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The sudden hand of death close up mine eye! Hence ever, then, my heart is in thy breast. Biron. And what to me, my love? and what to me ? 165

Ros. You must be purgèd too, your sins are rank: 166

You are attaint with faults and perjury;
Therefore, if you my favour mean to get,
A twelvemonth shall you spend, and never rest,
But seek the weary beds of people sick.

Dum. But what to me, my love? but what to me?

Kath. A wife!-A beard, fair health, and ho


With three-fold love I wish you all these three. Dum. Oh, shall I say, I thank you, gentle wife?

Kath. Not so, my lord ;-a twelvemonth and a day

I'll mark no words that smooth-fac'd wooers say:
Come when the king doth to my lady come;
Then, if I have much love, I'll give you some.
Dum. I'll serve thee true and faithfully till

Kath. Long. Mar.

Yet swear not, lest ye be forsworn again.
What says Maria ?

At the twelvemonth's end I'll change my black gown for a faithful friend. Long. I'll stay with patience; but the time is long.

Mar. The liker you; few taller are so young. Biron. Studies my lady? mistress, look on me; Behold the window of my heart, mine eye, What humble suit attends thy answer there : Impose some service on me for thy love.

Ros. Oft have I heard of you, my Lord Birón
Before I saw you; and the world's large tongue
Proclaims you for a man replete with mocks,
Full of comparisons 167 and wounding flouts,
Which you on all estates 168 will execute
That lie within the mercy of your wit.

To weed this wormwood from your fruitful brain,
And therewithal to win me, if you please,-
Without the which I am not to be won,-
You shall this twelvemonth term, from day to day,
Visit the speechless sick, and still converse
With groaning wretches; and your task shall be,
With all the fierce endeavour 169 of your wit
To enforce the painèd impotent to smile.

Biron. To move wild laughter in the throat of death!

165. And what to me, &c. This speech, and the next, being amplified farther on, are frequently omitted from modern editions; in the same way with those lines towards the close of the fourth Act. See Note 107, Act iv.

166 Rank. The old copies print 'rack'd' instead of "rank;" which was Rowe's emendation.

167. Comparisons. Used in the sense of jesting similes;

It cannot be; it is impossible: Mirth cannot move a soul in agony.

Ros. Why, that's the way to choke a gibing spirit,

Whose influence is begot of that loose grace
Which shallow laughing hearers give to fools:
A jest's prosperity lies in the ear

Of him that hears it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it: then, if sickly ears,
Deaf'd with the clamours of their own dear 170


Will hear your idle scorns, continue them,
And I will have you and that fault withal;
But if they will not, throw away that spirit,
And I shall find you empty of that fault,
Right joyful of your reformation.

Biron. A twelvemonth! well, befall what will befall,

I'll jest a twelvemonth in a hospital.

Prin. [To the KING.] Ay, sweet my lord ; and so

I take my leave.

King. No, madam; we will bring 171 you on your way.

Biron. Our wooing doth not end like an old play;

Jack hath not Jill: these ladies' courtesy
Might well have made our sport a comedy.
King. Come, sir, it wants a twelvemonth and a
And then 'twill end.

That's too long for a play.

Re-enter ARMADO.

Arm. Sweet majesty, vouchsafe me,-
Prin. Was not that Hector?
Dum. The worthy knight of Troy.

Arm. I will kiss thy royal finger, and take leave. I am a votary; I have vowed to Jaquenetta to hold the plough for her sweet love three years. But, most esteemed greatness, will you hear the dialogue that the two learned men have compiled in praise of the owl and the cuckoo? it should have followed in the end of our show.

King. Call them forth quickly; we will do so. Arm. Holla! approach.

Re-enter HOLOFERNES, NATHANIEL, MOTH, COSTARD, and others. This side is Hiems, Winter,—this Ver, the Spring;

witticisms of analogy. See Note 18, Act ii., "Much Ado about Nothing."

168. All estatės. Used for all conditions of persons. 169. Fierce endeavour. Used for ardent effort, fervent exertion.

170. Dear. Used in the sense of 'dire.' See Note 160,

Act v.

171. Bring. An idiom for accompany, escort. See Note 20, Act iii., "Much Ado."

the one maintained by the owl, the other by the WINTER. When icicles hang by the wall, cuckoo.-Ver, begin.

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And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,174
And Tom bears logs into the hall,

And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,

Tu-whit, tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel 175 the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,

And coughing drowns the parson's saw,176
And birds sit brooding in the snow,

And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs 177 hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl;

Tu-whit, tu-who, a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

Arm. The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. You that way,—we this way.


Saxon, celan. But it came to be used for cooling boiling potliquor, by clearing off the scum from the top; as the word "greasy" indicates in the present passage, and as is evidenced by a quotation from one of the oldest dramas in the language, called "Pierce Ploughman: "

"And lered men a ladel bygge, with a long stele

That cast for to kele a crokke, and save the fatte above." 176. Saw. Axiom; promulgated doctrine. 177. Roasted crabs. Crab-apples, put hissing hot into the wassail-bowl, formed a favourite delicacy in old English festivities.

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SCENE 1-Athens. A room in the palace of Long withering out a young man's revenue.




The. Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace; four happy days bring in Another moon; but, oh, methinks, how slow This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires, Like to a step-dame, or a dowager,

1. The first known printed copies of this play are two quarto editions, both published in 1600; the one by Thomas Fisher, the other by James Roberts. The text of this latter was taken for the Folio of 1623; although Fisher's quarto is the more accurate of the two. From some analogy between the description by Titania of the exceptional condition of seasons in Act ii., sc. 2, and certain seasonal occurrences in England during the years 1593 and 1594, the latter date has been conjectured to have been that of the present play's first production; but however that may be, the internal evidence of the composition itself gives unmistakable token of its having been written when the poet was in his flush of youthful manhood. The classicality of the principal personages, Theseus and Hippolyta; the Grecian-named characters; the prevalence of rhyme; the grace and whimsicality of the fairy-folk; the rich warmth of colouring that pervades the poetic diction; the abundance of description, rather than of plot, action, and character-development, all mark the young dramatist.

With a manifest advance in beauty beyond those which we conceive to be his earliest-written productions-"The Two Gentlemen of Verona," "Comedy of Errors," and "Love's Labour's Lost"-we believe the "Midsummer Night's Dream' to be one of his very first-written dramas after those three plays. We feel it to have been, with " Romeo and Juliet," the work of his happy hours, when he wrote from inspiration, and out of the fulness of his luxuriant imagination, between the intervals of his business-work-the adaptation of such immediately needed stage plays as the three parts of "Henry VI." Those we think he touched up for current production, for the use of the theatre at which he was employed and had a share in; but his overflowing poet-heart was put into productions like the southernstoried "Romeo and Juliet," and the fairy-favoured "Midsummer Night's Dream," where every page is a forest glade flooded with golden light amid the green glooms. For the origin of the plot, those who cannot imagine Shakespeare ever to have drawn from the spring of his own brain, fancy he was indebted to

Hip. Four days will quickly steep themselves in

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Chaucer's "Knight's Tale" (the story of Palamon and Arcite), and to Plutarch's "Life of Theseus." But in neither of these sources is there trace of similar story. The mention of Hippolyta in Plutarch is most meagre ; and in Chaucer, the main narrative is occupied with the loves of the cousin-knight heroes for Emily, sister to the Amazon queen. At the same time it is probable that both were known to Shakespeare; as in both there are names that he has taken-Egeus in Plutarch, and Philostrate in Chaucer. Moreover, he seems to have adopted from Chaucer the idea of making Theseus's nuptials with Hippolyta the gorgeous circlet wherein to set his gem-like story.

The sticklers for consistency-those who make a point of creating discrepancies in Shakespeare where they can find none -have objected to what they call his mixing up Greek classicalities with Gothic fairy-mythology; just as pickthankers in architecture remind admirers of Milan Cathedral that the Greek pediments introduced among the ornaments of the Gothic façade spoil the unity of the building. But the Northern fairies had their origin in the East; and the British fairy can trace back ancestry to the Oriental Peri. Also, while giving his Robin Goodfellow strong touches of rural English attribute, he has not failed to associate his Titania with Perigenia, Eglé, Ariadne, and Antiopa, "the farthest steep of India," an Indian king," and "the spiced Indian air," and his Oberon with "the Morning's love," Cephalus, the Thessalian hunter-prince; thus giving with his own witchery of power the needful harmony in blending the whole together.


2. New bent in heaven. The old copies all print 'now' for "new" (Rowe's correction); and though 'now' might be forced into elliptically meaning 'but now,' 'just now' (that is, immediately upon the "then" time), yet it seems more likely that in such a passage as the present one, Shakespeare would not have used a word so liable to misinterpretation; therefore, that "new" was the word he wrote.

3. Pert. Brisk, alert, lively. See Note 9, Act iv., "Tempest."

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