Page images

And touching now the point of human skill,*
Reason becomes the marshal to my will,5
And leads me to your eyes; where I o'erlook
Love's stories, written in love's richest book."

Hel. Wherefore was I to this keen mock'ry born?
When, at your hands, did I deserve this scorn?
Is 't not enough, is 't not enough, young man,
That I did never, no, nor never can,
Deserve a sweet look from Demetrius' eye,
But you must flout my insufficiency?

Good troth, you do me wrong, good sooth, you do,
In such disdainful manner me to woo.

But fare you well: perforce I must confess,

I thought you lord of more true gentleness.7
O, that a lady, of one man refus'd,

Should, of another, therefore, be abus'd!


Lys. She sees not Hermia:-Hermia, sleep thou there

And never may'st thou come Lysander near!
For, as a surfeit of the sweetest things

The deepest loathing to the stomach brings;
Or, as the heresies, that men do leave,
Are hated most of those they did deceive;
So thou, my surfeit, and my heresy,
Of all be hated; but the most of me!

And all my pow'rs, address your love and might,
To honour Helen, and to be her knight!

[Exit. Her. [starting] Help me, Lysander, help me! do thy best,

touching now the point of human skill,] i. e. my senses being now at the utmost height of perfection. So, in King Henry VIII: "I have touch'd the highest point of all my greatness."


5 Reason becomes the marshal to my will,] That is, My will now follows reason. Johnson.

So, in Macbeth:

"Thou marshal'st me the way that I was going." 'Steevens. 6 - leads me to your eyes; where I'o'erlook

Love's stories, written in love's richest book.] So, in Romee and Juliet:


what obscur'd in this fair volume lies, "Find written in the margin of his eyes,

"This precious book of love

[ocr errors]


7-true gentleness.] Gentleness is equivalent to what, in modern language, we should call the spirit of a gentleman. Percy.

To pluck this crawling serpent from my breast!
Ah me, for pity!—what a dream was here?
Lysander, look, how I do quake with fear:
Methought a serpent eat my heart away,
And you sat smiling at his cruel prey:-
Lysander! what, remov'd? Lysander! lord!
What, out of hearing? gone? no sound, no word?
Alack, where are you? speak, an if you hear;
Speak, of all loves; I swoon almost with fear.
No?-then I well perceive you are not nigh:
Either death, or you, I'll find immediately.1



The same. The Queen of Fairies lying asleep. Enter QUINCE, SNUG, BOTTOM, FLUTE, SNOUT, and STARVELING.

Bot. Are we well met?

Quin. Pat, pat: and here's a marvellous convenient place for our rehearsal: This green plot shall be our

8 And you-] Instead of you, the first folio reads—yet. Mr. Pope first gave the right word from the quarto, 1600. Steevens. 9 Speak, of all loves;] Of all loves is an adjuration more than once used by our author. So, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, sc. viii:


to send her your little page, of all loves." Steevens. 1 Either death, or you, I'll find immediately.] Thus the ancient copies, and such was Shakspeare's usage. He frequently employs either, and other similar words, as monosyllables. So, in King Henry IV, P. II:

"Either from the king, or in the present time." Again, in King Henry V:

"Either past, or not arriv❜d to pith and puissance." Again, in Julius Cæsar:

"Either led or driven, as we point the way."

Again, in Othello:

"Either in discourse of thought, or actual deed.” So also, Marlowe in his Edward II, 1598:

"Either banish him that was the cause thereof -." The modern editors read-Or death, or you, &c.


2 In the time of Shakspeare 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 un

stage, this hawthorn brake our 'tyring-house: and we will do it in action, as we will do it before the duke. Bot. Peter Quince,

Quin. What say'st thou, bully Bottom?

Bot. There are things in this comedy of Pyramus and Thisby, that will never please. First, Pyramus must draw a sword to kill himself; which the ladies cannot abide. How answer you that?

Snout. By'rlakin, a parlous fear.3

Star. I believe, we must leave the killing out, when all is done.

Bot. Not a whit; I have a device to make all well. Write me a prologue: and let the prologue seem to say, we will do no harm with our swords; and that Pyramus is not killed indeed: and, for the more better assurance, tell them, that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver: This will put them out of fear.

Quin. Well, we will have such a prologue; and it shall be written in eight and six.4

Bot. No, make it two more: let it be written in eight and eight.

Snout. Will not the ladies be afeard of the lion?
Star. I fear it, I promise you.

skilful 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. Johnson.

3 By'rlakin, a parlous fear.] By our ladykin, or little lady, as ifakins is a corruption of by my faith. The former is used in Preston's Cambyses:

"The clock hath stricken vive, ich think, by laken." Again, in magnificence, an interlude, written by Skelton, and printed by Rastell:


By our lakin, syr, not by my will.”

Parlous is a word corrupted from perilous, i. e. dangerous. So, Phaer and Twyne translate the following passage in the Æneid, Lib. VII, 302:


Quid Syrtes aut Scylla mihi? quid vasta Charybdis "Profuit?

[ocr errors]

"What good did Scylla me? What could prevail Charyb

dis wood?

"Or Sirtes parlous sands?" Steevens.

4 — in eight and six.] i. e. in alternate verses of eight and six syllables. Malone.

Bot. Masters, you ought to consider with yourselves: to bring in, God shield us! a lion among ladies, is a most dreadful thing: for there is not a more fearful wildfowl than your lion, living; and we ought to look to it. Snout. Therefore, another prologue must tell, he is not a lion.

Bot. Nay, you must name his'name; and half his face must be seen through the lion's neck; and he himself must speak through, saying thus, or to the same defect, -Ladies, or fair ladies, I would wish you, or, I would request you, or, I would entreat you, not to fear, not to tremble: my life for yours. If you think I come hither as a lion, it were pity of my life: No, I am no such thing; I am a man, as other men are:-and there, indeed, let him name his name; and tell them plainly, he is Snug the joiner.5

Quin. Well, it shall be so. But there is two hard things; that is, to bring the moon-light into a chamber: for you know, Pyramus and Thisby meet by moon-light. Snug. Doth the moon shine, that night we play our play?

Bot. A calendar, a calendar! look in the almanack; find out moon-shine, find out moon-shine.

Quin. Yes, it doth shine that night.

5 No, I am no such thing; I am a man, as other men are:-and there, indeed, let him name his name; and tell them plainly, he is Snug the joiner.] There are, probably, many temporary allusions to particular incidents and characters scattered through our author's plays, which give a poignancy to certain passages, while the events were recent, and the persons pointed at yet living.-In the speech now before us, I think it not improbable that he meant to allude to a fact which happened in his time, at an entertainment exhibited before Queen Elizabeth. It is recorded in a manuscript collection of anecdotes, stories, &c. entitled, Merry Passages and Feasts, MS. Harl. 6395:

"There was a spectacle presented to Queen Elizabeth upon the water, and among others Harry Goldingham was to represent Arion upon the dolphin's backe; but finding his voice to be verye hoarse and unpleasant, when he came to perform it, he tears off his disguise, and swears he was none of Arion, not he, but even honest Harry Goldingham; which blunt discoverie pleased the queene better than if it had gone through in the right way:-yet he could order his voice to an instrument exceeding well."

The collector of these Merry Passages appears to have been nephew to Sir Roger L'Estrange. Malone.

Bot. Why, then you may leave a casement of the great chamber window, where we play, open; and the moon may shine in at the casement.

Quin. Ay; or else one must come in with a bush of thorns and a lanthorn, and say, he comes to disfigure, or to present, the person of moon-shine. Then, there is another thing: we must have a wall in the great chamber; for Pyramus and Thisby, says the story, did talk through the chink of a wall.

Snug. You never can bring in a wall.—What say you, Bottom?

Bot. Some man or other must present wall: and let him have some plaster, or some loam, or some roughcast about him, to signify wall; or let him hold his fingers thus, and through that cranny shall Pyramus and Thisby whisper.

Quin. If that may be, then all is well. Come, sit down, every mother's son, and rehearse your parts. Pyramus, you begin: when you have spoken your speech, enter into that brake:" and so every one according to his cue.

Enter Puck behind.

Puck. What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here,

So near the cradle of the fairy queen?

What, a play toward? I'll be an auditor;

An actor too, perhaps, if I see cause.


Quin. Speak, Pyramus:-Thisby, stand forth.
Pyr. Thisby, the flowers of odious savours sweet,—
Quin. Odours, odours.

·that brake;] Brake, in the present instance, signifies a thicket or furze-bush. So, in the ancient copy of the Nut-browne Mayde, 1521:

66 for, dry or wete

"Ye must lodge on the playne; "And us abofe none other rofe

"But a brake bush, or twayne."

Again, in Milton's Masque at Ludlow Castle:

"Run to your shrowds within these brakes and trees."


Brake, in the west of England, is used to express a large extent of ground, overgrown with furze; and appears, both here and in the next scene, to convey the same idea. Henley.

« PreviousContinue »