Act 5, Scene 1

[Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Philostrate, and other lords. While the religious ceremonies for the three couples have concluded, the other nuptial festivities are ongoing.]

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.

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.
[Enter the lovers: Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, and Helena]

Theseus

Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.
Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days of love
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
Between our after-supper and bedtime?
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.

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?

Philostrate

There is a brief how many sports are ripe.
Make choice of which your highness will see first.
[Reads] “The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.”

Theseus

We'll none of that. That have I told my love
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.

Philostrate

“The riot of the tipsy bacchanals 
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.”

Theseus

That is an old device, and it was played
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.

Philostrate

“The thrice-three muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.”

Theseus

That is some satire, keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.

Philostrate

“A tedious, brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisbe – very tragical mirth.”

Theseus

“Merry” and “tragical”? “Tedious” and “brief”?
That is hot ice, and wondrous strange black 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,
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?

Philostrate

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

Theseus

And we will hear it.

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 stretched and conned 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.
[Exit Philostrate]

Hippolyta

I love not to see wretchedness o'ercharged,
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
And what poor duty cannot do.
Noble respect takes it in might, not merit.
Where I have come, great clerks have purposèd
To greet me with premeditated welcomes,
Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
Make periods in the midst of sentences,
Throttle their practiced 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 picked 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.
[Enter Philostrate]

Philostrate

So please your grace, the Prologue is addressed.

Theseus

Let him approach.
[Trumpets sound. Enter Quince who awkwardly reads a prologue speech he has written as an introduction to the play.]

Quince (as Prologue)

If we offend, it is with our goodwill
That, you should think: we come not to offend
But with goodwill. 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 content 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.

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 this 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?
[Enter, Bottom as Pyramus, Flute as Thisbe, Snout as the Wall, Starveling as Moonshine, and Snug as Lion to perform the play.]

Quince (as Prologue)

Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show,
But wonder on till truth make all things plain.
This man is Pyramus, if you would know,
This beauteous lady Thisbe is, certain.
This man with lime and roughcast doth present
Wall, that vile wall which did these lovers sunder;
And through Wall's chink, poor souls, they are content
To whisper; at the which let no man wonder.
This man, with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn,
Presenteth Moonshine. For if you will know,
By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn
To meet at Ninus' tomb, there — there to woo.
This grizzly beast, which “Lion” hight by name,
The trusty Thisbe coming first by night
Did scare away or rather did affright;
And as she fled, her mantle she did fall
Which Lion, vile with bloody mouth, did stain.
Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,
And finds his trusty Thisbe's mantle slain;
Whereat, with blade — with bloody blameful blade —
He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast;
And Thisbe, 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.
[Exit all the actors except Snout as Wall]

Theseus

I wonder if the lion be to speak.

Demetrius

No wonder, my lord: one lion may when
many asses do.

Snout (as Wall)

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 Thisbe
Did whisper often, very secretly.
This loam, this roughcast, 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?

Demetrius

It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard
discourse, my lord.
[Enter Bottom as Pyramus]

Theseus

Pyramus draws near the wall. Silence.

Bottom (as Pyramus)

O grim-looked 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 Thisbe'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.
[Snout, as Wall, indicates the slit with his hand]
Thanks, courteous wall. Jove shield thee well for this.
But what see I? No Thisbe 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.

Bottom

[To Theseus] No, in truth, sir, he should not.
“Deceiving me” is Thisbe'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.
[Enter Flute as Thisbe]
Yonder she comes.

Flute (as Thisbe)

O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans
For parting my fair Pyramus and me.
My cherry lips have often kissed thy stones,
Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.

Bottom (as Pyramus)

I see a voice. Now will I to the chink
To spy an I can hear my Thisbe's face.
Thisbe?

Flute (as Thisbe)

               My love — thou art my love, I think.

Bottom (as Pyramus)

Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover's grace,
And like Lemander am I trusty still.

Flute (as Thisbe)

And I, like Helen, till the fates me kill.

Bottom (as Pyramus)

Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.

Flute (as Thisbe)

As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.

Bottom (as Pyramus)

O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.

Flute (as Thisbe)

I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.

Bottom (as Pyramus)

Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straightway?

Flute (as Thisbe)

Tide life, tide death, I come without delay.
[Exit Bottom and Flute separately]

Snout (as Wall)

Thus have I, Wall, my part dischargèd so;
And being done, thus Wall away doth go.
[Exit Snout]

Theseus

Now is the wall down between the two neighbors.

Demetrius

No remedy, my lord, when walls are so willful
to hear without warning.

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.

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.
[Enter Snug as Lion, and Starveling as Moonshine with a lantern, thorn bush, and dog]

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, as 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, and 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 valor.

Theseus

True, and a goose for his discretion.

Demetrius

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

Theseus

His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valor,
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 lantern doth the hornèd moon present

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 lantern doth the hornèd 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 lantern. 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.

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.

Lysander

Proceed, Moon.

Starveling (as Moonshine)

All that I have to say is to tell you that the
lantern 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 lantern, for all
these are in the moon. But silence; here comes Thisbe.
[Enter Flute as Thisbe]

Flute (as Thisbe)

This is old Ninny's tomb. Where is my love?

Snug (as Lion)

[Roaring] Ooooo.
[Thisbe drops her cloak and runs off]

Demetrius

Well roared, Lion.

Theseus

Well run, Thisbe.

Hippolyta

Well shone, Moon. Truly, the moon shines
with a good grace.
[Lion chews Thisbe’s cloak]

Theseus

Well moused, Lion.

Demetrius

And then came Pyramus.
[Enter Bottom as Pyramus]

Lysander

And so the lion vanished.
[Exit Lion]

Bottom (as Pyramus)

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 Thisbe sight.
[Seeing Thisbe's bloody cloak on the ground]
But stay! O spite!
But mark, poor night,
What dreadful dole is here?
Eyes, do you see?
How can it be?
O dainty duck, O dear!
Thy mantle good,
What, stained 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.

Hippolyta

Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.

Bottom (as Pyramus)

O wherefore, nature, didst thou lions frame,
Since lion vile hath here deflowered my dear? —
Which is —
[Quince frantically signals to Bottom]
                    no, no, which was the fairest dame
That lived, that loved, that liked, that looked with cheer.
Come tears, confound.
Out sword, and wound
The pap of Pyramus.
Ay, that left pap,
Where heart doth hop.
Thus die I: thus, thus, thus.
[He stabs himself]
Now am I dead,
Now am I fled,
My soul is in the sky.
Tongue, lose thy light;
Moon, take thy flight.
[Exit Moonshine]
Now die, die, die, die, die.
[He dies]

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 prove an ass.

Hippolyta

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

Theseus

She will find him by starlight.
[Enter Flute as Thisbe]
Here she comes, and her passion ends the play.

Hippolyta

Methinks she should not use a long one, for
such as 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; 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?
O Pyramus, arise.
Speak, speak. Quite dumb?
Dead, dead? A tomb
Must cover thy sweet eyes.
These lily lips,
This cherry nose,
These yellow cowslip cheeks
Are gone, are gone.
Lovers, make moan.
His eyes were green as leeks.
O sisters three,
Come, come to me
With hands as pale as milk.
Lay them in gore,
Since you have shore
With shears his thread of silk.
Tongue, not a word.
Come, trusty sword,
Come, blade, my breast imbrue.
[She stabs herself]
And farewell friends,
Thus Thisbe ends.
Adieu, adieu, adieu.
[She dies]

Theseus

Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.

Demetrius

Ay, and Wall too.

Bottom

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

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
bergamask. Let your epilogue alone.
[Bottom and Flute dance a bergamask, then exit]
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve.
Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn
As much as we this night have overwatched.
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.
[Exit all. Enter Robin (Puck) with a broom]

Robin (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 churchway paths to glide.
And we fairies that do run
By the triple Hecate's team
From the presence of the sun,
Following a darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic. Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallowed house.
I am sent with broom before
To sweep the dust behind the door.
[Enter Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the Fairies, with all their attendants]

Oberon

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.

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.
[The Fairies sing 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 blessèd 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
Despisèd in nativity
Shall upon their children be.
[handing out vials of magic potion]
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 blessed
Ever shall in safety rest.
Trip away, make no stay,
Meet me all by break of day.
[Exit all but Robin (Puck)]

Robin (Puck)

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered 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 am an honest puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
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.
[Exit]
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