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A Midsummer Night’s Dream


ACT III SCENE IThe wood. TITANIA lying asleep.
BOTTOMAre we all met?
QUINCEPat, pat; and here’s a marvellous convenient place
for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our
stage, this hawthorn-brake our tiring-house; and we
will do it in action as we will do it before the duke.
BOTTOMPeter Quince,–
QUINCEWhat sayest thou, bully Bottom?
BOTTOMThere are things in this comedy of Pyramus and
Thisby that will never please. First, Pyramus must
draw a sword to kill himself; which the ladies
cannot abide. How answer you that? 11
SNOUTBy’r lakin, a parlous fear.
STARVELINGI believe we must leave the killing out, when all is done.
BOTTOMNot a whit: I have a device to make all well.
Write me a prologue; and let the prologue seem to
say, we will do no harm with our swords, and that
Pyramus is not killed indeed; and, for the more
better assurance, tell them that I, Pyramus, am not
Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver: this will put them
out of fear. 20
QUINCEWell, we will have such a prologue; and it shall be
written in eight and six.
BOTTOMNo, make it two more; let it be written in eight and eight.
SNOUTWill not the ladies be afeard of the lion?
STARVELINGI fear it, I promise you.
BOTTOMMasters, you ought to consider with yourselves: to
bring in–God shield us!–a lion among ladies, is a
most dreadful thing; for there is not a more fearful
wild-fowl than your lion living; and we ought to
look to ‘t. 30
SNOUTTherefore another prologue must tell he is not a lion.
BOTTOMNay, 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,–‘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. If you think I come hither as a lion, it
were pity of my life: 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. 41
QUINCEWell it shall be so. But there is two hard things;
that is, to bring the moonlight into a chamber; for,
you know, Pyramus and Thisby meet by moonlight.
SNOUTDoth the moon shine that night we play our play?
BOTTOMA calendar, a calendar! look in the almanac; find
out moonshine, find out moonshine.
QUINCEYes, it doth shine that night.
BOTTOMWhy, then may you leave a casement of the great
chamber window, where we play, open, and the moon
may shine in at the casement. 51
QUINCEAy; or else one must come in with a bush of thorns

and a lanthorn, and say he comes to disfigure, or to
present, the person of Moonshine. Then, there is
another thing: we must have a wall in the great
chamber; for Pyramus and Thisby says the story, did
talk through the chink of a wall.
SNOUTYou can never bring in a wall. What say you, Bottom? 58
BOTTOMSome man or other must present Wall: and let him
have some plaster, or some loam, or some rough-cast
about him, to signify wall; and let him hold his
fingers thus, and through that cranny shall Pyramus
and Thisby whisper.
QUINCEIf that may be, 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: and so every one
according to his cue.
Enter PUCK behind.
PUCKWhat hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here,
So near the cradle of the fairy queen?
What, a play toward! I’ll be an auditor;
An actor too, perhaps, if I see cause. 70
QUINCESpeak, Pyramus. Thisby, stand forth.
BOTTOMThisby, the flowers of odious savours sweet,–
QUINCEOdours, odours.
BOTTOM— odours savours sweet:
So hath thy breath, my dearest Thisby dear.
But hark, a voice! stay thou but here awhile,
And by and by I will to thee appear.
PUCK[Aside.] A stranger Pyramus than e’er played here.
FLUTEMust I speak now? 79
QUINCEAy, marry, must you; for you must understand he goes
but to see a noise that he heard, and is to come again.
FLUTEMost radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of hue,
Of colour like the red rose on triumphant brier,
Most brisky juvenal and eke most lovely Jew,
As true as truest horse that yet would never tire,
I’ll meet thee, Pyramus, at Ninny’s tomb.
QUINCE‘Ninus’ tomb,’ man: why, you must not speak that
yet; that you answer to Pyramus: you speak all your
part at once, cues and all Pyramus enter: your cue
is past; it is, ‘never tire.’ 90
FLUTEO,–As true as truest horse, that yet would
never tire.
Re-enter PUCK, and BOTTOM with an ass’s head.
BOTTOMIf I were fair, Thisby, I were only thine:
QUINCEO monstrous! O strange! we are haunted. Pray,
masters! fly, masters! Help!
PUCKI’ll follow you, I’ll lead you about a round,
Through bog, through bush, through brake, through brier:
Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound,
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;
And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn, 100
Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn.
BOTTOMWhy do they run away? this is a knavery of them to
make me afeard.
Re-enter SNOUT.
SNOUTO Bottom, thou art changed! what do I see on thee?
BOTTOMWhat do you see? you see an asshead of your own, do
Re-enter QUINCE.
QUINCEBless thee, Bottom! bless thee! thou art
translated. 109
BOTTOMI see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me;
to fright 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.
‘The ousel cock so black of hue,
With orange-tawny bill,
The throstle with his note so true,
The wren with little quill,–‘
‘The finch, the sparrow and the lark, 120
The plain-song cuckoo gray,
Whose note full many a man doth mark,
And dares not answer nay;–‘
for, indeed, who would set his wit to so foolish
a bird? who would give a bird the lie, though he cry
‘cuckoo’ never so?
TITANIAI pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again:
Mine ear is much enamour’d of thy note;
So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape;
And thy fair virtue’s force perforce doth move me
On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee. 130
BOTTOMMethinks, mistress, you should have little reason
for that: and yet, to say the truth, reason and
love keep little company together now-a-days; the
more the pity that some honest neighbours will not
make them friends. Nay, I can gleek upon occasion.
TITANIAThou art as wise as thou art beautiful.
BOTTOMNot so, neither: but if I had wit enough to get out
of this wood, I have enough to serve mine own turn.
TITANIAOut of this wood do not desire to go:
Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no. 140
I am a spirit of no common rate;
The summer still doth tend upon my state;
And I do love thee: therefore, go with me;
I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee,
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep;
And I will purge thy mortal grossness so
That thou shalt like an airy spirit go.
Peaseblossom! Cobweb! Moth! and Mustardseed!
ALLWhere shall we go? 150
TITANIABe kind and courteous to this gentleman;
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glow-worm’s eyes,
To have my love to bed and to arise;
And pluck the wings from Painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes: 160
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.
BOTTOMI cry your worship’s mercy, heartily: I beseech your
worship’s name.
BOTTOMI shall desire you of more acquaintance, good Master
Cobweb: if I cut my finger, I shall make bold with
you. Your name, honest gentleman? 171
BOTTOMI 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?
BOTTOMGood Master Mustardseed, I know your patience well:
that same cowardly, giant-like ox-beef hath
devoured many a gentleman of your house: I promise
you your kindred had made my eyes water ere now. I
desire your more acquaintance, good Master
Mustardseed. 182
TITANIACome, wait upon him; lead him to my bower.
The moon methinks looks with a watery eye;
And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,
Lamenting some enforced chastity.
Tie up my love’s tongue bring him silently.

Next: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 3, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 1

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.

2. Pat, pat, in the very nick of time; cp. Haml. iii. 3. 73, “Now might I do it pat.” Skeat says, “This can hardly be other than the same word as pat, a tap. … But the sense is clearly due to an extraordinary confusion with Du. pas, pat, fit, convenient in time”…: marvellous, used adverbially; see Abb. § 1.

4. hawthorn-brake, thicket formed of hawthorn bushes: tiring house, house for attiring ourselves, dressing-room: to ‘tire,’ an abbreviation of ‘attire,’ is used specially of dressing the head; do it in action, act it.

7. bully, properly a blustering fellow, but frequently used by Shakespeare in a familiarly patronizing sense.

10. abide, endure; more properly ‘aby,’ as in iii. 2. 175, the word in this sense being from the A.S. abicgan, to pay for, while in the sense of ‘wait for’ it is from the A.S. abidan to expect.

10, 1. How answer you that? What answer will you make to that? How will you meet that objection?

12. By’r lakin, by our little lady, i.e. the Virgin Mary, used in an affectionate sense; cp. Temp. iii. 3. 1: parlous, a contraction of ‘perilous’; always used by Shakespeare with a certain comic sense.

13, 4. when all is done, after all; more commonly in modern speech ‘when all is said and done.’

15. Not a whit, not in the least; by no means; whit, “a thing, a particle, a bit. The h is in the wrong place; whit stands for wiht = wight, and is the same word as wight a person” … (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): to make all well, to set everytning straight; to obviate the difficulties you fear.

16. seem to say, merely Bottomese for ‘say.’ Wright compares Launcelot’s language, M. V. ii. 4. 11, “An it shall please you to break up this, it shall seem to signify.”

18. more better, for the double comparative, see Abb. § 11.

22. written in eight and six, in verses alternately of eight and six syllables.

25. afeard, afraid; though in affeard a– represents a corruption of the A.S. intensive of, the E. E. form of the verb being offeren, while ‘afraid’ is the participle of affray, to frighten.

26. I fear … you, I fear they will be afraid, I can assure you.

27. consider with yourselves, ponder the matter among you.

28. God shield us! God protect us! Bottom is horrified at the very idea. Malone compares a real occurrence at the Scottish Court in the year 1594, at the christening of Prince Henry, when a triumphal chariot was drawn in by a blackamoor because it was feared that the lion by which it was intended to be drawn might frighten the spectators, or the lighted torches drive the lion to fury.

29. wild-fowl, of course for ‘wild-beast:’ living goes with wild-fowl, not with lion.

30. ought to look to ‘t, ought to be careful what we are doing.

35. defect, effect.

37, 8. my life for yours, I stake my life for yours; I pledge you by my life that there is no reason for you to fear.

38, 9. it were … life, it would be a thing I should regret most bitterly; or perhaps of my life = I swear on my life; the phrase with ‘of’ as here, or ‘on,’ is frequent in Shakespeare; e.g. M. M. ii. 1. 77, T. N. ii. 5. 14; for of = as regards, see Abb. § 174.

40. there, at that point in his speech. Malone thinks there is here an allusion to a contemporary incident. “There was a spectacle presented to Queen Elizabeth upon the water, and among others Harry Goldinghamwas to represent Arion upon the dolphin’s backe; but finding his voice to be verye hoarse and unpleasant, when he came to perform it, he tears off his disguise, and swears he was none of Arion, not lie, but even honest Harry Goldingham; which blunt discoverie pleased the queene better than if he had gone through in the right way”… (Merry Passages and Jeasts, M.S. Harl, 6395).

41. Joiner, carpenter.

42. there is, for the inflection in –s preceding a plural subject, see Abb. § 335, though here probably we have an intentional vulgarism.

46. calendar, almanac; from “Lat. calendarium an account book of interest kept by money-changers, so called because interest became due on the calends (or first day) of each month; in later times a calendar” … (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

49. casement, window; properly the frame forming a window, or part of a window, which opened on hinges attached to the upright side of the frame in which it was fixed.

53. disfigure, figure, personate.

56. did talk … wall, in the story, Pyramus and Thisbe, living in adjoining houses, made a hole in the partition wall through which to carry on their love-making.

60. rough-cast, plaster mixed with small pebbles.

61. or is altered by Collier’s M.S. Corrector into and, a reading which Dyce, Delius and the Camb. Edd. adopt, but which does not seem to be necessary. Bottom mentions two alternative ways in which the wall may be symbolized; first, by the actor appearing daubed with marks of his occupation; secondly, as the story was so well known, by his holding his hand out with the first and second fingers separated from the third and fourth to signify a chink in the wall. It is true that in the representation both means are adopted, but it does not follow that this was the original intention.

64. every mother’s son, every one of you.

66. brake, the thicket at the side represents the ‘wings’ of the stage behind which the actors retire when they have played their parts: cue, according to some, from F. queue, a tail; according to others from Q, a note of entrance for actors, because it was the first letter of the Latin word quando, when, showing when to enter and speak.

67. What hempen … here, what rude rustics do I find ranting and strutting about here? ‘Homespun’ is literally coarse cloth spun at home, and ‘hemp’ is one of the materials used in the manufacture.

68. So near … queen? Puck resents their daring to approach so near the resting place of his sovereign.

69. toward, in preparation; cp. Haml. v. 2. 876, “What feast is toward thine eternal cell?”

72. savours, though there are many instances in Shakespeare of the third person plural in –s, Bottom’s illiterate speech is probably indicated here.

76. a While, for a time, for a minute or two.

77. by and by, almost directly; cp. Oth. ii. 3. 309, 10, “To be now (i.e. at one moment) a sensible man, by and by (i.e. a short time afterwards) a fool, and presently (i.e. almost immediately after that) a beast!”

78. here, Steevens supposes a reference to the theatre in which the piece was being acted; played, acted, represented.

80. marry, a corruption of ‘Mary,’ i.e. the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ; a petty adjuration.

81. goes but … heard, Quince means that Bottom has gone to find out how the noise he heard had been caused, but of course the absurdity of seeing a noise is intentional; cp. below, iv. 1. 206, 7; V. 1. 338, 9: is to come, will come, may be certainly expected to come.

82, 3. Most … brier, whose complexion combines the delicate white of the lily and the brilliant red of the rose; cp. Constance’s poetical description of Arthur’s beauty, K. J. iii. 1. 53, 4, “Of Nature’s gifts thou may’st with lilies boast And with the half-blown rose”: triumphant, rearing itself aloft.

84. juvenal, youth; an imitation of euphuistic language, as in L. L. L. i. 2. 8, “my tender juvenal“: eke, also, from the verb eke, to augment: Jew, for the sake of the alliteration with juvenal, though in L. L. L. iii. 1. 136, Costard addresses Moth as “my incony (i.e. delicate) Jew,” as though in compliment.

85. yet, i.e. however far he might go.

89. cues and all, including the cues.

89, 90. It is … tire, i.e. you should enter to speak your speech directly. Flute has uttered the words ‘never tire.’

93. If I were fair, Malone thinks we ought perhaps to punctuate If I were, fair Thisby, i.e. if I were as true, etc.: I were only thine, I would dedicate myself wholly to your love.

96. I’ll lead … round, I will lead you a pretty dance; about, adverb.

97. Through bog … brier, to complete the metre, Johnson, would insert ‘through mire,’ after bog, Ritson ‘through burn’, Lettsom ‘through brook.’

102, 3. this is … afeard, this is one of their knavish tricks played in order to make me afraid; for afeard, see note on 1. 25, above.

106. you see … do you? do you see as great a fool as yourself? Bottom is as yet unconscious of Puck’s transformation of him by the ass’ head on his shoulders.

108. translated, transformed.

112. do what they can, whatever they may do to frighten me.

113. that, so that: shall, the future where we should use the subjunctive; see Abb. 348.

114. ousel cock, the male blackbird, whose bill is of a bright orange colour.

116. throstle, the song-thrush, which, like the blackbird, has a very sweet note; the word is “a variant of throshel [a form not found], a diminutive of thrush” … (Skeat, Ety. Dict.),

117. quill, pipe, i.e. throat-pipe.

121. plain-song cuckoo, the cuckoo whose note is without variation; plain-song, “the uniform modulation or simplicity of the chaunt was anciently distinguished, in opposition to prick- song or variegated music sung by note” (Warton).

122. Whose note … mark, the cry of the bird, ‘cuckoo!’ was of old supposed to be connected etymologically with the word ‘cuckold,’ a man whose wife has been unfaithful to him, and, when uttered, to point at some man thus situated.

123. dares not utter nay, is unable to repel the charge.

124. set his wit… bird, oppose his wit to, challenge, the cuckoo by denying its slanderous accusation; cp. T. G. i. I. 94, “Will you set your wit to a fool’s?”

125. give a bird the lie, tell a bird that it is lying: though … so, however often it might cry ‘cuckoo!’

127. of, with.

128. enthralled to thy shape, led captive by the beauty of your form.

129. thy fair … me, the overpowering modesty which restrains you from urging your love, compels me, etc.

130. On the first view, hers is love at first sight, as we say: to swear, not merely to say, but even to swear.

132, 3. reason … now-a-days, are not often found together in these times.

133. the more the pity, all the greater pity is it.

134. will not … friends, will not do their best to bring them more together.

135. gleek, jeer, joke in a satirical way; cp. H. V. v. 1. 78, “I have seen you gleeking and galling at this gentleman twice or thrice.” Staunton remarks, “The all-accomplished Bottom is boasting of his versatility. He has shown, by his last profound observation on the disunion of love and reason, that he possesses a pretty turn for the didactic and sententious; but he wishes Titania to understand that, upon a fitting occasion, he can be as waggish as he has just been grave”; ‘gleek,’ “sc. glaiks, reflection of the rays of light from a lucid body in motion; to cast the glaiks on one, to dazzle, confound; glaik a deception, trick; to play the glaiks, get the glaiks, to cheat, be cheated. To glaik, to trifle; glaiking, folly, wantonness; O. N. leika to play; O. E. to lake, to play; lakin, plaything” (Wedgwood, Dict.): upon occasion, when the occasion calls for a joke.

137. wit, wisdom.

138. to serve mine own turn, to suit my purpose.

141. rate, estimate; cp. Temp. i. 2. 92, “With that which … O’erprized all popular rate.”

142. The summer … state, the very summer is my slave and follows me wherever I go; still, ever; state, regal greatness, majesty; cp. Temp. iv. 1. 101, “High’st queen of state.”

145. Jewels from the deep, Steevens compares R. III. 1. 4. 31, “reflecting gems That woo’d the shiny bottom of the deep.”

146. pressed flowers, flowers strewed as a bed for you.

148. go, move about: here, fly as spirits do.

150. Where shall we go? on what errand do you wish to send us?

152. Hop … eyes, dance before him as he walks, and display your gambols to amuse him.

153. apricocks, from “F. abricot, …from Port, albricoque, an apricot … These words are traced, in Webster and Littre, back to the Arabic al-barquq … where al is the Arabic definite article, and the word barquq is no true Arabic word, but a corruption of the Greek borrowed from the Lat. proecoqua, apricots…

154. mulberries, a garden fruit, resembling blackberries, though a good deal larger in size.

155. honey-bags, the small cysts in which the honey is carried: humble-bees, humming bees; to ‘humble’ is to hum, from M. E. humbelen; also called ‘bumble-bees’ from O. Du. bommelen, to buzz.

156. And for … thighs, and crop their thighs of the wax with which they are laden, to serve as tapers; the pollen which is borne home by the bees on the outside of their legs being apparently taken by Shakespeare for wax: and waxen thighs not meaning literally made of wax, but laden with wax.

157. at the … eyes, as the light of the glow-worm is in its tail, Johnson thought he had here caught Shakespeare napping, but, as Mason points out, ‘eye’ is here used poetically for the luminous point.

158. To have … arise, to conduct my love to his bed, and to wait on him when he gets up; cp. C. E. ii. 2. 10, “Your mistress sent to have me home to dinner.”

159. painted, gaudily decorated.

160. to fan … from, to keep off from, using the wings as fans, shades.

161. Nod, bow.

162. Hail, health to you; A.S. hoel, health.

166. I cry … heartily, from the bottom of my heart I beg your pardon; an expression of deprecatory politeness frequent in Shakespeare.

169. I shall desire … acquaintance, I shall hope to become better acquainted with you; literally, I shall make a request to you as regards more acquaintance; for of, in this sense, see Abb. § 174.

170. I shall … you, I shall venture to make use of your services; the cobweb film being sometimes applied to a cut by way of plaster.

173. commend me, make my respectful compliments to, and so ensure me a welcome by, etc.: a ‘squash’ is an unripe peascod; cp. T. N. i. 5. 166, “Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy; as asquash is before ’tis a peascod, or a codling when ’tis almost an apple.”

178. I know … well, I know how much you have to endure.

179. that same … oxbeef, that oxbeef which you and I know so well.

179, 80. hath devoured … house, mustard being taken as a relish to beef, that meat is spoken of as devouring, etc.; house, family.

180, 1. I promise … now, I can assure you that the members of your family have often brought tears to my eyes; as though the pungency of mustard which causes the eyes to water, had made him weep for its family misfortunes.

183. bower properly means a chamber, thence used generally of a shady recess formed by trees and shrubs.

184. with a watery eye, the watery look of the moon, caused by vapours hanging round it, indicates rainy weather.

185. weeps … flower, their tears being the dew.

186. enforced chastity, violence done to some chaste maiden.


How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1891.