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THESEUS, Duke of Athens.
in love with Hermia.
PHILOSTRATE, master of the revels to Theseus.
QUINCE, the carpenter.
SNUG, the joiner.
BOTTOM, the weaver.
SNOUT, the tinker.
STARVELING, the tailor.
HIPPOLYTA, Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus. HERMIA, daughter to Egeus, in love with Lysander. HELENA, in love with Demetrius.
OBERON, king of the fairies.
TITANIA, queen of the fairies.
PUCK, or Robin Goodfellow, a fairy.
characters in the Interlude performed by the Clowns.
Other Fairies attending their King and Queen.
SCENE, ATHENS, and a Wood not far from it.
STATE OF THE TEXT, AND CHRONOLOGY, OF A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM.
'A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM' was first printed in 1600. In that year there appeared two editions of the play;-the one published by Thomas Fisher, a bookseller; the other by James Roberts, a printer. The differences between these two editions are very slight. Steevens, in his collection of twenty plays, has reprinted that by Roberts, giving the variations of the edition by Fisher. It is difficult to say whether both of these were printed with the consent of the author, or whether one was genuine and the other pirated. If the entries at Stationers' Hall may be taken as evidence of a proprietary right, the edition by Fisher is the genuine one," A booke called A
* The reprint by Steevens is remarkably correct, as a fac-simile,—even to the copying of typographical errors, such as roundeli for roundell. By collation with the original quarto in the British Museum-in A, p. 4, last line, we find are instead of arme; with one or two similar misprints. Such errors might have existed in Steevens's individual copy; for it was the evident practice to keep the types standing, and print new copies according to the demand.
Mydsomer Nyghte Dreame" having been entered by him Oct. 8, 1600. One thing is perfectly clear to us-that the original of these editions, whichever it might be, was printed from a genuine copy, and carefully superintended through the press. The text appears to us as perfect as it is possible to be, considering the state of typography in that day. There is one remarkable evidence of this. The prologue to the interlude of the Clowns, in the fifth act, is purposely made inaccurate in its punctuation throughout. The speaker "does not stand upon points." It was impossible to have effected the object better than by the punctuation of Roberts's edition; and this is precisely one of those matters of nicety in which a printer would have failed, unless he had followed an extremely clear copy, or his proofs had been corrected by an author or an editor. The play was not reprinted after 1600, till it was collected into the folio of 1623; and the text in that edition differs in few instances, and those very slight ones, from that of the preceding quartos.
Malone has assigned the composition of 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' to the year 1594. We are not disposed to object to this,indeed we are inclined to believe that he has pretty exactly indicated the precise year, as far as it can be proved by one or two allusions which the play contains. But we entirely object to the reasons upon which Malone attempts to show that it was one of our author's earliest attempts in comedy." He derives the proof of this from the poetry of this piece, glowing with all the warmth of a youthful and lively imagination, the many scenes which it contains of almost continual rhyme, the poverty of the fable, and want of discrimination among the higher personages." Malone would place A Midsummer-Night's Dream' in the same rank as "The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' 'Love's Labour 's Lost,' and 'The Comedy of Errors;' and he supposes all of them written within a year or two of each other. We have no objection to believe that our poet wrote 'A MidsummerNight's Dream' when he was thirty years of age, that is in 1594. But it so far exceeds the three other comedies in all the higher attributes of poetry, that we cannot avoid repeating here the opinion which we have before expressed, that he had written these for the stage before his twenty-fifth year, when he was a considerable shareholder in the Blackfriars company, some of them, perhaps, as early as 1585, at which period the vulgar tradition assigns to Shaksperea husband, a father, and a man conscious of the possession of the very highest order of talent-the dignified office of holding horses at the theatre door. The year 1594 is, as nearly as possible, the period where we would place A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' with refer