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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

ACT IV SCENE IIAthens. A room in QUINCE’S house.
QUINCEHave you sent to Bottom’s house? is he come home yet?
STARVELINGHe cannot be heard of. Out of doubt he is
FLUTEIf he come not, then the play is marred: it goes
not forward, doth it?
QUINCEIt is not possible: you have not a man in all
Athens able to discharge Pyramus but he.
FLUTENo, he hath simply the best wit of any handicraft
man in Athens. 10
QUINCEYea and the best person too; and he is a very
paramour for a sweet voice.
FLUTEYou must say ‘paragon:’ a paramour is, God bless us,
a thing of naught.
Enter SNUG
SNUGMasters, the duke is coming from the temple, and
there is two or three lords and ladies more married:
if our sport had gone forward, we had all been made
FLUTEO sweet bully Bottom! Thus hath he lost sixpence a
day during his life; he could not have ‘scaped
sixpence a day: an the duke had not given him
sixpence a day for playing Pyramus, I’ll be hanged;
he would have deserved it: sixpence a day in
Pyramus, or nothing.
BOTTOMWhere are these lads? where are these hearts?
QUINCEBottom! O most courageous day! O most happy hour!
BOTTOMMasters, I am to discourse wonders: but ask me not
what; for if I tell you, I am no true Athenian. I
will tell you every thing, right as it fell out.
QUINCELet us hear, sweet Bottom. 29
BOTTOMNot a word of me. All that I will tell you is, that
the duke hath dined. Get your apparel together,
good strings to your beards, new ribbons to your
pumps; meet presently at the palace; every man look
o’er his part; for the short and the long is, our
play is preferred. In any case, let Thisby have
clean linen; and let not him that plays the lion
pair his nails, for they shall hang out for the
lion’s claws. And, most dear actors, eat no onions
nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I
do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet
comedy. No more words: away! go, away! 40

Next: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 2

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

3. transported, made away with, carried off by some agency; it seems hardly necessary to take the word as an euphemism for ‘murdered,’ as Schmidt does.

8. discharge, play; see note on i. 2. 84.

9, 10. the best … man, a confusion of constructions between ‘a better wit than any handicraft man,’ and ‘the best wit of all handicraft men’; handicraft, from “A.S. handcroeft, a trade, the insertion of i being due to an imitation of the form ofhandiwork, in which i is a real part of the word … from A.S. hand and geweorc, another form of weorc work”… (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

13. paragon, “a model of excellence … F. paragon, ‘a paragon, or peerlesse one’; Cot. — Span. paragon, a model, paragon. A singular word owing its origin to two prepositions united in a phrase. —Span. para con … —Span. para, for … which is itself a compound preposition, answering O. Span. pora, from Lat. pro ad … and con from Lat. cum. Thus it is really equivalent to the three Lat. prepositions pro, ad, cum” (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

14. a thing of naught, a worthless thing; naught, from which our word naughty, being the A.S. nawhit, no thing.

15. from the temple, i.e. after his marriage there.

17. had gone forward, had been carried out; if our play had been acted: we had … men, our fortunes would have been made; cp. T. N. ii. 6. 168, “Go to, thou art made, if thou desirest to be so.”

18. bully, see note on iii. 1. 7.

19. ‘scaped, missed getting; Flute employs for missing a piece of good fortune a word more properly used of getting out of a difficulty, scrape.

20, 1. an the duke … hanged, I’ll be hanged if the duke would not have given, etc., i.e. assuredly the duke would have given.

22. sixpence … nothing, if he were rewarded at all, as he was sure to have been, the reward for his playing Pyramus could not have been less than sixpence a day for life: in Pyramus, in his character as Pyramus. Steevens thinks there may here be an allusion to a pension of twenty pounds a year bestowed on one Thomas Preston for his acting before Elizabeth at Cambridge in 1564.

23. hearts, brave fellows, sc. his comrades; cp. Temp, i. 1. 7. “cheerly, cheerly, my hearts!”

24. courageous, possibly Bottom means ‘auspicious.’

26. I am to, I have to; it is what I am bound to do; cp. Tim. 1. 2. 155, “I am to thank you for it”; and see Abb. § 405.

31, 2. good strings to your beards, i.e. so that they may not fall off in the acting: pumps, court shoes, thin-soled shoes. “So called … because worn for ‘pomp’ or ornament, by persons in full dress.— ‘F. pompe, pomp, state … a pied de plombe et de pompe, with a slow and stately gate [gait]: Cot.'” (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

34. the short and the long, the fact; the whole story; more commonly ‘the long and the short of the matter’: preferred, is generally explained as ‘offered for acceptance’; but Bottom seems certain that the play has been accepted, and probably the word means has ‘received the honour of being accepted.’

36. shall hang, are bound to hang, must hang.

38. we are to utter, it is our duty to breathe.


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