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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act V. Scene I.

A Midsummer-Night’s Dream

Athens.An Apartment in the Palace of THESEUS.

Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, Lords, and Attendants.

Hip.’Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of.

The.More strange than true. I never may believe

These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

More than cool reason ever comprehends.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,

Are of imagination all compact:

One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,

That is, the madman; the lover, all as frantic,

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;

And, as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

Such tricks hath strong imagination,

That, if it would but apprehend some joy,

It comprehends some bringer of that joy;

Or in the night, imagining some fear,

How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear!

Hip.But all the story of the night told over,

And all their minds transfigur’d so together,

More witnesseth than fancy’s images,

And grows to something of great constancy,

But, howsoever, strange and admirable.

The.Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.


Joy, gentle friends! joy, and fresh days of love

Accompany your hearts!

Lys.More than to us

Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed!

The.Come now; what masques, what dances shall we have,

To wear away this long age of three hours

Between our after-supper and bed-time?

Where is our usual manager of mirth?

What revels are in hand? Is there no play,

To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?

Call Philostrate.

Philost.Here, mighty Theseus.

The.Say, what abridgment have you for this evening?

What masque? what music? How shall we beguile

The lazy time, if not with some delight?

Philost.There is a brief how many sports are ripe;

Make choice of which your highness will see first.[Gives a paper.

The.The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung

By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.

We’ll none of that: that have I told my love,

In glory of my kinsman Hercules.

The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,

Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.

That is an old device; and it was play’d

When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.

The thrice three Muses mourning for the death

Of Learning, late deceas’d in beggary.

That is some satire keen and critical,

Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.

A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus

And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.

Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!

That is, hot ice and wonderous strange snow.

How shall we find the concord of this discord?

Philost.A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,

Which is as brief as I have known a play;

But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,

Which makes it tedious; for in all the play

There is not one word apt, one player fitted.

And tragical my noble lord, it is;

For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.

Which when I saw rehears’d, I must confess,

Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears

The passion of loud laughter never shed.

The.What are they that do play it?

Philost.Hard-handed men, that work in Athens here,

Which never labour’d in their minds till now,

And now have toil’d their unbreath’d memories

With this same play, against your nuptial.

The.And we will hear it.

Philost.No, my noble lord;

It is not for you: I have heard it over,

And it is nothing, nothing in the world;

Unless you can find sport in their intents,

Extremely stretch’d and conn’d with cruel pain,

To do you service.

The.I will hear that play;

For never anything can be amiss,

When simpleness and duty tender it.

Go, bring them in: and take your places, ladies.[Exit PHILOSTRATE.

Hip.I love not to see wretchedness o’er-charg’d,

And duty in his service perishing.

The.Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.

Hip.He says they can do nothing in this kind.

The.The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.

Our sport shall be to take what they mistake:

And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect

Takes it in might, not merit.

Where I have come, great clerks have purposed

To greet me with premeditated welcomes;

Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,

Make periods in the midst of sentences,

Throttle their practis’d accent in their fears,

And, in conclusion, dumbly have broke off,

Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,

Out of this silence yet I pick’d a welcome;

And in the modesty of fearful duty

I read as much as from the rattling tongue

Of saucy and audacious eloquence.

Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity

In least speak most, to my capacity.


Philost.So please your Grace, the Prologue is address’d.

The.Let him approach.[Flourish of trumpets.

Enter QUINCE for the Prologue.

Prol.If we offend, it is with our good will.

That you should think, we come not to offend,

But with good will. To show our simple skill,

That is the true beginning of our end.

Consider then we come but in despite.

We do not come as minding to content you,

Our true intent is. All for your delight,

We are not here. That you should here repent you,

The actors are at hand; and, by their show,

You shall know all that you are like to know.

The.This fellow doth not stand upon points.

Lys.He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he knows not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not enough to speak, but to speak true.

Hip.Indeed he hath played on his prologue like a child on a recorder; a sound, but not in government.

The.His speech was like a tangled chain; nothing impaired, but all disordered. Who is next?

Enter PYRAMUS and THISBE, WALL, MOONSHINE, and LION, as in dumb show.

Prol.Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;

But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.

This man is Pyramus, if you would know;

This beauteous lady Thisby is, certain.

This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present

Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder;

And through Wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content

To whisper, at the which let no man wonder.

This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,

Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,

By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn

To meet at Ninus’ tomb, there, there to woo.

This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,

The trusty Thisby, coming first by night,

Did scare away, or rather did affright;

And, as she fled, her mantle she did fall,

Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.

Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,

And finds his trusty Thisby’s mantle slain:

Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,

He bravely broach’d his boiling bloody breast;

And Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade,

His dagger drew and died. For all the rest,

Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain,

At large discourse, while here they do remain.[Exeunt PROLOGUE, PYRAMUS, THISBE, LION, and MOONSHINE.

The.I wonder, if the lion be to speak.

Dem.No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many asses do.

Wall.In this same interlude it doth befall

That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;

And such a wall, as I would have you think,

That had in it a crannied hole or chink,

Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,

Did whisper often very secretly.

This loam, this rough-cast, and this stone doth show

That I am that same wall; the truth is so;

And this the cranny is, right and sinister,

Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.

The.Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?

Dem.It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.

The.Pyramus draws near the wall: silence!

Re-enter PYRAMUS.

Pyr.O grim-look’d night! O night with hue so black!

O night, which ever art when day is not!

O night! O night! alack, alack, alack!

I fear my Thisby’s promise is forgot.

And thou, O wall! O sweet, O lovely wall!

That stand’st between her father’s ground and mine;

Thou wall, O wall! O sweet, and lovely wall!

Show me thy chink to blink through with mine eyne.[WALL holds up his fingers.

Thanks, courteous wall: Jove shield thee well for this!

But what see I? No Thisby do I see.

O wicked wall! through whom I see no bliss;

Curs’d be thy stones for thus deceiving me!

The.The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again.

Pyr.No, in truth, sir, he should not. ‘Deceiving me,’ is Thisby’s cue: she is to enter now, and I am to spy her through the wall. You shall see, it will fall pat as I told you. Yonder she comes.

Re-enter THISBE.

This.O wall! full often hast thou heard my moans,

For parling my fair Pyramus and me:

My cherry lips have often kiss’d thy stones,

Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.

Pyr.I see a voice: now will I to the chink,

To spy an I can hear my Thisby’s face.


This.My love! thou art my love, I think.

Pyr.Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover’s grace;

And, like Limander, am I trusty still.

This.And I like Helen, till the Fates me kill.

Pyr.Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.

This.As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.

Pyr.O! kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.

This.I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.

Pyr.Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straightway?

This.’Tide life, ’tide death, I come without delay.[Exeunt PYRAMUS and THISBE.

Wall.Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;

And, being done, thus Wall away doth go.[Exit.

The.Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.

Dem.No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to hear without warning.

Hip.This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.

The.The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.

Hip.It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.

The.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.

Re-enter LION and MOONSHINE.

Lion.You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear

The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,

May now perchance both quake and tremble here,

When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.

Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am

A lion-fell, nor else no lion’s dam:

For, if I should as lion come in strife

Into this place, ’twere pity on my life.

The.A very gentle beast, and of a good conscience.

Dem.The very best at a beast, my lord, that e’er I saw.

Lys.This lion is a very fox for his valour.

The.True; and a goose for his discretion.

Dem.Not so, my lord; for his valour cannot carry his discretion, and the fox carries the goose.

The.His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valour, for the goose carries not the fox. It is well: leave it to his discretion, and let us listen to the moon.

Moon.This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;

Dem.He should have worn the horns on his head.

The.He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible within the circumference.

Moon.This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;

Myself the man i’ the moon do seem to be.

The.This is the greatest error of all the rest. The man should be put into the lanthorn: how is it else the man i’ the moon?

Dem.He dares not come there for the candle; for, you see, it is already in snuff.

Hip.I am aweary of this moon: would he would change!

The.It appears, by his small light of discretion, that he is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all reason, we must stay the time.

Lys.Proceed, Moon.

Moon.All that I have to say, is, to tell you that the lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this thorn-bush, my thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog.

Dem.Why, all these should be in the lanthorn; for all these are in the moon. But, silence! here comes Thisbe.

Re-enter THISBE.

This.This is old Ninny’s tomb. Where is my love?

Lion.[Roaring.]Oh—.[THISBE runs off.

Dem.Well roared, Lion.

The.Well run, Thisbe.

Hip.Well shone, Moon. Truly, the moon shines with a good grace.[The LION tears THISBE’S mantle, and exit.

The.Well moused, Lion.

Dem.And then came Pyramus.

Lys.And so the lion vanished.

Re-enter PYRAMUS.

Pyr.Sweet moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;

I thank thee, moon, for shining now so bright,

For, by the gracious, golden, glittering streams,

I trust to taste of truest Thisby’s sight.

But stay, O spite!

But mark, poor knight,

What dreadful dole is here!

Eyes, do you see?

How can it be?

O dainty duck! O dear!

Thy mantle good,

What! stain’d with blood!

Approach, ye Furies fell!

O Fates, come, come,

Cut thread and thrum;

Quail, crush, conclude, and quell!

The.This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would go near to make a man look sad.

Hip.Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.

Pyr.O! wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?

Since lion vile hath here deflower’d my dear?

Which is—no, no—which was the fairest dame

That liv’d, that lov’d, that lik’d, that look’d with cheer.

Come tears, confound;

Out, sword, and wound

The pap of Pyramus:

Ay, that left pap,

Where heart doth hop:

Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.[Stabs himself.

Now am I dead,

Now am I fled;

My soul is in the sky:

Tongue, lose thy light!

Moon, take thy flight![Exit MOONSHINE.

Now die, die, die, die, die.[Dies.

Dem.No die, but an ace, for him; for he is but one.

Lys.Less than an ace, man, for he is dead; he is nothing.

The.With the help of a surgeon, he might yet recover, and prove an ass.

Hip.How chance Moonshine is gone before Thisbe comes back and finds her lover?

The.She will find him by starlight. Here she comes; and her passion ends the play.

Re-enter THISBE.

Hip.Methinks she should not use a long one for such a Pyramus: I hope she will be brief.

Dem.A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus, which Thisbe, is the better: he for a man, God warrant us; she for a woman, God bless us.

Lys.She hath spied him already with those sweet eyes.

Dem.And thus she moans, videlicet:

This.Asleep, my love?

What, dead, my dove?

O Pyramus, arise!

Speak, speak! Quite dumb?

Dead, dead! A tomb

Must cover thy sweet eyes.

These lily lips,

This cherry nose,

These yellow cowslip cheeks,

Are gone, are gone:

Lovers, make moan!

His eyes were green as leeks.

O, Sisters Three,

Come, come to me,

With hands as pale as milk;

Lay them in gore,

Since you have shore

With shears his thread of silk.

Tongue, not a word:

Come, trusty sword:

Come, blade, my breast imbrue:[Stabs herself.

And farewell, friends;

Thus Thisby ends:

Adieu, adieu, adieu.[Dies.

The.Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.

Dem.Ay, and Wall too.

Bot.No, I assure you; the wall is down that parted their fathers. Will it please you to see the epilogue, or to hear a Bergomask dance between two of our company?

The.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 blamed. Marry, if he that writ it had played Pyramus, and hanged himself in Thisbe’s garter, it would have been a fine tragedy: and so it is, truly, and very notably discharged. But come, your Bergomask: let your epilogue alone.[A dance.

The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve;

Lovers, to bed; ’tis almost fairy time.

I fear we shall out-sleep the coming morn,

As much as we this night have overwatch’d.

This palpable-gross play hath well beguil’d

The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.

A fortnight hold we this solemnity,

In nightly revels, and new jollity.[Exeunt.