Speeches (Lines) for Theseus
in "Midsummer Night's Dream"

Total: 48

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# Act, Scene, Line
(Click to see in context)
Speech text

1

I,1,2

(stage directions). [Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, and Attendants]

Theseus. Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace; four happy days bring in
Another moon: but, O, 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 revenue.


2

I,1,13

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.
[Exit PHILOSTRATE]
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.


3

I,1,25

Egeus. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!

Theseus. Thanks, good Egeus: what's the news with thee?


4

I,1,50

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 bewitch'd 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 stolen the impression of her fantasy
With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds, conceits,
Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats, messengers
Of strong prevailment in unharden'd youth:
With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart,
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 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.


5

I,1,58

Hermia. So is Lysander.

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


6

I,1,62

Hermia. I would my father look'd but with my eyes.

Theseus. Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.


7

I,1,70

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
For ever 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 mew'd,
To live a barren sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
Thrice-blessed they that master so their blood,
To undergo such maiden pilgrimage;
But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd,
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.


8

I,1,88

Hermia. So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
Ere I will my virgin patent up
Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
My soul consents not to give sovereignty.

Theseus. Take time to pause; and, by the nest 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.


9

I,1,116

Lysander. I am, my lord, as well derived as he,
As well possess'd; my love is more than his;
My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd,
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,
And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;
But, being over-full 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.


10

IV,1,1657

(stage directions). [Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, EGEUS, and train]

Theseus. Go, one of you, find out the forester;
For now our observation is perform'd;
And since we have the vaward of the day,
My love shall hear the music of my hounds.
Uncouple in the western valley; let them go:
Dispatch, I say, and find the forester.
[Exit an Attendant]
We will, fair queen, up to the mountain's top,
And mark the musical confusion
Of hounds and echo in conjunction.


11

IV,1,1674

Hippolyta. I was with Hercules and Cadmus once,
When in a wood of Crete they bay'd the bear
With hounds of Sparta: never did I hear
Such gallant chiding: for, besides the groves,
The skies, the fountains, every region near
Seem'd all one mutual cry: I never heard
So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.

Theseus. My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So flew'd, so sanded, and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew;
Crook-knee'd, and dew-lapp'd like Thessalian bulls;
Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouth like bells,
Each under each. A cry more tuneable
Was never holla'd to, nor cheer'd with horn,
In Crete, in Sparta, nor in Thessaly:
Judge when you hear. But, soft! what nymphs are these?


12

IV,1,1687

Egeus. My lord, this is my daughter here asleep;
And this, Lysander; this Demetrius is;
This Helena, old Nedar's Helena:
I wonder of their being here together.

Theseus. No doubt they rose up early to observe
The rite of May, and hearing our intent,
Came here in grace our solemnity.
But speak, Egeus; is not this the day
That Hermia should give answer of her choice?


13

IV,1,1693

Egeus. It is, my lord.

Theseus. Go, bid the huntsmen wake them with their horns.
[Horns and shout within. LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS,]
HELENA, and HERMIA wake and start up]
Good morrow, friends. Saint Valentine is past:
Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?


14

IV,1,1699

Lysander. Pardon, my lord.

Theseus. I pray you all, stand up.
I know you two are rival enemies:
How comes this gentle concord in the world,
That hatred is so far from jealousy,
To sleep by hate, and fear no enmity?


15

IV,1,1735

Demetrius. My lord, fair Helen told me of their stealth,
Of this their purpose hither to this wood;
And I in fury hither follow'd them,
Fair Helena in fancy following me.
But, my good lord, I wot not by what power,—
But by some power it is,—my love to Hermia,
Melted as the snow, seems to me now
As the remembrance of an idle gaud
Which in my childhood I did dote upon;
And all the faith, the virtue of my heart,
The object and the pleasure of mine eye,
Is only Helena. To her, my lord,
Was I betroth'd ere I saw Hermia:
But, like in sickness, did I loathe this food;
But, as in health, come to my natural taste,
Now I do wish it, love it, long for it,
And will for evermore be true to it.

Theseus. Fair lovers, you are fortunately met:
Of this discourse we more will hear anon.
Egeus, I will overbear your will;
For in the temple by and by with us
These couples shall eternally be knit:
And, for the morning now is something worn,
Our purposed hunting shall be set aside.
Away with us to Athens; three and three,
We'll hold a feast in great solemnity.
Come, Hippolyta.


16

V,1,1832

Hippolyta. 'Tis strange my Theseus, that these
lovers speak of.

Theseus. More strange than true: I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
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 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!


17

V,1,1858

Hippolyta. But all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy's images
And grows to something of great constancy;
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.

Theseus. Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.
[Enter LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS, HERMIA, and HELENA]
Joy, gentle friends! joy and fresh days of love
Accompany your hearts!


18

V,1,1864

Lysander. More than to us
Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed!

Theseus. Come now; what masques, what dances shall we have,
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between our after-supper and bed-time?
Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
Call Philostrate.


19

V,1,1872

Philostrate. Here, mighty Theseus.

Theseus. Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?
What masque? what music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?


20

V,1,1878

(stage directions). [Giving a paper]

Theseus. [Reads] 'The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.'
We'll none of that: that have I told my love,
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
[Reads]
'The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.'
That is an old device; and it was play'd
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
[Reads]
'The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.'
That is some satire, keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
[Reads]
'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.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?


21

V,1,1908

Philostrate. A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
Which is as brief as I have known a play;
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
Which makes it tedious; for in all the play
There is not one word apt, one player fitted:
And tragical, my noble lord, it is;
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
Which, when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed.

Theseus. What are they that do play it?


22

V,1,1913

Philostrate. Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never labour'd in their minds till now,
And now have toil'd their unbreathed memories
With this same play, against your nuptial.

Theseus. And we will hear it.


23

V,1,1920

Philostrate. No, my noble lord;
It is not for you: I have heard it over,
And it is nothing, nothing in the world;
Unless you can find sport in their intents,
Extremely stretch'd and conn'd with cruel pain,
To do you service.

Theseus. I will hear that play;
For never anything can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go, bring them in: and take your places, ladies.


24

V,1,1927

Hippolyta. I love not to see wretchedness o'er charged
And duty in his service perishing.

Theseus. Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.


25

V,1,1929

Hippolyta. He says they can do nothing in this kind.

Theseus. The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.
Our sport shall be to take what they mistake:
And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect
Takes it in might, not merit.
Where I have come, great clerks have purposed
To greet me with premeditated welcomes;
Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
Make periods in the midst of sentences,
Throttle their practised accent in their fears
And in conclusion dumbly have broke off,
Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,
Out of this silence yet I pick'd a welcome;
And in the modesty of fearful duty
I read as much as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity
In least speak most, to my capacity.


26

V,1,1948

Philostrate. So please your grace, the Prologue is address'd.

Theseus. Let him approach.


27

V,1,1961

Quince. If we offend, it is with our good will.
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will. To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
Consider then we come but in despite.
We do not come as minding to contest you,
Our true intent is. All for your delight
We are not here. That you should here repent you,
The actors are at hand and by their show
You shall know all that you are like to know.

Theseus. This fellow doth not stand upon points.


28

V,1,1967

Hippolyta. Indeed he hath played on his prologue like a child
on a recorder; a sound, but not in government.

Theseus. His speech, was like a tangled chain; nothing
impaired, but all disordered. Who is next?


29

V,1,1996

(stage directions). [Exeunt Prologue, Thisbe, Lion, and Moonshine]

Theseus. I wonder if the lion be to speak.


30

V,1,2008

Snout. In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so:
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.

Theseus. Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?


31

V,1,2012

(stage directions). [Enter Pyramus]

Theseus. Pyramus draws near the wall: silence!


32

V,1,2026

Bottom. O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black!
O night, which ever art when day is not!
O night, O night! alack, alack, alack,
I fear my Thisby's promise is forgot!
And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,
That stand'st between her father's ground and mine!
Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,
Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine eyne!
[Wall holds up his fingers]
Thanks, courteous wall: Jove shield thee well for this!
But what see I? No Thisby do I see.
O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss!
Cursed be thy stones for thus deceiving me!

Theseus. The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again.


33

V,1,2052

(stage directions). [Exit]

Theseus. Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.


34

V,1,2056

Hippolyta. This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.

Theseus. The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst
are no worse, if imagination amend them.


35

V,1,2059

Hippolyta. It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.

Theseus. If we imagine no worse of them than they of
themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here
come two noble beasts in, a man and a lion.


36

V,1,2071

Snug. [as Lion] You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear
The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,
May now perchance both quake and tremble here,
When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.
Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am
A lion-fell, nor else no lion's dam;
For, if I should as lion come in strife
Into this place, 'twere pity on my life.

Theseus. A very gentle beast, of a good conscience.


37

V,1,2074

Lysander. This lion is a very fox for his valour.

Theseus. True; and a goose for his discretion.


38

V,1,2077

Demetrius. Not so, my lord; for his valour cannot carry his
discretion; and the fox carries the goose.

Theseus. His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valour;
for the goose carries not the fox. It is well:
leave it to his discretion, and let us listen to the moon.


39

V,1,2082

Demetrius. He should have worn the horns on his head.

Theseus. He is no crescent, and his horns are
invisible within the circumference.


40

V,1,2086

Starveling. [as Moonshine] This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;
Myself the man i' the moon do seem to be.

Theseus. This is the greatest error of all the rest: the man
should be put into the lanthorn. How is it else the
man i' the moon?


41

V,1,2092

Hippolyta. I am aweary of this moon: would he would change!

Theseus. It appears, by his small light of discretion, that
he is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all
reason, we must stay the time.


42

V,1,2106

Demetrius. Well roared, Lion.

Theseus. Well run, Thisbe.


43

V,1,2110

(stage directions). [The Lion shakes Thisbe's mantle, and exit]

Theseus. Well moused, Lion.


44

V,1,2130

Bottom. Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;
I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright;
For, by thy gracious, golden, glittering gleams,
I trust to take of truest Thisby sight.
But stay, O spite!
But mark, poor knight,
What dreadful dole is here!
Eyes, do you see?
How can it be?
O dainty duck! O dear!
Thy mantle good,
What, stain'd with blood!
Approach, ye Furies fell!
O Fates, come, come,
Cut thread and thrum;
Quail, crush, conclude, and quell!

Theseus. This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would
go near to make a man look sad.


45

V,1,2155

Lysander. Less than an ace, man; for he is dead; he is nothing.

Theseus. With the help of a surgeon he might yet recover, and
prove an ass.


46

V,1,2159

Hippolyta. How chance Moonshine is gone before Thisbe comes
back and finds her lover?

Theseus. She will find him by starlight. Here she comes; and
her passion ends the play.


47

V,1,2195

(stage directions). [Dies]

Theseus. Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.


48

V,1,2201

Bottom. [Starting up] No assure you; the wall is down that
parted their fathers. Will it please you to see the
epilogue, or to hear a Bergomask dance between two
of our company?

Theseus. No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no
excuse. Never excuse; for when the players are all
dead, there needs none to be blamed. Marry, if he
that writ it had played Pyramus and hanged himself
in Thisbe's garter, it would have been a fine
tragedy: and so it is, truly; and very notably
discharged. But come, your Bergomask: let your
epilogue alone.
[A dance]
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:
Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
I fear we shall out-sleep the coming morn
As much as we this night have overwatch'd.
This palpable-gross play hath well beguiled
The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
In nightly revels and new jollity.


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