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PRELIMINARY REMARKS. We may presume the plot of this play to have been the invention of Shakspeare, as the diligence of his commentators has failed to trace the sources from whence it is derived. Steevens says that the hint for it was probably received from Chaucer's Knight's Tale.

In the Midsummer Night's Dream,' says Schlegel, there flows a luxuriant vein of the boldest and most fantastical invention; the most extraordinary combination of the most dissimilar ingredients seems to have arisen without effort by some ingenious and lucky accident, and the colours are of such clear transparency that we think that the whole of the variegated fabric may be blown away with a breath. The fairy world here described resembles those elegant pieces of Arabesque, where little Genii, with butterfly wings, rise half embodied above the flower cups. Twilight, moonshine, dew, and spring-perfumes are the element of these tender spirits; they assist nature in embroidering her carpet with green leaves, many coloured flowers, and dazzling insects; in the human world they merely sport in a childish and wayward manner with their beneficent or noxious influences. Their most violent rage dissolves in good-natured raillery; their passions, stripped of all earthly matter, are merely an ideal dream. To correspond with this, the loves of mortals are painted as a poetical enchantment, which, by a contrary enchantment, may be immediately suspended, and then renewed again. The different parts of the plot; the wedding of Theseus, the disagreement of Oberon and Titania, the flight of the two pair of lovers, and the theatrical operations of the mechanics, are so lightly and happily interwoven, that they seem necessary to each other for the formation of a whole. Oberon is desirous of relieving the lovers from their perplexities, and greatly adds to them through the misapprehension of his servant, till he at last comes to the aid of their fruitless amorous pain, their inconstancy and jealousy, and restores fidelity to its old rights. The extremes of fanciful and vulgar are united when the enchanted Titania awakes and falls in love with a coarse mechanic with an ass's head, who represents, or rather disfigures the part of a tragical lover. The droll wonder of the transmutation of Bottom is merely the translation of a metaphor in its literal sense; but, in his behaviour during the tender homage of the Fairy Queen, we have a most amusing proof how much the consciousness of such a head-dress heightens the effect of his usual folly. Theseus and Hippolita are, as it were, a splendid frame for the picture; they take no part in the action, but appear with a stately pomp. The discourse of the hero and his Amazon, as they course through the

forest with their noisy hunting train, works upon the imagination like the fresh breath of morning, before which the shapes of night disappear*.'

This is a production of the youthful and vigorous imagination of the poet. Malone places the date of its composition in 1594. There are two quarto editions, both printed in 1600 : one by Thomas Fisher, the other by James Roberts.



THESEUS, Duke of Athens.
Egeus, Father to Hermia.

in love with Hermia.
PHILOSTRATE, Master of the Revels to Theseus.
QUINCE, the Carpenter.
SNUG, the Joiner.
BOTTOM, the Weaver.
FLUTE, the Bellows-mender.
SNOUT, the Tinker.

the Tailor. HIPPOLYTA, Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to

HERMIA, Daughter of Egeus, in love with Lysander.
HELENA, in love with Demetrius.
OBERON, King of the Fairies.
TITANIA, Queen of the Fairies.
Puck, or ROBIN-GOODFELLOW, a Fairy.


Characters in the Interlude per-

formed by the Clowns. Lion, Other Fairies attending their King and Queen.

Attendants on Theseus and Hippolyta. SCENE, Athens, and a Wood not far from it.

* Lectures on Dramatic Literature, vol. ii. p. 176.



SCENE I. Athens,

A Room in the Palace of Theseus.


and Attendants.

Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace; four happy days bring in
Another moon: but, oh, methinks how slow
This old moon wanes ! she lingers my desires,
Like to a step-dame, or a dowager,
Long withering out a young man’s revenue.
Hip. 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
New bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.

Go, Philostrate,

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.-

[Exit Philo

Hippolyta, I woo'd 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 revelling.
Enter Egeus, HERMIA, LYSANDER, and

Ege. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke !
The. Thanks, good Egeus : What's the news

with thee. Ege. Full of vexation come I, with complaint Against my child, my daughter HermiaStand forth, Demetrius ;-My noble lord, This man hath my consent to marry her:Stand forth, Lysander;-and, my gracious duke, This hath bewitch'd 3 the bosom of my child : Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes, And interchang'd love tokens with my child: Thou hast by moon-light at her window sung, With feigning voice, verses of feigning love; And stol'n the impression of her fantasy With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds *, conceits, Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweet-meats; messengers Of strong prevailment in unharden'd youth: With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart;

1 A triumph was a public show, such as a mask, pageant, procession, &c. In 'The Duke of Anjou's Entertainment at Antwerp,' 1581 : ‘Yet notwithstanding, their triumphes [i. e. those of the Romans] have so borne the bell above all the rest, that the word triumphing, which cometh thereof, hath beene applied to all high,

great, and statelie dooings.' 2 Duke, in our old language, was used for a leader or chief, as the Latin Dux.

3 The old copies read, “This man hath bewitched. The alteration was made in the second folio for the sake of the metre; but a redundant syllable at the commencement of a verse perpetually occurs in our old dramas.

4 Baubles, toys, trifles.

Turn’d 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;
As 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 case5.
The. What say you, Hermia? be advis'd, fair

To you your father should be as a god;
One that compos'd 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.
Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.

Her. So is Lysander.

In himself he is :
But, in this kind, wanting your father's voice,
The other must be held the worthier.

Her. I would my father look'd but with my eyes.
The. Rather your eyes must with his judgment

Her. 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,
In 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.

The. Either to die the death, or to abjure
For ever the society of men.

5 This line has a smack of legal common place. Shakspeare is supposed to have been placed while a boy in an attorney's office; at least he often displays that he was well acquainted with the phraseology of lawyers.

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