Enter Theseus, Hippolita, [Philostrate,] with others.
Now fair Hippolita, our nuptial hour
5Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon; but oh, me thinks, how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires,
Like to a stepdame, or a dowager
Long withering out a young man's revenue.
Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights,
Four nights will quickly dream away the time,
And then the moon, like to a silver bow,
Now bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.
Go Philostrate,
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments,
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth,
Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
The pale companion is not for our pomp.
20Hippolita, I wooed thee with my sword
And won thy love doing thee injuries.
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling.
Enter Egeus and his daughter Hermia, Lysander, 25and Demetrius.
Happy be Theseus, our renownèd Duke.
Thanks, good Egeus. What's the news with thee?
Full of vexation come I, with complaint
Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
30Stand forth Demetrius.
My noble lord,
This man hath my consent to marry her.
Stand forth Lysander.
And, my gracious duke,
35This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child.
Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes,
And interchanged love tokens with my child;
Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung,
With feigning voice verses of feigning love,
40And stolen the impression of her fantasy
With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gauds, conceits,
Knackes, trifles, nose-gays, sweetmeats (messengers
Of strong prevailment in unhardened youth).
With cunning hast thou filched my daughter's heart,
45Turned her obedience, which is due to me,
To stubborn harshness. And, my gracious duke,
Be it so she will not here, before your grace,
Consent to marry with Demetrius,
I beg the ancient privilege of Athens:
50As she is mine, I may dispose of her,
Which shall be either to this gentleman
Or to her death, according to our law
Immediately provided in that case.
What say you Hermia? Be advised fair maid.
55To you your father should be as a god,
One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted and within his power,
To leave the figure or disfigure it.
60Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
So is Lysander.
In himself he is.
But in this kind, wanting your father's voice.
The other must be held the worthier.
I would my father looked but with my eyes.
Rather, your eyes must with his judgment look.
I do entreat your grace to pardon me.
I know not by what power I am made bold,
Nor how it may concern my modesty
70In such a presence here to plead my thoughts,
But I beseech your grace that I may know
The worst that may befall me in this case,
If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
Either to die the death, or to abjure
75Forever the society of men.
Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires,
Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
Whether (if you yield not to your father's choice)
You can endure the livery of a nun,
80For aye to be in shady cloister mewed,
To live a barren sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
Thrice blessèd they that master so their blood
To undergo such maiden pilgrimage;
85But earthlier happy is the rose distilled,
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.
So will I grow, so live, so die my lord,
Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
90Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
My soul consents not to give sovereignty.
Take time to pause, and by the next new moon --
The sealing day betwixt my love and me
For everlasting bond of fellowship --
95Upon that day either prepare to die
For disobedience to your father's will,
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would,
Or on Diana's altar to protest
For aye austerity and single life.
Relent, sweet Hermia, and Lysander yield
Thy crazèd title to my certain right.
You have her father's love, Demetrius.
Let me have Hermia's. Do you marry him.
Scornful Lysander! True, he hath my love,
105And what is mine my love shall render him.
And she is mine, and all my right of her
I do estate unto Demetrius.
I am, my lord, as well derived as he,
As well possessed. My love is more than his,
110My fortune's every way as fairly ranked
(If not with vantage) as Demetrius';
And (which is more then all these boasts can be),
I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.
Why should not I, then, prosecute my right?
115Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head,
Made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena,
And won her soul, and she (sweet lady) dotes,
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
Upon this spotted and inconstant man.
I must confess that I have heard so much,
And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;
But, being overfull of self-affairs,
My mind did lose it. But, Demetrius come.
And come, Egeus. You shall go with me.
125I have some private schooling for you both.
For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
To fit your fancies to your father's will,
Or else the law of Athens yields you up
(Which by no means we may extenuate),
130To death, or to a vow of single life.
Come my Hippolita. What cheer, my love?
Demetrius and Egeus go along:
I must employ you in some business
Against our nuptial, and confer with you
135Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.
With duty and desire we follow you.
Exeunt [Theseus, Hippolita, Egeus, and Demetrius]. Lysander and Hermia [remain].
How now my love? Why is your cheek so pale?
How chance the roses there do fade so fast?
Belike for want of rain, which I could well
Beteem them from the tempest of mine eyes.
For ought that ever I could read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth.
145But either it was different in blood --
O cross! Too high to be enthralled to love.
Or else misgraffèd, in respect of years --
O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.
Or else it stood upon the choice of merit --
O hell! To choose love by another's eye.
Or if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness, did lay siege to it,
Making it momentary as a sound,
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
155Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,
And ere a man hath power to say "Behold!"
The jaws of darkness do devour it up.
So quick bright things come to confusion.
If, then, true lovers have been ever crossed,
It stands as an edict in destiny.
Then let us teach our trial patience,
Because it is a customary cross,
As due to love as thoughts, and dreams, and sighs,
165Wishes, and tears, poor fancy's followers.
A good persuasion. Therefore, hear me Hermia.
I have a widow aunt, a dowager
Of great revenue, and she hath no child.
From Athens is her house removèd seven leagues,
170And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee,
And to that place, the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me, then
Steal forth thy father's house tomorrow night,
175And in the wood, a league without the town
(Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance for a morn of May),
There will I stay for thee.
My good Lysander,
180I swear to thee by Cupid's strongest bow,
By his best arrow with the golden head,
By the simplicity of Venus' doves,
By that which knitteth souls and prospers love,
And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen
185When the false Trojan under sail was seen,
By all the vows that ever men have broke
(In number more then ever women spoke),
In that same place thou hast appointed me
Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.
Keep promise love. Look, here comes Helena.
Enter Helena.
God speed fair Helena! Whither away?
Call you me fair? That fair again unsay.
Demetrius loves you fair. O happy fair!
195Your eyes are loadstars, and your tongue's sweet air
More tuneable than lark to shepherd's ear
When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
Sickness is catching. O, were favor so,
Your words I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go.
200My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,
My tongue should catch your tongue's sweet melody.
Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated,
The rest I'll give to be to you translated.
O, teach me how you look, and with what art
205you sway the motion of Demetrius' heart.
I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.
O, that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill.
I give him curses, yet he gives me love.
O, that my prayers could such affection move.
The more I hate, the more he follows me.
The more I love, the more he hateth me.
His folly, Helena, is none of mine.
None but your beauty. Would that fault were mine!
Take comfort. He no more shall see my face;
Lysander and my self will fly this place.
Before the time I did Lysander see,
Seemed Athens like a paradise to me.
O then, what graces in my love do dwell,
220That he hath turned a heaven into hell.
Helen, to you our minds we will unfold.
Tomorrow night, when Phoebe doth behold
Her silver visage in the watery glass,
Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass
225(A time that lovers flights doth still conceal),
Through Athens' gates, have we devised to steal --
And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lye,
Emptying our bosoms of their counsel swelled,
230There my Lysander and myself shall meet,
And thence from Athens turn away our eyes
To seek new friends and strange companions.
Farewell sweet playfellow. Pray thou for us,
And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius.
235Keep word, Lysander. We must starve our sight
From lovers' food, till morrow deep midnight.
Exit Hermia.
I will, my Hermia. Helena, adieu.
As you on him, Demetrius dotes on you.
Exit Lysander.
How happy some o're other some can be!
Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;
He will not know what all but he doth know;
And, as he errs, doting on Hermia's eyes,
245So I, admiring of his qualities.
Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wingèd Cupid painted blind.
250Nor hath love's mind of any judgment taste:
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.
And, therefore, is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is often beguiled.
As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
255So the boy Love is perjured everywhere.
For ere Demetrius looked on Hermia's eyne,
He hailed down oaths that he was only mine.
And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.
260I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight!
Then, to the wood will he tomorrow night
Pursue her; and for his intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
265To have his sight thither and back again.