referenced for these purposes, and for cross-referencing with other editions. They should not, however, be conceptualized as either literary or theatrical structures.

    This edition is further divided into “French scenes,” because they are the practical building blocks of the action, and also the fundamental divisions used in theatrical rehearsals. To distinguish them from the traditional “English scenes” that Rowe used, these are labelled Units. These should be quite useful for anyone using this edition practically, but (since literary editions are not intended for practical use) are not common in other print editions.

    Lines and Conventions

    Verse is recognizable because it is printed in lines that do not run to the right margin, and which begin with a capital letter. Prose is printed in a wide column with text that runs to the right margin and is most easily recognizable because new lines of text do not begin with capital letters.

    Split lines, i.e. single lines of verse shared between two or more speakers, are printed with the second speaker's words indented beyond the end of the first's.

    The early texts have some issues with verse lines printed as prose, and vice versa, which have been silently corrected in this edition. Most importantly, around thirty lines in the play are discernably regular iambic pentameter but were not so set in one or more early editions. These are found mostly in Units 38 and 39.

    In the fairy’s speech that opens Unit 7, traditional relineation (dating from Pope) has been rejected because it implies the lines are written in anapestic dimeter, but as explained in the accompanying note, this editor scans the lines in iambic tetrameter.

    Annotation and Commentary

    This edition is much more heavily annotated and contains far more commentary than comparable modern literary editions, possibly because this is a digital edition where word counts are not financial considerations. (One of the major purposes for creating different user modes, however, is to separate the kinds of notes by purpose to avoid information and interface overload.) Some of it, like glossing in “Reader Mode” and mythology notes in “Student Mode” should seem familiar.

    In numerous other cases, distinct differences of approach will be seen. Textual notes in literary editions, for example, tend to record emendation of the copy text. Such notes are tremendously useful, but a serious flaw with most copy-text editing is that it hides the degree to which an editor decided not to emend although a textual issue exists. Once again bibliography trumped performance.

    It was once quite common, for example, for editors to concern themselves with metrical irregularity of lines—assuming that such irregularity probably indicated transmission errors. Mid- to late-twentieth century editors became far more reluctant to emend even when they considered such errors likely, unless they were certain what Shakespeare wrote. But as they began leaving more and more ambiguous cases unaltered, they also stopped annotating any instances where meaning was not hindered. Perhaps this is fine for readers, but generations of performers have been left repeatedly scanning syllables and doubting their own judgment when even blatant problems are ignored. Rehearsal halls are stacked with dozens of editions because it is often necessary to consult many, many critical editions to find confirmation that a crux exists. This edition annotates such metrical irregularity, and often offers more than one performance possibility in the notes. Notes are intentionally repetitive when the same principal applies as when, for example, the same shortening of a name recurs. It is not necessary to consult the notes for every instance once you have learned the principle.

    This edition also tries to note instances where performable textual alternatives exist in early editions or in the long history of emendation. (By contrast, minor—and uncontroversial—bibliographic issues, like typographical errors, are silently corrected.) Even when a clear choice has been made for the purposes of this edition, it is still useful to the performer to know of viable alternatives.

    Particularly in “Performer Mode” the notes have a decidedly didactic character. Basic principles of verse speaking that rely on understanding of underlying scansion are always taught separately from the texts to which they apply, so performance students are faced with significant hurdles learning how to identify and execute elisions, contractions, expansions and accentuation issues. (Literary scansion seems almost obsessed with identifying possible spondaic and pyrrhic feet in blank verse lines, neither of which exist in pure form in English verse, at the expense of explaining how regularly occurring challenges like the “missing v rule” or the “the+vowel rule” apply and how these lines are to be spoken.)

    *******************************************************************************

    Endnotes for "Editorial Principles"

    *I am avoiding the use of the term “performance edition,” to describe this project since that term has already been coöpted to describe other, quite different, concepts. Most “performance editions” now on the market, like The Oxford Shakespeare, for example, are standard literary editions that simply take much more seriously the possibility that changes made to the text in rehearsal and performance by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were either made or approved by Shakespeare and are, therefore, authorial. A second category of “performance editions,” like the recent Arden 3 MND—which says that both the introduction and commentary are designed to present [to readers] the plays as texts for performance—contain performance histories, which annotate known or conjectured performance choices as a way of illustrating the play, but still have identifiably literary aims in doing so. Finally, at least one major edition, The Bedford Shakespeare, suggests that its aim, using a lot of illustrations of performance history, is to help readers imagine a performance. While all of these are valid aims, and while there is room for many different kinds of editions, these aims are not what this edition is designed to do. From my perspective they are mislabeled in that they are not editions intended for creating performances but there is no going back now as these uses of “performance edition” have become common.

    †Of course, it is not a new concept to publish a Shakespeare play in the form of a script instead of a literary text, but these versions have not been critical editions, and quite often are not even particularly scholarly ones. In the converse of the “performance editions” described in the previous notes, they are practical adaptations (or often just annotations) designed to lead to a specific production or records of dramaturgical choices that did lead to a specific production. For example, Michael Pennington’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A User’s Guide is a fascinating and deeply illuminating book, but it is a specific reading of the literary manuscript, not a critical edition. The recent Arden Performance Editions might, at first, seem an exception, but in the case of MND, they do not reëdit the text at all, but simply use the literary text established by Harold Brooks for the Arden 2nd Series and newly annotate it.

    ‡These include historical determinants, including the fact that for nearly three hundred years MND was exclusively performed in spectacular musical adaptations that bore only a distant relationship to the printed play, so it was literally true that the audience for print editions was strictly readers; but they also include simple contemporary commercial concerns, like the fact that almost all students in secondary and higher education study Shakespeare as literature at some point, compared to a much smaller number of students who perform the plays.

    §Tanselle argues, and I accept, that his proposition for displacing copy-text editing is not a rejection, but rather the logical extension of W.W. Greg’s core arguments in “The Rationale of the Copy-Text” about editorial procedure. Tanselle’s point is that Greg does not carry to completion his own arguments for moving away from the long-standing “best text” approach in favor of empowering editorial judgment, establishing instead a half measure that he had, possibly without realizing it, already substantially undercut.

    **Tanselle has said he meant by this that the editor “should not be thinking in terms of altering a particular existing text but of building up a new text, word by word and punctuation mark by punctuation mark, evaluating all available evidence at each step (Millennium, p. 71). Such evidence still includes such standard notions as the genetic lineage of early witnesses, and possibly underlying copy, but the editor is called upon to evaluate it, rather than mechanically accept the “tyranny of the copy-text.”

    ††Just a few of these generally anachronistic assumptions are that there was a “finished” text, that it was composed in one creative act or revised, if ever, only once (as opposed to continuously reworked over a long period of production), and that the author’s intent was that it should have a “fixed” form rather than retaining flexibility for execution under a variety of circumstances.

    ‡‡A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a very poor fit for Erne’s theories in any case (as he acknowledges himself in Shakespeare as a Literary Dramatist, noting that in several distinct ways MND is an exception to his general thesis) but it is not his provocative arguments that are being doubted here. It is the simple proposition that even in some counter-factual Gregian universe where there were only two kinds of manuscripts, the authorial draft would be the less theatrical one.

    §§Sukanta Chaudhuri, editor of the most recent major new critical edition, for the Arden 3rd Series, retreats somewhat from the rhetoric of certainty other recent editors have evidenced. The result, however, is that he tries to have it both ways—using more qualifying language and noting weaknesses in all individual stands of the long-standing argument, before (rather unconvincingly) concluding that they still collectively add up, and again accepting the overall inference.

    ***The claim that Holland summarizes relies on an extremely tentative, and problematically circular, argument that the so-called “Hand D” addition to the manuscript of Sir Thomas More is in Shakespeare’s handwriting because it contains distinctive spellings found in print editions of his plays. But then adherents attribute to Shakespeare—rather than compositors, scribes, or copyists—the distinctive spellings in the printed plays because they are found in “Hand D.”

    †††Chaudhuri makes this argument in the Arden 3rd edition, but his assertion that, “Most instances would be altered by scribes and compositors. Hence a few cases, or even one, can carry weight,” is not only not supported by evidence, but does not justify the conclusion he draws from it.

    ‡‡‡This is not to deny that Q1 is the most reliable witness we have. The objections of this editor are a matter of degree, not kind. Where previous editors have thought it something like a first-hand witness to recent events, I think it more like a reporter of hearsay recalled after the passage of several years. Believing that it is the best evidence available is not the same as asserting that it is especially good evidence.

    §§§ If F1 had printed an unmodified, rather than this slightly modified, version of Qq, that there is even an editorial consideration here would now be completely invisible.

    ****While not a perfect analogy, since it was written, then revised, by many hands, I am thinking about the manuscript of The Book of Sir Thomas More as an example of a text composed with smaller slips of paper pasted into larger folios, and having units of dialogue composed without speech headings.

    †††† As with most editing questions, G. Thomas Tanselle offers insightful and cogent explanations about the relationship between texts, versions and works. For a more specific discussion of the application of this argument to Shakespeare, see W.B. Worthen’s Shakespeare Performance Studies.

    Next Essay: Textual History

    Textual History

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream is first recorded in a list of notable English poets and their plays complied by Shakespeare’s contemporary, Francis Meres, in his 1598 Palladis Tamia: Wit’s Treasury. Meres probably knew of MND through public performances, although it is certainly possible that a private manuscript copy was in limited circulation and might have served as an additional source for his knowledge. Although the composition of the play cannot confidently be dated, it must have been at least two-, and perhaps as much as five-years-old, when Mere’s cited it. The thematically related play Romeo and Juliet, which also appears on Mere’s list, dates to roughly the same time.

    Palladis Tamia

    The text of Wit's Treasury that first recorded MND

    public domain

    Unlike most other Shakespeare plays from before the end of Elizabeth’s reign, MND did not quickly move from the stage to page. It was not until October 8, 1600 the play was even entered on the Stationers’ Register, (the means by which the right to print the play was reserved in this period), by Thomas Fisher, a first-time publisher who would only produce three more titles in an unsuccessful career.

    Stationers' Register

    The text of this entry says: 8. octobris

    Tho. ffyssher Entred for his copie under the

    handes of mr Rodes and the

    Wardens. a booke called

    A mydsõmer nightes Dreame }vjd

    public domain

    By the end of 1600 the play had been released in quarto format in an edition printed for Fisher by Richard Bradock, a small-time printer. The title page says that the play had been performed numerous times by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the theatrical company of which Shakespeare was a member and co-owner. Because no antecedent company is listed it means that the play was probably not performed before the founding of the troupe in 1594, although it could have been initially drafted earlier.

    Pre-Printing History

    Before turning to the First Quarto, we want to consider the manuscript history of the play before it saw print, which must be speculative because there is no extant evidence. (The term “publication” is being avoided here, and throughout this essay, for the simple reason that theatrical performance was the primary form of publication, in the literal sense of being made public, of the play.) Since Edward Capell first took an interest in such matters in his edition of 1768, it has been generally assumed that the Q1 was set from, and closely mirrors, the playwright’s finished draft manuscript. For reasons extensively outlined in “Editorial Problems and Principles,” this conclusion looks untenable in light of twenty-first century scholarship.

    No one seriously contests that Shakespeare created A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but to “wright” a play in the early modern period was to craft, almost literally assemble, a provisional script for performance. It was the starting point for a collaborative process in the playhouse in which the author was, in a famous phrase from Stephen Orgel, “by no means at the center…” He goes on to write, “The text thus produced was a working model, which the company then revised as seemed appropriate.” (p. 2, “What is a Text?”)

    What we can say with historic certainty is that, although it is no longer extant, there was once a material form to the “working model.” Contrary to common conception, though, unless it was different from comparable early modern plays, this script was created in pieces and repeatedly revised over a long period of time, in a way socialized by the needs of the playhouse, and later the printhouse. It likely never was polished or finalized in any modern sense.

    The Working Model

    This “working model” either consisted of, or was turned into, several documents needed to create a performance, at minimum: a “platt,” i.e. a backstage list of scenes for use in what we would now call stage management, the actor’s individual cue scripts from which they learned their parts, and what is now known as a promptbook (although that was not a contemporary term). The company also needed an at least decipherable copy of the play to send to the Master of the Revels for his approval before it could be performed. That approved book may have later been used as the promptbook, but that these two items were the same thing is far from certain.

    Lyrics to songs were usually placed in separate documents for use by the composer and musicians. The frequency with which published plays in the period note the location of songs, but without any printed lyrics being included, suggests that these were not copied from a master script into a separate document, but were first set down independently. Only if we are lucky were they later copied back into the “book.” (There is ongoing debate about whether the final lines of MND, in fact, constitute a song or are lines to be spoken after a now-lost song for which we have only a marked location.)

    Puck’s final speech is an epilogue that, in the manner of such speeches in the period, would have been created autonomously and treated as a separate item. It may not have been routinely performed. It also may not be the only one ever used with the play. Others, that are no longer extant, might have been written and used for particular occasions as was common practice. MND does not have a prologue, like that of Romeo and Juliet, but that does not mean that it never did—only that it has not survived, for it too would have been a separate document.

    Finally, at two points in the play (when a series of titles is proposed to Theseus for his possible entertainment, and later when Quince delivers a prologue to Pyramus and Thisbe) scrolls are introduced onstage, and these might have been read directly by actors who did not have corresponding lines written into their cue scripts. If so, these were yet again separate documents.

    Revision

    Extant bibliographic evidence in later printed texts suggests that the performance script was revised prior to 1600, and at least once more before 1623, but there is no good reason to assume that these were singular revisions in either case, as opposed to being two discrete moments at which the accumulated revisions (including many which might be invisible to us) were captured in the copy for a particular printing.

    This working script, and the associated theatrical materials, would not have made workable copy for a printer. Q1 was set from good copy, however, which (contra the opinion of previous editors) would have had to be assembled and edited from the script into a cleaner, more literary format. Such edited texts, in the shape of scribal copies, are known for many early modern plays among extant theatrical manuscripts. Extensive bibliographic evidence suggests that quite a few Shakespeare plays were copied by scribes whose habits are known, especially Ralph Crane and Edward Knight, that served as the printer’s copy. (Of non-Shakespearean plays several such extant copies were initially made for patrons who wanted personal copies of otherwise unavailable texts, apparently as a literary memento of a performance. The idea that they might be repurposed as printer’s copy may have followed later.)

    We do not know where, or by whom, a more literary copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was made, but surely one was, judging from the text of Q1, which looks a great deal more like it was set from a scribal copy than a working script. This theory of transmission is far more likely than that the play was originally composed in a conveniently printable form.

    The stemmatic diagram below shows the relationships of the inferred documents prior to printing, and the genetic line of the three early witnesses.

    Stemma

    A Textual Stemma for Midsummer

    Kurt Daw, owner/creator

    First Quarto

    This first quarto (Q1) of A Midsommer night’s dreame is quite unusual among early editions of Shakespeare’s plays. It is very difficult to know what to make of the fact that the edition was produced by a first-time publisher and a printer with little prestige. Neither man had any other known connection to Shakespeare, either before or after this edition. (Eight years later Bradock would print one more play, A Yorkshire Tragedy, that was credited to Shakespeare on the title page, but this attribution is false. This should serve, in fact, as counter-evidence of a connection between them.) They were unlikely choices—if, indeed, they were chosen—for any kind of strategy for moving the plays into print, by either the Lord Chamberlain’s Men or Shakespeare himself, as Fisher had no experience of any kind and Bradock’s track record was not promising. Two years earlier he had printed Marlowe’s Edward II in what can only be described, even charitably, as a mess.*

    But Fisher may, in fact, have had little trouble reserving the rights to print the play because he may have had no competition. Judging by how long it took MND to make it into print compared to other plays in the repertoire of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, it is possible established publishers, as well as Shakespeare’s theatre company, no longer thought of it as a valuable asset by the time Fisher took it up. We know so little about the early production record, (See “A Brief Performance History”), we don’t have any idea of the popularity of the play, but it is easily conceivable that in 1600 it was no longer in the active repertoire of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

    First Quarto Title Page

    The title page of the first quarto

    public domain

    Nonetheless, MND is, by the admittedly low standard of plays in quarto in the Elizabethan period, well printed. Q1 is a so-called “good quarto.” It is clean and relatively free from errors such as typos, mislineations, and misreadings of copy. It shows signs of being carefully prepared as a reading text, although perhaps more as a memento of a performance than to ensure “literary” fame, since it has many elements (especially music and magic) that are left undescribed. (See essay, “Four Performance Cruces.”) The aesthetics of the layout and design are plain, but consistent. The evidence suggests it was not, however, commercially successful.

    All theories of where and how Fisher obtained his copy are speculative. There is no evidence of either Shakespeare’s coöperation or opposition. (The long-standing belief that the printer’s copy was Shakespeare’s “foul papers” would imply close partnership, but—as outlined elsewhere—this editor doubts this identification of the copy.) Acknowledging that it is also pure speculation, a more plausible theory is that the play was in circulation in a manuscript, likely a scribal edition created for a patron, which Fisher was able to obtain or borrow.

    Second Quarto

    In 1619, three years after Shakespeare's death, MND was reprinted in another quarto edition that is falsely backdated 1600. (Fisher’s original claim must have lapsed as he had not actively published anything in over fifteen years. The new printer and publisher, William Jaggard for Thomas Pavier, still cautiously issued Q2 with a false date and attributed it to Jaggard’s deceased partner, James Roberts, most likely because they did not clearly hold the rights to print a new edition of the orphan property.) This is one of a group of somewhat mysterious reprints, the so-called “Pavier” Quartos, that were printed at about the same time, of which many are similarly falsely dated.

    Second Quarto Title Page

    The title page of the second quarto

    public domain

    Q2, as the second edition is now usually styled, was completely reliant on Q1 as it repeats quite a number of its mistakes. While it corrected numerous errors, it also introduced new ones. It is of interest as an early example of careful deductive editing, possibly by Pavier himself, but has no substantive corrections that could not have been made conjecturally without consulting separate copy. Its variants, therefore, have no independent authority.

    First Folio

    In 1623, after many years of compilation, two of Shakespeare's colleagues issued a volume of his collected works. In addition to MND and a number of other plays previously issued in quarto, it included eighteen plays that had never been in print. This very substantial volume was in the much larger, multi-play format known as folio. The Midsummer text in the First Folio (F1) repeats most of Q2's corrections and errors, so it was obviously set from a copy of it, but it also has significant additions that could only have come from consulting an independent source, almost certainly (to use an anachronistic term) the King’s Men’s promptbook. Stage directions are much improved, as are a small number of readings.

    First Folio Title Page

    The first page of the play from the first folio

    public domain

    Its most significant departure, however, is hard to evaluate. Philostrate's role as Master of the Revels in Act V is transferred to Egeus. Although reducing the number of speaking roles by one character, it also expands the role of Egeus just enough that, while still small, makes it impossible for the actor to double any other characters in the play. As he easily can do so in the quarto version, there is no net savings of personnel.

    It is also a rather aesthetically unsatisfactory combining of two roles that do not seem compatible. It feels like an expedient change, rather than an authorial revision.† Of course, if the alteration was made during his lifetime, Shakespeare would have known about it, but internal evidence from the Folio additions suggests that at least some of the changes date from well after his death, and this one might do so as well.

    An equally plausible possibility is that the combination of the roles in the Folio is a result of confusion around what was intended as a doubling of the parts, rather than an amalgamation of them.

    Links to facsimiles of Q1, Q2, and F1 are all available in the “Annotated Resources” section of this app, for easy reference.

    *******************************************************************************

    Endnotes for "Textual History"

    *The problems are clearly issues of printing, and not due to bad copy. Running headers, for example, are inconsistent, contain glaring misspellings due to transposition of letters (Traegdie); and twice were incorrectly placed in the form so that facing pages read in one place “The Tragedie The Tragedie,” and in another “of Edward the seconde. ofEdward the second.”

    †A few commentators have argued that changing Philostrate to Egeus is a purposeful revision to create a reconciliation between him and Lysander. An obvious objection to this line of reasoning is that it does not actually accomplish this task. At best, it creates an opportunity for implying such a resolution to their conflict sub-textually because there is no onstage moment that does anything more than the part did when it was Philostrate's.

    Next resource: A Brief Performance History

    A Brief Performance History

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most produced and performed play in the world. It has been the perennial champion for decades. This is partially because it is by the world’s most popular playwright, William Shakespeare, but it has several other distinct performance characteristics that place it ahead of even more read and studied titles—like the great tragedies—by the same author.

    As is true of all of the comedies, it enjoys a slight advantage in the professional theatre over heavier fare from other genres. It is also an ensemble piece with rewarding roles for a large cast that makes it popular in amateur theatres, instead of relying on a central starring (and difficult-to-cast) role, like Hamlet, for example. And unlike the aged characters of King Lear, Macbeth, and most of the history plays, many of the characters of Midsummer are adolescents who can be believably portrayed by students in colleges, universities and secondary schools. (Indeed, only one character in the play—Hermia’s father, Egeus—must logically be characterized as even middle aged.)

    It is also possible to cast far more women in substantial parts than is easily possible in most other Shakespeare plays, which also makes it attractive.

    As a result, MND is widely produced in professional theatres, in amateur and community theatres, and surges to a huge lead among educational theatres at all levels of the spectrum. There are thousands of productions, world-wide, every year.

    Little in the play’s early history gave any indication that it would come to dominate the theatre as it now does. The title page of the first quarto tells us that it had been publicly performed by the theatrical company to which Shakespeare belonged “sundry times,” but there are no certain references to exact times and places dating from Shakespeare’s lifetime, as there are for most of the canon. (It is possible, but far from certain, that “the play of Robin goode-fellow,” which was performed at court in January 1604 and mentioned in a contemporary letter was Shakespeare’s play. We get no other even plausible reference until 1630, when it was performed at Hampton Court.)

    We have to piece together the play’s earliest history conjecturally. Most of Shakespeare’s mature plays were clearly conceived for outdoor amphitheatres like the Globe, but despite a history of spectacular productions, Midsummer can be performed on a virtually empty stage. It does not require anything but a large open space with minimal properties for a performance.

    There is a long tradition that the play was commissioned to celebrate an aristocratic wedding. There is no solid evidence for this, but the internal subject matter—so concerned with nuptial entertainments—does make this seem (somewhat) plausible. It could have easily been performed by a touring company in a large hall of an aristocratic home of the period or one of the Inns of Court, such as the one pictured below, or even outdoors as it often is today.

    Middle Temple Hall

    A performance at Middle Temple Hall in London

    Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    Even without believing in this inferred, rather than evidence-based, proposition it is reasonable to speculate that the play was written with maximum flexibility in mind and not specifically to be performed in one of London's purpose-built theaters.

    Given its subject drawn from rural folklore, it is easy to see how it might have been imagined originally as material for the humble conditions offered by the central courtyards of inns of provincial towns where temporary stages were erected for touring performances:

    A temporary stage set up in the courtyard of an inn

    Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    A touring performance

    The reference on the title page of the first quarto suggests that the play was eventually performed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in some London venue, perhaps The Theater or The Curtain, in Shoreditch. It might have moved to the Globe when the company built that playhouse in 1599, but that space made possible far more sophisticated staging than anything Midsummer requires, and the very fact that the play was printed (thus making it available for performance by rival companies) in 1600 suggests that it was not a part of the active repertoire.

    A temporary stage erected in a London amphitheatre

    A performance at the Globe

    Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    At some point later than 1608, when Shakespeare’s company began performing at their indoor playhouse, The Blackfriars’, Midsummer was revived in a production revised for this space and the emerging new performance conventions of this more intimate playhouse. (In addition to the 1630 performance listed above, this information can be inferred from the allotment of plays, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, to Thomas Killigrew in 1669 based specifically on the fact they had been performed at the Blackfriar’s before the Civil War.)

    Act divisions with musical interludes—which were necessary for the trimming of candle wicks used for indoor lighting—were added. A stray stage direction ("Tawyer with a Trumpet before them.") appearing in the Folio for the first time, which specifically names a musician not known to have been a member of the company before 1622, suggests that this revival happened well after Shakespeare’s death. The placement of the play inconspicuously among the comedies in the Folio again intimates that Midsummer was not a particular success upon the occasion of this revival.

    The Blackfriars Theatre

    A reconstruction of the Blackfriars Theatre.

    Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    After the Restoration the play was revived in a production about which we know little, but that diarist Samuel Pepys famously condemned as “the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.” Shakespeare’s verbal and imaginatively intense comedy was little suited for the tastes of Restoration audiences, who preferred a more continental style of theatre, and it soon ceased to be performed.

    It was replaced by Henry Purcell’s 1692 opera, The Fairy Queen, and later by David Garrick’s 1755 musical (with twenty-eight additional songs) called The Fairies. From then until the 19th Century the title was attached to performances that cut dialogue extensively, as well as whole sub-plots, but then filled out the evening with grand spectacle. Pageants, ballets, children’s choruses and a host of sentimental devices reduced the play to a slight fairy tale almost without plot. It became traditional for Oberon and Puck to be played by women, and the fairies by a corps de ballet. With the advent of illusionistic scenery, the backdrops of Greek temples and other classical vistas often became more important than the foreground action.

    A spectacular production

    Herbert Beerbohm Tree's production of 1900, with dozens of children playing fairies, real grass, and even live rabbits in the forest.

    public domain

    It was not until Harley Granville-Barker reclaimed the play in an early modern-style performance in 1914 that anything like the original play was performed. (It was during this roughly three-hundred year period that the editorial tradition of treating the plays as literature to be read, rather than performance scripts, solidified. It is worth bearing in mind that this legitimately reflected the fact that during that long period, Shakespeare editions of Midsummer really were not performance scripts. The play was only being staged in variety show adaptations that had, at best, tenuous connections to Shakespeare’s original.)

    Granville-Barker's production

    Harley Granville-Barker's staging of PYRAMUS AND THISBE, which compared with Tree's production (above) is more in keeping with early modern stage practice.

    Harley Granville-Barker Cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Shakespeare and the Players, Center for Digital Scholarship, Emory University.

    Throughout the 20th century, this return to an interest in the original text and original performance conditions continued side-by-side with more traditionally lavish productions like Tyrone Guthrie’s 1937 production at the Old Vic starting Vivien Leigh as Titania, accompanied by two dozen ballerina/fairies. Max Reinhardt’s 1935 film with James Cagney as Bottom and Mickey Rooney as Puck was in this spectacular tradition.

    Director Peter Hall staged a ground-breaking version for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962 (which he turned into a film in 1969, with Judi Dench as Titania) placing the play firmly in Tutor England with an emphasis on the dark side of the folklore involved.

    It was Peter Brook’s 1970 production for the Royal Shakespeare Company that ultimately moved the title to the center of the modern repertoire. Often called the most influential Shakespeare production of the 20th Century, Brook’s staging removed the last vestiges of the sentimental and spectacular approaches to the play that had so long dominated the stage.

    This production was not an early modern re-creation, however. It was reflective of the psychedelic, sexually liberated ‘60s. Working with designer Sally Jacobs, the set was reduced to a simple white box. Costumes in Athens were “mod” in muted tones, but the fairies wore shockingly saturated gowns in primary colors. Oberon’s entrance in his blue robe was described by one critic as being so vivid “that you could hear it.” The roles of Theseus and Oberon were played by the same actor, as were those of Hippolyta and Titania. The supernaturals were clearly the dream doubles of the Athenian couple. The production explored the play’s darker themes, especially its aggressive and transgressive sexuality. Brook’s Dream not only had no children in it, it was not a production to which to bring them. It was also a production that set new standards for clear, fresh verse speaking.

    Publicity Picture

    An RSC publicity photo of Brook's production.

    Photo: Wikimedia, fair use.

    Brook’s shadow has loomed large ever since, with modern productions of the play seeking to be experimental, innovative, and respectful of the complexities of the text. Many outstanding productions have following in the wake of Brook’s Dream, including those of Robert Lepage in 1992 for the Royal National Theatre, Adrian Noble for the RSC in 1995, Julie Taymor for Theatre for a New Audience in 2013, Dominic Dromgoole at the new Globe reconstruction on London’s bankside in 2013 and Emma Rice for the same venue in 2016. All of these but the Lepage production were filmed and are widely available for viewing from numerous sources.

    Nicholas Hytner's 2019 production for the Bridge Theatre in London (later shown on NT Live) essentially exchanged the roles of Oberon and Tytania by reassigning all but the first few of their lines. He became Bottom's gay paramour because of a magical plot conducted by her with Puck.

    Next resource: Four Production Cruces

    Four Production Cruces

    Traditional editions often dwell on textual cruces. (Academic readers will undoubtedly notice the intentional echoing of Harold Brooks' title, "Four Textual Cruces.") A crux is, according to Merriam-Webster, "an essential point requiring resolution." Textual questions do require resolution for performance. Editors sometimes dodge this issue by noting that there are two or more equally valid readings, or that no satisfactory explanation is available. Neither of these is useful for a theatrical performance that must place one, and only one, choice on the stage. Still, Midsummer is a good text with few problems. Brooks' title is a bit of a cheat since he notes that there are actually three more problematic areas in the text, but seven textual issues is a small number.

    While these require resolution, they should not blind us to the much larger, looming performance issues, which every production must solve. Here is a brief overview of these issues with a short discussion of the range of possible solutions explored by previous productions.

    What constitutes the dream? Whose dream is it?

    The title of the play is provocative. The obvious question is: If the play is a dream, whose dream is it? Most literary critics avoid the question by citing Puck's final speech alleging that it is "our," i.e. the audience's, dream. That is not what Puck says, however. He says that if we have found the production offensive then we might imagine that it has all been a bad dream and therefore forgive it. That is not the same thing at all.

    Serious productions prioritize the question of whose dream this might be. Corollary questions might be, "Is the whole play a dream, or are some parts dreamt and some parts experienced rationally?"; and "Is the dream important, or is it trivial and insubstantial?" The text, itself, raises these questions—particularly the latter. Theseus and Hippolyta have a dialogue at the beginning of Act V, in which he dismisses the lovers' curious experience in the woods, but Hippolyta counters that their collective experience "grows to something of great constancy." Both in Midsummer and many other places in the canon, dreams are challenged as unimportant. Romeo has this famous exchange with Mercutio, for example:

    ROMEO

    1. I dreamed a dream tonight.

    MERCUTIO

    1. And so did I.

    ROMEO

    1. Well, what was yours?

    MERCUTIO

    1. That dreamers often lie.

    A few lines later, Mercutio says:

    MERCUTIO

    1. True, I talk of dreams,
    2. Which are the children of an idle brain,
    3. Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
    4. Which is as thin of substance as the air.

    Although many Shakespearean characters reject dreams as meaningless, the playwright also frequently foreshadows events with dreams of divination that later come true.

    Peter Holland says that the only actual dream in the play is the one from which Hermia wakes in Unit 17 (II.ii), in which she images she is being attacked by a serpent. All other portions of the play, he asserts, are not dreams but supernatural experiences that actually happen. While insightful, this does not substantially answer the performance question. It merely shifts the semantics of the discussion from distinguishing between the dream portions of the play and the rational ones, to distinguishing the supernatural portions of the play from ordinary reality.

    Twentieth and twenty-first century productions have found a wide range of answers to these questions. The play is frequently interpreted as Bottom's dream or experience, but it has been notably performed as Theseus' (Daniels, 1981) and Hippolyta's dream (Alexander, 1986) as well. Adrian Noble's 1996 film based on his 1994 theatrical production, seemed to imply that it was a child's (the changeling's?) dream.

    Peter Brook's production of 1970 changed not only the reputation and critical reading of Midsummer, but arguably reinvented Shakespearean production in our time. He related the supernatural figures to modern psychology as the unconscious reflections of their conscious counterparts. In that sense, his production suggested the play is the collective dream of all of the human characters.

    How should the supernatural characters be conceptualized and portrayed?

    To the great amusement of actors, few literary questions about the play have received as much attention, and fierce disagreement, as the size of the fairies—with partisans citing lines about fairies hiding in acorns to noting that Tytania interacts with a full-sized Bottom. This issue is largely irrelevant on the stage where regularly-sized humans will portray them. Much more pressing is the question of what the fairies are, and how to capture that on the stage.

    Because fairies don't exist outside the imagination, there can be no naturalistic explanation. There is no objective correlative. The fairies must be conceptualized. What do they represent?

    We don't know how they were performed in Shakespeare's own time, but given the all-male company and the probable necessity of extensive doubling by the adult males in the cast, the likelihood was that they were understood as rustic, folkloric figures—more like goblins and gremlins rather than what we now think the word "fairy" implies.

    After the Restoration, for almost all of the next three hundred years, the fairies were relentlessly portrayed as sentimental balletic figures for the purposes of pageantry. They were included to provide spectacle. All, except Oberon and Tytania, were usually played by children, including Puck.

    Peter Brook broke from this cloying tradition once and for all by imagining Oberon and Tytania as Theseus and Hippolyta's dream doppelgangers. Their magical abilities were conceived as "superhuman" skills, which were represented on stage by circus and acrobatic equivalents.

    Brook's brightly colored production

    Peter Brook's "Circus" Midsummer

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    Since Brook, the fairies have been cast as figures of Elizabethan folklore,

    Folkloric Fairies at the Globe

    John Light as Oberon and Matthew Tennyson as Puck, at the Globe. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole.

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    as menacing leather punks,

    Punks

    Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, California

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    as giant puppets,

    Handspring Puppets

    David Ricardo-Pearce as Oberon and Saskia Portway as Tytania, Photo: Simon Annand

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    as exotic deities,

    DC puppets

    Daniel Breaker/Puck Mark H. Dold/Oberon

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    as erotic dream doubles,

    Dream Doubles

    Elijah Alexander/Oberon and Kymberly Mellen/Tytania at the Utah Shakespeare Festival

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    and as comic superheroes.

    Superhero

    Jonathan Broadbent/Oberon Lyric-Hammersmith, London

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    What is clear is that a wide range of possibilities exists, but strong, clear choices play better than vaguely romantic "Tinkerbells."

    The fairies are clearly divided into followers of Oberon and those of Tytania. Both monarchs are described as having "a train" in their initial encounter. These retinues are often gendered, following the gender of their leader, but occasionally reversed. These followers are generally portrayed as siding with their respective leaders as they spar, but have also been successfully portrayed as involuntarily separated pairs yearning for their leaders' reconciliation so that they might be reunited with their lover in the opposite train.

    ...and of what does their magic consist?

    In the same way that the fairies must be conceptualized, so must their magic be. It is possible, even common, to simply treat it as a plot expedient without any further explanation, but in performance the least interesting answer is that the magic is simply magic. Such an answer conveniently solves problems in the world of the play: things happen because they are magically induced. Since magic does not exist in our actual world, however, such answers mean the play doesn’t have much of interest to say about us or to us.

    Some such answers are unsatisfying inside the play, as well. Does Demetrius return to Helena at the end of the play only because he remains under a spell? Is Tytania reconciled with Oberon only because he has magical powers that can cause her further humiliation if she does not agree to return to him? These and many other aspects of magic in the play not only lose interest, but ultimately detract from its meaning, if they are just convenient plot devices on the level of a cheaply contrived deus ex machina. If we are to understand that Bottom really did turn into a man-beast but learned nothing from it (or was later enchanted to completely forget it) both his time and ours were wasted.

    Much more interesting performances result when the magic is treated theatrically, or psychologically, instead of accepting it at face value. Oberon becomes performatively interesting by casually asserting his invisibility in direct aside to the audience, rather than exiting or somehow being made less visible. (Or as a lighting designer once put it, “This is not the moment to turn off his followspot, it is the moment to make it twice as bright.)

    The subsequent scene (Unit 10) is much funnier if Oberon actively intervenes in it, and the actors playing Helena and Demetrius must theatrically “not see” him, than if he simply stands aside and watches it.

    Similarly, it is easy for the actors to simply lie “sleeping” on the ground as Oberon and Puck enchant their eyes, but it is theatrically far more compelling when they respond physically. Most modern productions, in fact, have them shift dramatically, sometimes rising all the way to their feet as if sleep walking, before lying back down again. It is the very fact that these actions are obviously illusions being created by actors (of which their underlying characters are “unaware”) as opposed to abstract fictions to be accepted without question, that creates the theatrical pleasure. Suspending our disbelief is half the fun.

    Production photo

    Oberon enchants Tytania in a Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival production

    Fair use of publicity materials originally released by the producing company

    This question is pushed to its fullest when considering what it means for the characters in the play to be magically induced to “fall in love.” The teenagers in the play, after all, pair into couples, split up, recombine, and reconcile in ways that look only slightly exaggerated in comparison to real life adolescent behavior. (I can anecdotally attest that more than one school cast of the play has had off-stage romantic complications that were at least as byzantine as the onstage ones with no discernable magic involved.) Productions can make it clear to us that more is going on than just “magic flower juice” in a variety of ways, but almost any explanation—in the actors’ minds or the physical staging of the play—is more interesting than a mechanical execution of the stage directions that takes the existence of magic for granted.

    The play treats the complications of love and lust seriously, and as essential components of the human condition. A good performance must do more than treat them as after-effects of magical interventions.

    How should the changeling be represented?

    The central conflict of Midsummer is a fundamentally unexplained quarrel between Oberon and Tytania over the possession of a changeling child. When reading the play this is no more insubstantial than any other element of the plot, but on the stage it can be frustratingly abstract if the changeling has no physical presence comparable to the speaking characters. Nothing in the script compels his appearance, since he is not directly referenced as present in the scene introducing the conflict, and its final resolution happens offstage. Without placing him on stage in some form, however, the plot often loses coherence to a contemporary audience more attuned to visual rather than verbal representation.

    In folklore, changelings were misshapen fairy children substituted in the birth crib for beautiful human children, a proto-explanation for birth defects and developmental difficulties. Stories about these exchanged children abound in early modern literature, focusing on the fairy children wreaking havoc on the human world. A Midsummer Night's Dream is the only case in which we see the human child adopted into the fairy world. Shakespeare also seems to have invented a benevolent reason for the exchange rather than attributing it to supernatural malice.

    Because the folk sources emphasize the exchange at birth, the changeling is often represented in production as a baby in swaddling. This is the simplest production solution, since it does not require a real child, but introduces the dubious implication that Oberon wants to undertake infant care.

    The still accessible 1982 production from the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park (recorded for the A&E network) starring William Hurt as Oberon, memorably introduced child actor Emmanuel Lewis as a toddler changeling. The premise that Oberon might be willing to undertake raising the child, now out of diapers, seems more plausible but still raises questions about the nature of the conflict.

    Liviu Ciulei's 1985 production for the Guthrie Theatre featured an adolescent changeling, who had grown enough to be an object of affection for Tytania. This made explicit the reason for Oberon's jealousy. Nothing in the play suggests how long ago the exchange Tytania describes took place, so it is possible for the boy to be older now. It certainly makes more sense of the idea that Oberon wants him for a "knight of his train." In this case the boy was also somewhat feminized but reappeared at the end of the evening at Oberon's side in a smaller duplicate of his armor, suggesting the conflict was about Oberon's will that (for good or ill) he be incorporated into the masculine sphere now that he was "of age."

    The Gender Politics of the Play

    All of Shakespeare's plays assume the gender norms of his time, even if they also question them in the voice of some characters. The inciting conflict of this play is built around a most extreme version of patriarchy, namely that Egeus "owns" his daughter completely, and may therefore select her husband or demand her execution. It is an extraordinarily rare contemporary production that does not interrogate the male privilege of Shakespeare's period. They usually do so emphasizing aspects of the play that challenge, or can be used to rethink, patriarchy.

    Hermia's situation is often associated with that of Hippolyta, who enjoys higher status and possibly more freedom. In mythology Hippolyta was the captured queen of the independent Amazons, a band of female warriors that disempowered or eliminated their sons. Her marriage to Theseus was involuntary. Shakespeare refers to this situation at the play's outset but gives only slight indications that it has not resolved into a love match before the play's beginning.

    Those "slight indications," however, are generally emphasized in modern production. Although at the beginning of the play Theseus says he cannot override the patriarchal rights enshrined in law, he eventually does just that. The inception of his journey toward doing so is often related to Hippolyta's apparent anger and frustration at the lack of justice shown in Hermia's trial. Because she has no lines to express that dissatisfaction, it is portrayed through behavior.

    Hippolyta can be conceptualized as everything from a literal prisoner in a cage (John Hancock, 1966, San Francisco Actors' Workshop) to an early modern noblewoman resembling Queen Elizabeth. (Peter Hall, 2010, Rose Theatre, Kingston) Her reactions in the first scene may range from the growling of a caged animal, to restrained glowering, to faintness brought on by shock, depending on how her character is portrayed and how the circumstances that begin the play are imagined.

    The frequent doubling of Oberon and Theseus can make explicit the idea that Oberon's encounters with Tytania constitute a kind of continuity with Theseus' experience and lead ultimately to Theseus' undoing of the patriarchal stifling of Hermia's love. In productions that do not use doubling, the same implication may be made in other ways.

    The doubling of Tytania with Hippolyta also intensifies the challenge to patriarchal assumptions of the play. In the dream world males seem far less privileged in the first place. Tytania is obviously equal to Oberon in power, as he must trick her to get his way rather than issue an order or overpower her. In the many source stories of fairy queens, she is always portrayed as more powerful than her consort, if a counterpart to Oberon exists in them at all. She is thoroughly identified with the triple moon goddess Phoebe/Diana/Proserpina—sometimes as another identity—but Oberon is never directly associated with the Sun God, Phoebus Apollo. Although he does not make this explicit in the play, Shakespeare probably shared the assumption that rulers of the supernatural world were goddesses, and the fairy queen was a part of that godhead.

    While the script does not overturn male dominance at its end—a situation not helped by the fact that Hermia and Helena do not speak during the final act of the play— productions sometimes do so. Hippolyta's viewpoint is treated as civilizing Theseus. She is often portrayed as prompting his kindnesses to the well-intentioned but bumbling players, for example. Unlike the opening scene, Theseus often makes elaborate shows of deference to her and her wishes at the play's end.

    Tytania's participation in the final blessing of the marriage is also strengthened in many productions. Oberon is often treated as a narrator, while Tytania is seen performing the rites that constitute the blessing. Occasionally, some of his lines are simply reassigned to her to make the ending more equal.

    Next resource: Music and Dance in Midsummer

    Music and Dance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    The Performing Arts of Elizabethan England.

    Both music and dance were important to country life in early modern England. Folk dancing served as the basis for almost all community celebrations, while music making was the most common form of entertainment in daily life. Both art forms were also central to life at court where they served aesthetic purposes; but were also extensively employed symbolically to promote social harmony and signal political allegiance to the crown. Both music and dance were widely understood as metaphors for cosmic and earthly order.

    Both art forms were also integral to the early modern theater. Shakespeare’s theatre, especially at the open-air playhouses like the Globe, lacked most means of modern day crowd control such as dimmable lighting and assigned seating. Audiences could be unruly and loud. Pre-show concerts were common to occupy the time of early arrivers. Brass fanfares were used to announce the start of performances because they cut through the hubbub in the auditorium, at least temporarily quieting the buzz, and focusing the audience’s attention.

    drawing of a theatre

    A 1595 sketch of a performance in progress at the Swan, clearly showing a trumpet player in the gallery. (top right)

    The De Witt drawing of the Swan Theatre, the only contemporary drawing of a playhouse interior.

    Faithful two-dimensional copy of a work in the public domain

    Without the extensive illusionistic scenery of the modern theatre, music was also important to scene setting. Trumpet fanfares like those used in the actual royal palaces announced the entrance of noble characters onto the stage, quickly establishing the location when no scenic clues were available to do so. Hunting horns might signal a shift to an outdoor setting because of their association with the aristocracy at their favorite form of play. Instrumental consorts playing background music could establish social gatherings like Capulet’s ball or Timon’s dinner party. It might even subtly imply scenes are set at night and in the dark, when the theatre was, in reality, brilliantly illuminated in the afternoon sun. In a theatrical tradition much more focused on hearing than seeing, music could convey dramatic information as well as entertain.

    References to dance are metaphorically invoked throughout the Shakespeare canon to imply harmony and concord, but especially in the comedies, actual dancing is also used to symbolize (as it was at court) the reaching of agreement or the resolution of discord. Is his study, Shakespeare and the Dance, Alan Brissenden notes, “In some plays, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale among them, dance is essential to the dramatic action…” Character is developed and plot is conveyed through onstage dancing. The story becomes incomprehensible if it is eliminated.

    The Use of Song and Dance in the Play

    Central to MND are three songs, two of which are also dances. The play also contains an additional two freestanding dances. All of these play a significant role in the story, including the resolution of the major conflict between Oberon and Tytania in the supernatural plot.

    Beyond these five major music cues, stage directions or dialogue also contain direct reference to incidental music on two occasions and specify a trumpet flourish (a kind of fanfare) or the sounding of horns on five more occasions. Performance practice of the time would suggest several more instances, like the beginning of the play for example, where music was probably used but it is not specified in the stage directions of the quartos or the folio.

    period print

    An instrumental consort of the type that might supply incidental music for a play

    Johann Theodor de Bry, detail from Society Couples Dancing

    Faithful two-dimensional copy of a work in the public domain

    None of the original music has survived. (It is possible, even probable, that pre-existing popular tunes were utilized as settings so there was no “original music.”) It is easy, however, to determine the function and tone of all the music from the words and stage directions alone. For those with historical interest in what an Elizabethan performance might have sounded like several sources have suggested possible settings from extant tunes, ballads, or airs of the time with similar themes and/or meters. A few of these will be discussed below.

    This edition identifies 25 probable music cues, and occasions for four dances. In Performance Mode these are marked with this symbol: Clicking on the symbol will open a note that explains briefly the nature and function of the cue. A longer discussion of all these items appears in the essay below:

    The Five Essential Music/Dance Moments

    “You spotted snakes with double tongue”

         Identified in dialogue as song (and dance) Unit 12, Line 9

    FAIRY

    1.       You spotted snakes with double tongue,
    2.           Thorny hedgehogs be not seen.
    3.      Newts and blindworms,
    4.           Come not near our Fairy Queen.

    [Chorus]

    1.      Philomel, with melody
    2.      Sing in our sweet lullaby.
    3.      Lulla, lulla, lullaby,
    4.      Lulla, lulla, lullaby.
    5.      Never harm, nor spell nor charm
    6.      Come our lovely lady nigh.
    7.      So good night, with lullaby.

    FAIRY

    1.      Weaving spiders come not here.
    2.           Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence.
    3.      Beetles black, approach not near.
    4.           Worm nor snail, do no offence.

    [Chorus repeats]

    Tytania falls asleep.

    FAIRY

    1. Hence, away: Now all is well.
    2. One aloof stand sentinel.

    Of greatest importance are the three songs in the play. The first of these happens in Unit 12, when Tytania commands her followers to perform a roundel (a kind of round dance) and a song. The song has two stanzas in the form of quatrains and a seven-phrase refrain that follows both. A two-line coda ordering all the fairies to disperse—except a sentinel to keep watch—was originally printed as part of the lyrics and it is sometimes sung, but is now usually treated as dialogue.

    The refrain of the song is a lullaby that induces the fairy queen to sleep, but the quatrains serve a different purpose. They are incantations against the invasion of serpents and spiders. The function of the accompanying dance in a circle around Tytania is the weaving of a spell that creates a protective perimeter around her.

    The structure and tone of the song suggests that it is an art song rather than a folk song, which in turn implies that it was accompanied by an instrumental ensemble. (A stage direction specifically calls for such an ensemble at a later point in the play, and since it was available it is hard to imagine that it was not used here as well.)

    The early editions are somewhat confusing about the exact assignments of the singers, but most settings of the song assign the two stanzas to soloists and the refrain to the ensemble. Nothing suggests that specific named fairies must be assigned to any particular lyric, however, so there is great flexibility in how the lullaby might be performed. In practice, it is common for all the fairies to sing the entire piece in unison. It is also fairly common for the stanzas to be spoken or chanted in the manner of an incantation over a musical underscoring with only the refrain completely sung.

    In his study of Shakespeare’s music, John H. Long sets the lyrics to a lullaby found in Anthony Holborne’s 1597 collection Pavans, galliards, and other short aeirs. Andrew Charlton adapts an anonymous 16th century piece called “Barafostus’ Dream” for the same purpose. (See bibliography for how to find these realizations.) At this writing a recorded version from Duffin’s Shakespeare’s Songbook, Vol. 1 is available at "You Spotted Snakes"

    ********************************************************************

    “The Woosel Cock” (or “The Ousel Cock” in modern spelling)

         Identified in dialogue as song, Unit 19, line 60

    BOTTOM

    1. The ousel cock, so black of hue,
    2.      With orange-tawny bill,
    3. The throstle with his note so true,
    4.      The wren with little quill—

    TYTANIA

    1. What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?

    BOTTOM

    1. The finch, the sparrow, and the lark,
    2.      The plainsong cuckoo gray,
    3. Whose note full many a man doth mark
    4.      And dares not answer “nay”—
    5. …for, indeed, who would set his wit to so foolish a bird?
    6. Who would give the bird the lie 'though he cry “cuckoo” never so?

    In Unit 19, Bottom sings two fragments from what was apparently a popular folksong of the period, although the original tune is no longer known. We do not hear the entire song because Tytania interrupts his singing. The song is not accompanied and is not necessarily intended to be performed well. The comedy of the scene, in fact, comes from the contrast between what we hear from the braying of the transformed Bottom and what the enchanted Tytania perceives as an “angelic” voice.

    Inigo Jones watercolor

    Inigo Jones' rendering of a ballad singer

    Faithful two-dimensional copy of a work in the public domain

    The lyrics in the printed text includes two quatrains, followed by two sentences that are usually interpreted as spoken dialogue, but which Long thinks was a refrain. The ditty is a just a device for Bottom to calm himself, and the lyrics are not particularly important or relevant to the story. (The song is about birds, ending with the cuckoo, references to which figure in many Elizabethan jokes and folksongs for its similarity to “cuckold.”) The lyrics easily fit tunes from a large number of Elizabethan ballads and folksongs, as it is written in a simple meter. It is, in fact, an example of the song meter (as opposed to the sonnet form) of “eight-and-six.”

    You can hear a rather light-hearted recorded version of Duffin’s conjectural setting of the song at "The Woosel Cock". Another, much more sincere, version of a different setting is available at "The Woosel Cock"

    Because the lyrics are not important to the plot, modern productions sometimes substitute an entirely different piece of music replicating the effect of using of a popular tune familiar to the audience rather than using the now-obscure folksong. The editor directed a production in which, at the suggestion of the student dramaturg, Bottom sang modern-day hipster crooners’ favorite song, “Wonderwall.”

    *******************************************************

    Music such as charmeth sleep

         Identified in dialogue at Unit 33 (IV.i.b), Line 67

    The climactic use of music and dance in Midsummer takes place in Unit 33 at line 65, when Tytania commands it, or more likely at line 67, when Oberon repeats the order. Tytania (speaking to unseen forces) asks for “music, such as charmeth sleep.” Oberon then follows up her royal request with “Sound music. Come, my queen, take hands with me/ and rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.” His suggestion is that they dance in a manner that will “rock” the ground in the same manner that a mother would rock a cradle, combining with the music to keep the four lovers (and Bottom) in a deep sleep. Oberon and Tytania then dance together, ending their enmity, and resolving their quarrel over the changeling boy that has disrupted nature.

    Long suggests that there are two separate musical episodes here: First, the music that “charmeth sleep” as ordered by Tytania, and once it is completed, a separate piece of music to accompany the dance suggested by Oberon. In modern production only one piece of music is commonly used, but it sometimes begins when Tytania commands it, and then extends when Oberon gets the idea to dance to it as a tool of reconciliation.

    We know nothing of the original music, but it was certainly supplied by an off-stage consort, as it is supposed to be magically induced. It perhaps represents the harmonious “music of the spheres” being made audible. The purpose of this music is to refresh and restore the lost senses of the mortals after their mentally and physically trying night in the woods. We have every reason, then, to think that the music might be calm and peaceful. Long proposes John Dowland’s “Sleep, Wayward Thoughts” as found in his First Book of Airs (1597) as a good equivalent for what might have been played at this point in the original production. Numerous recordings of this piece can be easily found, such as at "Sleep, Wayward Thoughts"

    period print

    Johann Theodor de Bry, detail from Society Couples Dancing

    Faithful two-dimensional copy of a work in the public domain

    The dance which Oberon and Tytania then perform to mark the restoration of their relationship was probably a pavane, a stately court dance of the period. A simple demonstration of this dance can be found at "Pavane"

    *******************************************************

    Bergomask

         Dance identified in dialogue, occurring at Unit 49 (V.i.m), line 309

    In the early modern period, theatrical events involved more than just the formal play. They might include pre-show crowd pleasers like fencing bouts or short concerts, and almost always ended with some kind of postlude and a dancing demonstration. In keeping with theatrical custom, after performing Pyramus and Thisbe, Bottom and his crew offer just such an epilogue or a dance. Already familiar with their ability to deliver verse, Theseus wisely chooses the latter.

    The dance they propose to perform is a Bergomask, a lively dance that originally poked fun at the rustic and unsophisticated folk dances of the Bergamo region of Italy. It was perceived then something like tap or clog dancing is now received— that is, as something less elevated than art dance like ballet, but also as possibly more entertaining and popular.

    Bottom’s proposal to the Duke is that two company members will perform this dance, but even if only two start it off the Bergomask is almost universally performed by the whole group of mechanicals in modern production. As opposed to the ethereal dancing of the fairies that has preceded, and will follow, this dance, the Bergomask is usually a vigorous, earthy dance. It is not always accompanied by anything but clapping and stomping along to the insistent rhythm, but if music is desired almost any lively folk or popular dance will serve in this location.

    Period print of dance

    Sebald Beham's "Sept. and Oct." from The Peasant's Feast, or the 12 Months

    Faithful two-dimensional copy of a work in the public domain

    John Dover Wilson suggests that this piece serves as an anti-masque to the masque that will follow (see next entry), so even though it should serve as a grotesque parody, it still might be musically and choreographically related to Oberon’s song.

    One of Shakespeare’s castmates, Will Kemp (who might well have been the original Bottom), was a specialist in post-show jigs, and there is an extant tune called “Kemp’s Jig” that gives a sense of what kind of music might be used originally. A recording is available at: "Kemp's Jig"

    ****************************************************************

    “Now until the break of day,” also known as Oberon’s song

         Identified in dialogue as song (and dance) Unit 51, Line 348

    OBERON

    1. Now, until the break of day,
    2. Through this house each fairy stray.
    3. To the best bride-bed will we,
    4. Which by us shall blessèd be,
    5. And the issue there create
    6. Ever shall be fortunate.
    7. So shall all the couples three
    8. Ever true in loving be,
    9. And the blots of Nature's hand
    10. Shall not in their issue stand.
    11. Never mole, harelip, nor scar,
    12. Nor mark prodigious, such as are
    13. Despisèd in nativity,
    14. Shall upon their children be.
    15. With this field-dew consecrate
    16. Every fairy take his gait,
    17. And each several chamber bless,
    18. Through this palace, with sweet peace.
    19. And the owner of it blest,
    20. Ever shall in safety rest.
    21. Trip away. Make no stay.
    22. Meet me all by break of day.

    Oberon begins the scene by calling on his followers to give the house “glimmering light.” Most modern productions accomplish this by having the fairies enter carrying flickering candles, but since in Elizabethan times the carole was a dance performed with linked hands, he is more probably (supernaturally) causing or inviting twinkling starlight inside the chamber. With modern lighting technology, some productions now use small LED lights sewn into the costumes or mounted on headdresses to provide this effect and free the actors’ hands.

    The form of this masque is six lines of (probably spoken) instruction from Oberon, followed by a quatrain extending these instructions by Tytania. At that point, the Folio text has a heading that says simply, “The Song.” It is followed by eleven couplets which are not specifically assigned to any singer, although the quartos omit the heading and assign all of them to Oberon. (Samuel Johnson thought that this heading indicated that a (lost) song was inserted here, and that the couplets were a spoken section to follow it. The New Oxford Shakespeare seems to accept this interpretation. While it is common for song locations to be indicated in this way in the Folio, without printing their words, the fact that the couplets were set in italic type strongly suggest that Dr. Johnson was mistaken, and that they are lyrics.)

    Modern settings utilize a wide variety of assignments of singers to these lyrics. While Oberon sometimes sings or intones the whole song, just as often he shares it with Tytania and/or with the full ensemble. The couplet “To the best bride-bed will we / Which by us will blessed be” seems to indicate plural singers, so it is more than defensible to think that all or part of the song should be harmonized (as were most caroles) by all the participants.

    Ancient caroles, which had something of a processional quality, were generally not accompanied but the use of an instrumental consort elsewhere in the play makes it plausible that one was also used here.

    Andrew Charlton adapts the anonymous 16th century piece, “I Loathe that I Did Love” as a setting that gives some sense of what the original might have sounded like. (Long prints “The Urchin’s Dance,” written by Edmund Pierce for Thomas Middleton’s Blurt, Master Constable as a suggestive analogy, but the tune does not fit the meter or form of Oberon’s song, so it serves only to give a feeling of tone and style.) Few modern settings attempt to use an Elizabethan style, but most have a reverent and harmonious style that provide a fitting conclusion to the play.

    Other Music

    Flourishes and Fanfares

    In addition to the essential music cues above, the play calls for short fanfares or flourishes, lasting up to ten seconds, to start scenes where Theseus is entering in his official role and twice to announce sections of the play-within-the-play, Pyramus and Thisbe. Theatrical practice might suggest use of these on some other occasions, as well. In the comprehensive list of musical cues (below) there are notations about both specified and implied use of trumpets and horns in the play. All of these are also notated in Performance Mode. These are among the 25 cues mentioned at the start of this essay.

    Of particular note, however, is the instance of “Sound horns” after Unit 34, line 120. Because supernatural music has been used to lull the lovers and Bottom into a deep sleep, this use of mortal music to wake them and return them to their full sensibilities serves as a kind of book-end. Some effort might be expended to relate this flourish to the music that “charmeth sleep” in some manner.

    Optional incidental music

    Because Midsummer is such a musical play, it often involves commissioning a complete musical score. For a production utilizing such a score, it is sometimes useful to request a few minor pieces of music beyond those specifically called for by the text.

    In addition to the music noted above, it is common for the mechanicals to have an identifying theme that is played at the beginning of their scenes to set the comic tone, and the fairies often have their own identifying theme, as well. Notes for optional occasions where such music might be used appear in the list of cues below, and in Performance Mode.

    Bottom calls for music performed on the “tongs and the bones” in Unit 32. These are instruments something like the triangle and castanets. Tytania has a line right after which seems like a distraction, and the quartos have no musical cue here, but the Folio specifies that these instruments actually play. This is an optional occasion for a short, perhaps interrupted, piece of music.

    Finally, the transition between Units 33 and 34 may require a short musical interlude of some sort if Oberon/Theseus and Tytania/Hippolyta are doubling to cover their costume change and re-entrance.

    One possible incidental dance

    In the middle of Unit 18, after Bottom is transformed into an ass, there is an often overlooked possible dance cue. As his friends scatter in amazement, Puck enters (invisible to them) and says, “I’ll lead you about a round.” Although he may be speaking metaphorically, the literal meaning of this line is that he will lead, or “call,” a round dance. (In America, these are idiomatically called “square” dances.) One comic way of handling this scene is to turn it into a supernaturally compelled dance, and it may need both incidental music and choreography.

    Comprehensive List of Cues (Indented cues are optional)

         Pre-show

    Specified entrance Flourish at beginning of Unit 1

         Possible exit flourish at end of Unit 2

         Possible rustic entrance music at beginning of Unit 6

         Possible fairy entrance music at beginning of Unit 7

         Possible entrance flourish for Oberon and Tytania at beginning of Unit 8

    Entrance music/underscoring, blending into fairies’ song-dance at beginning of Unit 12

         Possible rustic entrance music at beginning of Unit 18

         Possible madcap music for chase in middle of Unit 18 (Duffin cites “Sellenger’s Round,” one of the most popular tunes of the period, as a possibility. Many recordings are easily available.)

    Bottom’s song (The Ousel Cock) in Unit 19

         Exit music before modern intermissions, end of Unit 19, (III.1)

         Intermission

         Possible music for Oberon’s entrance to start second half, top of Unit 20 (III.ii.a)

         Possible fog/quarrel music for (III.ii.k-m) Units 29-31 (Duffin provides a possible setting using the tune found in an Elizabethan manuscript with very similar lyrics.)

         Entrance music for fairies at top of Unit 32 (IV.1.a)

         Possible music for “Tongs and Bones” in Unit 32, after line 15 (Folio specifies, Quartos don’t)

    Ethereal music in (IV.1.b) Unit 33, when Tytania and Oberon command it. (Lines 65, or more likely 67)

    Previous cue continues as a dance

         Possible transition music between Units 33 and 34 (IV.1.b and c) possibly blending into specified flourish for entrance of Theseus - see next cue

    Flourish for Theseus' entrance at top of Unit 34

    “Sound horns” after Unit 34, line 120

         Possible exit music for Theseus after Unit 34, line 169

         Possible Rustic music for top of Unit 36 (IV.ii.a)

    Flourish for Theseus at beginning of Unit 38, which is top of Act V

         Flourish before Prologue at Unit 40, after line 111. (Folio only SD)

         Flourish before Dumb Show (Unit 42) (Folio only SD)

    Bergomask dance at Unit 49, after line 309

    Song and dance at Unit 51, after line 347

         Curtain Call/Post show

    Lyrical passages

    Many verse passages in the play are extremely lyrical in nature. Although there is no indication that these were intended as songs, several of these “purple” passages have been set to music often, especially incantations and speeches that are cast in iambic tetrameter, sometimes called “magic meter.” The following list gives a sense of speeches from the play for which it is easy to find musical settings:

    “Love looks not with the eyes” (Unit 5)

    “Over hill, over dale” (Unit 7) Gooch and Thatcher list 43 settings

    “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows” (Unit 11, line 252) – Gooch and Thatcher list 38 settings

    “Up and Down.” (Unit 18, line 45)

    “Flower of this purple dye” (Unit 23)

    “Be as thou are want to be” (Unit 33, line 52)

    “Now the hungry lion roars” (Unit 50)

    “If we shadows have offended” (Epilogue)

    Annotated Musical Resources

    Charlton, Andrew. Music in the Plays of Shakespeare: A Practicum. Garland, 1991.

         (Charlton’s book is now out of print, but it is well worth tracking down for its thorough cue sheets and printed music for suggested settings for all the major pieces. The discussion of tone and purpose of each piece is very helpful for pre-planning any production whether or not there is any interest in historically accurate recreations.)

    Duffin, Ross W. Shakespeare's Songbook. Vol. 1, W W Norton, 2014.

         (The most recent work providing a discussion of the music along with printed possible settings for Shakespeare’s songs, this excellent volume is easily available. It has a companion CD carried by Naxos of America, which makes it possible to hear recordings of many of the most important musical pieces. The recorded music has been made available separately by the publisher on many streaming music services, so one can easily listen to most of the examples. The greatest virtue of this book is that it discusses many pieces of incidental music in addition to the major songs and offers suggestions from the period repertoire that might satisfy them. The glaring weakness, at least as concerns Midsummer, is that it inexplicably omits any discussion of the final song, “Now Until the Break of Day.”)

    Gooch, Bryan Niel Shirley, et al. A Shakespeare Music Catalogue. Vol. 2, Clarendon Press, 1991.

         (This academic catalogue does not provide any music but is simply an exhaustive list of known settings. For Midsummer that totals in the thousands. The discussion of Midsummer is illuminating as it covers incidental music for the theater, settings for songs intended for concert performance, related pieces like Britten’s opera, and settings of verse not originally intended as song. Although it has not been updated since 1991, it is still exceptionally helpful.)

    Long, John H. Shakespeare's Use of Music. Da Capo Press, 1977.

         (Now available in an inexpensive reprint by Forgotten Books, Long’s discussion of music is sometimes marred by outdated editorial assumptions, but his musical selections are useful and his observations about the uses of the music can be very astute. He offers very different suggestions of Elizabethan pieces that might work from Duffin or Charlton, so this is a good additional resource.)

    Place, Gerald, and Rebecca Hickey, singers. Dorothy Linell, Lute. Music for Shakespeare's Theatre. Naxos 8.570708, 2008. Musical Recording.

         (This recording of period music for Shakespeare’s plays, also made widely available by the publisher on streaming services, includes “The Woosel Cock” and “You Spotted Snakes,” along with a short version of “Kemp’s Jig.”)

    Next resource: Annotated Resources

    Annotated Resources

    Note: All titles are clickable links

    Facsimiles and transcriptions of 17th Century Editions

    First Quarto, 1600

    The Huntington Library's superb digitization of their copy

    First Quarto transcription

    A somewhat-easier-to-read transcription of the First Quarto, preserving all original spellings, but using modern typefaces.

    Second Quarto, 1619

    The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin's beautifully digitized copy

    Second Quarto, 1619

    British Library's Shakespeare in Quarto collection

    First Folio, 1623

    A superb presentation of the copy owned by Oxford University's Bodeleian Library

    First Folio transcription

    A somewhat-easier-to-read transcription of the First Folio, preserving all original spellings, but using modern typefaces.

    A guide to all digitized First Folios available online

    Sarah Werner's authoritative blog post with links to all the First Folios online.

    Second Folio, 1632

    From the collection of Miami University of Ohio

    Other interesting sites

    ShakEdsEtc.ORG

    M.L. Stapleton's astonishingly complete set of links to digital versions of almost all Shakespeare editions now in the public domain published in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

    Clear Shakespeare Podcast

    Akiva Fox’s Read-Along Midsummer Night’s Dream Podcast, explaining the play line-by-line.

    Shakespeare's Staging

    University of California, Berkeley's immensely informative site about the staging of Shakespeare's plays throughout history

    Next resource: Scansion Guide

    Practical Scansion

    Scansion—the beating out of the rhythm of Shakespeare's verse—is a fundamental skill for the performer. To the degree that it has a practical application in spoken delivery of the lines it is relatively simple to learn to do. Midsummer is a nearly ideal play in which to first practice the skill because it is extremely regular, but offers at least a few examples of all the kinds of complications that actors regularly encounter.

    Crucial to speaking and performing Shakespeare's verse is the ability to scan the lines and understand their inherent rhythm. "Performer Mode" does not attempt to fully scan and mark every line (using the familiar x / x / x / x / x / notation, or any other system) but it does seek to assist beginners with identifying the main scansion issues in the play and give even experienced professionals a way to double check troublesome lines.

    "Performer Mode" provides the overview needed for delivery of the lines while sight-reading or rehearsing. The aim is to make as transparent as possible to moments of decision and the options available to the actor.

    Verse and Prose

    First, although the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries are often written with high proportions of verse, they are rarely completely written in poetic forms. A Midsummer Night's Dream is about 80% verse. A quick look at Unit 6, a prose scene, compared to the five units that precede it, will suffice to make the difference clear. Prose lacks the regularity of line length and metricality of verse. Where verse begins each line with a capital letter (whether or not it is the beginning of a sentence) and stops short of the right margin, prose runs completely to the margin and does not "start over" until the beginning of a new paragraph.

    In the case of prose, there is no intended rhythmic pattern, hence there is nothing to scan.

    Regular Verse Lines

    Even in verse scenes, the vast majority of lines in the play are unmarked in the performer mode, because they need no intervention by the actors. That is to say, the verse in Midsummer is surprisingly regular. With the exception of a single speech that is fully annotated in the text, Shakespeare uses only three basic meters in this play, (pentameter, tetrameter and—for the purpose of parody in Pyramus and Thisbe—"fourteeners") all with an iambic pulse. For the most part, simply speaking the words as written will yield the desired effect. Anyone who has learned that Shakespeare's lines go "de-DUM | de-DUM | de-DUM | de-DUM | de-DUM|" will find ample confirmation because a large number of lines in Midsummer do so and one must be stubbornly perverse and unmusical about delivery to prevent this straightforward effect. Below are examples, with their feet marked by vertical strokes, for clarity:

    1. This man | hath my | consent | to mar|ry her. | (Unit 2, line 26)
    2. To you | your fath|er should | be as | a god. | (Unit 2, line 48)
    3. I do | entreat | your grace | to par|don me. | (Unit 2, line 60)

    These lines are examples of strict iambic pentameter, and because they can be read right off the page without complication "Performer Mode" does not comment on them.

    Special note: On rare occasions, about 35 times in this play, a single line of verse can be shared by two or more speakers. You can tell that this is the case because the verse is arranged on the page with the words of the second speaker indented beyond that of the first. Here is such an arrangement:

    THESEUS

    1. Call Philostrate.

    PHILOSTRATE

    1. Here, mighty Theseus. (Unit 39, line 39)

    Because the line is regular, "Performer Mode" does not annotate it, but the second speaker needs to be sure not to "break the verse," i.e. don't leave a pause, before speaking.

    Verse Lines with Variations

    The problem with the "de-DUM | de-DUM | de-DUM | de-DUM | de-DUM|" rule of thumb is that it is a vast oversimplification. Shakespeare doesn't really write in strict iambic pentameter, and it is rare to find an extended passage utilizing it. Poets of the Elizabethan period generally favored blank verse, a form of unrhymed iambic pentameter that extensively employs three minor variations to provide flexibility and reduce monotony.

    These variations are easily observed, and their effect is easy to hear. A wide number of different terms are used to identify them, however, which can be confusing to the novice.

    1. Heads (trochaic inversions)

    The first of these variations is called, simply, a "head" in this volume. Heads occur when a trochee is substituted for the first—and only the first—iambic foot of the line. (A trochee is the opposite rhythm from an iambus; instead of "de-DUM" it goes "DUM-de.") This effect is also sometimes called the inverted opening, strong opening, trochaic variation, or hard start.

    Here are a few lines that use this variation:

    1. Rather | your eyes | must with | his judg|ment look. | (Unit 2, line 59)
    2. Chanting | faint hymns | to the | cold, fruit|less moon. | (Unit 2, line 75)
    3. Scornful | Lysan|der, true, | he hath | my love: (Unit 2, line 97)

    Like perfectly regular lines, these lines really have no actor decisions to be made in them either, because no one says "ra-THER, chan-TING, or scorn–FUL." Simply speaking the line naturally, without "talk-KING bizarrely” will yield Shakespeare's intended rhythm. Heads provide a small burst of power, and a bit of rhythmic variety, but they are unexceptional within the rules of blank verse as Shakespeare and his contemporaries practiced it and do not require a special notation in performer mode.

    More rarely, and a little more surprisingly, heads can also occur at the beginning of phrase, even if that happens mid-line. That is, they also happen immediately after a punctuated break at midline, which is technically termed a caesura. (This break is marked in lines in this essay with this double vertical stroke: ‖.) When they do so, the pattern is still that only one poetic foot is reversed and then the line returns to its normal pattern.

    Here is an example of such a line:

    1. Devout|ly dotes, ‖ dotes in | idol|atry, (Unit 2, line 111)

    Again, this line is not marked out for special treatment in performer mode, because it is quite natural to emphasize both occurrences of "dotes," and would be very odd to choose to say "dotes IN."

    Finally, it is theoretically possible for a line to have a head at both the beginning and at the midline caesura and still be considered "regular variations," and some of Shakespeare's later plays contain such lines, but none occur in Midsummer.

    2. Headless Lines (Catalexes)

    In Midsummer, Shakespeare frequently uses a second variation of line or phrase beginnings in which the first foot consists only of a single stressed syllable. Scholars think of these as iambic feet with a silent first syllable, like a musical rest. These empty syllables are technically known as “catalexes;” the singular is “catalexis.” (Warning about terminological confusion: In classical Greek and Roman poetry, these unexpectedly empty syllables often sit at the end–rather than the beginning–of the line, and some scholars use the term exclusively for such cases, but when scanning Shakespeare the term is almost always used for headless lines.)

    The empty syllable is marked in this essay and in "Performer Mode" with this convention: (X). You will sometimes see these empty feet marked with a carat ^ in traditional scanning systems, but that is not the convention used in this edition because the symbol is not visible enough for sight-reading.

    This variation is very rare when the meter is iambic pentameter, although Midsummer does contain one example, made a little trickier because it also has a head after the caesura.

    1. (X) Melt|ed as | the snow, ‖ seems to | me now (Unit 34, line 149)

    That said, an extremely common meter for supernatural characters in this play is iambic tetrameter (a line of four, rather than five, iambic feet) and more of these lines are headless than are completely regular. There are dozens of instances in the play.

    Here are two examples:

    1. (X) I | do wan|der ev|’rywhere | (Unit 7, line 4)
    2. (X) Do | it for | thy true | love take. | (Unit 13, line 27)

    And an entire speech (Unit 51, lines 322-327) in iambic tetrameter in which all lines are headless:

    1. (X) Through | the house | give glimm |’ring light, |
    2. (X) By | the dead | and drow |sy fire. |
    3. (X) Ev |ery elf | and fair|y sprite |
    4. (X) Hop | as light |as bird | from briar, |
    5. (X) And | this dit|ty af|ter me, |
    6. (X) Sing | and dance | it trip|pingly. | (Unit 51, lines 322-27)

    Again, there is nothing specifically to do, except perhaps leave a tiny pause (often filled with a gesture or a step) where the empty syllable is, so that the underlying musical beat remains recognizable.

    3. Tails (Feminine Endings)

    The last of these common variations is the use of an extra, unstressed syllable at the end of the line. This variation is technically known as a "feminine" ending, a name borrowed from French poésie because it tends to be produced by use of grammatically feminine nouns (which, in French, often end with an extra unaccented syllable compared to their masculine forms) at the ends of lines.

    In English, where nouns are not gendered, this terminology has been contested for some time because it sounds sexist instead of grammatical. Many people now call it a weak, double or soft ending instead. Because this variation happens at the end of a line, it is also sometimes known as a line end variation. This edition of the play calls it, simply, a "tail." It is marked in scanned lines below by preceding the syllable with a left parenthesis: (

    Here are a few examples from the play:

    1. The rest | I'd give | to be | to you | transla (ted. | (unit 4, line 194)
    2. Since once | I sat | upon | a prom|ontor (y, | (Unit 9, line 149)
    3. Tempt not | too much | the hat|red of |my spir(it, | (Unit 10, line 213)

    In all these cases, the effect is palpable, but there is no real decision to be made. The line sounds perfectly normal through ten syllables, and then–surprise!–it is not quite finished. One more, gentle syllable follows. What actor would simply leave the syllable off, however? These effects are built into the lines and need no special marking in performance mode. These are still cases where the actor simply says the line.

    The thing that even experts miss about tails…

    There is an important point about tails that needs special attention. Like heads, they apply to both lines and phrases. That is, a phrase that ends at mid-line (i.e. just before a caesura) can also have a tail, although this is uncommon, especially in early plays. In a technical sense, this is not controversial, but even many experts tend to forget this rule and get very confused when this phenomenon (called an epic caesura) occurs.

    These are eleven syllable lines–exactly like a line with an ordinary tail–but the extra syllable is not where it is expected rhythmically. There are a number of these in Midsummer, and even though no decision needs to be made by the actor, these lines cause so much confusion that most are annotated in this edition. In the attached note, the line is fully scanned to help explain what is going on and reassure the actor that despite the odd feel, the line is still regular within the “rules” as Shakespeare understood them.

    Further, a line can have a tail at both the caesura and the line end, so it can have twelve syllables and still be technically regular with variations. These are very rare, but there are examples in Midsummer, and they are notated and fully scanned in student mode. There is still no decision to be made by the actor, but to avoid confusion these are identified.

    Here is an example of such a line:

    1. Uncoup |le in | the west|ern vall (ey, ‖ let them (go: | (Unit 34, line 89)

    Try saying it once without the tails, and you can hear that it is a regular line that just happens to have two tail variations.

    In all these cases, there is really nothing for the actor to do except to say the line as written. As Shakespeare and his contemporaries practiced the art of writing blank verse these variations were thought of as adding variety, but not as making the lines irregular. Because of this, most lines with variations are not marked in this edition, although mid-line tails are sometimes notated because they can confuse even experienced readers and performers. The issue is learning to recognize these “regular lines with variations,” rather than doing anything about them.

    Finally, it is worth noting that multiple variations can occur in a single line. Here is an example of a double tail with a head:

    1. That is |the mad (man. ‖ The lov|er, all |as fran(tic, | (Unit 38, line 10)

    The Elasticity of English: Lines that Require Attention by Actors

    The previous sections were about seeing how Shakespeare understood “regular” lines in a more complex way than we have generally been taught. While it is certainly important to develop this more nuanced perspective, it is not the main issue.

    For anyone speaking Shakespeare’s lines aloud, scansion is primarily about understanding and applying the elasticity of the spoken English language. (Or put another way, spoken English is more versatile than its written counterpart. Too much analysis of Shakespeare’s lines treats the written lines with a rigidity that is neither appropriate, nor historically accurate.)

    For performers and students speaking aloud the greatest challenge to scanning the verse is the surprisingly large number of lines that don’t appear at first glance to be regular, but which probably are. The reason being that many lines contain elastic words, that is, words or word combinations that can vary in their length depending on context. For example, the word interest is commonly thought to be a three-syllable word, in-ter-est, and so it is usually divided in a dictionary. In everyday usage, however, it is typically pronounced in-trest: two syllables. In the drama of the early modern period both pronunciations are used interchangeably, depending on the needs of the meter.

    There are hundreds of such cases where the printed form of the word does not immediately convey the manner in which the word fits into the metrical pattern. In addition, there are word combinations that are likewise elastic, for example, “to add” or “the edge,” where side-by-side vowels often combine into a single sound: t’add, or th’edge.

    In both kinds of these cases, the dictionary syllable count can be quite misleading. We don’t actually speak in the same way as we write, with ev-er-y / word / ful-ly / pro-nounc’d / and / sep-a-rat-èd, so as to keep entirely distinct from its neighbors. We frequently blur syllables–and even whole phrases–together in ways that are often labeled "mumbling" but are useful real-life tricks for compressing data and speeding communication. (This compression is the reason that it is so hard to understand native speakers of a foreign language you are studying, and why they have so much trouble understanding you.) “I have got to…” becomes “I gotta.” “Could have” comes out sounding like “could of” or even just “couda.” An entire range of vowel sounds, when moved to an unstressed position, simplify into the all-purpose schwa [ə], and are sometimes just left out altogether.

    Spoken English is full of elisions and contractions that are so common as to go largely unnoticed, and which are now often explicitly purged from formal writing.

    Our reverence for Shakespeare’s linguistic brilliance sometimes makes us think that he didn’t speak like a normal person, and he didn’t understand how normal people speak. Neither belief is true. The earliest printed versions of Shakespeare’s plays often contained indications of his keen ear. Where “Ile” was often printed in the early modern period, editors later modernized it to “I’ll.” Recently, a tendency to formalize his spelling (and to prioritize readers over users) has resulted in “I will.” Similarly, “Ore” became “o’er” and now is sometimes printed “over” without regard for the resulting addition of a syllable.

    In many other cases, the first printing didn’t necessarily record the shortening, but it is clear, nonetheless. Modern editions are extremely reluctant to print “sprite” where the quartos and folios say “spirit,” even when it provides a rhyme for “quite.” But why? Too much reverence works against good verse speaking.

    Because understanding the meter is the central issue for verse speakers, the main use of notation in "Performer Mode" is clarifying the scansion. Whenever possible, typographical conventions are adopted to show where the actor must take action. Elisions (the internal elimination of a syllable from a word) and contractions (the loss of a syllable by combining words) are indicated by apostrophes. Eighteenth century editors routinely employed this device, but the contemporary tendency is to eliminate such conventions. This, admittedly, makes the printed page cleaner and easier to read, but if often obscures the clues to the metrics that were once available. (In this edition, if ease of reading is your immediate concern, you can always just click into any other mode to see the unaltered text. Only "Performer Mode" is orthographically organized around scansion issues.)

    Another frequently used convention is the adoption of the superscripted “gamma” [ ] to indicate a blurring of a commonly independent syllable spelled with an “i” into the next syllable, like the ends of the words “Indian” and “Athenian” when those are pronounced “yan.”

    The verse in Midsummer is so regular that if you understand variations and elasticity, there are less than a dozen instances of irregular lines. If fact, the quality of the verse is so dependable that deviations are used to diagnose corruption in the transmission of the text. Because copyists, typesetters, and proofreaders can make mistakes, words were sometimes left out of lines. Handwriting was sometimes misread so the wrong word was inserted into the text. Other minor issues occasionally marred the accurate passing down of the text.

    It has often been said that irregularity should be treated as an acting note, which is a useful attitude, but not until after it has been thoroughly investigated as a textual problem. The manner in which modern editorial and performance practice most diverge is the degree to which contemporary editors seeks to preserve the bibliographic history of the text even if it means printing obviously flawed lines, while dramaturgs/directors tend more often to prefer emendation (even if the text cannot be definitively shown to be corrupted) if it results in a regular line that is easier to speak and understand. This edition favors the latter approach, with appropriate annotation.

    Other Types of Shortenings

    Occasionally, words in Shakespeare's plays scan with fewer syllables than we might expect. In many cases this is because we actually speak English much more informally than we write it. For example, in everyday conversation, only people with pedantically exact diction say "be-ing" as a two-syllable word. Almost everyone shortens it to "bing." It is never written in the shorter form, however. Our eyes can fool us, but Shakespeare had an excellent ear and often constructed lines according to how they actually sound, not how they look.

    A few words were pronounced differently in Elizabethan times, usually because of the elimination of an internal syllable consisting of a single vowel sound: "innocent" was commonly pronounced "inn'cent,"" perjury" became "perj'ry," and "venomous" contracted to "ven'mous." All such cases in the play are noted in "Performer Mode," and clicking on the word will bring up a full explanation with a pronunciation guide. Contemporary performance practice almost universally observes these cases because these words are still easily intelligible without the missing syllable.

    Specific Cases

    The "The+vowel" and "To+vowel" Rules

    In normal speech, when the words "the" and "to" are followed by words that begin with a vowel sound the two words are combined in a way that leaves only one vowel sound. Notice how everyone actually says "t'arrange" not "to/arrange." You usually hear "th'ending" not "thee/ending." Shakespeare honored our actual speech patterns. He wrote verse that accounts for the changes we normally introduce. These scansion instances are easily addressed, since it is what we normally do. They merely require us to avoid the kind of over-enunciation that we sometimes assume that Shakespeare needs – but doesn't!

    The Missing V Rule

    A much more complex consideration arises from the extensive elimination of particular consonants in the middle of words (medial Vs, but occasionally also medial THs and Ks) in Shakespeare's era. We are used to seeing this as a poetic convention when applied to the words "over" (o'er) and "ever" (e'er), but most people are very surprised how widely it applies to other words like: devil, heaven, evil, given, having, whether, hither, other, and taken. All these cases reduce the word length by a full syllable, which we do not expect because there is no modern equivalent. The difficulty is doubled because, for easy legibility, these contractions are almost never marked in modern printed texts.

    All such instances are marked in this text's "Performer" mode, with an attached note referring to them as instances of the "Missing V Rule." In every case, a decision must be made about how to treat it, since audiences are not used to hearing these words without their middle consonants and often cannot understand the word without them. The notes explain how the specific cases are treated in modern performance practice—as there are a variety of strategies about how to preserve both the scansion and the intelligibility.

    The Variable Name Rule

    Names are notoriously variable in Shakespeare, shifting to meet the needs of the meter. In some cases, the name can appear in two forms: Helen and Helena, for example. Often, however, a name can be pronounced more than one way: Rome-ee-oh, or Rome-yo. Jule-ee-et, or Jule-yet. Neither form is more "correct" than the other. It is simply a matter of discovering how many syllables a name occupies in a given line and finding the pronunciation that fits it. In Midsummer, this is fairly straightforward in all cases but that of Demetrius. His name is frequently shortened to Demetr'us, which feels a bit awkward at first. All cases where adjustments are necessary are indicated in "Performer Mode" with green text and annotated with a full explanation.

    Expansions

    The elasticity highlighted above is primarily about elimination of a syllable under specific circumstances, but we also want to consider cases where a syllable is added:

    In Shakespeare's time a few words were pronounced with one additional syllable—usually an expanded ending. For example, the past tense of many words was accented. Today, we still have a few words where we occasionally handle these endings in an expanded manner: wretchèd, agèd, and blessèd are all sometimes treated as two-syllable words. In Shakespeare's time this practice applied to many more words, however: wishèd, renownèd, and crazèd all appear in Midsummer, for example.

    Words that end in "ion" were also usually expanded: imaginatïon (im-aj-in-a-see-un) and confusïon (con-few-see-un) are so treated in this play.

    A fairly substantial number of words in English are still spelled in a way that indicates their former expansions, although we have long since abandoned the extra syllable when two vowel sounds sit side by side: patïence, marriäge, vengëance, and oceän, for example.

    In a very small number of cases, possessives also expanded. In Midsummer there is an instance where "moon's" takes the archaic two-syllable form "moonës."

    In this edition, anywhere that an expansion is required to maintain the intended meter the word appears in green text while in "Performer Mode," and with the expanded syllable marked just as in the examples in this section. Clicking directly on the word will access an explanatory note.

    That Shakespeare spoke some words with an additional syllable, and wrote these rhythms into his verse, does not automatically mean that a modern actor must do so, however. Contemporary performance practice generally considers intelligibility primary, expanding words that can still be easily understood, but not always observing alterations that make words too difficult to understand or drawing too much alienating attention. Scansion notes tell us about the meter of the line, but deciding what to do about such metrical considerations is an aesthetic decision to be made in context. Expanding "ion" endings, especially at the end of lines, was (until recently) frequently avoided. A renewed interest in "Original Pronunciation" is changing that, but adoption is uneven. Expanded past tenses are easily understood, however, so usually spoken.

    Especially when an archaic or formal sound might be helpful, for characters from the ancient world, for magical incantations, or to portray stuffy priggishness, it is also common to use the archaic pronunciation despite its odd sound.

    Accentuation Changes

    Pronunciation of a few words has shifted since Shakespeare's time to accent different syllables than now receive emphasis, and confusingly sometimes the same word is pronounced two different ways inside a single play. This happens because the word was undergoing change in his era, as a few words are still unsettled in ours: both ádvertísement and advértisement are acceptable, for example. Is it banál, or nal? In Shakespeare's time this applied especially to words that began with "con" or "com": confessor, consort, compact, and complete sometimes have first syllable accents. A couple of others that appear in Midsummer are persévere and revénue. All these cases are marked in the notes in "Performer" mode, with complete explanations and guides to pronunciation, although—like expansions—the performer must still decide how to handle the possible confusion.

    Alternative Verse Patterns

    It is so common to say that Shakespeare's plays are written in blank verse, that there is a general tendency to overlook the deliberate use of some alternatives in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Although the play is extensively written in blank (that is, unrhymed) verse, it has a very high proportion of couplets that do rhyme. These lines present no particular difficulty beyond an occasional decision about how to treat pairs of words whose pronunciation has changed over time so that they no longer rhyme: move/love, eyes/qualities. Modern practice is usually to use contemporary pronunciations and avoid the historic rhyme. The exception is when a comic or antique effect is desirable.

    Of far greater importance: The fairies often speak in iambic tetrameter (four iambic feet per line) rather than pentameter. The principles of scansion do not change, except that the expectation is a line of eight syllables—with variations—instead of ten. The spoken effect can be very different, however. Tetrameter can sound deliberately odd. Many productions of Midsummer heighten this effect by preserving all archaic pronunciations, including historic rhymes, in the performance of the fairies to emphasize their other-worldliness.

    Finally, the "Mechanicals" perform a playlet in