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A Midsummer-Night's Dream

I.i.6 (4,2) [Long withering out a young man's revenue] [W: wintering] That the common reading is not good English, I cannot perceive, and therefore find in myself no temptation to change it.

I.i.47 (5,6) [To leave the figure, or disfigure it] [W: 'leve] I know not why so harsh a word should be admitted with so little need, a word that, spoken, could not be understood, and of which no example can be shown. The sense is plain, you owe to your father a being which he may at pleasure continue or destroy.

I.i.68 (6,8) [Know of your youth] Bring your youth to the question. Consider your youth. (1773)

I.i.76 (7,9) [But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd] Thus all the copies, yet earthlier is so harsh a word, and earthlier happy for happier earthly, a mode of speech so unusual, that I wonder none of the editors have proposed earlier happy.

I.i.110 (8,2) [spotted] As spotless is innocent, so spotted is wicked. (1773)

I.i.131 (9,3) [Beteem them] give them, bestow upon then. The word is used by Spenser.

I.i.157 (10,8) [I have a widow aunt, a dowager] These lines perhaps might more properly be regulated thus:

I have a widow aunt, a dowager Of great revenue, and she hath no child, And she respects me as her only son; Her house from Athens is remov'd seven leagues, There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee, And to that place--

I.i.169-178 (11,1) [Warburton had reassigned speeches here] This emendation is judicious, but not necessary. I have therefore given the note without altering the text. The censure of men, as oftner perjured than women, seems to make that line more proper for the lady.

I.i.183 (12,3) [Your eyes are lode-stars] This was a complement not unfrequent among the old poets. The lode star is the leading or guiding star, that is, the pole-star. The magnet is, for the same reason, called the lode-stone, either became it leads iron, or because it guides the sailor. Milton has the same thought in L'Allegro:

Tow'rs and battlements he sees Bosom'd high in tufted trees, Where perhaps some beauty lies, The Cynosure of neighb'ring eyes.

Davies calls Elizabeth, lode-stone to hearts, and lode-stone to all eyes, (see 1765, 1,97,9)

I.i.204 (13,6)

[Before the time I did Lysander see, Seem'd Athens like a paradise to me]

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.

I.i.232 (15,8) [Things base and vile, holding no quantity] quality seems a word more suitable to the sense than quantity, but either may serve. (1773)

I.i.240 (15,9) [in game] Game here signifies not contentious play, but sport, jest. So Spenser,

'Twixt earnest and 'twixt game.

I.ii (16,2) [Enter Quince the carpenter, Snug the joiner. Bottom the weaver. Flute the bellows-mender. Snout the tinker, and Starveling the taylor] In this scene Shakespeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the theatre, to ridicule the prejudices and competitions of the players. Bottom, who is generally acknowledged the principal actor, declares his inclination to be for a tyrant, for a part of fury, tumult, and noise, such as every young man pants to perform when he first steps upon the stage. The same Bottom, who seems bred in a tiring-room, has another histrionical passion. He is for engrossing every part, and would exclude his inferiors from all possibility of distinction. He is therefore desirous to play Pyramus, Thisbe, and the Lyon at the same time.

I.ii.10 (17,4) [grow on to a point] Dr. Warburton read go on; but grow is used, in allusion to his name, Quince. (see 1765, I,100,8)

I.ii.52 (18,6)

[Flu. Nay, faith, let me not play a woman; I have a beard coming. Quin. That's all one, you shall play it in a masque; and you may speak as small as you will]

This passage shews how the want of women on the old stage was supplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pass for feminine, the character was acted in a mask, which was at that time part of a lady's dress so much in use that it did not give any unusual appearance to the scene: and he that could modulate his voice in a female tone might play the women very successfully. It is observed in Downes's Memoirs of the Playhouse, that one of these counterfeit heroines moved the passions more strongly than the women that have since been brought upon the stage. Some of the catastrophes of the old comedies, which make lovers marry the wrong women, are, by recollection of the common use of masks, brought nearer to probability.

I.ii.98 (20,8) [Bot. I will discharge it in either your straw-coloured beard, your orange tawny beard, your purple-in grain beard, or your French crown-coloured beard; your perfect yellow] Here Bottom again discovers a true genius for the stage by his solicitude for propriety of dress, and his deliberation which beard to chuse among many beards, all unnatural.

II.i.2 (21,3) [Over hill, over dale] So Drayton in his Court of Fairy,

Thorough brake, thorough brier. Thorough muck, thorough mire. Thorough water, thorough fire.

II.i.9 (22,4) [To dew her orbs upon the green] For orbs Dr. Gray is inclined to substitute herbs. The orbs here mentioned are the circles supposed to be made by the Fairies on the ground, whose verdure proceeds from the fairy's care to water them.

They in their courses make that round, In meadows and in marshes found, Of then so called the fairy ground. Drayton.

II.i.10 (22,5) [The cowslips tall her pensioners be] The cowslip was a favourite among the fairies. There is a hint in Drayton of their attention to May morning.

--for the queen a fitting tow'r, Quoth he, is that fair cowslip flow'r.-- In all your train there's not a fay That ever went to gather May, But she hath made it in her way, The tallest there that groweth.

II.i.16 (22,7) [lob of spirits] Lob, lubber, looby, lobcock, all denote both inactivity of body and dulness of mind.

II.i.23 (23,8) [changeling] Changeling is commonly used for the child supposed to be left by the fairies, but here for the child taken away.

II.i.29 (23,9) [sheen] Shining, bright, gay.

II.i.30 (23,1) [But they do square] [To square here is to quarrel. And now you are such fools to square for this? Gray.]

The French word contrecarrer has the same import.

II.i.36 (24,4)

[Skim milk; and sometimes labour in the quern, And bootless make the breathless huswife churn]

The sense of these lines is confused. Are not you he, says the fairy, that fright the country girls. that skim milk, work in the hand-mill, and make the tired dairy-woman churn without effect? The mention of the mill seem out of place, for she is not now telling the good but the evil that he does. I would regulate the lines thus:

And sometimes make the breathless housewife churn Skim milk, and bootless labour in the quern.

Or by a simple transposition of the lines;

And bootless, make the breathless housewife churn Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern.

Yet there is no necessity of alteration. (see 1765, I,106,1)

II.i.40 (24,6) [Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck, You do their work] To those traditionary opinions Milton has reference in L'Allegro,

Then to the spicy nut-brown ale, With stories told of many a feat. How Fairy Mab the junkets eat; She was pinch'd and pull'd she said. And he by Frier's lapthorp led; Tells how the drudging goblin sweat To earn his cream-bowl duly set, When in one night ere glimpse of morn His shadowy flail had thresh'd the corn Which ten day-labourers could not end. Then lies him down the lubber fiend.

A like account of Puck is given by Drayton,

He meeteth Puck, which most men call Hobgoblin, and on him doth fall.-- This Puck seems but a dreaming dolt, Still walking like a ragged colt, And oft out of a bed doth bolt, Of purpose to deceive us; And leading us makes us to stray. Long winter's nights out of the way. And when we stick in mire and clay. He doth with laughter leave us.

It will be apparent to him that shall compare Drayton's poem with this play, that either one of the poets copied the other, or, as I rather believe, that there was then some system of the fairy empire generally received, which they both represented as accurately as they could. Whether Drayton or Shakespeare wrote first, I cannot discover.

II.i.42 (25,7) [Puck. Thou speak'st aright] I have filled up the verse which I suppose the author left complete,

It seems that in the Fairy mythology Puck, or Hobgoblin, was the trusty servant of Oberon, and always employed to watch or detect the intrigues of Queen Mab, called by Shakespeare Titania. For in Drayton's Nynphidia, the same fairies are engaged in the sane business. Mab has an amour with Pigwiggen; Oberon being jealous, sends Hobgoblin to catch them, and one of Mab's nymphs opposes him by a spell.

II.i.54 (26,8) [And tailor cries] The custom of crying tailor at a sudden fall backwards, I think I remember to have observed. He

that slips beside his chair falls as a taylor squats upon his board. The Oxford editor and Dr. Warburton after him, read and rails or cries, plausibly, but I believe not rightly. Besides, the trick of the fairy is represented as producing rather merriment than anger.

II.i.56 (26,9) [And waxen] And encrease, as the moon waxes.

II.i.58 (26,1) [But room, Faery] All the old copies read--But room Fairy. The word Fairy or Faery, was sometimes of three syllables, as often in Spenser.

II.i.84 (28,5) [paved fountain] A fountain laid round the edge with stone.

II.i.88 (28,6) [the winds, piping] So Milton,

While rocking winds are piping loud.

II.i.91 (28,7) [pelting river] Thus the quarto's: the folio reads petty.

Shakespeare has in Lear the same word, low pelting farms. The meaning is plainly, despicable, mean, sorry, wretched; but as it is a word without any reasonable etymology, I should be glad to dismiss it for petty, yet it is undoubtedly right. We have petty pelting officer in Measure for Measure.

II.i.92 (28,8) [over-born their continents] Born down the banks that contained then. So in Lear,

Close pent guilts Rive their concealing continents.

II.i.98 (29,1) [The nine-men's morris] This was some kind of rural game played in a marked ground. But what it was more I have not found.

II.i.100 (29,2) [The human mortals want their winter here] After all the endeavours of the editors, this passage still remains to me unintelligible. I cannot see why winter is, in the general confusion of the year now described, more wanted than any other season. Dr. Warburton observes that he alludes to our practice of singing carols in December; but though Shakespeare is no great chronologer in his dramas, I think he has never so mingled true and false religion, as to give us reason for believing that he would make the moon incensed for the omission of our carols. I therefore imagine him to have meant heathen rites of adoration. This is not all the difficulty. Titania's account of this calamity is not sufficiently consequential. Men find no winter, therefore they sing no hymns; the moon provoked by this omission, alters the seasons: that is, the alteration of the seasons produces the alteration of the seasons. I am far from supposing that Shakespeare might not sometimes think confusedly, and therefore am not sure that the passage is corrupted. If we should read,

And human mortals want their wonted year,

yet will not this licence of alteration much mend the narrative;

the cause and the effect are still confounded. Let us carry critical temerity a little further. Scaliger transposed the lines of Virgil's Gallus. Why may not the same experiment be ventured upon Shakespeare.

The human mortals want their wonted year, The seasons alter; hoary-headed frosts Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose; And on old Hyems' chin, and icy crown, An od'rous chaplet of sweet summer buds Is, as in mock'ry set. The spring, the summer, The chiding autumn, angry winter, change Their wonted liveries; and the 'mazed world, By their increase, now knows not which is which. No night is now with hymn or carol blest; Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, Pale in her anger, washes all the air; And thorough this distemperature, we see That rheumatick diseases do abound. And this same progeny of evil comes From our debate, from our dissension.

I know not what credit the reader will give to this emendation, which I do not much credit myself.

II.i.114 (31,4) [By their increase] That is, By their produce.

II.i.130 (32,6) [Which she, with pretty and with swimming gate, Following] [cf: follying] The foregoing note is very ingenious, but since follying is a word of which I know not any example, and the Fairy's favourite might, without much licentiousness of language, be said to follow a ship that sailed in the direction of the coast; I think there is no sufficient reason for adopting it. The coinage of new words is a violent remedy, not to be used but in the last necessity.

II.i.157 (35,8) [Cupid all-arm'd] All-armed, does not signify dressed in panoply, but only enforces the word armed, as we might say all-booted. I am afraid that the general sense of alarmed, by which it is used for put into fear or care by whatever cause, is later than our authour.

II.i.220 (38,4) [For that It is not night when I do see your face] This passage is paraphrased from two lines of an ancient poet,

--Tu nocte vel atra Lumen, et in solis tu mihi turba locis.

(see 1765, I,118,6)

II.i.251 (39,5) [over-canopy'd with the luscious woodbine] All the old editions have,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine.

On the margin of one of my folio's an unknown hand has written lush woodbine, which, I think, is right.

This hand I have since discovered to be Theobald's, (see 1765, I,119,4)

II.ii. (41,9) [quaint spirits] For this Dr. Warburton reads against all authority,

----quaint sports.----

But Prospero, in The Tempest, applies quaint to Ariel.

II.ii.30 (42.2) [Be it ounce] The ounce is a snail tiger, or tiger-cat. (1773)

II.ii.45 (43,3)

[O take the sense, sweet, of my innocence; Love takes the meaning in love's conference]

[Warburton wished to transpose "innocence" and "conference"] I am by no means convinced of the necessity of this alteration. Lysander in the language of love professes, that as they have one heart, they shall have one bed; this Hernia thinks rather too much, and intreats him to lye further off. Lysander answers,

O take the sense, sweet, of my innocence.

understand the meaning of my innocence, or my innocent meaning. Let no suspicion of ill enter thy mind.

Love takes the meaning, in love's conference.

In the conversation of those who are assured of each other's kindness, not suspicion, but love takes the meaning. No malevolent interpretation is to be made, but all is to be received in the sense which love can find, and which love can dictate.

II.ii.89 (45,6) [my grace] My acceptableness, the favour that I can gain. (1773)

II.ii.120 (46,7) [Reason becomes the marshal to my will] That is, My will now follows reason.

III.i (48,3) In the time of Shakespeare, there were many companies of players, sometimes five at the same time, contending for the favour of the publick. Of these some were undoubtedly very unskilful and very poor, and it is probable that the design of this scene was to ridicule their ignorance, and the odd expedients to which they might be driven by the want of proper decorations. Bottom was perhaps the head of a rival house, and is therefore honoured with an ass's head.

III.i.110 (52,8) [Through bog, through bush, through brake, through bryer] Here are two syllables wanting. Perhaps, it was written,

Through bog, through mire,-------

III.i.116 (52,9) [to make me afeard]

Afeard is from to fear, by the old form of the language, as an hungred, from to hunger. So adry, for thirsty. (1773)

III.i.117 (52,1) [O Bottom! thou art chang'd! what do I see on thee?] It is plain by Bottom's answer, that Snout mentioned an ass's head. Therefore we should read,

Snout. O Bottom, thou art changed! what do I see on thee? An ass's head?

III.i.141 (53,3) [Mine ear is much enamour'd 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]

These lines are in one quarto of 1600, the first folio of 1623, the second of 1632, and the third of 1664, &c. ranged in the following order:

Mine ear is much enamour'd of thy note. On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee; So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape, And thy fair virtue's force (perforce) [doth move me.

This reading I have inserted, not that it can suggest any thing better than the order to which the lines have been restored by Mr. Theobald from another quarto, but to shew that some liberty of conjecture must be allowed in the revisal of works so inaccurately printed, and so long neglected.

III.i.173 (55,6) [the fiery glow-worm's eyes] I know not how Shakespeare,who commonly derived his knowledge of nature from his own observation, happened to place the glow-worm's light in his eyes, which is only in his tail.

III.ii.9 (56,l) [patches] Patch was in old language used as a term of opprobry; perhaps with much the some import as we use raggamuffin, or tatterdemalion.

III.ii.17 (56,2) [nowl] A head. Saxon.

III.ii.19 (57,4) [minnock] This is the reading of the old quarto, and I believe right, Minnekin, now minx, is a nice trifling girl. Minnock is apparently a word of contempt.

III.ii.21 (57,5) [sort] Company. So above,

--that barren sort;

and in Waller,

A sort of lusty shepherds strive.

III.ii.25 (57,6) [And, at our stamp] This seems to be a vicious reading. Fairies are never represented stamping, or of a size that should give force to a stamp, nor could they have distinguished the stamps of Puck from those of their own companions. I read,

And at a stump here o'er and o'er one falls.

So Drayton,

A pain he in his head-piece feels, Against a stubbed tree he reels, And up went poor hobgoblin's heels; Alas, his brain was dizzy.---- At length upon his feet he gets, Hobgoblin fumes, Hobgoblin frets, And as again he forward sets, And through the bushes scrambles, A stump doth trip him in his pace, Down fell poor Hob upon his face, Among the briers and brambles.

III.ii.30 (58,7) [Some, sleeves; some, hats] There is the like image in Drayton of queen Mab and her fairies flying from Hobgoblin.

Some tore a ruff, and some a gown, 'Gainat one another jostling; They flew about like chaff i' th' wind, For haste some left their masks behind, Some could not stay their gloves to find, There never was such bustling.

III.ii.48 (58,l) [Being o'er shoes in blood] An allusion to the proverb, Over shoes, over boots.

III.ii.70 (59,3) [O brave touch!] Touch in Shakespeare's time was the same with our exploit, or rather stroke. A brave touch, a noble stroke, un grand coup. Mason was very merry, pleasantly playing both with the shrewd touches of many curst boys, and the small discretion of many lewd schoolmasters. Ascham.

III.ii.74 (60,4) [mispris'd] Mistaken; so below misprision is mistake.

III.ii.141 (62,5) [Taurus' snow] Taurus is the name of a range of mountains in Asia.

III.ii.144 (62,7) [seal of bliss!] Be has elsewhere the same image,

But my kisses bring again Seals of love, but seal'd in vain, (rev. 1778, III,74,4)

III.ii.150 (62,8) [join in souls] This is surely wrong. We may read, Join in scorns, or join in scoffs. [Tyrwhitt: join, ill souls] This is a very reasonable conjecture, though I think it is hardly right. (1773)

III.ii.160 (63,9) [extort A poor soul's patience] Harrass, torment.

III.ii.171 (63,1) [My heart with her] We should read,

My heart with her but as guest-wise sojourn'd.

So Prior,

No matter what beauties I saw in my way, They were but my visits, but then not my home. (rev. 1778, III,76,9)

III.ii.188 (64,2) [all yon fiery O's] I would willingly believe that the poet wrote fiery orbs.

III.ii.194 (64,3) [in spight to me] I read, in spite to me.

III.ii.242 (66,2) [such an argument] Such a subject of light merriment.

III.ii.352 (71,1) [so sort] So happen in the issue.

III.ii.367 (71,2) [virtuous property] Salutiferous. So be calls, in the Tempest, poisonous dew, wicked dew.

III.ii.426 (74,5) [buy this dear] i.e. thou shalt dearly pay for this. Though this is sense, and may well enough stand, yet the poet perhaps wrote thou shalt 'by it dear. So in another place, thou shalt aby it. So Milton, How dearly I abide that boust so vain.

IV.i (75,6) I see no reason why the fourth act should begin here, when there seems no interruption of the action. In the old quartos of 1600, there is no division of acts, which seems to have been afterwards arbitrarily made in the first folio, and may therefore be altered at pleasure, (see 1765, I,149,5)

IV.i.2 (75,7) [do coy] To coy is to sooth. Skinner, (rev. 1778, III, 89,6)

IV.i.45 (77,2) [So doth the woodbine, the sweet honey-suckle, Gently entwist] Mr. Upton reads,

So doth the woodrine the sweet honey-suckle,

for bark of the wood. Shakespeare perhaps only meant so, the leaves involve the flower, using woodbine for the plant and honeysuckle for the flower; or perhaps Shakespeare made a blunder, (rev. 1778, III,91,2)

IV.i.107 (81,9) [our observation is perform'd] The honours due to the morning of May. I know not why Shakespear calls this play a Midsummer- Night's Dream, when he so carefully informs us that it happened on the night preceding May day.

IV.i.123 (81,4) [so sanded] So marked with small spots.

IV.i.166 (83,6) [Fair Helena in fancy following me] Fancy is here taken for love or affection, and is opposed to fury, as before.

Sighs and tears poor Fancy's follovers.

Some now call that which a man takes particular delight in his Fancy. Flower-fancier, for a florist, and bird-fancier, for a lover and feeder of birds, are colloquial words.

IV.i.194 (84,6) [And I have found Demetrius like a jewel] [W: gewell] This emendation is ingenious enough to deserve to be true.

IV.i.213 (85,8) [patch'd fool] That is, a fool in a particolour'd coat.

IV.ii.14 (86,2) [a thing of nought] which Mr. Theobald changes with great pomp to a thing of naught, is, a good for nothing thing.

IV.ii.18 (86,3) [made men] In the same sense us in the Tempest, any monster in England makes a man.

V.i.2-22 (88,4)

[More strange than true. I never may believe These antique fables, nor these fairy toys]

These beautiful lines are in all the old editions thrown out of metre. They are very well restored by the later editors.

V.i.26 (89,5) [constancy] Consistency; stability; certainty.

V.i.79 (92,4) [Unless you can find sport in their intents] Thus all the copies. But as I know not what it is to stretch and con an intent, I suspect a line to be lost.

V.i.91 (92,5)

[And what poor duty cannot do, Noble respect takes it in might, not merit.]

The sense of this passage, as it now stands, if it has any sense, is this: What the inability of duty cannot perform, regardful generosity receives as an act of ability, though not of merit. The contrary is rather true: What dutifulness tries to perform without ability, regardful generosity receives as having the merit, though not the power, of complete performance.

We should therefore read,

And what poor duty cannot do, Noble respect takes not in might, but merit.

V.i.147 (95,4) [Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade] Mr. Upton rightly observes, that Shakespeare in this line ridicules the affectation of beginning many words with the same letter. He night have remarked the same of

The raging rocks and shivering shocks.

Gascoigne, contemporary with our poet, remarks and blames the same affectation.

V.i.199 (97,6) [And like Limander am I trusty still] Limander and Helen, are spoken by the blundering player, for Leander and Hero. Shafalus and Procrus, for Cephalus and Procris.

V.i.254 (99,1) [in snuff] An equivocation. Snuff signifies both the cinder of a caudle, and hasty anger.

V.i.379 (104,2) [And the wolf beholds the moon] [W: behowls] The alteration is better than the original reading; but perhaps the author meant only to say, that the wolf gazes at the moon, (see 1765, I,173,2)

V.i.396 (105,4)

[I am sent, with broom, before, To sweep the dust behind the door]

Cleanliness is always necessary to invite the residence and the favour of Fairies.

These make our girls their slutt'ry rue, By pinching them both black and blue. And put a penny in their shoe The house for cleanly sweeping. Drayton.

V.i.398 (105,5) [Through this house give glimmering light] Milton perhaps had this picture in his thought:

Glowing cabers through the room Teach light to counterfeit a gloom. Il Penseroso.

So Drayton:

Hence shadows seeming idle shapes Of little frisking elves and apes, To earth do make their wanton 'scapes As hope of pastime hastes them.

I think it should be read,

Through this house in glimmering light.

V.i.408 (106,6) [Now, until the break of day] This speech, which both the old quartos give to Oberon, is in the edition of 1623, and in all the following, printed as the song. I have restored it to Oberon, as it apparently contains not the blessing which he intends to bestow on the bed, but his declaration that he will bless it, and his orders to the fairies how to perform the necessary rites. But where then is the song?--I am afraid it is gone after many other things of greater value. The truth is that two songs are lost. The series of the scene is this; after the speech of Puck, Oberon enters, and calls his fairies to a song, which song is apparently wanting in all the copies. Next Titania leads another song, which is indeed lost like the former, tho' the editors have endeavoured to find it. Then Oberon dismisses his fairies to the dispatch of the ceremonies.

The songs, I suppose, were lost, because they were not inserted in the players parts, from which the drama was printed.

V.i.440 (107,8) [Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue] That is, If we be dismiss'd without hisses.

V.i.444 (107,9) [Give me your hands] That is, Clap your hands. Give us your applause.

(107,8) General Observation. Of this play there are two editions in quarto; one printed for Thomas Fisher, the other for James Roberts, both in 1600. I have used the copy of Roberts, very carefully collated, as it seems, with that of Fisher. Neither of the editions approach to exactness. Fisher is sometimes preferable, but Roberts was followed, though not without some variations, by Hemings and Condel, and they by all the folios that succeeded them.

Wild and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great.

Samuel Johnson