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From Act I, scene 1:

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.

Preach it, Lysander. And boy, did you set the tone for this play or what?

Things base and vile, folding 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.

Poor Helena. And not just because she speaks in rhymed couplets and iambic pentameter. She is truly pathetic, chasing Demetrius around when he wants nothing to do with her. Although in her defense, he did woo and win her before trying to discard her, so really, he had it coming. And yes, I'm now singing the song from Chicago. "He had it coming . . . "

From Act I, scene 2:

Francis Flute, the bellows-mender.

Here, Peter Quince.

Flute, you must take Thisbe on you.

What is Thisbe - a wandering knight?

It is the lady that Pyramus must love.

Nay, faith, let me not play a woman; I have a beard coming.

That's all one. You shall play it in a mask, and you may speak as small as you will.

An I may hide my face, let me play Thisbe too, I'll speak in a monstrous little voice. 'Thisne,
Thisne;' 'Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear! Thy Thisbe dear, and lady dear!'

No, no; you must play Pyramus: and, Flute, you Thisbe.

Well, proceed.

Gotta love Bottom. He's willing to play all parts. Even the lion. But on being told that were he to roar in a frightening manner they might all hang for it, he says "I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you, an ’twere any nightingale." That his statements make no sense is no disincentive to him when speaking.

. . . But, masters, here are your parts. And I am to entreat you, request you and desire you, to con them by to-morrow night and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moonlight. There will we rehearse, for if we meet in the city, we shall be dogged with company, and our devices known. In the meantime I will draw a bill of properties, such as our play wants. I pray you, fail me not.

We will meet; and there we may rehearse most obscenely and courageously. Take pains. Be perfect. Adieu.

At the duke's oak we meet.

Enough. Hold or cut bow strings.

Is it just me or does "Take pains. Be perfect. Adieu" remind others of Westley's "Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning"? Also, I am tempted to start saying that phrase at parting. That or "Hold or cut bow strings."

From Act II, scene 1:

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.

What, jealous Oberon? Fairies, skip hence.
I have forsworn his bed and company.

Tarry, rash wanton. Am not I thy lord?

Then I must be thy lady! But I know
When thou hast stolen away from Fairyland
And in the shape of Corin sat all day
Playing on pipes of corn and versing love
To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here,
Come from the farthest Steppe of India?
But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,
Your buskined mistress and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded, and you come
To give their bed joy and prosperity?

How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?
Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night
From Perigouna, whom he ravishèd?
And make him with fair Aegles break his faith,
With Ariadne and Antiopa?

These are the forgeries of jealousy;
And never, since the middle summer's spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,
By pavèd fountain or by rushy brook,
Or in the beachèd margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturbed our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge have sucked up from the sea
Contagious fogs, which, falling in the land,
Hath every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain,
The plowman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.
The fold stands empty in the drownèd field,
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock.
The nine-men's-morris is filled up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable.
The human mortals want their winter here.
No night is now with hymn or carol blest.
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazèd world
By their increase now knows not which is which.
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

I love Oberon's greeting, "Ill met by moonlight", as well as his next exchange: "Tarry rash wanton. Am not I thy lord?" So cocky. And I love that Titania blows him off, as she ought. Their exchanges regarding infidelities is pretty amusing, and I really like Titania's description of how the natural world is out of kilter because they are fighting.

My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememb'rest
Since once I sat upon a promontory
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
Utt'ring such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid’s music.

                        I remember.

That very time I saw - but thou couldst not -
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all armed. A certain aim he took
At a fair vestal thronèd by the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts.
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quenched in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon,
And the imperial vot'ress passèd on
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before, milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it "love-in-idleness."

Love-in-idleness is a form of pansy also known in modern times as "Johnny Jump-up", in case you were wondering. And all that talk about the mermaid and the votaress is a tribute to Queen Elizabeth I. According to Shakespeare scholar René Weis in his book Shakespeare Unbound: Decoding a Hidden Life, Shakespeare quite possibly saw the spectacle that took place in his home county of Warwickshire in honor of the nuptials of the Earl of Leicester when Shakespeare was 11 years old (including a mermaid on a dolphin's back). I also like Puck's response when he rushes off to comply with Oberon's request: "I'll put a girdle round about the earth/In forty minutes."

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.

Is not that lovely? Too bad that Oberon's just describing where Puck can find Titania so he can mess with her.

Act II, scene 2:

Fairies sing
You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy queen.
Philomel, with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby.
Never harm,
Nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby.
Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legged spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offense.
Philomel, with melody, & c.

Love the list of things that are supposed to be charmed away by this: snakes, lizards, worms, spiders, beetles, snails. Oh. And hedgehogs. What on earth do they have against hedgehogs?

Act III, scene 1:

Bottom *sings*

I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.
Mine ear is much enamored of thy note,
So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape,
And thy fair virtue's force perforce doth move me
On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.

Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for that. And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays; the more the pity that some honest neighbors will not make them friends. Nay, I can gleek upon occasion.

Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful.

Not so, neither; but if I had wit enough to get out of this wood, I have enough to serve mine own turn.

Out of this wood do not desire to go.

I love this dialogue. By now, poor Bottom has an ass's head, compliments of Puck. Titania's comment about him being as wise as he is beautiful might make the audience laugh, and yet there's tremendous wisdom in how he answers her declaration of love.

Act III, scene 2:

The quote in my icon comes from this particular scene. Puck says "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" in conversation with Oberon. For anyone wondering, the image of Puck in the icon comes from the Sandman comics written by Neil Gaiman. I'm fond of the following exchange much later in the scene between Hermia and Helena, who exchange some colorful insults based on size. Hermia is angry because her beloved Lysander has been erroneously dosed by Puck, and is now chasing Helena. Helena is angry because she thinks everyone is sporting with her, since by now both Lysander and Demetrius have been dosed and are arguing over her. She thinks Hermia's in on the joke.

O me! you juggler! you canker-blossom!
You thief of love! What, have you come by night
And stolen my love's heart from him?


                              Fine, i'faith!
Have you no modesty, no maiden shame,
No touch of bashfulness? What, will you tear
Impatient answers from my gentle tongue?
Fie, fie! you counterfeit, you puppet, you!

Puppet? why so? ay, that way goes the game.
Now I perceive that she hath made compare
Between our statures; she hath urged her height;
And with her personage, her tall personage,
Her height, forsooth, she hath prevailed with him.
And are you grown so high in his esteem;
Because I am so dwarfish and so low?
How low am I, thou painted maypole? speak;
How low am I? I am not yet so low
But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes.

I pray you, though you mock me, gentlemen,
Let her not hurt me: I was never curst;
I have no gift at all in shrewishness;
I am a right maid for my cowardice.
Let her not strike me. You perhaps may think,
Because she is something lower than myself,
That I can match her.


                        Lower! Hark, again!

. . .
O, when she's angry, she is keen and shrewd!
She was a vixen when she went to school;
And though she be but little, she is fierce.

Poor girls. Confused in love. Ah well, Oberon will see that Puck sets it right.

Up and down, up and down,
I will lead them up and down.
I am fear'd in field and town.
Goblin, lead them up and down.

Or not.

And the country proverb known,
That every man should take his own,
In your waking shall be shown.
Jack shall have Jill;
Nought shall go ill
The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well.

Ah - he did fix it, by applying a remedy to Lysander's eyes and saying this benediction of sorts. Although calling women "mares" is not exactly kind, Puck. Still, his reference to a man and the horse he might ride is appropriate, given that when the couples are discovered sleeping out of doors, it is believed that they were out in the fields to celebrate the rite of May: making love in the green grass in emulation of the marriage between the Lord of the Greenwood and the Lady May as part of a time-honored fertility ritual. Outdoor sex was called "the rite of May" regardless of whether it occurred on May Day or some other time.

Act IV, scene 1:

I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was--there is no man can tell what. Methought I was and methought I had--but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was.

Poor Bottom confuses some lines from I Corinthians near the end, bless him. But what a lovely speech this is.

Act IV, scene 2:

Okay. So I have no favorite lines from this scene. Sometimes that happens.

Act V, scene 1:

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,
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than 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 from 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
That, 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!

Gotta love that description of lunatics, lovers and poets.

Theseus *reads description of the play*
'A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisbe, very tragical mirth.'
Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow!

Seriously? From the time the Prologue enters until the play is done, the lines of Bottom, Snout, Flute and the other actors are brilliant, as are the asides interspersed between Theseus, Demetrius and the other viewers. I shall not reproduce the entirety here, but urge you all to read Act V in full if you get the time. Meanwhile, here are some tidbits I can't let go by without mention:

Theseus I wonder if the lion be to speak.
Demetrius No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many asses do.

For outright bawdiness, nobody beats these lines from Thisbe:
O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans,
For parting my fair Pyramus and me!
My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones,
Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.

Yeah. The "cherry lips" and "stones" knit up with hair? Exactly what you think they might represent. Naughty, naughty Thisbe. Later references are most likely to a "hole" in a slightly more rearward location:

O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall!
I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.

Here are the Beatles, doing a version of the skit:

On a more serious note, I love the following exchange between Theseus and Hippolyta, which demonstrates what a good-hearted soul Theseus is:

This is the silliest stuff that ever 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 than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men.

Once the play is concluded (and Theseus pronounces it "notably discharged"), he sends everyone to bed, beginning with these lines: "The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve./Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time." And sure enough, once the mortals depart, the fairies appear to sing and dance and then bless the inhabitants of the house (particularly the nuptial beds).

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessèd be,
And the issue there create
Ever 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.
Never mole, hare lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despisèd in nativity,
Shall upon their children be.
With this field-dew consecrate
Every fairy take his gait,
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace, with sweet peace.
And the owner of it blest,
Ever shall in safety rest.
Trip away. Make no stay.
Meet me all by break of day.
*Everyone exits but Robin Goodfellow
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call.
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Funny that Theseus tells Bottom not to bother with an epilogue since his play needs no apology, yet Shakespeare ends his own play with just such a thing, is it not?

Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.

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( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 1st, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Ha! Pyramis and Thisbe is raunchy! The first play I ever acted in was this play-within-a-play, when I was eleven, at camp. (I played the man in the moon.) Bet the camp didn't know that it was not just silly but also rude. :-)

Oh, yes. This was the first time I had encountered Shakespeare's writing. I have a clear memory of wondering why I couldn't write as imaginatively as he (not knowing how absurd that thought was). It was probably the first time I thought I might like to write.

Edited at 2009-07-01 03:19 am (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
If you were inspired to become a writer by reading Shakespeare, then you had just about the best sort of inspiration I can imagine!

Even though I'd seen the play (and the movie version with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Sam Rockwell as Thisbe - he makes me cry when he drops the falsetto and removes his wig, by the by), I didn't realize exactly how bawdy the lines were until this year, reading it over (after having read Filthy Shakespeare, which is at least partially credited for my awareness of more of the sexual puns throughout the plays; although sometimes I felt like the puns might be a stretch, in this case, they were patently obvious).
Jul. 1st, 2009 10:05 am (UTC)
Shakespeare turns you on to writing....
...HOW cool!

It takes the Beatles to turn me on to Shakespeare (well, not really, but my first introduction).

...HOW sad.

Jul. 1st, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Shakespeare turns you on to writing....
One could have far worse sources of inspiration than the Fab Four.
Jul. 1st, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
Tanita Says :)
This is a delightful, frothy, ridiculous play, and my favorite of all of the comedies... except maybe for Taming of the Shrew...
Jul. 1st, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Tanita Says :)
It is a lot of fun. I confess to having difficulty picking a favorite (not that that ought to surprise anyone - I've already confessed to having issues when picking favorites). That said, I hold a soft spot for Twelfth Night, so I'd have to say that those are probably my two favorites of the comedies I've read and/or seen so far. But I still have several plays to go. . .
Jul. 1st, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
I love A Midsummer Night's Dream. We did it for One-Act Play in high school. I was one of the faeries. "Over hill, over dale, through brush, through briar!"
Jul. 1st, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
Love that bit!

"Over park, over pale, through flood, through fire"
Jul. 1st, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's fair to call Helena pathetic - how is she any different from Orsino mooning over Olivia, or Olivia chasing after Cesario, or Romeo after Rosaline? (Other than not having servants to do her dirty work?)

I know - she has no power. All the others I mentioned woo from a place of power - being male, being noble, or both. Helena has no power. "Use me as you use your dog" sounds awful to us, and I'm sure it's there for laughs, but we shouldn't single her out as pathetic for making the exact same choice as so many other Shakespearian heroes, using the same kind of melodramatic, desperate language.

I mean, at least when D denies her she doesn't go killing herself. Like *some* people. ;)
Jul. 1st, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
Haha, also, I should confess: I played Helena in high school. I think she CAN be played like a pathetic fool, and often is. But that's lazy and there's a lot more there to find. We ended up playing the lovers serious, after my Hermia and the director and I had a long talk. It was... really intense. :D
Jul. 1st, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
I think she has a lot of spunk, really. For one thing, to be openly declaring her emotions as she does takes a lot of nerve. It's funny, of course, and should be funny, because it's one of those things that simply isn't "done" - openly chasing someone and repeatedly declaring your love while debasing yourself is the sort of thing that people just don't undertake most of the time. Yet lots of folks would identify with much of what she says, in thinking that their loved one is so far out of their league, etc., that it feels familiar. And is therefore embarrassing. And is therefore funny.

Once Lysander has been mistakenly charmed, Helena becomes even more interesting, I think. She's very witty, and the lines that she exchanges with Hermia in particular are great. To say nothing of the speed with which they are best performed!
Jul. 1st, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
Heh, spunk is a good word for it.
Jul. 1st, 2009 10:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah, only after I wrote "spunk", the whole double meaning thing involved kinda troubled me. :P
Jul. 1st, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
First definition of pathetic: "having a capacity to move one to either compassionate or contemptuous pity". And I think she fits that bill. (Oh snap! You weren't expecting that one, were you?)

But seriously? At least she has the balls to tell Demetrius how she feels. Even if it does make her seem worthy of pity.

Here are some of the lines that qualify her:

I am your spaniel, and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me I will fawn on you.
Use me but as your spaniel. Spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
(Act II, sc. 1)

and she does kind of threaten death:

I'll follow thee and make a heaven of hell,
To die upon the hand I love so well.
(Act II, sc. 1)


Stay, though thou kill me, sweet Demetrius. (Act II, sc. 2)

Edited at 2009-07-01 02:59 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 2nd, 2009 02:19 am (UTC)
Hooray! One of my sentences is one of your favorite parts! Take that, Will Shakespeare! Booyah!

My Folger edition tells me that "gleek" means "to make a joke". I think we should all be using it.
(Deleted comment)
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