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THESEUS, Duke of Athens.
W O M E N. HIPPOLITA, Princess of the Amazons, betrothed to
Theseus. Hermia, Daughter to Egeus, in love with Lysander. Helena, in love with Demetrius.
A : Midsummer Night's Dream.
Shall not trouble my readers with the Fable of 1 this piece, as I can see no general moral that can be deduced from the Argument; nor, as I hinted before *, is there much sentiment to be collected even from the Dialogue. But whatever harvest can be gleaned from this unfruitful field, I shall endeavour to pick up, as becomes a faithful steward of the farm.
ACT 1. SCENE I.
. Theseus to Hermia. Ta you your father should be as a God, One that composed your beauties; yea, and one To whom you are but as a form in wax By himn imprinted ; and within his power To leave the figure, or disfigure it." In this speech, the pious notion of the Antients, with regard to this relation, while genuine Nature was their role Preceptor, is fully expressed. Here the duty of children to their parents, is indeed car. ried to the height; and yet, methinks, not at all too far. They are the objects of our earliest affections, of our first deference, of our primary obligacions, Even superstition, in this case, as far at least as im. plicit obedience extends, exceeds not true devotion.
The Decalogue was originally written on two tables ; five in each. The first refers solely to Reli. gion ; the second, to Morality, only. To honour our parents, therefore, as falling within the former line of obligations, is, by this distinction, made one
* Preface to the Tempest, paragraph 4th,
of our pious duties; as through them we honour the
Thus far, by way of general reflection, only; for I must, notwithstanding, admit, that the particular instance of the daughter's compliance, exacted by the father, in this piece, of resigning an husband of her own choice, upon equal terms, and accepting another, chosen arbitrarily for her, by caprice merely, was too severe a trial of obedience. Egeus here, like Abraham, would sacrifice his child at the altar, not only without the command of God, but contrary to his express purpose, proclaimed aloud by the voice of Nature, and further confirmed from the deductions of virtuous affection, free will, and rational election.
When I said that the duty of a child was natural, I did not mean to invest the parent with an authority which was not so; and I cannot blame Hermia, therefore, upon the severe laws of Athens being declared to her, for the chaste and spirited resolution fhe frames to herself on that occasion.
So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
S CE N'E II.
with other fitness of circumstances, are feldom found
Could ever hear, by tale or history,
In this scene we are charmed with that mildness, modesty, and generous eulogium, with which the fond and unhappy Helena accosts a rival beauty, and woo'd by the man she loves.
Hermia. God speed, fair Helena! whither away?
Demetrius loves you, fair-O happy fair !
teach me how you look, and with what art You sway the motion of Demetrius' heart !
* Spleen, for a sudden or hafty fit. * The polar far, by which mariners are guided in their course.