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THESEUS, Duke of Athens.

EGEUS, Father to Hermia.

LYSANDER, in love with Hermia.

PHILOSTRATE, Master of the Revels to Theseus.

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Other Fairies attending their King and Queen.
Attendants on Theseus and Hippolyta.

SCENE, Athens, and a Wood not far from it.




SCENE I. Athens.

A Room in the Palace of THESEUS.

and Attendants.

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

Long withering out a young man's revenue.

Hip. Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow

New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.


Go, Philostrate,

Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments;
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth:
Turn melancholy forth to funerals,
The pale companion is not for our pomp.

[Exit PHILOSTRATE Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,

And won thy love, doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key,

With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling.


Ege. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!' The. Thanks, good Egeus: What's the news with thee?

Ege. Full of vexation come I, with complaint Against my child, my daughter Hermia.Stand forth, Demetrius : My noble lord, This man hath my consent to marry her.

Stand forth, Lysander; and, my gracious duke, This man hath bewitch'd the bosom of my child :

'Steevens set this down as "a misapplication of a modern title." If it be such, Shakespeare is not responsible for it, as Theseus is repeatedly called duk in Chaucer's Knight's Tale, to which the Poet was evidently indebted for some of the material of this play. But indeed this application of duke to the heroes of antiquity was quite common; the word being from the Latin dux, which means a chief or leader of any sort. Thus in 1 Chronicles, i. 51, we have a list of "the dukes of Edom." We will subjoin the opening of The Knight's Tale, as illustrating both the matter in hand and the general scope of the Poet's obligations in that quarter:

"Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,

Ther was a duk that highte Theseus.
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
And in his time swiche a conquerour,
That greter was ther non under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree had he wonne.
What with his wisdom and his chevalrie,
He conquerd all the regne of Feminie,
That whilom was yeleped Scythia;
And wedded the fresshe quene Ipolita,
And brought hire home with him to his contree
With mochel glorie and gret solempnitee,

And eke hire yonge suster Emelie.
And thus with victorie and with melodie
Let I this worthy duk to Athenes ride,
And all his host in armes him beside"


Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given hei rhymes,
And interchang'd love tokens with my child:
Thou hast by moon-light at her window sung,
With feigning voice, verses of feigning love;
And stol'n the impression of her fantasy
With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds, conceits,
Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweet-meats; messengers
Of strong prevailment in unharden'd youth:
With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart;
Turn'd her obedience, which is due to me,

To stubborn harshness: — And, my gracious duke,
Be it so she will not here before your grace
Consent to marry with Demetrius,

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens;
As she is mine, I may dispose of her;
Which shall be either to this gentleman,
Or to her death; according to our law
Immediately provided in that case.

The. What say you, Hermia? be advis'd, fair

To you your father should be as a god;

One that compos'd your beauties; yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax,
By him imprinted, and within his power
To leave the figure, or disfigure it.
Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
Her. So is Lysander.

In himself he is:

But, in this kind, wanting your father's voice,
The other must be held the worthier.

Her. I would my father look'd but with my eyes! The. Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.

Her. I do entreat your grace to pardon me. I know not by what power I am made bold;

Nor how it may concern my modesty,

In such a presence here, to plead my thoughts:
But I beseech your grace that I may know

The worst that may befall me in this case,
If I refuse to wed Demetrius.

The. Either to die the death, or to abjure
For ever the society of men.

Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires,
Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
Whether, if you yield not to your father's choice,
You can endure the livery of a nun;
For aye to be in shady cloister mew'd,
To live a barren sister all your life,

Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
Thrice blessed they, that master so their blood,
To undergo such maiden pilgrimage:
But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd,
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies, in single blessedness.
Her. So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
Unto his lordship; whose unwished yoke'
My soul consents not to give sovereignty.

The. Take time to pause: and, by the next new


The sealing-day betwixt my love and me

2 This reading was first proposed by Capell, that of the old copies being earthlier happy. As in the ancient spelling the pos itive would be earthlie happie, it is easy to see how the r may have been transposed; such being in fact a very common error of the press.


3 Lordship was anciently used for authority, rule. Thus Wickliffe's New Testament has lordship where the received version has dominion. The folio of 1632 inserted to before whose unwished yoke, which reading Mr. Collier adopts on the ground that to is necessary to the sense, forgetting, apparenuy, how common it is for give to be followed by two objectives


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