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As much as we this night have overwatch'd.
This palpable-gross play hath well beguil'd

The heavy gait of night.-Sweet friends, to bed.-
A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
In nightly revels and new jollity.



Enter PUCK.

Puck. Now the hungry lion roars,


And the wolf behowls the moon ;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task fordone.
Now the wasted brands do glow,

Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,

Puts the wretch, that lies in woe,
In remembrance of a shroud.
Now it is the time of night

That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide:
And we fairies, that do run

By the triple Hecate's team,
From the presence of the sun,

Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic; not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house :
I am sent, with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.

Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their train.
Through the house give glimmering light,
By the dead and drowsy fire :

Every elf and fairy sprite,

Hop as light as bird from brier;




And this ditty, after me,
Sing, and dance it trippingly.
First, rehearse this song by rote:
To each word a warbling note,
Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing and bless this place.

[Song and dance.

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.

To the best bride-bed will we,

Which by us shall blessed 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, harelip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised 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:

Ever shall in safety rest,

And the owner of it blest.11

Trip away;

Make no stay;

Meet me all by break of day.

[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and train.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this (and all is mended),
That you have but slumber'd 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'm an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck

Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,12
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.




1 New bent in heaven. In the old copies, 'Now bent.' Rowe made the correction.

2 This hath bewitch'd. In the early copies, 'This man hath bewitch'd.' There being a redundant syllable in the line, the editor of the second folio rejected the word 'man.' The pointed allusion in the next line, 'Thou, thou, Lysander,' no less than the metre, justified the elision.

3 Earthly happier. In the old copies, earthlier happy-seemingly a printer's mistake, by which the poet's comparison is destroyed. 4 Beteem them-pour out upon them.

5 Momentary. In the two quartos of 1600, momentany; in the folio of 1623, momentary-a proof of the progressive change in our language.

6 Take comfort, &c. Perhaps every reader may not discover the propriety of these lines. Hermia is willing to comfort Helena, and to avoid all appearance of triumph over her. She therefore bids her not to consider the power of pleasing as an advantage to be much envied or much desired, since Hermia, whom she considers as possessing it in the supreme degree, has found no other effect of it than the loss of happiness. -JOHNSON.

7 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.

This fine passage owes something to the happy care and discernment of
Theobald. In the old copies, the last four lines stand thus:

Emptying our bosoms of their counsel swell'd,

There my Lysander and myself shall meet,
And thence from Athens turn away our eyes
To seek new friends and strange companions.

8 Till morrow deep midnight. Shakespeare has a little forgotten himself. It appears from Act I. sc. 1, that to-morrow night would be within three nights of the new moon, when there is no moonshine at all, much less at deep midnight. The same oversight occurs in Act III. sc. 1.—


9 Hermia's eyne. 'Eyne,' this plural of eye is common in Chaucer and Spencer; the Scotch preserve it in een.

10 To the rest yet-to the rest now.

11 The raging rocks,

And shivering shocks, &c.

In this passage, and again in Act V., Shakespeare ridicules the use, or rather the abuse, of alliteration so prevalent among our old writers, and which had previously been satirised by Sir Philip Sidney and George Gascoigne the latter one of our earliest and best satirists. Steevens quotes part of a poem on the Fall and Evil Success of Rebellion, written in 1537 by Wilfrid Holme, which opens with this formidable line:

'Low, leprous lurdans, lubric in loquacity.'

The affectation was also common in Scotland, and some amusing specimens of it will be found in the Flyting of Dunbar, that ablest of early northern poets.

12 Properties are the dresses and other articles used by actors in the performance of a play. The person who delivers them out from the theatrical store is called the property-man. The higher-class of actors have their own properties.


1 Thorough bush, &c. The folio curtailed 'thorough' to through.

2 To dew her orbs. These 'orbs' are fairy rings or circles in the greensward.

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This passage has reference to the band of Gentlemen Pensioners, in whom Queen Elizabeth took much pride. They were some of the handsomest and tallest young men of the best families and fortune, and their dress was of remarkable splendour; their coats might be said to be of gold. Mrs Quickly's notice of them as among the suitors of Mrs Ford (Merry Wives of Windsor) will be remembered: And yet there has been earls, nay, what is more, pensioners.' Mr Collier's objection, that cowslips are never tall, is a strange one. Drayton, in his Nymphidia, thought

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