A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Act 1, scene 1
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Act 1, scene 1
Theseus, duke of Athens, is planning the festivities for his upcoming wedding to the newly captured Amazon, Hippolyta. Egeus arrives with his daughter Hermia and her two suitors, Lysander (the man she wants to marry) and Demetrius (the man her father wants her to marry). Egeus demands that Theseus enforce Athenian law upon Hermia and execute her if she refuses to marry Demetrius. Theseus threatens Hermia with either lifelong chastity or death if she continues to disobey her father. Lysander and Hermia make plans to flee Athens. They reveal their plan to Helena, Hermia’s friend, who is in love with Demetrius. To win Demetrius’s favor, Helena decides to tell him about Lysander and Hermia’s planned elopement.Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, ⌜and Philostrate,⌝ with others.
0001 Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
0002 Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
0003 Another moon. But, O, methinks how slow
0004 This old moon ⌜wanes!⌝ She lingers my desires
0005 5 Like to a stepdame or a dowager
0006 Long withering out a young man’s revenue.
0007 Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
0008 Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
0009 And then the moon, like to a silver bow
0010 10 ⌜New⌝-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
0011 Of our solemnities.
THESEUS 0012 Go, Philostrate,
0013 Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments.
0014 Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth.
0015 15 Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
0016 The pale companion is not for our pomp.
0017 Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword
0018 And won thy love doing thee injuries,
0019 But I will wed thee in another key,
0020 20 With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling.
0021 Happy be Theseus, our renownèd duke!
0022 Thanks, good Egeus. What’s the news with thee?
0023 Full of vexation come I, with complaint
0024 Against my child, my daughter Hermia.—
0025 25 Stand forth, Demetrius.—My noble lord,
0026 This man hath my consent to marry her.—
0027 Stand forth, Lysander.—And, my gracious duke,
0028 This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child.—
0029 Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes
0030 30 And interchanged love tokens with my child.
0031 Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung
0032 With feigning voice verses of feigning love
0033 And stol’n the impression of her fantasy
0034 With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gauds, conceits,
0035 35 Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats—messengers
0036 Of strong prevailment in unhardened youth.
0037 With cunning hast thou filched my daughter’s heart,
0038 Turned her obedience (which is due to me)
0039 To stubborn harshness.—And, my gracious duke,
0040 40 Be it so she will not here before your Grace
0041 Consent to marry with Demetrius,
0042 I beg the ancient privilege of Athens:
0043 As she is mine, I may dispose of her,
0044 Which shall be either to this gentleman
0045 45 Or to her death, according to our law
0046 Immediately provided in that case.
0047 What say you, Hermia? Be advised, fair maid.
0048 To you, your father should be as a god,
0049 One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
0051 By him imprinted, and within his power
0052 To leave the figure or disfigure it.
0053 Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
0054 So is Lysander.
THESEUS 0055 55 In himself he is,
0056 But in this kind, wanting your father’s voice,
0057 The other must be held the worthier.
0058 I would my father looked but with my eyes.
0059 Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.
0060 60 I do entreat your Grace to pardon me.
0061 I know not by what power I am made bold,
0062 Nor how it may concern my modesty
0063 In such a presence here to plead my thoughts;
0064 But I beseech your Grace that I may know
0065 65 The worst that may befall me in this case
0066 If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
0067 Either to die the death or to abjure
0068 Forever the society of men.
0069 Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires,
0070 70 Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
0071 Whether (if you yield not to your father’s choice)
0072 You can endure the livery of a nun,
0073 For aye to be in shady cloister mewed,
0074 To live a barren sister all your life,
0075 75 Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
0076 Thrice-blessèd they that master so their blood
0077 To undergo such maiden pilgrimage,
0078 But earthlier happy is the rose distilled
0079 Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
0080 80 Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.
0081 So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
0082 Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
0083 Unto his Lordship whose unwishèd yoke
0084 My soul consents not to give sovereignty.
0085 85 Take time to pause, and by the next new moon
0086 (The sealing day betwixt my love and me
0087 For everlasting bond of fellowship),
0088 Upon that day either prepare to die
0089 For disobedience to your father’s will,
0090 90 Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would,
0091 Or on Diana’s altar to protest
0092 For aye austerity and single life.
0093 Relent, sweet Hermia, and, Lysander, yield
0094 Thy crazèd title to my certain right.
0095 95 You have her father’s love, Demetrius.
0096 Let me have Hermia’s. Do you marry him.
0097 Scornful Lysander, true, he hath my love;
0098 And what is mine my love shall render him.
0099 And she is mine, and all my right of her
0100 100 I do estate unto Demetrius.
LYSANDER, ⌜to Theseus⌝
0101 I am, my lord, as well derived as he,
0102 As well possessed. My love is more than his;
0103 My fortunes every way as fairly ranked
0104 (If not with vantage) as Demetrius’;
0105 105 And (which is more than all these boasts can be)
0106 I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.
0107 Why should not I then prosecute my right?
0108 Demetrius, I’ll avouch it to his head,
0109 Made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena,
0110 110 And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,
0112 Upon this spotted and inconstant man.
0113 I must confess that I have heard so much,
0114 And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;
0115 115 But, being overfull of self-affairs,
0116 My mind did lose it.—But, Demetrius, come,
0117 And come, Egeus; you shall go with me.
0118 I have some private schooling for you both.—
0119 For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
0120 120 To fit your fancies to your father’s will,
0121 Or else the law of Athens yields you up
0122 (Which by no means we may extenuate)
0123 To death or to a vow of single life.—
0124 Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love?—
0125 125 Demetrius and Egeus, go along.
0126 I must employ you in some business
0127 Against our nuptial and confer with you
0128 Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.
0129 With duty and desire we follow you.
⌜All but Hermia and Lysander⌝ exit.
0130 130 How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale?
0131 How chance the roses there do fade so fast?
0132 Belike for want of rain, which I could well
0133 Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.
0134 Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,
0135 135 Could ever hear by tale or history,
0136 The course of true love never did run smooth.
0137 But either it was different in blood—
0138 O cross! Too high to be enthralled to ⌜low.⌝
0139 Or else misgraffèd in respect of years—
0140 140 O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.
0141 Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—
0142 O hell, to choose love by another’s eyes!
0143 Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
0144 War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
0145 145 Making it momentany as a sound,
0146 Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
0147 Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
0148 That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and Earth,
0149 And, ere a man hath power to say “Behold!”
0150 150 The jaws of darkness do devour it up.
0151 So quick bright things come to confusion.
0152 If then true lovers have been ever crossed,
0153 It stands as an edict in destiny.
0154 Then let us teach our trial patience
0155 155 Because it is a customary cross,
0156 As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs,
0157 Wishes and tears, poor fancy’s followers.
0158 A good persuasion. Therefore, hear me, Hermia:
0159 I have a widow aunt, a dowager
0160 160 Of great revenue, and she hath no child.
0161 From Athens is her house remote seven leagues,
0162 And she respects me as her only son.
0163 There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee;
0164 And to that place the sharp Athenian law
0165 165 Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me, then
0166 Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night,
0167 And in the wood a league without the town
0168 (Where I did meet thee once with Helena
0169 To do observance to a morn of May),
0170 170 There will I stay for thee.
0172 I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow,
0173 By his best arrow with the golden head,
0174 By the simplicity of Venus’ doves,
0175 175 By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,
0176 And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen
0177 When the false Trojan under sail was seen,
0178 By all the vows that ever men have broke
0179 (In number more than ever women spoke),
0180 180 In that same place thou hast appointed me,
0181 Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.
0182 Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.
0183 Godspeed, fair Helena. Whither away?
0184 Call you me “fair”? That “fair” again unsay.
0185 185 Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair!
0186 Your eyes are lodestars and your tongue’s sweet air
0187 More tunable than lark to shepherd’s ear
0188 When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
0189 Sickness is catching. O, were favor so!
0190 190 ⌜Yours would⌝ I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go.
0191 My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye;
0192 My tongue should catch your tongue’s sweet
0194 Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated,
0195 195 The rest ⌜I’d⌝ give to be to you translated.
0196 O, teach me how you look and with what art
0197 You sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart!
0198 I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.
0199 O, that your frowns would teach my smiles such
0200 200 skill!
0201 I give him curses, yet he gives me love.
0202 O, that my prayers could such affection move!
0203 The more I hate, the more he follows me.
0204 The more I love, the more he hateth me.
0205 205 His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.
0206 None but your beauty. Would that fault were mine!
0207 Take comfort: he no more shall see my face.
0208 Lysander and myself will fly this place.
0209 Before the time I did Lysander see
0210 210 Seemed Athens as a paradise to me.
0211 O, then, what graces in my love do dwell
0212 That he hath turned a heaven unto a hell!
0213 Helen, to you our minds we will unfold.
0214 Tomorrow night when Phoebe doth behold
0215 215 Her silver visage in the wat’ry glass,
0216 Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass
0217 (A time that lovers’ flights doth still conceal),
0218 Through Athens’ gates have we devised to steal.
0219 And in the wood where often you and I
0220 220 Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie,
0221 Emptying our bosoms of their counsel ⌜sweet,⌝
0222 There my Lysander and myself shall meet
0223 And thence from Athens turn away our eyes
0224 To seek new friends and ⌜stranger companies.⌝
0225 225 Farewell, sweet playfellow. Pray thou for us,
0226 And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius.—
0228 From lovers’ food till morrow deep midnight.
0229 I will, my Hermia.Hermia exits.
0230 230 Helena, adieu.
0231 As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!
0232 How happy some o’er other some can be!
0233 Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
0234 But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so.
0235 235 He will not know what all but he do know.
0236 And, as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes,
0237 So I, admiring of his qualities.
0238 Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
0239 Love can transpose to form and dignity.
0240 240 Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind;
0241 And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
0242 Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgment taste.
0243 Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.
0244 And therefore is Love said to be a child
0245 245 Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
0246 As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
0247 So the boy Love is perjured everywhere.
0248 For, ere Demetrius looked on Hermia’s eyne,
0249 He hailed down oaths that he was only mine;
0250 250 And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
0251 So he dissolved, and show’rs of oaths did melt.
0252 I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight.
0253 Then to the wood will he tomorrow night
0254 Pursue her. And, for this intelligence
0255 255 If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.
0256 But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
0257 To have his sight thither and back again.