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I shall sing it at her death"-i. e. At the death of Thisbe, of which "piece of work" Bottom's head was full. Theobald would read "after death”—i. e. after Bottom had been killed, in the part of Pyramu


His fretted fortunes give him hope and fear Of what he has and has not, etc.


SIXPENCE A-DAY in Pyramus"-" Shakespeare has already ridiculed the title-page of Cambyses,' by Thomas Preston; and here he seems to allude to him, or some other person who, like him, had been pensioned for his dramatic abilities. Preston acted a part in John Ritwise's play of 'Dido,' before Queen Elizabeth, at Cambridge, in 1564; and the Queen was so well pleased that she bestowed on him a pension of twenty pounds a-year, which is little more than a shilling a-day."— STEVENS.

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"scorching snow;" and Mason, "strong snow." Knight says, "snow is a common thing; and, therefore, "wondrous strange" is sufficiently antithetical-hot ice, and snow as strange.'



what poor duty cannot do"-i. e. "What dutifulness tries to perform without ability, lofty generosity receives with complacency; estimating it not by the actual merit of the performance, but by what it might have been, had the abilities of the performers been equal to their zeal."-MALONE.

I doubt "might" being used for possibility. It seems more obvious to receive "in might" as meaning, "according to the might or ability of the offerer, not the merit of his works."

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the MAN I' THE MOON"-" The man in the moon was a considerable personage in Shakespeare's day. He not only walked in the moon, (his lantern,') with his thorn-bush' and his 'dog,' but he did sundry other odd things, such as the man in the moon has ceased to do in these our unimaginative days. There is an old black-letter ballad, of the time of James II., preserved in the British Museum, entitled, 'The Man in the Moon drinks Claret,' adorned with a woodcut of this remarkable tippler."-Knight.

“— it is already in SNUFF”—To take any thing "in snuff" was to take it in anger. Here it is playful, but sometimes the phrase was used in grave language, as it may be found in HENRY IV., (act i. scene 3;) as well it might be, being drawn from the natural image of the impatient breathing of anger. Our modern luxury of "snuff" was named afterwards from this; and the phrase has fallen in dignity, and become slang, as the association of artificial habits has superseded the original allusion.

"And so the lion vanished"—Dr. Farmer suggested that the text ought to run

And so comes Pyramus.

And then the moon vanishes

which has been adopted in the editions following the boldly altered text of Stevens. The critics talk from their familiarity with the story, not with the play. Besides, the moon does not vanish, but remains to be thanked by Pyramus, and to go out after his death.


- hear a Bergomask dance"-A dance after the manner of the peasants of Bergomasco, proverbially clownish.

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About him, fairies, sing a scornful rhyme,
And as you trip still pinch him to your time.

"Now, until the break of day"-"This speech, which both the old quartos give to Oberon, is, in the edition of 1623, and in all the following, printed as the song. I have restored it to Oberon, as it apparently contains not the blessing which he intends to bestow on the bed, but his declaration that he will bless it, and his orders to the fairies how to perform the necessary rites. But where, then, is the song? I am afraid it is gone after many other things of greater value. The truth is that two songs are lost. The series of the scene is this: after the speech of Puck, Oberon enters, and calls his fairies to a song, which song is apparently wanting in all the old copies. Next Titania leads another song, which is indeed lost, like the former, though the editors have endeavoured to find it. Then Oberon dismisses his fairies to the despatch of the ceremonies. The songs, I suppose, were lost; because they were not inserted in the players' parts, from which the drama was printed."

"I'm an HONEST PUCK"-" Puck,' or Pouke, meant the devil; and (as Tyrwhitt remarks) it is used in that sense in Pierce Ploughman's Vision," and else where. It was therefore necessary for Shakespeare's fairy messenger to assert his honesty, and to clear himself from any connection with the helle Pouke.'"COLLIER.

"Give me your hands"-The line seems playfully intended to convey two analogous senses-the giving and joining hands of friends, and the clapping hands of theatrical applause.

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The MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM has employed a succession of eminent authors and playwrights to adapt its etherial forms to mortal representatives. Whether from the impossibility of success or from the fault of the adapters, all these attempts "to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet," have failed. The first effort of this kind bears the title of the "Faery Queen," under the great name of Dryden. It was printed in 1692, and contains many additional songs, etc.; but I have not been able to find it in any edition of Dryden's works, nor any mention of it in the biographies of him. A similar alteration was tried by Garrick, many years after, and then again another by Colman, (the elder;) and a still later one by Reynolds, a popular dramatist of the last generation. There are also two or three others mentioned in the dramatic catalogues, none of which have been thought worth reprinting.

"The beautiful play of MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM is placed by Malone as early as 1592; its superiority to the TAMING OF THE SHREW and LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST affords some presumption that it was written after them. But it evidently belongs to the earlier period of Shakespeare's genius; poetical as we account it, more than dramatic, yet rather so, because the indescribable profusion of imaginative poetry in this play overpowers our senses till we can hardly observe any thing else, than from any deficiency of dramatic excellence. For in reality the structure of the fable, consisting as it does of three if not four actions, very distinct in their subjects and personages, yet wrought into each other without effort or confusion, displays the skill, or rather instinctive felicity of Shakespeare, as much as in any play he has written. No preceding dramatist had attempted to fabricate a complex plot; for low comic scenes, interspersed with a serious action upon which they have no influence, do not merit notice. The Menaechmi' of Plautus had been imitated by others as well as by Shakespeare; but we speak here of original invention.


"The MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM is, I believe, altogether original in one of the most beautiful conceptions that ever visited the mind of a poet-the fairy machinery. A few before him had dealt, in a vulgar and clumsy manner, with popular superstitions; but the sportive, beneficent, invisible population of air and earth, long since established in the creed of childhood, and of those simple as children, had never for a moment been blended with human mortals,' among the personages of the drama. Lyly's Maid's Metamorphosis' is probably later than this play of Shakespeare, and was not published till 1600. It is unnecessary to observe that the fairies of Spenser, as he has dealt with them, are wholly of a different race.

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"The language of MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM is equally novel with the machinery. It sparkles in perpetual brightness with all the hues of the rainbow; yet there is nothing overcharged, or affectedly ornamented. Perhaps no play of Shakespeare has fewer blemishes, or is from beginning to end in so perfect keeping; none in which so few lines could be erased, or so few expressions blamed. His own peculiar idiom, the dress of his mind, which began to be discernible in the Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, is more frequently manifested in the present play. The expression is seldom obscure, but it is never in poetry, and hardly in prose, the expression of other dramatists, and far less of the people. And here, without reviving the debated question of Shakespeare's learning, I must venture to think that he possessed rather more acquaintance with the Latin than many believe. The phrases, unintelligible and improper, except in the sense of their primitive roots, which occur so copiously in his plays, seem to be unaccountable on the supposition of absolute ignorance. In the MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM, these are much less frequent than in his later dramas. But here we find several instances. Thus things base and vil'd, holding no quantity,' for value; rivers, that have 'overborne their continents,' (the continente ripa of Horace ;)

'compact of imagination;' 'something of great constancy, for consistency; 'sweet Pyramus translated there; 'the law of Athens, which by no means we may exten uate.' I have considerable doubts whether any of these expressions would be found in the contemporary prose of Elizabeth's reign, which was less overrun by pedantry than that of her successor; but, could authority be produced for Latinisms so forced, it is still not very likely that one, who did not understand their proper meaning, would have introduced them into poetry. It would be a weak answer that we do not detect in Shakespeare any imitations of the Latin poets. His knowledge of the language may have been chiefly derived, like that of schoolboys, from the dictionary, and insufficient for the thorough appreciation of their beauties. But, if we should believe him well acquainted with Virgil or Ovid, it would be by no means surprising that his learning does not display itself in imitation. Shakespeare seems now and then to have a tinge on his imagination from former passages; but he never designedly imitates, though, as we have seen, he has sometimes adopted. The streams of invention flowed too fast from his own mind to leave him time to accommoda'e the words of a foreign language to our own. He knew that to create would be easier, and pleasanter, and better."-HALLAM.

"Addison says, 'When I look at the tombs of departed greatness, every emotion of envy dies within me.' I have never been so sacrilegious as to envy Shakespeare, in the bad sense of the word, but if there can be such an emotion as sinless envy, I feel it towards him; and if I thought that the sight of his tombstone would kill so pleasant a feeling, I should keep out of the way of it. Of all his works, the MIDSUMMERNIGHT'S DREAM leaves the strongest impression on my mind, that this miserable world must have, for once at least, contained a happy man. This play is so purely delicious, so little intermixed with the painful passions from which poetry distils her sterner sweets, so fragrant with hilarity, so bland and yet so bold, that I cannot imagine Shakespeare's mind to have been in any other frame than that of healthful ecstacy when the sparks of inspiration thrilled through his brain in composing it. I have heard, however, an old critic object that Shakespeare might have foreseen it would never be a good acting play; for where could you get actors tiny enough to couch in flower-blossoms? Well! I believe no manager was ever so fortunate as to get recruits from Fairyland; and yet I am told that a MIDSUMMER-Night's DREAM was some twenty years ago revived at Covent Garden, though altered, of course not much for the better, by Reynolds, and that it had a run of eighteen nights-a tolerably good reception. But supposing that it never could have been acted, I should only thank Shakespeare the more that he wrote here as a poet and not as a playwright. And as a birth of his imagination. whether it was to suit the stage or not, can we suppose the Poet himself to have been insensible of its worth? Is a mother blind to the beauty of her own child? No! nor could Shakespeare be unconscious that posterity would doat on this, one of his loveliest children. How he must have chuckled and laughed in the act of placing the ass's head on Bottom's shoulders! He must have foretasted the mirth of generations unborn at Titania's doating on the metamorphosed weaver, and on his calling for a repast of sweet peas. His animal spirits must have bounded with the hunter's joy, while he wrote Theseus's description of his well-tuned dogs and of the glory of the chase. He must have been happy as Puck himself while he was describing the merry Fairy, and all this time he must have been self-assured that his genius was to put a girdle round the earth;' and that souls, not yet in being, were to enjoy the revelry of his fancy.

"But nothing can be more irregular (says a modern critic, Augustine Skottowe) than to bring into contact the fairy mythology of modern Europe and the early

events of Grecian history. Now, in the plural number, Shakespeare is not amenable to this charge; for he alludes to only one event in that history, namely, to the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta; and, as to the introduction of fairies, I am not aware that he makes any of the Athenian personages believe in their existence, though they are subject to their influence. Let us be candid on the subject. If there were fairies in modern Europe, which no rational believer in fairy tales will deny, why should those fine creatures not have existed previously in Greece, although the poor, blind, heathen Greeks, on whom the gospel of Gothic mythology had not yet dawned, had no conception of them? If Theseus and Hippolyta had talked believingly about the dapper elves, there would have been some room for critical complaint; but otherwise the fairies have as good a right to be in Greece, in the days of Theseus, as to play their pranks any where else, or at any other time.

"There are few plays (says the same critic) which consist of such incongruous materials as a MIDSUMMERNIGHT'S DREAM. It comprises four histories-that of Theseus and Hippolyta, that of the four Athenian Lovers, that of the Actors, and that of the Fairies; and the link of connection between them is exceedingly slender. In answer to this, I say that the plot contains nothing (about any of the four parties concerned) approaching to the pretension of a history. Of Theseus


and Hippolyta, my critic says that they are uninteresting; but when he wrote that judgment, he must have fallen asleep after the hunting-scene. Their felicity is seemingly secure, and it throws a tranquil assurance that all will end well. But the bond of sympathy between Theseus and his four loving subjects is any thing but slender. It is, on the contrary, most natural and probable for a newly-married pair to have patronized their amorous lieges during their honey-moon. Then comes the question, what natural connection can a party of fairies have with human beings? This is indeed a posing interrogation; and I can only reply, that fairies are an odd sort of beings, whose connection with mor. tals can never be set down but as supernatural.

"Very soon Mr. Augustine Skottowe blames Shakespeare for introducing common mechanics as amateur actors, during the reign of Theseus, in classic Athens. I dare say Shakespeare troubled himself little about Greek antiquities; but here the Poet happens to be right, and his critic to be wrong. Athens was not a classical city in the days of Theseus; and, about seven hundred years later than his reign, the players of Attica roved about in carts, besmearing their faces with the lees of wine. I have little doubt that, long after the time of Theseus, there were many prototypes of Bottom the weaver, and Snug the joiner, in the itinerant acting companies of Attica."-T. CAMPBELL.


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