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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 1 Easiest-to-Read Edition

 

 

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream Act 1, Scene 1



Athens. The palace of Theseus

Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, and PHILOSTRATE with others

Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, and PHILOSTRATE, with others

THESEUS

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,

lingers=delays the fulfillment of

Like to a stepdame or a dowager

stepdame=stepmother

dowager=a widow who has inherited property from her husband

Long withering out a young man’s revenue.

(spending what would be due to the heir)

 

THESEUS

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 stepdame or a dowager

Long withering out a young man’s revenue.

 

HIPPOLYTA

Four days will quickly steep themselves in night.

in night=as if in slumber

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.

 

HIPPOLYTA

Four days will quickly steep themselves in night.

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.

 

THESEUS

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.

pale companion=Melancholy

 

THESEUS

    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.

 

Exit PHILOSTRATE

Exit PHILOSTRATE

Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword

And won thy love doing thee injuries.

(Theseus had made war against the Amazons and had taken their queen, Hippolyta, captive)

But I will wed thee in another key

With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling.

 

Hippolyta, 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 and LYSANDER and DEMETRIUS

Enter EGEUS and his daughter HERMIA, and LYSANDER and DEMETRIUS

EGEUS

Happy be Theseus, our renownèd duke.

 

EGEUS

Happy be Theseus, our renownèd duke.

 

THESEUS

Thanks, good Egeus. What’s the news with thee?

 

THESEUS

Thanks, good Egeus. What’s the news with thee?

 

EGEUS

Full of vexation come I with complaint

Against my child, my daughter Hermia.—

Stand forth, Demetrius.—My noble lord,

This man hath my consent to marry her.—

Stand forth, Lysander.—And my gracious duke,

This 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

feigning=insincere

And stol'n the impression of her fantasy

(stolen her imagination)

With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gauds, conceits,

Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats—messengers

Of strong prevailment in unhardened youth.

prevailment=persuasion

With cunning hast thou filched my daughter’s heart,

Turned her obedience (which is due to me)

To stubborn harshness.—And, my gracious duke,

Be it so she will not here before your grace

be it so=if

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 case.

immediately=expressly

 

EGEUS

Full of vexation come I with complaint

Against my child, my daughter Hermia.—

Stand forth, Demetrius.—My noble lord,

This man hath my consent to marry her.—

Stand forth, Lysander.—And my gracious duke,

This 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,

And stol'n the impression of her fantasy

With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gauds, conceits,

Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats—messengers

Of strong prevailment in unhardened youth.

With cunning hast thou filched my daughter’s heart,

Turned 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 case.

 

THESEUS

What say you, Hermia? Be advised, fair maid:

To 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.

Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.

 

THESEUS

What say you, Hermia? Be advised, fair maid:

To 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.

Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.

 

HERMIA

So is Lysander.

 

HERMIA

So is Lysander.

 

THESEUS

In himself he is.

But in this kind, wanting your father’s voice,

in this kind, wanting your father’s voice=in this instance, lacking your father’s authorization

The other must be held the worthier.

 

THESEUS

  In himself he is.

But in this kind, wanting your father’s voice,

The other must be held the worthier.

 

HERMIA

I would my father looked but with my eyes.

 

HERMIA

I would my father looked but with my eyes.

 

THESEUS

Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.

 

THESEUS

Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.

 

HERMIA

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

how it may concern=whether it befit

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.

 

HERMIA

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.

 

THESEUS

Either to die the death or to abjure

abjure=renounce

Forever the society of men.

Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires.

Know of your youth. Examine well your blood—

blood=passions

Whether, if you yield not to your father’s choice,

You can endure the livery of a nun,

livery of a nun=nun’s clothing

For aye to be in shady cloister mewed,

for aye=forever

mewed=confined

To live a barren sister all your life,

Chanting faint hymns to the cold, fruitless moon.

moon=Diana, virgin goddess of the moon

Thrice-blessèd they that master so their blood

To undergo such maiden pilgrimage.

maiden pilgrimage=lilfe’s journey as a nun

But earthlier happy is the rose distilled

earthlier happy=happier on earth

distilled=made into perfume

Than that [rose] which, withering on the virgin thorn,

Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.

 

THESEUS

Either to die the death or to abjure

Forever 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,

For 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.

But earthlier happy is the rose distilled

Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,

Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.

 

HERMIA

So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,

Ere I will yield my virgin patent up

virgin patent=privilege of virginity

Unto his lordship, whose unwishèd yoke

My soul consents not to give sovereignty.

 

HERMIA

So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,

Ere I will yield my virgin patent up

Unto his lordship, whose unwishèd yoke

My soul consents not to give sovereignty.

 

THESEUS

Take time to pause, and by the next new moon—

The sealing day betwixt my love and me

sealing day=day of contract

For everlasting bond of fellowship—

Upon 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

Diana’s altar=altar belonging to the virgin goddess of the moon

For aye austerity and single life.

 

THESEUS

Take time to pause, and by the next new moon—

The sealing day betwixt my love and me

For everlasting bond of fellowship—

Upon 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.

 

DEMETRIUS

Relent, sweet Hermia—And, Lysander, yield

Thy crazèd title to my certain right.

crazed=flawed

 

DEMETRIUS

Relent, sweet Hermia—And, Lysander, yield

Thy crazèd title to my certain right.

 

LYSANDER

You have her father’s love, Demetrius.

Let me have Hermia’s. Do you marry him.

 

LYSANDER

You have her father’s love, Demetrius.

Let me have Hermia’s. Do you marry him.

 

EGEUS

Scornful Lysander, true, he hath my love,

And what is mine my love shall render him.

And she is mine, and all my right of her

I do estate unto Demetrius.

 

EGEUS

Scornful Lysander, true, he hath my love,

And what is mine my love shall render him.

And she is mine, and all my right of her

I do estate unto Demetrius.

 

LYSANDER

(to THESEUS) I am, my lord, as well derived as he,

well derived=well born

As well possessed. My love is more than his.

possessed=endowed with wealth

My fortunes every way as fairly ranked,

(If not with vantage) as Demetrius'.

with vantage=better

And—which is more than all these boasts can be—

I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.

Why should not I then prosecute my right?

Demetrius, I’ll avouch it to his head,

head=face

Made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena,

made love to=wooed

And won her soul. And she, sweet lady, dotes,

Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry

Upon this spotted and inconstant man.

spotted=stained

 

LYSANDER

(to THESEUS) I am, my lord, as well derived as he,

As well possessed. My love is more than his.

My fortunes every way as fairly ranked,

(If not with vantage) as Demetrius'.

And—which is more than all these boasts can be—

I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.

Why should not I then prosecute my right?

Demetrius, 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.

 

THESEUS

I must confess that I have heard so much

so much=as 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.

I have some private schooling for you both.—

For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself

arm=prepare

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)

To death, or to a vow of single life.—

Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love?—

Demetrius and Egeus, go along.

I must employ you in some business

Against our nuptial and confer with you

against our nuptial=in preparation for our nuptial

Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.

nearly that concerns=that closely concerns

 

THESEUS

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.

I 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)

To death, or to a vow of single life.—

Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love?—

Demetrius and Egeus, go along.

I must employ you in some business

Against our nuptial and confer with you

Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.

 

EGEUS

With duty and desire we follow you.

 

EGEUS

With duty and desire we follow you.

 

Exeunt. Manent (stay on) LYSANDER and HERMIA

Exeunt. Manent LYSANDER and HERMIA

LYSANDER

How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale?

How chance the roses there do fade so fast?

how chance=how does it come that

 

LYSANDER

How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale?

How chance the roses there do fade so fast?

 

HERMIA

Belike for want of rain, which I could well

belike=very likely

Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.

beteem=grant

 

HERMIA

Belike for want of rain, which I could well

Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.

 

LYSANDER

Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,

Could ever hear by tale or history,

The course of true love never did run smooth.

But either it was different in blood—

blood=ancestry

 

LYSANDER

Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,

Could ever hear by tale or history,

The course of true love never did run smooth.

But either it was different in blood—

 

HERMIA

O cross! Too high to be enthralled to low.

 

HERMIA

O cross! Too high to be enthralled to low.

 

LYSANDER

Or else misgraffèd in respect of years—

misgraffed=badly grafted

 

LYSANDER

Or else misgraffèd in respect of years—

 

HERMIA

O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.

 

HERMIA

O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.

 

LYSANDER

Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—

choice of friends=relatives’ preference

 

LYSANDER

Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—

 

HERMIA

O hell, to choose love by another’s eyes!

 

HERMIA

O hell, to choose love by another’s eyes!

 

LYSANDER

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,

Brief as the lightning in the collied night;

collied=blackened, as with coal

That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and Earth,

in a spleen=in a sudden fit of passion

And ere a man hath power to say “Behold!”

The jaws of darkness do devour it up.

So quick bright things come to confusion.

 

LYSANDER

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,

Brief 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.

 

HERMIA

If then true lovers have been ever crossed,

(since, then, true lovers have always been thwarted)

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,

Wishes and tears, poor fancy’s followers.

fancy’s=love’s

 

HERMIA

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,

Wishes and tears, poor fancy’s followers.

 

LYSANDER

A good persuasion. Therefore, hear me, Hermia.

I have a widow aunt, a dowager

dowager=heir to her husband’s wealth

Of great revenue, and she hath no child.

From Athens is her house remote seven leagues,

league=roughly three miles

And 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,

And in the wood, a league without the town—

Where I did meet thee once with Helena

To do observance to a morn of May—

(May Day)

There will I stay for thee.

 

LYSANDER

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 remote seven leagues,

And 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.

Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me, then,

Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night,

And in the wood, a league without the town—

Where I did meet thee once with Helena

To do observance to a morn of May—

There will I stay for thee.

 

HERMIA

My good Lysander!

I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow,

By his best arrow with the golden head,

(shot by the golden head a person fell in love, shot by the lead head, a person became aversive)

By the simplicity of Venus' doves,

(doves pulled Venus’ chariot)

By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,

And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen

Carthage queen=Dido, who was betrayed by Aeneas

When the false Troyan under sail was seen,

under sail=secretly departing

By all the vows that ever men have broke

(In number more than ever women spoke),

In that same place thou hast appointed me,

Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.

 

HERMIA

    My good Lysander!

I 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 loves,

And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen

When the false Troyan under sail was seen,

By all the vows that ever men have broke

(In number more than ever women spoke),

In that same place thou hast appointed me,

Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.

 

LYSANDER

Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.

 

LYSANDER

Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.

 

Enter HELENA

Enter HELENA

HERMIA

Godspeed, fair Helena! Whither away?

whither away=where are you going?

HERMIA

Godspeed, fair Helena! Whither away?

 

HELENA

Call you me “fair”? That “fair” again unsay.

Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair!

Your eyes are lodestars, and your tongue’s sweet air

lodestars=guiding stars, such as the North Star

More tunable than lark to shepherd’s ear

When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.

Sickness is catching. Oh, were favor so,

Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go.

My 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,

bated=left out

The rest I’d give to be to you translated.

translated=transformed

O, teach me how you look and with what art

You sway the motion of Demetrius' heart.

 

HELENA

Call you me “fair”? That “fair” again unsay.

Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair!

Your eyes are lodestars, and your tongue’s sweet air

More tunable than lark to shepherd’s ear

When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.

Sickness is catching. Oh, were favor so,

Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go.

My 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’d give to be to you translated.

O, teach me how you look and with what art

You sway the motion of Demetrius' heart.

 

HERMIA

I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.

 

HERMIA

I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.

 

HELENA

Oh, that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!

 

HELENA

Oh, that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!

 

HERMIA

I give him curses, yet he gives me love.

 

HERMIA

I give him curses, yet he gives me love.

 

HELENA

Oh, that my prayers could such affection move!

 

HELENA

Oh, that my prayers could such affection move!

 

HERMIA

The more I hate, the more he follows me.

 

HERMIA

The more I hate, the more he follows me.

 

HELENA

The more I love, the more he hateth me.

 

HELENA

The more I love, the more he hateth me.

 

HERMIA

His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

 

HERMIA

His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

 

HELENA

None, but your beauty. Would that fault were mine!

would=if only

 

HELENA

None, but your beauty. Would that fault were mine!

 

HERMIA

Take comfort. He no more shall see my face.

Lysander and myself will fly this place.

Before the time I did Lysander see

Seemed Athens as a paradise to me.

Oh, then, what graces in my love do dwell,

That he hath turned a heaven unto a hell!

 

HERMIA

Take comfort. He no more shall see my face.

Lysander and myself will fly this place.

Before the time I did Lysander see

Seemed Athens as a paradise to me.

Oh, then, what graces in my love do dwell,

That he hath turned a heaven unto a hell!

 

LYSANDER

Helen, to you our minds we will unfold.

Tomorrow night when Phoebe doth behold

Phoebe – referring to Diana

Her silver visage in the watery glass,

watery glass=reflective body of water

Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass

(A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal),

still=always

Through Athens' gates have we devised to steal.

 

LYSANDER

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

(A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal),

Through Athens' gates have we devised to steal.

 

HERMIA

(to HELENA) And in the wood where often you and I

Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie,

Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,

There my Lysander and myself shall meet.

And thence from Athens turn away our eyes

To seek new friends and stranger companies.

stranger companies=company of strangers

Farewell, sweet playfellow. Pray thou for us.

And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!—

Keep word, Lysander. We must starve our sight

From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight.

 

HERMIA

(to HELENA) And in the wood where often you and I

Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie,

Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,

There my Lysander and myself shall meet.

And thence from Athens turn away our eyes

To seek new friends and stranger companies.

Farewell, sweet playfellow. Pray thou for us.

And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!—

Keep word, Lysander. We must starve our sight

From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight.

 

LYSANDER

I will, my Hermia.

 

LYSANDER

I will, my Hermia.

 

Exit HERMIA

Exit HERMIA

Helena, adieu.

Helena, adieu.

As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!

As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!

Exit LYSANDER

Exit LYSANDER

HELENA

How happy some o'er other some can be!

o’er other some=compared to some others

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 do know.

And as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes,

So I, admiring of his qualities.

Things base and vile, holding no quantity,

holding no quantity=unshapely

Love can transpose to form and dignity.

transpose=transform

Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind,

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

painted=portrayed

Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgment taste—

Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.

figure unheedy haste=produce reckless haste

And therefore is Love said to be a child,

Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.

beguiled=tricked

As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,

forswear=lie (cheat)

So the boy Love is perjured everywhere.

(he lies about his choices)

For ere Demetrius looked on Hermia’s eyne,

eyne=eyes

He hailed down oaths that he was only mine.

hailed down=showered as if with hail

And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,

So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.

I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight.

Then to the wood will he tomorrow night

Pursue her. And for this intelligence

If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.

dear=costly but worthwhile

But herein mean I to enrich my pain,

To have his sight thither and back again.

his sight=the sight of him

 

HELENA

How happy some o'er 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 do know.

And as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes,

So 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 winged Cupid painted blind.

Nor 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 so oft beguiled.

As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,

So 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.

I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight.

Then to the wood will he tomorrow night

Pursue her. And for this intelligence

If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.

But herein mean I to enrich my pain,

To have his sight thither and back again.

 

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