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Let us make an honourable retreat.

      — As You Like It, Act III Scene 2


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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Act V

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Act V, Scene 1

Athens. The palace of THESEUS.


[Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, Lords and] [p]Attendants]

  • Hippolyta. 'Tis strange my Theseus, that these 1830
    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 1835
    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, 1840
    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 1845
    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; 1850
    Or in the night, imagining some fear,
    How easy is a bush supposed a bear!
  • Hippolyta. But all the story of the night told over,
    And all their minds transfigured so together,
    More witnesseth than fancy's images 1855
    And grows to something of great constancy;
    But, howsoever, strange and admirable.
  • Theseus. Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.
    Joy, gentle friends! joy and fresh days of love 1860
    Accompany your hearts!
  • 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 1865
    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. 1870
  • 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?
  • Philostrate. There is a brief how many sports are ripe: 1875
    Make choice of which your highness will see first.

[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, 1880
    In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
    'The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
    Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.'
    That is an old device; and it was play'd 1885
    When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
    'The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
    Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.'
    That is some satire, keen and critical, 1890
    Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
    'A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
    And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.'
    Merry and tragical! tedious and brief! 1895
    That is, hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
    How shall we find the concord of this discord?
  • 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, 1900
    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, 1905
    Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears
    The passion of loud laughter never shed.
  • Theseus. What are they that do play it?
  • Philostrate. Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
    Which never labour'd in their minds till now, 1910
    And now have toil'd their unbreathed memories
    With this same play, against your nuptial.
  • Philostrate. No, my noble lord;
    It is not for you: I have heard it over, 1915
    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; 1920
    For never anything can be amiss,
    When simpleness and duty tender it.
    Go, bring them in: and take your places, ladies.


  • Hippolyta. I love not to see wretchedness o'er charged 1925
    And duty in his service perishing.
  • Theseus. Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.
  • 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: 1930
    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, 1935
    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; 1940
    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. 1945


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

[Flourish of trumpets]

[Enter QUINCE for the Prologue]

  • 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. 1955
    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. 1960
  • Theseus. This fellow doth not stand upon points.
  • Lysander. He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he knows
    not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not
    enough to speak, but to speak true.
  • Hippolyta. Indeed he hath played on his prologue like a child 1965
    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?

[Enter Pyramus and Thisbe, Wall, Moonshine, and Lion]

  • Quince. Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show; 1970
    But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.
    This man is Pyramus, if you would know;
    This beauteous lady Thisby is certain.
    This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present
    Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder; 1975
    And through Wall's chink, poor souls, they are content
    To whisper. At the which let no man wonder.
    This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,
    Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,
    By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn 1980
    To meet at Ninus' tomb, there, there to woo.
    This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,
    The trusty Thisby, coming first by night,
    Did scare away, or rather did affright;
    And, as she fled, her mantle she did fall, 1985
    Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.
    Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,
    And finds his trusty Thisby's mantle slain:
    Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
    He bravely broach'd is boiling bloody breast; 1990
    And Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade,
    His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest,
    Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain
    At large discourse, while here they do remain.

[Exeunt Prologue, Thisbe, Lion, and Moonshine]

  • Theseus. I wonder if the lion be to speak.
  • Demetrius. No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many asses do.
  • 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, 2000
    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: 2005
    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?
  • Demetrius. It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard
    discourse, my lord. 2010

[Enter Pyramus]

  • Theseus. Pyramus draws near the wall: silence!
  • 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, 2015
    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! 2020
    [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! 2025
  • Theseus. The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again.
  • Bottom. No, in truth, sir, he should not. 'Deceiving me'
    is Thisby's cue: she is to enter now, and I am to
    spy her through the wall. You shall see, it will
    fall pat as I told you. Yonder she comes. 2030

[Enter Thisbe]

  • Flute. [as 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. 2035
  • Bottom. I see a voice: now will I to the chink,
    To spy an I can hear my Thisby's face. Thisby!
  • Flute. [as Thisbe] My love thou art, my love I think.
  • Bottom. Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover's grace;
    And, like Limander, am I trusty still. 2040
  • Flute. [as Thisbe] And I like Helen, till the Fates me kill.
  • Bottom. Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.
  • Flute. [as Thisbe] As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.
  • Bottom. O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall!
  • Flute. [as Thisbe] I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all. 2045
  • Bottom. Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straightway?
  • Flute. [as Thisbe] 'Tide life, 'tide death, I come without delay.

[Exeunt Pyramus and Thisbe]

  • Snout. [as Wall] Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;
    And, being done, thus Wall away doth go. 2050


  • Theseus. Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.
  • Demetrius. No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to hear
    without warning.
  • Hippolyta. This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard. 2055
  • Theseus. The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst
    are no worse, if imagination amend them.
  • 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 2060
    come two noble beasts in, a man and a lion.

[Enter Lion and Moonshine]

  • 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, 2065
    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. 2070
  • Theseus. A very gentle beast, of a good conscience.
  • Demetrius. The very best at a beast, my lord, that e'er I saw.
  • Lysander. This lion is a very fox for his valour.
  • Theseus. True; and a goose for his discretion.
  • Demetrius. Not so, my lord; for his valour cannot carry his 2075
    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.
  • Starveling. [as Moonshine] This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;— 2080
  • Demetrius. He should have worn the horns on his head.
  • Theseus. He is no crescent, and his horns are
    invisible within the circumference.
  • Starveling. [as Moonshine] This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;
    Myself the man i' the moon do seem to be. 2085
  • 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?
  • Demetrius. He dares not come there for the candle; for, you
    see, it is already in snuff. 2090
  • 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.
  • Starveling. [as Moonshine] All that I have to say, is, to tell you that the
    lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this
    thorn-bush, my thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog.
  • Demetrius. Why, all these should be in the lanthorn; for all
    these are in the moon. But, silence! here comes Thisbe. 2100

[Enter Thisbe]

  • Flute. [as Thisbe] This is old Ninny's tomb. Where is my love?
  • Snug. [as Lion] [Roaring] Oh—

[Thisbe runs off]

  • Hippolyta. Well shone, Moon. Truly, the moon shines with a
    good grace.

[The Lion shakes Thisbe's mantle, and exit]

[Enter Pyramus]

  • Bottom. Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;
    I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright; 2115
    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! 2120
    Eyes, do you see?
    How can it be?
    O dainty duck! O dear!
    Thy mantle good,
    What, stain'd with blood! 2125
    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 2130
    go near to make a man look sad.
  • Hippolyta. Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
  • Bottom. O wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?
    Since lion vile hath here deflower'd my dear:
    Which is—no, no—which was the fairest dame 2135
    That lived, that loved, that liked, that look'd
    with cheer.
    Come, tears, confound;
    Out, sword, and wound
    The pap of Pyramus; 2140
    Ay, that left pap,
    Where heart doth hop:
    [Stabs himself]
    Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.
    Now am I dead, 2145
    Now am I fled;
    My soul is in the sky:
    Tongue, lose thy light;
    Moon take thy flight:
    [Exit Moonshine] 2150
    Now die, die, die, die, die.


  • Demetrius. No die, but an ace, for him; for he is but one.
  • 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 2155
    prove an ass.
  • 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. 2160

[Re-enter Thisbe]

  • Hippolyta. Methinks she should not use a long one for such a
    Pyramus: I hope she will be brief.
  • Demetrius. A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus, which
    Thisbe, is the better; he for a man, God warrant us; 2165
    she for a woman, God bless us.
  • Lysander. She hath spied him already with those sweet eyes.
  • Demetrius. And thus she means, videlicet:—
  • Flute. [as Thisbe] Asleep, my love?
    What, dead, my dove? 2170
    O Pyramus, arise!
    Speak, speak. Quite dumb?
    Dead, dead? A tomb
    Must cover thy sweet eyes.
    These My lips, 2175
    This cherry nose,
    These yellow cowslip cheeks,
    Are gone, are gone:
    Lovers, make moan:
    His eyes were green as leeks. 2180
    O Sisters Three,
    Come, come to me,
    With hands as pale as milk;
    Lay them in gore,
    Since you have shore 2185
    With shears his thread of silk.
    Tongue, not a word:
    Come, trusty sword;
    Come, blade, my breast imbrue:
    [Stabs herself] 2190
    And, farewell, friends;
    Thus Thisby ends:
    Adieu, adieu, adieu.


  • Theseus. Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead. 2195
  • 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? 2200
  • 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 2205
    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: 2210
    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. 2215
    A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
    In nightly revels and new jollity.


[Enter PUCK]

  • Puck. Now the hungry lion roars, 2220
    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, 2225
    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, 2230
    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, 2235
    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]

  • Oberon. Through the house give gathering light,
    By the dead and drowsy fire:
    Every elf and fairy sprite
    Hop as light as bird from brier;
    And this ditty, after me, 2245
    Sing, and dance it trippingly.
  • Titania. First, rehearse your song by rote
    To each word a warbling note:
    Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
    Will we sing, and bless this place. 2250

[Song and dance]

  • Oberon. 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; 2255
    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 2260
    Shall not in their issue stand;
    Never mole, hare lip, nor scar,
    Nor mark prodigious, such as are
    Despised in nativity,
    Shall upon their children be. 2265
    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 2270
    Ever shall in safety rest.
    Trip away; make no stay;
    Meet me all by break of day.

[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and train]

  • Puck. If we shadows have offended, 2275
    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, 2280
    Gentles, do not reprehend:
    if you pardon, we will mend:
    And, as I am an honest Puck,
    If we have unearned luck
    Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, 2285
    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. 2290