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A Midsummer Night’s Dream


ACT III SCENE IIAnother part of the wood.
Enter OBERON, solus
OBERONI wonder if Titania be awaked;
Then, what it was that next came in her eye,
Which she must dote on in extremity.
Enter PUCK
Here comes my messenger.
How now, mad spirit!
What night-rule now about this haunted grove?
PUCKMy mistress with a monster is in love.
Near to her close and consecrated bower,
While she was in her dull and sleeping hour,
A crew of patches, rude mechanicals,
That work for bread upon Athenian stalls, 10
Were met together to rehearse a play
Intended for great Theseus’ nuptial-day.
The shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort,
Who Pyramus presented, in their sport
Forsook his scene and enter’d in a brake
When I did him at this advantage take,
An ass’s nole I fixed on his head:
Anon his Thisbe must be answered,
And forth my mimic comes. When they him spy,
As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye, 20
Or russet-pated choughs, many in sort,
Rising and cawing at the gun’s report,
Sever themselves and madly sweep the sky,
So, at his sight, away his fellows fly;
And, at our stamp, here o’er and o’er one falls;
He murder cries and help from Athens calls.
Their sense thus weak, lost with their fears
thus strong,
Made senseless things begin to do them wrong;
For briers and thorns at their apparel snatch;
Some sleeves, some hats, from yielders all
things catch. 30
I led them on in this distracted fear,
And left sweet Pyramus translated there:
When in that moment, so it came to pass,
Titania waked and straightway loved an ass.
OBERONThis falls out better than I could devise.
But hast thou yet latch’d the Athenian’s eyes
With the love-juice, as I did bid thee do?
PUCKI took him sleeping,–that is finish’d too,–
And the Athenian woman by his side:
That, when he waked, of force she must be eyed. 40
OBERONStand close: this is the same Athenian.
PUCKThis is the woman, but not this the man.
DEMETRIUSO, why rebuke you him that loves you so?
Lay breath so bitter on your bitter foe.
HERMIANow I but chide; but I should use thee worse,
For thou, I fear, hast given me cause to curse,
If thou hast slain Lysander in his sleep,
Being o’er shoes in blood, plunge in the deep,
And kill me too.
The sun was not so true unto the day 50
As he to me: would he have stolen away
From sleeping Hermia? I’ll believe as soon
This whole earth may be bored and that the moon
May through the centre creep and so displease
Her brother’s noontide with Antipodes.
It cannot be but thou hast murder’d him;
So should a murderer look, so dead, so grim.
DEMETRIUSSo should the murder’d look, and so should I,
Pierced through the heart with your stern cruelty:
Yet you, the murderer, look as bright, as clear, 60
As yonder Venus in her glimmering sphere.
HERMIAWhat’s this to my Lysander? where is he?
Ah, good Demetrius, wilt thou give him me?
DEMETRIUSI had rather give his carcass to my hounds.
HERMIAOut, dog! out, cur! thou drivest me past the bounds
Of maiden’s patience. Hast thou slain him, then?
Henceforth be never number’d among men!
O, once tell true, tell true, even for my sake!
Durst thou have look’d upon him being awake,
And hast thou kill’d him sleeping? O brave touch! 70
Could not a worm, an adder, do so much?
An adder did it; for with doubler tongue
Than thine, thou serpent, never adder stung.
DEMETRIUSYou spend your passion on a misprised mood:
I am not guilty of Lysander’s blood;
Nor is he dead, for aught that I can tell.
HERMIAI pray thee, tell me then that he is well.
DEMETRIUSAn if I could, what should I get therefore?
HERMIAA privilege never to see me more.
And from thy hated presence part I so: 80
See me no more, whether he be dead or no.
DEMETRIUSThere is no following her in this fierce vein:
Here therefore for a while I will remain.
So sorrow’s heaviness doth heavier grow
For debt that bankrupt sleep doth sorrow owe:
Which now in some slight measure it will pay,
If for his tender here I make some stay.
Lies down and sleeps
OBERONWhat hast thou done? thou hast mistaken quite
And laid the love-juice on some true-love’s sight:
Of thy misprision must perforce ensue 90
Some true love turn’d and not a false turn’d true.
PUCKThen fate o’er-rules, that, one man holding troth,
A million fail, confounding oath on oath.
OBERONAbout the wood go swifter than the wind,
And Helena of Athens look thou find:
All fancy-sick she is and pale of cheer,
With sighs of love, that costs the fresh blood dear:
By some illusion see thou bring her here:
I’ll charm his eyes against she do appear.
PUCKI go, I go; look how I go, 100
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow.
OBERONFlower of this purple dye,
Hit with Cupid’s archery,
Sink in apple of his eye.
When his love he doth espy,
Let her shine as gloriously
As the Venus of the sky.
When thou wakest, if she be by,
Beg of her for remedy.
Re-enter PUCK
PUCKCaptain of our fairy band, 110
Helena is here at hand;
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover’s fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
OBERONStand aside: the noise they make
Will cause Demetrius to awake.
PUCKThen will two at once woo one;
That must needs be sport alone;
And those things do best please me 120
That befal preposterously.
LYSANDERWhy should you think that I should woo in scorn?
Scorn and derision never come in tears:
Look, when I vow, I weep; and vows so born,
In their nativity all truth appears.
How can these things in me seem scorn to you,
Bearing the badge of faith, to prove them true?
HELENAYou do advance your cunning more and more.
When truth kills truth, O devilish-holy fray!
These vows are Hermia’s: will you give her o’er? 130
Weigh oath with oath, and you will nothing weigh:
Your vows to her and me, put in two scales,
Will even weigh, and both as light as tales.
LYSANDERI had no judgment when to her I swore.
HELENANor none, in my mind, now you give her o’er.
LYSANDERDemetrius loves her, and he loves not you.
To what, my love, shall I compare thine eyne?
Crystal is muddy. O, how ripe in show
Thy lips, those kissing cherries, tempting grow! 140
That pure congealed white, high Taurus snow,
Fann’d with the eastern wind, turns to a crow
When thou hold’st up thy hand: O, let me kiss
This princess of pure white, this seal of bliss!
HELENAO spite! O hell! I see you all are bent
To set against me for your merriment:
If you we re civil and knew courtesy,
You would not do me thus much injury.
Can you not hate me, as I know you do,
But you must join in souls to mock me too? 150
If you were men, as men you are in show,
You would not use a gentle lady so;
To vow, and swear, and superpraise my parts,
When I am sure you hate me with your hearts.
You both are rivals, and love Hermia;
And now both rivals, to mock Helena:
A trim exploit, a manly enterprise,
To conjure tears up in a poor maid’s eyes
With your derision! none of noble sort

Would so offend a virgin, and extort
A poor soul’s patience, all to make you sport.
LYSANDERYou are unkind, Demetrius; be not so;
For you love Hermia; this you know I know:
And here, with all good will, with all my heart,
In Hermia’s love I yield you up my part;
And yours of Helena to me bequeath,
Whom I do love and will do till my death.
HELENANever did mockers waste more idle breath.
DEMETRIUSLysander, keep thy Hermia; I will none:
If e’er I loved her, all that love is gone. 170
My heart to her but as guest-wise sojourn’d,
And now to Helen is it home return’d,
There to remain.
LYSANDERHelen, it is not so.
DEMETRIUSDisparage not the faith thou dost not know,
Lest, to thy peril, thou aby it dear.
Look, where thy love comes; yonder is thy dear.
Re-enter HERMIA
HERMIADark night, that from the eye his function takes,
The ear more quick of apprehension makes;
Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense,
It pays the hearing double recompense. 180
Thou art not by mine eye, Lysander, found;
Mine ear, I thank it, brought me to thy sound
But why unkindly didst thou leave me so?
LYSANDERWhy should he stay, whom love doth press to go?
HERMIAWhat love could press Lysander from my side?
LYSANDERLysander’s love, that would not let him bide,
Fair Helena, who more engilds the night
Than all you fiery oes and eyes of light.
Why seek’st thou me? could not this make thee know,
The hate I bear thee made me leave thee so? 190
HERMIAYou speak not as you think: it cannot be.
HELENALo, she is one of this confederacy!
Now I perceive they have conjoin’d all three
To fashion this false sport, in spite of me.
Injurious Hermia! most ungrateful maid!
Have you conspired, have you with these contrived
To bait me with this foul derision?
Is all the counsel that we two have shared,
The sisters’ vows, the hours that we have spent,
When we have chid the hasty-footed time 200
For parting us,–O, is it all forgot?
All school-days’ friendship, childhood innocence?
We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds,
Had been incorporate. So we grow together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted, 210
But yet an union in partition;
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem;
So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart;
Two of the first, like coats in heraldry,
Due but to one and crowned with one crest.
And will you rent our ancient love asunder,
To join with men in scorning your poor friend?
It is not friendly, ’tis not maidenly:
Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it,
Though I alone do feel the injury.
HERMIAI am amazed at your passionate words. 220
I scorn you not: it seems that you scorn me.
HELENAHave you not set Lysander, as in scorn,
To follow me and praise my eyes and face?
And made your other love, Demetrius,
Who even but now did spurn me with his foot,
To call me goddess, nymph, divine and rare,
Precious, celestial? Wherefore speaks he this
To her he hates? and wherefore doth Lysander
Deny your love, so rich within his soul,
And tender me, forsooth, affection, 230
But by your setting on, by your consent?
What thought I be not so in grace as you,
So hung upon with love, so fortunate,
But miserable most, to love unloved?
This you should pity rather than despise.
HERNIAI understand not what you mean by this.
HELENAAy, do, persever, counterfeit sad looks,
Make mouths upon me when I turn my back;
Wink each at other; hold the sweet jest up:
This sport, well carried, shall be chronicled. 240
If you have any pity, grace, or manners,
You would not make me such an argument.
But fare ye well: ’tis partly my own fault;
Which death or absence soon shall remedy.
LYSANDERStay, gentle Helena; hear my excuse:
My love, my life my soul, fair Helena!
HELENAO excellent!
HERMIASweet, do not scorn her so.
DEMETRIUSIf she cannot entreat, I can compel.
LYSANDERThou canst compel no more than she entreat:
Thy threats have no more strength than her weak prayers.
Helen, I love thee; by my life, I do: 251
I swear by that which I will lose for thee,
To prove him false that says I love thee not.
DEMETRIUSI say I love thee more than he can do.
LYSANDERIf thou say so, withdraw, and prove it too.
DEMETRIUSQuick, come!
HERMIALysander, whereto tends all this?
LYSANDERAway, you Ethiope!
DEMETRIUSNo, no; he’ll …
Seem to break loose; take on as you would follow,
But yet come not: you are a tame man, go!
LYSANDERHang off, thou cat, thou burr! vile thing, let loose,
Or I will shake thee from me like a serpent! 261
HERMIAWhy are you grown so rude? what change is this?
Sweet love,–
LYSANDERThy love! out, tawny Tartar, out!
Out, loathed medicine! hated potion, hence!
HERMIADo you not jest?
HELENAYes, sooth; and so do you.
LYSANDERDemetrius, I will keep my word with thee.
DEMETRIUSI would I had your bond, for I perceive
A weak bond holds you: I’ll not trust your word.
LYSANDERWhat, should I hurt her, strike her, kill her dead?
Although I hate her, I’ll not harm her so. 270
HERMIAWhat, can you do me greater harm than hate?
Hate me! wherefore? O me! what news, my love!
Am not I Hermia? are not you Lysander?
I am as fair now as I was erewhile.
Since night you loved me; yet since night you left
Why, then you left me–O, the gods forbid!–
In earnest, shall I say?
LYSANDERAy, by my life;
And never did desire to see thee more.
Therefore be out of hope, of question, of doubt;
Be certain, nothing truer; ’tis no jest 280
That I do hate thee and love Helena.
HERMIAO me! you juggler! you canker-blossom!
You thief of love! what, have you come by night
And stolen my love’s heart from him?
HELENAFine, i’faith!
Have you no modesty, no maiden shame,
No touch of bashfulness? What, will you tear
Impatient answers from my gentle tongue?
Fie, fie! you counterfeit, you puppet, you!
HERMIAPuppet? why so? ay, that way goes the game.
Now I perceive that she hath made compare 290
Between our statures; she hath urged her height;
And with her personage, her tall personage,
Her height, forsooth, she hath prevail’d with him.
And are you grown so high in his esteem;
Because I am so dwarfish and so low?
How low am I, thou painted maypole? speak;
How low am I? I am not yet so low
But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes.
HELENAI pray you, though you mock me, gentlemen,
Let her not hurt me: I was never curst; 300
I have no gift at all in shrewishness;
I am a right maid for my cowardice:
Let her not strike me. You perhaps may think,
Because she is something lower than myself,
That I can match her.
HERMIALower! hark, again.
HELENAGood Hermia, do not be so bitter with me.
I evermore did love you, Hermia,
Did ever keep your counsels, never wrong’d you;
Save that, in love unto Demetrius,
I told him of your stealth unto this wood. 310
He follow’d you; for love I follow’d him;
But he hath chid me hence and threaten’d me
To strike me, spurn me, nay, to kill me too:
And now, so you will let me quiet go,
To Athens will I bear my folly back
And follow you no further: let me go:
You see how simple and how fond I am.
HERMIAWhy, get you gone: who is’t that hinders you?
HELENAA foolish heart, that I leave here behind.
HERMIAWhat, with Lysander?
HELENAWith Demetrius. 320
LYSANDERBe not afraid; she shall not harm thee, Helena.
DEMETRIUSNo, sir, she shall not, though you take her part.
HELENAO, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd!
She was a vixen when she went to school;
And though she be but little, she is fierce.
HERMIA‘Little’ again! nothing but ‘low’ and ‘little’!
Why will you suffer her to flout me thus?
Let me come to her.
LYSANDERGet you gone, you dwarf;
You minimus, of hindering knot-grass made;
You bead, you acorn.
DEMETRIUSYou are too officious 330
In her behalf that scorns your services.
Let her alone: speak not of Helena;
Take not her part; for, if thou dost intend
Never so little show of love to her,
Thou shalt aby it.
LYSANDERNow she holds me not;
Now follow, if thou darest, to try whose right,
Of thine or mine, is most in Helena.
DEMETRIUSFollow! nay, I’ll go with thee, cheek by jole.
HERMIAYou, mistress, all this coil is ‘long of you:
Nay, go not back.
HELENAI will not trust you, I, 340
Nor longer stay in your curst company.
Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray,
My legs are longer though, to run away.
HERMIAI am amazed, and know not what to say.
OBERONThis is thy negligence: still thou mistakest,
Or else committ’st thy knaveries wilfully.
PUCKBelieve me, king of shadows, I mistook.
Did not you tell me I should know the man
By the Athenian garment be had on?
And so far blameless proves my enterprise, 350
That I have ‘nointed an Athenian’s eyes;
And so far am I glad it so did sort
As this their jangling I esteem a sport.
OBERONThou see’st these lovers seek a place to fight:
Hie therefore, Robin, overcast the night;
The starry welkin cover thou anon
With drooping fog as black as Acheron,
And lead these testy rivals so astray
As one come not within another’s way.
Like to Lysander sometime frame thy tongue, 360
Then stir Demetrius up with bitter wrong;
And sometime rail thou like Demetrius;
And from each other look thou lead them thus,
Till o’er their brows death-counterfeiting sleep
With leaden legs and batty wings doth creep:
Then crush this herb into Lysander’s eye;
Whose liquor hath this virtuous property,
To take from thence all error with his might,
And make his eyeballs roll with wonted sight.
When they next wake, all this derision 370
Shall seem a dream and fruitless vision,
And back to Athens shall the lovers wend,
With league whose date till death shall never end.
Whiles I in this affair do thee employ,
I’ll to my queen and beg her Indian boy;
And then I will her charmed eye release
From monster’s view, and all things shall be peace.
PUCKMy fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger; 380
At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there,
Troop home to churchyards: damned spirits all,
That in crossways and floods have burial,
Already to their wormy beds are gone;
For fear lest day should look their shames upon,
They willfully themselves exile from light
And must for aye consort with black-brow’d night.
OBERONBut we are spirits of another sort:
I with the morning’s love have oft made sport,
And, like a forester, the groves may tread, 390
Even till the eastern gate, all fiery-red,
Opening on Neptune with fair blessed beams,
Turns into yellow gold his salt green streams.
But, notwithstanding, haste; make no delay:
We may effect this business yet ere day.
PUCKUp and down, up and down,
I will lead them up and down:
I am fear’d in field and town:
Goblin, lead them up and down.
Here comes one. 400
LYSANDERWhere art thou, proud Demetrius? speak thou now.
PUCKHere, villain; drawn and ready. Where art thou?
LYSANDERI will be with thee straight.
PUCKFollow me, then,
To plainer ground.
Exit LYSANDER, as following the voice.
DEMETRIUSLysander! speak again.
Thou runaway, thou coward, art thou fled?
Speak! In some bush? Where dost thou hide thy head?
PUCKThou coward, art thou bragging to the stars,
Telling the bushes that thou look’st for wars,
And wilt not come? Come, recreant; come, thou child;
I’ll whip thee with a rod: he is defiled 410
That draws a sword on thee.
DEMETRIUSYea, art thou there?
PUCKFollow my voice: we’ll try no manhood here.
LYSANDERHe goes before me and still dares me on:
When I come where he calls, then he is gone.
The villain is much lighter-heel’d than I:
I follow’d fast, but faster he did fly;
That fallen am I in dark uneven way,
And here will rest me.
Lies down
Come, thou gentle day!
For if but once thou show me thy grey light,
I’ll find Demetrius and revenge this spite.
PUCKHo, ho, ho! Coward, why comest thou not? 421
DEMETRIUSAbide me, if thou darest; for well I wot
Thou runn’st before me, shifting every place,
And darest not stand, nor look me in the face.
Where art thou now?
PUCKCome hither: I am here.
DEMETRIUSNay, then, thou mock’st me. Thou shalt buy this dear,
If ever I thy face by daylight see:
Now, go thy way. Faintness constraineth me
To measure out my length on this cold bed.
By day’s approach look to be visited.
Lies down and sleeps.
Re-enter HELENA
HELENAO weary night, O long and tedious night, 431
Abate thy hour! Shine comforts from the east,
That I may back to Athens by daylight,
From these that my poor company detest:
And sleep, that sometimes shuts up sorrow’s eye,
Steal me awhile from mine own company.
Lies down and sleeps
PUCKYet but three? Come one more;
Two of both kinds make up four.
Here she comes, curst and sad:
Cupid is a knavish lad, 440
Thus to make poor females mad.
Re-enter HERMIA
HERMIANever so weary, never so in woe,
Bedabbled with the dew and torn with briers,
I can no further crawl, no further go;
My legs can keep no pace with my desires.
Here will I rest me till the break of day.
Heavens shield Lysander, if they mean a fray!
Lies down and sleeps.
PUCKOn the ground
Sleep sound:
I’ll apply 450
To your eye,
Gentle lover, remedy.
Squeezing the juice on LYSANDER’s eyes.
When thou wakest,
Thou takest
True delight
In the sight
Of thy former lady’s eye:
And the country proverb known,
That every man should take his own,
In your waking shall be shown: 460
Jack shall have Jill;
Nought shall go ill;
The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well.

Next: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 4, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 2

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

2. Then, what, then, if she has awaked, what, etc.

3. Which she … extremity, which, from the potency of the drug, she will be compelled to love with ridiculous passion.

4. How now, what is ‘up’ now? as we say colloquially.

5. night-rule, night-work; practice common to the night. Some editors take –rule here as another spelling of ‘revel,’ and cite the title ‘Lord of Mis-rule’ given to the conductor of revels; but ‘Mis-rule’ in that phrase means licensed disorder: haunted, Oberon applies to the presence of human beings the term which they would use of the presence of fairies, spirits, etc., though the sense in which the word is so used is a secondary one, the original meaning nothing more than to ‘frequent.’

7. close, secret, carefully hidden.

8. her dull … hour, that period of time during which her senses are dulled by sleep.

9. patches, fools; the word in this sense is probably due to the patched, parti-coloured, dresses worn by fools, jesters; mechanicals, artizans; cp. ii. H. VI. i. 3. 196, “Base dunghill villain and mechanical.”

10. That work … stalls, that get their livelihood by such occupations as weaving, etc.

13. The shallowest … sort, the most empty-brained blockhead of that dull lot (Poor Bottom! that he should be so little appreciated); for thick-skin, a term now used of those who are wanting in proper sensitiveness, cp. M. W. iv. 5. 2, “What wouldst thou have, boor? what, thick-skin?”; for barren, cp. T. N. i. 5. 90, “I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren fool”; for sort, R. I. iv. 1. 246, “a sort of traitors”; R. III. V. 3. 316, “A sort of vagabonds.”

14. presented, acted the part of.

15. Forsook his scene, left the stage on which he was acting; for in, = into, see Abb. § 159.

16. When I did … take, when I caught him thus alone.

17. nole, a comical word for ‘head,’ more commonly spelled ‘nowl.’ Douce quotes a receipt from Albertus Magnus de Secretis Naturae for effecting this transformation; and Steevens refers to “a similar trick played by Dr. Faustus.”

18. Anon … answered, a moment later the time comes for him to re-appear on the stage and reply to the speech of him who acted Thisbe.

19. And forth … comes, and so this precious fellow who is to act the part of Pyramus makes his appearance; my, said contemptuously; Malone quotes Dekker and Jonson as using mimic for actor.

20. creeping, sc. in order to snare them: fowler, bird-catcher.

21. russet-pated choughs, Marshall has shown in Notes and Queries, sixth series, vol. ix., Nos. 227, 233, that the bird here meant is the jackdaw, not the Cornish chough, and that russet is used in the sense of dark grey: many in sort, many all together.

23. Sever themselves, quickly disperse: madly sweep the sky, in wildest terror dash hither and thither across the sky.

25. at our stamp … falls, at each stamp of ours, one after another falls to the ground.

26. He, another.

27, 8. Their sense … wrong, their senses being thus weakened and bewildered by overpowering fear, even inanimate objects find courage to plague them.

30. Some sleeves … catch, some of the briers and thorns strip them of their sleeves; some strip them of their hats; some strip of every article of dress those who are so ready to yield them.

31. I led … fear, they being in this state of distraction, I led them hither and thither in all directions; cp. Ariel’s description of the way in which he led Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo “through Tooth’d briers, sharp furzes, pricking goss and thorns,” Temp. iv. 1. 180.

32. Sweet Pyramus, said ironically, that Bottom of whose good looks they were so proud; see above i. 2. 75, “for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man.” translated, see note on iii. 1. 109.

33. When in … pass, and at that very moment it so happened that Titania, etc.; so, here used almost as a correlative to when.

35. better than I could devise, even better than I hoped when I planned my stratagem.

36. latch’d, is used twice elsewhere by Shakespeare, Sonn. cxiii. 6, “For it no form delivers to the heart Of bird, of flower, or shape, which it doth latch“; Macb. iv. 3. 195, “But I have words That would be howl’d out in the desert air Where hearing should not latch them“; the meaning in both passages being to catch and retain. In the present passage Hanmer interprets the word as ‘lick over,’ ‘anoint,’ from F. lecher, to lick, and many editors accept his explanation, though no instance has been discovered of the word in that sense. Possibly the meaning may be nothing more than ‘closed,’ i.e. in such a way that the juice might work the required effect when the eyes were opened, though Oberon speaks of performing the operation upon those already asleep. But I believe we should read ‘hatch’d’ a word originally meaning to engrave (from F. hacher, to engrave), but not seldom used in the sense of staining, smearing. Thus in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Custom of the Country, v. 5. 108, “When thine own bloody sword cried against thee, Hatch’d in the life of him,” i.e. smeared with his life-blood; The Humorous Lieutenant, i. 1. 172, “His weapon hatch’d in blood.” In T. C i. 3. 65, “As venerable Nestor hatch’d in silver,” the meaning is streaked with silvery hairs resembling the lines made in engraving; while in T. N. iii. 4. 257, the old reading “unhatch’d rapier” probably = unstained rapier. The sense of stained, smeared, well agrees with ii. 1. 257, “And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes.”

38. took, caught; cp. Haml. iii. 3. 80, “He took my father grossly, full of bread. ”

40. That … eyed, so that whenever he should awake he could not help seeing her.

41. close, so as not to be seen; cp T. N. ii. 5. 17, “Close, in the name of jesting!” same Athenian, the one I meant.

42. the man, sc. whose eyes I smeared with the juice.

44. Lay breath … foe, keep such bitter words for one who deserves them.

45. Now I but chide, so far I only use reproach: should, ought to.

48. Being o’er shoes … deep, having gone so far in guilt, go further still; make your guilt complete; cp. Macb. iii. 4. 136-8, “I am in blood Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er”; T. G. i. 1. 24, “For he was more than over shoes in love.”

50. true unto the day, sc. in regulating the time. Wright compares T. C. iii. 2. 185, “As true as steel, as plantage to the moon, As sun to day, as turtle to her mate.”

53. bored, pierced right through from surface to surface.

54, 5. displease … Antipodes, by her sudden presence annoy her brother then holding noontide with the Antipodes, then at his zenith in the Antipodes.

57. So should … look, so might a murderer be expected to look; dead, deadly looking; cp. K. J. v. 7. 65, “You breathe these dead news in as dead an ear.”

61. glimmering, glittering; properly shining faintly; for sphere, see note on ii. 1. 9.

62. What’s this … Lysander? what has all this to do with my Lysander? All this foolish talk of yours is beside the matter, and is employed merely in order to shirk the question of his whereabouts.

65, 6. thou drivest … patience, you enrage me beyond what it is possible for a maiden to endure with calmness: then, since you say that you would rather give his dead body to your hounds to be torn to pieces in the way that hounds are allowed to tear their prey.

67. Henceforth … men! henceforth be accounted a devil rather than a man!

68. once, for once in a way; cp. L. L. L. iv. 3. 361, “Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves”: tell true, speak the truth: even for my sake, even when entreated by one you hate so bitterly.

69, 70. Durst thou … sleeping? Have you, who would not for a moment have dared to face him when awake, killed him in his sleep? Durst thou have looked, i.e. you know well you would not have dared: O brave touch! O valiant deed! Schmidt takes touch as = ‘test or proof of bravery,’ comparing Cor. iv. 1. 49, “My friends of noblest touch,” i.e. of tried nobleness.

71. worm, snake; as frequently in Shakespeare.

72. doubler, used to indicate the figurative idea of duplicity, treachery, as well as the literal idea of being forked.

74. You spend … mood, you waste your indignation by indulging in a mistaken humour, i.e. the indignation in which you indulge has no real foundation; passion, used by Shakespeare of any strong emotion

76. for aught … tell, so far as I know.

78. therefore, as a return for telling you, etc.

79. A privilege, sc. since to you, who so detest me, never to see me again must be a boon.

81. whether, metrically a monosyllable.

82. in this fierce vein, while she is in this angry mood.

84, 5. So sorrow’s … owe, as I am, in my present condition, the grief with which I am burdened becomes more burdensome in consequence of the debt that sleep owes to sorrow not being paid; in Macb. ii. 2. 37, 9, we have, “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care … Balm of hurt minds,” and here sleep is spoken of as something properly due to those in trouble. So seems out of place here, it not being correlative to anything; possibly it is a mistake for since, the so– of sorrow being caught by the transcriber’s eye.

86, 7. Which now … stay, which debt it will pay in part (as a bankrupt pays so-much in the pound) if I wait here to receive its offer of such part; cp. Cymb. v. 4. 18-21, where Posthumus, addressing the gods and offering his life in payment of his offence, says, “I know you are more clement than vile men, Who of their broken debtors take a third, A sixth, a tenth, letting them thrive again On their abatement.”

88. hast mistaken quite, have made a complete mistake in what you have done.

89. some true-love’s sight, the eyes of some constant lover.

90, 1. Of thy … true, the result of your mistake must be that some constant lover will have turned inconstant, instead of an inconstant lover becoming constant, as I intended; for misprision, cp. above 1. 74, and. i. H. IV. i. 3, 27, “Either envy, therefore, or misprision Is guilty of this fault and not my son.”

92, 3. Then fate … oath. Puck’s excuse for his carelessness does not seem to be very logical. Possibly the meaning is, Then, if that happens, the fault is fate’s, who so often is too strong for men’s intentions that, for one man who keeps faith, a million, whatever their intentions, give way and break oath after oath, i.e. any number of oaths.

94. About the wood go, search the wood in eveiy direction.

95. look thou find, take care to find; for the subjunctive after verbs of command, see Abb. § 369.

96. All fancy-sick, utterly love-sick: pale of cheer, pale in countenance, see note on i. 1. 122, above.

97. that costs … dear, that make a terrible drain on the resources of the blood; costs, on the relative with a singular verb, though the antecedent be plural, see Abb. § 247; for the supposed effect of sighs, cp. ii. H. VI. iii. 2. 63, “I would be blind with weeping, sick with groans, Look pale as primrose with blood-drinking sighs.”

99. I’ll charm … appear, I will lay the spell upon his eyes in anticipation of her coming, so that he may be ready to look upon her with love when she comes; against she do appear, elliptically for ‘against the time when,’ etc.; cp. T. S. iv. 4. 104, “bid the priest be ready to come against you come“; do, subjunctive.

101. the Tartar’s bow, the nomad hordes of Tartary were famous for their archery. The spelling of the word, which should be ‘Tatar,’ is due to a false etymology, the Tartars, from their cruelty, being supposed to have proceeded out of Tartarus, or hell.

103. Hit … archery, see above, ii. 1. 165-7.

104. apple, the ball of the eye, so called from being round. For the omission of the article, see Abb. § 89.

107. the Venus of the sky, the bright planet Venus.

108. by, near at hand.

109. Beg … remedy, ask her to cure you by granting you her love.

112. mistook, for the curtailed form of participles, see Abb. § 343.

113. a lover’s fee, according to Halliwell, this was a reward of three kisses. He quotes an old ballad, “How many (i.e, kisses) says Batt; why, three, says Matt, For that’s a maiden’s fee.”

114. their fond pageant, their display of foolish love.

119. needs, necessarily; the old genitive used adverbially: alone, beyond everything else, unique; cp. T. G. ii. 4. 167, “To her whose worth makes other worthies nothing; She is alone.”

121. befall, the original meaning of be-, as a prefix, was ‘about’; with verbs it frequently becomes merely intensive, as ‘be-muddle,’ ‘be-grudge,’ or gives a figurative sense as in ‘befall,’ to fall as an accident:preposterously, used by Shakespeare more in accordance with its literal sense than is commonly the case now, ‘preposterous’ meaning ‘having that first which ought to be last’, hence ‘perverted,’ ‘absurd’; cp. H. V. ii. 2. 112, “That wrought upon thee so preposterously” i.e. in a manner so unnatural.

122. should woo, was likely to woo.

123. never come, never show themselves in the guise of, etc.

124. vows so born, vows being so born; when vows have such a birth.

125. In their … appears, perfect truth manifests itself in their nativity, is a necessary accompaniment to their birth.

127. Bearing … true, when they bear the outward symbol of good faith in proof of their sincerity; ‘badges’ of silver, etc., with the arms of the family engraved on them, were in Shakespeare’s time worn by liveried servants; for the word in this figurative sense, cp. Sonn. xliv. 14, “heavy tears, badges of cither’s woe.”

128. You do … more, you make your cunning more and more conspicuous by the language you use; in advance the figure is that of bringing a standard more to the front; cp. M. W. iii. 4. 85, “I must advance the colours of my love”; M. A. iii. 1. 10, “like favourites … that advance their pride Against the power that bred it.”

129. When truth … fray! “If Lysander’s present protestations are true, they destroy the truth of his former vows to Hermia, and the contest between these two truths, which in themselves are holy, must in the issue be devilish and end in the destruction of both” (Wright).

130. give her o’er, abandon your interest in her; throw her over, as we say colloquially.

131. Weigh … weigh, if you weigh the worth of your oath to her with the worth of your oath to me, you will find that you are weighing nothing at all; each of the oaths, as she goes on to say, being equally worthless.

133. tales, mere empty stories; cp. A. C. ii. 3. 136, “Truths would be tales, When now half tales be truths.”

134. swore, sc. my oaths of loyalty.

135. mind, opinion, judgment.

138. eyne, see note on i. 1. 142, above.

139. Crystal is muddy, i.e. in comparison with your bright eyes.

139, 40. O, how ripe … grow! O, how ripe your lips show, growing like two cherries resting against each other, and tempting one to pluck them; ripe and tempting used adverbially.

141. Taurus, a chain of mountains running through Asia from W. to E., forming the southern margin of the great tableland of Central Asia; the word Taurus means a high mountain.

142. Fann’d … wind, which the east wind winnows of all stains upon its whiteness; Wright compares W. T. iv. 4. 375, “I take thy hand, this hand, As soft as dove’s down and as white as it, Or Ethiopian’s tooth, or the fann’d snow that’s bolted By the northern blasts twice over”; for with = by, see Abb. § 193: turns to a crow, appears as black as a crow.

144. This princess … white, this hand so peerless in its whiteness; for princess, in the sense of supreme impersonation of a thing, Malone compares W. T. iv. 4. 161, “she is The queen of curds and cream.” Staunton adopts Collier’s conjecture ‘impress,’ quoting in its support Virolet’s apostrophe to Juliana’s hand in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Double Marriage iv. 3, “White seal of virtue”; but though a hand may be said to be a seal of bliss, we could scarcely talk of an ‘impress of pure white,’ whether ‘impress’ means an impression or a device.

145. spite, misfortune, misery: bent, determined.

146. To set against me, to make a set against me; to unite in flouting me; the figure here, as in iii. 1. 137, is probably from card-playing, in which a sum is set, staked, by one party against a sum staked by another party.

147. civil, well-bred: knew, were practically acquainted with.

148. injury, wrong in the shape of insult; see note on ii. 1. 147.

150. But you must join, without your joining; in souls, soul with soul, as we talk of ‘ joining hand in hand’ in heartily doing something together.

51. in show, in appearance, outwardly.

152. gentle, tenderly nurtured.

153. To vow, by vowing; the indefinite infinitive; superpraise, praise in exaggerated and insincere terms.

156. And now … mock, and now rival one another in mocking; the substantive verb ‘are’ being supplied from the former line.

157. A trim exploit, a pretty piece of bravery, a fine exhibition of your courage; for trim, in this ironical sense, cp. T. C. iv. 5. 33, “O, this is trim!”; T. A. v. 1. 96 “and ’twas Trim sport for them that had the doing of it.”

159. sort, nature, condition.

160. offend, affront.

160, 1. and extort … patience, exhaust the power of endurance of one so forlorn as myself; literally, twist it out of me: all … sport, wholly and solely to amuse yourselves.

164. with all good will, most willingly and sincerely.

166. And yours … bequeath, and do you, on your part, leave me all your share in Helena’s love; bequeath, generally used of devising property by will; though there is nothing in the derivation so to limit the sense…

169. I will none, I will none of her, i.e. I do not want to have anything to do with her, to have any part in her love; cp., for this adverbial use of none, T. N. i. 3. 113, “it’s four to one she’ll none of me“; ii. 2. 13, “She took the ring of me; I’ll none of it.”

171. but as … sojourn’d, stayed for a short visit as a guest does with his host; as guest-wise is redundant; guest-wise by itself meaning ‘in the way of a guest’; for the sentiment, cp. Tennyson, The Gardener’s Daughter, 14-7, “she To me myself, for some three careless moons, The summer pilot of an empty heart Unto the shores of nothing!” to, some editors adopt Johnson’s conjecture ‘with’; but probably, as Delius points out, to belongs to guest-wise, i.e. as a guest to her. Malone quotes Sonn, cix. 5, 6, “This is my home of love: if I have ranged, Like him that travels I return again.”

175. to thy peril, here to expresses the consequence: aby it dear, pay dearly for it; see notes on iii. 1. 12, above, and 1. 426, below.

177. his function, its office; sc. of seeing.

178. quick, lively.

179, 80. Wherein … recompense, by that same act (i.e. of darkening the earth) by which it weakens the sense of sight, it makes a double recompense in giving greater acuteness to the sense of hearing; impair, through F. empeirer, from Low Lat. impeiorare, to make worse.

182. thy sound, the sound made by you, i.e. your voice.

184. press, ply hard, constrain; probably in this and the next line used in the sense of ‘pressing’ for service; the word in that sense being a corruption of prest ready, prest-money ready money advanced when a man was hired for service.

186. bide, stay, remain.

188. oes and eyes of light, stars; oes, for round objects, leads to the pun upon the letters O and I. For oes, cp. H. V. Prol. i. 13, “Within this wooden O,” i.e. the circular building of the Globe Theatre; A. C. v. 2. 81, “The little O, the earth”; L. L. L. V. 2. 45, “O, that your face were not so full of O’s” (i.e. marks of small-pox); also quotation from Bacon’s Essays on ii. 1. 29.

189, 90. could not … so? could not the fact of my leaving you teach you that I did so because of the hatred I feel towards you?

191. it cannot be, sc. that you hate me, as you say.

192. she is … confederacy, she has banded herself together with Lysander and Demetrius.

194. fashion, shape, concoct: false, treacherous, cowardly: in spite of me, out of malice towards me; not ‘without regard to me,’ ‘caring nothing for me,’ as the words would mean in modern use.

195. Injurious, insulting.

196. contrived, plotted; cp. Haml. iv. 7. 136, “Most generous and free from all contriving.”

197. bait, worry; as dogs worry a bear; to ‘bait’ is properly to cause to bite.

198. counsel, mutual confidences; as above, i. 1. 216.

199. The sisters’ vows, the vows of sisterly love; protestations such as two sisters would make to each other: spent, wearily passed.

200. chid, for the curtailed form of the participle, see Abb. § 343: hasty-footed, so quickly slipping away.

201. O, is it all forgot? Various suggestions have been made to complete the metre, but the pause probably accounts for the syllable wanting.

202. Childhood innocence, the innocence of children; cp. M. V. i. 1. 144, “I urge this childhood proof”; and for substantives used as adjectives, see Abb. § 3.

203. artificial, creative; now used chiefly in opposition to what is natural and especially of what is an imitation of what is genuine.

204. needles, metrically a monosyllable; many editors give the contracted form neelds, which is common in E. E.: created both one flower, both worked at the same flower in our embroidery, i.e. each doing a part of it.

205. sampler, literally, a pattern; used here and commonly for a piece of work given to children to do as a sample of their capacity.

206. warbling of, for ‘of,’ following a verbal noun, see Abb. § 178: in one key, in unison of note.

209. a double cherry, a twin cherry originating out of a single blossom: seeming, seemingly, apparently.

210. But yet … partition, but yet really united in spite of the line of seeming partition; what the Siamese Twins were in human physiology.

211. lovely, according to Dyce = loving, and so Delius: moulded, shaped by Nature.

212-4. with two … crest. Douce explains, “Helen says, ‘we had two seeming bodies but only one heart.’ She then exemplifies her position by a simile — ‘we had two of the first, i.e. bodies, like double coats in heraldry that belong to man and wife as one person, but which, like our single heart, have but one crest.'” Wright makes this more clear by adding that in “the language of heraldry … when a tincture has been once mentioned in the description of a coat of arms, it is always afterwards referred to according to the order in which it occurs in the description; and a charge is accordingly said to be ‘of the first,’ ‘of the second,’ etc., if its tincture be the same as that of the field which is always mentioned first, or as that of the second or any other that has been specified.”

215. rent, tear; an older form of ‘rend’ frequent in Shakespeare.

218, 9. Our sex … injury, though I alone suffer from your behaviour, our whole sex is dishonoured by it.

220. amazed, utterly bewildered; see note on ii. 1. 113.

225. even but now, only a moment ago; even but is redundant.

229. Deny your love, deny all love for you; your, objectively.

231. But by … on, unless it be that you have incited him to do so.

232. What though, even if; supposing it to be the case: so in grace, looked upon with such favour.

233. So hung upon with love, so lovingly clung to; the idea being that of arms thrown round a person in loving embrace; cp. M. A. i. 1. 86, “Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease.”

234. Bit miserable … unloved, but suffering from that worst of miseries, the misery of loving without being loved in return.

237. persever, with the accent on the penultimate, as always in Shakespeare.

238. mouths, grimaces; cp. Lear, iii. 2. 36, “For there was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass.”

239. hold … up, encourage each other in keeping up the fine joke you have between you.

240. well carried, if well managed; cp. M. A, iv. 1 212, “Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf Change slander to remorse”: shall be chronicled, will be thought worthy of being recorded as a good story.

241. grace, good feeling.

242. would not, for this irregular sequence of tenses, see Abb. § 370: argument, subject of your merriment; cp. M. A. i. 1. 258, “Thou wilt prove a notable argument.”

247. O excellent! Well done!

248. cannot entreat, cannot effect anything by her entreaties: I can compel, I can force Lysander to desist from mocking Helena.

252. lose, readily sacrifice; sc, his life.

255. withdraw … too, walk aside with me and prove it in mortal combat.

256. whereto tends all this? what object have you in view in acting thus?

257. Ethiope, dark as an Ethiopian. No, no; he’ll …, the first quarto reads ‘No, no; he’el seeme,’ etc.; the second, ‘No, no, he’el seeme,’ etc.; the folios, ‘No, no, sir, seem,’ etc. The Camb. Edd. mark a lacuna, but possibly nothing more is intended than a change of thought which causes Demetrius suddenly to break off in addressing Hermia and turn tauntingly to Lysander.

258. take on … follow, behave in a furious manner as though you intended to follow me: for take on, in this sense, cp. M. W. iii. 5. 40, “she does so take on with her men”; iii. H. VI. ii. 5. 104, “How will my mother for a father’s death Take on with me and ne’er be satisfied!”

259. a tame man, a coward, poltroon; cp. ii. H. IV. ii. 4. 105, “He’s no swaggerer, hostess; a tame cheater, i’ faith.”

260. Hang off … cat! cease to claw me as a cat does its prey; said to Hermia as she throws her arms around him to prevent his following Demetrius: for cat, used in a contemptuous sense, cp. A. W. iv. 3. 295, “he’s more and more a cat“: burr, the prickly case of the seeds of certain plants, e,g, the burdock, which clings to anything it touches.

264. loathed medicine, as nauseous to me as medicine.

265. Do you not jest? Surely you must be jesting.

267, 8. I would … you: I wish I had something more than your word, — your bond; for I see (alluding to Hermia’s throwing her arms round Lysander and so detaining him) you are easily held by a bond.

269. What, should … dead? What, does your taunt mean that you expect me to be so inhuman as to prevent her from clinging to me by striking her dead?

271. what, … hate? i.e. you need not be scrupulous about striking me, for no personal injury you can do me will be worse than your hatred.

272. what news, that is a strange story to tell me (sc. that you hate me).

274. erewhile, only a short time ago (when you swore you loved me); literally, before (the present) time; in Temp, iii. 2. 117, we have while-ere, = during (the time), before, while being there used adverbially.

275. Since night … me, no longer ago than last night you, etc. ; it is but the time since night that you, etc.

276, 7. Why, then … say? Am I then to say, to believe, that you were in earnest in leaving me, that you really meant to nave nothing more to do with me? May the gods forbid such a thing!

279. Therefore … doubt, cease therefore to retain any hope, cease to question me on the subject, or to buoy yourself up with the possibility that you are mistaken. I have followed Pope in omitting ‘of’ before doubt. Lettsom compares ii. 1. 237, “Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field.”

280. nothing truer, i.e. that nothing is more certain.

282. juggler, cheat: canker-blossom, you who have destroyed the love which was blossoming between Lysander and myself just as the canker destroys the blossoms of flowers; cp. above, ii. 2. 3, and, for the figurative use of the word, Temp. i. 2. 415, “grief that’s beauty’s canker”; i. H. IV. iv. 2. 32, “the cankers of a calm world and a long peace.” The word is a doublet of ‘cancer,’ from Lat. cancer, a crab, the tumour being so named from its eating into the flesh.

284. Fine, i’ faith, truly a fine apostrophe that!

285. maiden, maidenly.

286. touch, spice, smack; cp. T. N. ii. 1. 13, “But I perceive in you such an excellent touch of modesty”; H. V. iv. Chor. 47, “Behold, as may unworthiness define, A little touch of Harry in the night.”

286, 7. What … tongue? What, are you determined by your abuse to compel impatient answers from one so gentle of speech as you know me to be?

288. you counterfeit, you pretended friend of mine: you puppet, you doll, who in the hands of others are made to play any part they like.

289. why so? … game, what makes you call me a puppet? what is the point of your calling me puppet? Then, discovering, as she thinks, Helena’s meaning, she adds, ah, now I see the game you are playing.

290, 1. Now I perceive … statures, now I see that she has been drawing an invidious comparison between herself and me as regards her superior height; compare, comparison, as frequently in Shakespeare.

292. her tall personage, her stately figure; cp. T. N. i. 5. 164, “Of what personage and years is he?”

293. prevail’d with him, won him over to admire her more than me.

294. grown so high, reached such a height; with a pun on the word high in its literal and figurative senses.

296. thou painted maypole, a reference to the old custom, observed on the first of May, when villagers bedecked with ribbons and finery, assembled to dance and sing round a Maypole diagonally painted in various colours, and festooned with sprigs of May-blossom, ribbons, etc …. In painted Hermia hints that Helena owes her complexion to art.

299. though you mock me, even though you think proper to, etc.

300. curst, shrewish, spiteful; cp. T. S. i. 2. 70, “curst and shrewd”; i. 2. 128, “Katherine the curst.”

301. I have no … shrewishness, I am not in the least endowed with shrewishness; shrewishness is no part of my nature; for have no gift, cp. T. C. iv. 2. 75, “the secrets of nature Have not more gift in taciturnity.”

302. a right maid, a thorough girl, one thoroughly deserving in point of timidity the name of, etc.; cp. A. C. iv. 12. 28, “Like a right gipsy”; ii. H. IV. ii. 1. 206, “This is the right fencing grace”; for, as regards, in the matter of.

304. something, somewhat.

305. That I can match her, that I am her match, her equal in a quarrel.

308. counsels, secrets entrusted to me; cp. above, i. 1. 216.

310. your stealth, your having stolen away, secretly gone; cp. Macb, ii. 3. 152, “there’s warrant in that theft Which steals itself, when there’s no mercy left,” said by Malcolm to Donalbain as they are preparing to steal away from Macbeth’s castle.

311. for love, out of love.

314. so, provided that.

315. bear my folly back, rid you of my foolish self, and bear alone the burden of my folly.

317. simple, silly: fond, foolish.

318. get you gone, see note on ii. 1. 194.

319. A foolish … behind, my heart is with Demetrius here, and drags me back though wishing to go.

322. though … part, even though you espouse her cause (sc. Helena’s) and are thus guilty of an officious piece of interference. As below, 330-3, Demetrius resents even an act of kindness towards one whom he considers to belong entirely to himself, and whose cause he claims to uphold alone.

323. shrewd, bitter-tongued; see note on ii. 1. 33, above.

324. a vixen, a sharp-tempered hussy; properly, a she-fox; “by the ordinary laws of vowel-change, the feminine form is fyx-en made by changing the vowel from o to y, and adding the feminine suffix –en … The use ofvox for fox is common …; so also vane for fane, and vat for fat“… (Skeat, Ety, Dict.),

327. flout, jeer at.

329. minimus, an atom; literally, smallest one: of hindering … made, Steevens points out that knot-grass was anciently supposed to prevent the growth of animals and children, and compares Beaumont and Fletcher’s Coxcomb, ii. 2, “We want a boy extremely for this function, Kept under for a year with milk and knot-grass.”

330. bead, no bigger than a bead or drop; a name given to a fairy in M. W. v. 5. 53.

330, 1. You are … services, you put yourself forward a great deal too much in offering to help one who scorns both you and your offers of help; for her, as the antecedent of a relative, see Abb. § 218.

333, 4. if thou dost … her, if you venture to make the least display of love to her; for intend = put forward, direct, cp. M. W. ii. 1. 188, “If he should intend this voyage towards my wife”: Never so little, however small; literally, a show of love so little as has never been shown.

335. aby, pay dearly for; see note on 1. 175, above: holds me not, no longer clings to me and prevents my following you, as you just now (1. 268) taunted me with not doing.

336, 7. to try … Helena, to put to the test of combat the question which of us has the better claim to Helena: a confusion of two constructions (1) to try whose right, yours or mine, is most, etc. (2) to try which, of you or me (i.e. us), has most, etc. Cp. Temp. ii. 1. 28, 9, “Which of he or Adrian, for a good wager, first begins to crow.”

338. cheek by jole, with the utmost closeness; literally, as near as cheek is to cheek; jole, an old spelling of jowl, and “a corruption of cholechowl or chaul … Again, chaul is a corruption of chauel = chavel …— A.S.caefle, the jaw”… (Skeat, Ety, Dict).

339. coil, trouble, disturbance; cp. K. J. ii. 1. 165, “I am not worth this coil“: ‘long of you, of your doing; literally, in close connection with you, and so due to you; now used provincially only.

342. for a fray, when a quarrel has to be decided.

343. to run away, for running away; when the question comes of running away.

345. still, constantly.

347. shadows, shadowy beings, the fairies; cp. below, v. 1. 408, “If we shadows have offended.”

352, 3. And so far … sport, and my gladness that matters turned out as they did is proportionate to the amusement their quarrelling affords me; so and As are correlative; sort, turn out, from Lat. sors, lot, destiny; cp. M. A. v. 4. 7, “I am glad that all things sort so well.”

355. overcast the night, envelope the night in a mantle of darkness.

356. welkin, sky; A.S. wolcnu, plural of wolcen, a cloud.

357. Acheron, the name of several classical rivers, and one of the five rivers of the lower world; also used in late classical writers for the whole of the lower world. Shakespeare seems to have taken it for a burning lake.

358. testy, quarrelsome; literally, heady; from O. F. teste, M. F. tete, the head.

359. As, as that, so that.

360. Like to … tongue, at one time attune your voice to that of Lysander.

361. wrong insults.

363. from, away from.

364. death-counterfeiting, cp. Macb. ii. 3. 81, “Shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit“; Cymb. ii. 2. 31, “O sleep, thou ape of death.”

365. batty wings, wings like those of bats, who fly in the night-time only; hence slumberous.

367. This virtuous property, this efficacy belonging to it; ‘virtue’ in this sense is very frequent in Shakespeare; cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 5. 76, “Culling from every flower the virtuous sweets.”

368. all error, all delusions; his, its; see Abb. § 228: might, power.

369. wonted sight, usual vision.

370. this derision, this deception of which they have been made the fools.

371. fruitless, empty.

372. wend, go, take their way; from “A.S. wendan, (1) transitive, to turn; (2) intransitive, to turn oneself, proceed; its past tense, went, as the past tense of go” (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

373. league, sc. of friendship.

374. Whiles, the old genitive used adverbially.

375. I’ll to, the verb of motion being omitted, as frequently.

377. From monster’s view, from the sight of the monster with whom she is in love; for the omission of the article, see Abb. § 89.

379. night’s swift dragons, cp. Cymb. ii. 2. 48, “Swift, swift, you dragons of the night, that dawning May bare the raven’s eye!” and Il Penseroso 59, “While Cynthea checks her dragon yokes:” dragons, because of their supposed wakefulness: full fast, with all possible speed.

380. Aurora’s harbinger, the forerunner of the goddess of the dawn, i.e. the day-star; harbinger, forerunner; properly an officer in the royal household, whose duty it was to allot and mark the lodgings of the king’s attendants in a royal progress.

382. Troop … churchyards, hurry back in troops to their graves in the churchyard: cp. Haml. i. 1. 150-6.

383. in crossways, suicides were formerly buried in crossways so that their graves instead of being kept sacred as in churchyards might be trodden by every wayfarer; a stake was also driven through their hearts to mark their burial: floods, … the ghosts of those who were drowned were condemned, in consequence of their not having received the rites of burial to wander for a hundred years…

387. consort, have their lot with; for this word and for sort in the next line, see note on 1. 352, above.

389. the morning’s love, “by the morning’s love I apprehend Cephalus, the mighty hunter and paramour of Aurora, is intended” (Holt White).

391, 2. Even till … beams, even till the sun, issuing forth from the eastern gate, lights up the sea, etc. The gate of the east is an idea derived from ancient mythology in which the sun is a deity.

399. Goblin, a mischievous sprite; from “O. F. gobelin … — Low Lat. gobelinus an extension of Low Lat. cobalus, a goblin, demon….” (Skeat, Ety. Dict.)

402. drawn, with my sword drawn; cp. H. V. ii. 1. 39, “O well a day, Lady, if he be not drawn now; R. J. i. 1. 73, “What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds?” Cymb iii. 4. 111, “Why hast thou gone so far To beunbent when thou hast ta’en thy stand, The elected deer before thee?”

403. straight, straightway, immediately.

404. plainer, more level, and so more suitable for their combat.

408. look’st for wars, are in eager expectation of a combat.

409. recreant, coward; from F. recroire, “to believe again, or alter one’s faith … also used in the phrase se recredere, to own oneself beaten in a duel or judicial combat” … (Skeat, Ety. Dict. ).

410. whip thee with a rod, i.e. treat you as an insolent child deserves to be treated: he, any one; see Abb. § 224.

412. we’ll try … here, we will not make trial of one another’s courage and skill here.

413. dares me on, challenges me to come on.

414. then he is gone, then I find him gone.

415. lighter-heel’d, nimbler in running; cp. i. H. IV. ii. 4. 53, “show it a fair pair of heels and run from it.”

419. grey, as the light is before the sun is above the horizon.

420. revenge this spite, revenge the insult he has put upon me.

422. Abide me, wait till I come up with you: wot, know.

423. shifting every place, changing your place every moment.

426. then, i.e. it is plain: buy this dear, pay for this dearly; ‘buy’ and ‘aby’ are both from the A.S. bicgan, to buy; cp. above, iii. 2. 175. “Lest, to thy peril, thou aby it dear.”

428. Faintness, weariness.

429. To measure … length, cp. Lear, i. 4. 100, “If you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry,” i.e, if you wish to be knocked down again.

430. look to be visited, expect to be met and punished by me.

432. Abate thy hours, shorten your duration: Shine comforts, let comforts shine; the imperative used optatively.

435. sleep, that … eye, see note on iii. 2. 85, above.

436. steal, gently remove.

437. Yet but three? are there only three here as yet? Come one more, let one more come.

439. curst, see note on l. 300.

442. Never, on this word where we more commonly use ‘ever,’ see Abb. § 52.

443. Bedabbled, wetted thoroughly, see note on 1. 121.

444. go, walk.

447. mean a fray, intend to fight.

458. And the … known, and the proverb so well known to rustics.

460. In your … shown, shall be exemplified in your case when you awake.

461. Jack shall have Jill, every lad shall have his lass; Jack and Jill, names common among rustics; cp. L. L. L. v. 2. 885, “Our wooing doth not end like an old play; Jack hath no Jill.”


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