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  • Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream (Modern)
  • Editor: Suzanne Westfall
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-465-3

    Copyright Suzanne Westfall. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Suzanne Westfall
    Not Peer Reviewed

    A Midsummer Night's Dream (Modern)

    Enter Theseus, Hippolita, Egeus and his lords.
    'Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of.
    More strange then true. I never may believe
    1795These 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
    1800Are of imagination all compact.
    One sees more devils then 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
    1805From 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,
    1810That 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 supposed a bear?
    But all the story of the night told over,
    1815And all their minds transfigured so together,
    More witnesseth than fancy's images
    And grows to something of great constancy;
    But howsoever, strange and admirable.
    Enter lovers Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, 1820and Helena.
    Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.
    Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days
    Of love accompany your hearts.
    More then to us wait in your royal walks,
    1825your board, your bed.
    Come now, what masks, what dances shall
    we have,
    To wear away this long age of three hours,
    Between our after-supper and bed-time?
    1830Where is our usual manager of mirth?
    What revels are in hand? Is there no play
    To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
    Call Egeus.
    Here mighty Theseus.
    Say, what abridgement have you for this
    What mask? What music? How shall we beguile
    The lazy time if not with some delight?
    There is a brief how many sports are rife.
    1840Make choice of which your highness will see first.
    "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.
    1845"The Riot of the Tipsy Bacchanals
    Tearing the Thracian Singer in their Rage."
    That is an old device, and it was played
    When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
    "The Thrice Three Muses Mourning for the Death
    1850of Learning, late Deceased 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 Thisby; very tragical mirth."
    1855Merry and tragical? Tedious and brief? That
    Is hot ice and wondrous strange snow. How shall we
    Find the concord of this discord?
    A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
    Which is as brief as I have known a play;
    1860But 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
    1865Rehearsed, I must confess, made mine eyes water,
    But more merry tears the passion of loud laughter
    Never shed.
    What are they that do play it?
    Hard-handed men, that work in Athens here,
    1870Which never labored in their minds till now;
    And now have toiled their unbreathed memories
    With this same play, against your nuptial.
    And we will hear it.
    No, my noble lord, it is not for you. I have heard
    1875It over, and it is nothing, nothing in the world;
    Unless you can find sport in their intents,
    Extremely stretched and conned with cruel pain,
    To do you service.
    I will hear that play. For never any thing
    1880Can be amiss when simpleness and duty tender it.
    Go, bring them in, and take your places ladies.
    I love not to see wretchedness o'ercharged,
    And duty in his service perishing.
    Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.
    He says they can do nothing in this kind.
    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.
    1890Where 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 practiced accent in their fears,
    1895And, in conclusion, dumbly have broke off,
    Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,
    Out of this silence yet I picked a welcome;
    And in the modesty of fearful duty
    I read as much as from the rat'ling tongue
    1900Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
    Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity
    In least speak most, to my capacity.
    So please your grace, the prologue is addressed.
    Let him approach.
    Flourish [of trumpets]. 1905Enter the Prologue Quince.
    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.
    1910Consider 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,
    1915You shall know all, that you are like to know.
    This fellow doth not stand upon points.
    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.
    Indeed, he hath played on his prologue like a child on a recorder: a sound, but not in government.
    His speech was like a tangled chain: nothing impaired, but all disordered. Who is next?
    Tawyer with a trumpet before them. sounds.
    1925Enter Pyramus and Thisby, Wall, Moonshine, and Lion.
    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.
    1930This man, with lime and roughcast, 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 lantern, dog, and bush of thorn,
    1935Presenteth moonshine. For, if you will know,
    By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn
    To meet at Ninus' tomb, there, there to woo.
    This grizzly beast, which lion hight by name,
    The trusty Thisby, coming first by night,
    1940Did 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 Thisby's mantle slain;
    1945Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
    He bravely broached 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
    1950At large discourse, while here they do remain.
    Exit all but Wall.
    I wonder if the lion be to speak?
    No wonder, my lord. One lion may when many asses do.
    1955Exit Lion, Thisby, and Moonshine.
    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,
    1960Through 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,
    1965Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.
    Would you desire lime and hair to speak
    It is the wittiest partition, that ever I heard discourse, my lord.
    Pyramus draws near the wall. Silence!
    Enter Pyramus.
    O grim-looked night, O night with hue so black,
    O night, which ever art when day is not.
    O night, O night, alack, alack, alack.
    1975I fear my Thisby's promise is forgot.
    And thou, O wall, thou sweet and lovely wall,
    That stands 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.
    1980Thanks, 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,
    Curst be thy stones for thus deceiving me!
    The wall, methinks, being sensible, should
    1985curse again.
    No, in truth, sir, he should not. "Deceiving me" Is Thisby's cue. She is to enter, and I am to spy her through the wall. You shall see it will fall
    Enter Thisby.
    1990Pat as I told you. Yonder she comes.
    O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans
    For parting my fair Pyramus and me.
    My cherry lips have often kissed thy stones,
    Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.
    I see a voice! Now will I to the chink
    To spy and I can hear my Thisby's face. Thisby?
    My love! Thou art my love, I think?
    Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover's grace,
    And like Limander am I trusty still.
    And I like Helen, till the Fates me kill.
    Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.
    As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.
    O, kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.
    I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.
    Wilt thou at Ninnies tomb meet me straight way?
    'Tide life, 'tide death, I come without delay.
    Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;
    And being done, thus Wall away doth go.
    Exit Clown [Wall].
    Now is the moral down between the two
    No remedy, my lord, when walls are so willful to hear without warning.
    This is the silliest stuff that e're I heard.
    The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.
    It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
    If we imagine no worse of them then they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here come 2020two noble beasts, in a man and a lion.
    Enter Lion and Moonshine.
    You Ladies, you whose gentle hearts do fear
    The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,
    May now, perchance, both quake and tremble here,
    2025When 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 of my life!
    A very gentle beast, and of good conscience.
    The very best at a beast, my lord, that e're I saw.
    This lion is a very fox for his valor.
    True, and a goose for his discretion.
    Not so, my lord, for his valor cannot carry 2035his discretion, and the fox carries the goose.
    His discretion, I am sure cannot carry his valor, for the goose carries not the fox. It is well. Leave it to his discretion, and let us hearken to the moon.
    This lantern doth the horned moon 2040present --
    He should have worn the horns on his head.
    He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible within the circumference.
    This lantern doth the horned moon present.
    2045 Myself the man in the moon doth seem to be.
    This is the greatest error of all the rest! The man
    should be put into the lantern. How is it else the man in the moon?
    He dares not come there for the candle. 2050For you see, it is already in snuff.
    I am weary of this moon; would he would change.
    It appears, by his small light of discretion, that he is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all reason, we 2055must stay the time.
    Proceed, moon.
    All that I have to say is to tell you that the lantern is the moon; I the man in the moon; this thorn bush, my thorn bush; and this dog, my dog.
    Why all these should be in the lantern, for they are in the moon. But silence, here comes Thisby.
    Enter Thisby.
    This is old Ninnies tomb: where is my love?
    2065 The Lion roars, [and] Thisby runs off.
    Well roared, lion.
    Well run, Thisby.
    Well shone, moon. Truly, the moon shines with a good grace.
    [Lion mauls Thisby's mantle and runs off.]
    Well moused, Lion.
    And then came Pyramus.
    And so the lion vanished.
    Enter Pyramus.
    Sweet moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams.
    2075I thank thee, moon, for shining now so bright,
    For by thy gracious, golden, glittering beams
    I trust to taste of truest Thisby's sight.
    But stay: O spite! But mark, poor knight,
    What dreadful dole is here?
    2080Eyes, do you see? How can it be?
    O dainty duck, O dear!
    Thy mantle good, what, stained with blood?
    Approach you Furies fell!
    O Fates, come, come! Cut thread and thrum,
    2085Quail, crush, conclude, and quell.
    This passion, and the death of a dear friend,
    Would go near to make a man look sad.
    Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
    O, wherefore, Nature, did'st thou lions frame?
    2090Since lion vile hath here deflowered my dear;
    Which is -- no, no -- which was the fairest dame
    That lived, that loved, that liked, that looked with cheer.
    Come tears, confound. Out sword, and wound
    The pap of Pyramus:
    2095Aye, that left pap, where heart doth hop;
    Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.
    Now am I dead, now am I fled; my soul is in the sky,
    Tongue, lose thy light. Moon, take thy flight,
    Exit Moon.
    2100Now die, die, die, die, die.
    No die, but an ace for him. For he is but one.
    Less than an ace man, for he is dead. He is nothing.
    With the help of a surgeon, he might yet recover, and prove an ass.
    How chance moonshine is gone before? Thisby comes back, and finds her lover.
    Enter Thisby.
    She will find him by starlight. Here she comes, and her passion ends the play.
    Methinks she should not use a long one for such a Pyramus; I hope she will be brief.
    A moth will turn the balance, which Pyramus which Thisby is the better.
    She hath spied him already, with those sweet eyes.
    And thus she means, videlicit:
    Asleep my love? What, dead my dove? O Pyramus, arise!
    Speak, speak! Quite dumb? Dead, dead? A tomb
    Must cover thy sweet eyes.
    2120These 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,
    2125With 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.
    2130And, farewell friends. Thus Thisby ends.
    Adieu, adieu, adieu.
    Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.
    Ay, and Wall too.
    No, I assure you, the wall is down, that parted 2135their fathers. Will it please you to see the epilogue, or to hear a Bergomask dance between two of our company?
    No epilogue, I pray you, for your play needs no excuse. Never excuse, for when the players are all 2140dead, there need none to be blamed. Marry, if he that writ it had played Pyramus, and hung himself in Thisby's garter, it would have been a fine tragedy; and so it is truly, and very notably discharged. But come, your Burgomaske, let your epilogue alone.
    2145The 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 over-watched.
    This palpable gross play hath well beguiled
    2150The heavy gate of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
    A fortnight hold we this solemnity
    In nightly revels and new jollity.
    Enter Puck.
    Now the hungry lion's roars,
    2155And the wolf beholds the moon,
    Whilst the heavy plowman snores,
    All with weary task fordone.
    Now the wasted brands do glow,
    Whil'st the screech owl, screeching loud,
    2160Puts the wretch that lies in woe
    In remembrance of a shroud.
    Now it is the time of night,
    That the graves, all gaping wide,
    Every one lets forth his sprite,
    2165In the churchway paths to glide.
    And we fairies that do run
    By the triple Hecate's team
    From the presence of the sun,
    Following darkness like a dream,
    2170Now are frolic; not a mouse
    Shall disturb this hallowed house.
    I am sent with broom before,
    To sweep the dust behind the door.
    Enter king [Oberon] and queen[Titania] of fairies with their train.
    Through the house give glimmering light,
    By the dead and drowsy fire.
    Every elf and fairy sprite
    Hop as light as bird from brier;
    And this ditty after me sing and dance it trippingly.
    First rehearse this song by rote,
    To each word a warbling note.
    Hand in hand with fairy grace
    Will we sing and bless this place.
    The Song.
    Now until the break of day
    Through this house each fairy stray.
    To the best bride bed will we,
    Which by us shall blessed be,
    And the issue there create
    2190Ever shall be fortunate.
    So shall all the couples three,
    Ever true in loving be.
    And the blots of Nature's hand
    Shall not in their issue stand.
    2195Never mole, harelip, nor scar,
    Nor mark prodigious, such as are
    Despised in nativity
    Shall upon their children be.
    With this field dew consecrate
    2200Every fairy take his gait,
    And each several chamber bless
    Through this palace with sweet peace.
    Ever shall in safety rest,
    And the owner of it blest.
    2205Trip away, make no stay;
    Meet me all by break of day.
    [Exit all but Puck.]