Act 5 Scene 1, lines 1 to 106

  1. Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, with Philostrate and other lords and attendants.

  2. Hippolyta:

    ’Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of.

  3. Theseus:

    More strange than true. I never may believe
    These antic fables, nor these fairy toys.
    Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
    Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend            [5]
    More than cool reason ever comprehends.
    The lunatic, the lover and the poet
    Are of imagination all compact.
    One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
    That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,     [10]
    Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.
    The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
    Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.
    And as imagination bodies forth
    The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen             [15]
    Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
    A local habitation and a name.
    Such tricks hath strong imagination,
    That if it would but apprehend some joy,
    It comprehends some bringer of that joy.                    [20]
    Or in the night, imagining some fear,
    How easy is a bush supposed a bear?

  4. Hippolyta:

    But all the story of the night told over,
    And all their minds transfigured so together,
    More witnesseth than fancy’s images              [25]
    And grows to something of great constancy.
    But howsoever, strange and admirable.

  5. Enter Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia and Helena.

  6. Theseus:

    Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth. —
    Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days of love
    Accompany your hearts.                              [30]

  7. Lysander:

                              More than to us
    Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed.

  8. Theseus:

    Come now, what masques, what dances shall we have,
    To wear away this long age of three hours
    Between our after-supper and bedtime?
    Where is our usual manager of mirth?                     [35]
    What revels are in hand? Is there no play
    To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
    Call Philostrate.

  9. Philostrate:

                      Here, mighty Theseus.

  10. Theseus:

    Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?
    What masque? What music? How shall we beguile    [40]
    The lazy time if not with some delight?

  11. [Handing Theseus a piece of paper.]

  12. Philostrate:

    There is a brief how many sports are ripe.
    Make choice of which your Highness will see first.

  13. Theseus:

    [Reading.] The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
    By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.                   [45]
    We’ll none of that. That have I told my love
    In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
    [Reading.] The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
    Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.
    That is an old device, and it was played          [50]
    When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
    [Reading.] The thrice three Muses, mourning for the death
    Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.
    That is some satire, keen and critical,
    Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.                [55]
    [Reading.] A tedious brief scene of young
    Pyramus And his love Thisbe. Very tragical mirth.
    Merry and tragical? Tedious and brief?
    That is, hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
    How shall we find the concord of this discord?      [60]

  14. Philostrate:

    A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
    Which is as brief as I have known a play,
    But by ten words, my lord, it is too long.
    Which makes it tedious, for in all the play
    There is not one word apt, one player fitted.   [65]
    And tragical, my noble lord, it is,
    For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
    Which when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,
    Made mine eyes water, but more merry tears
    The passion of loud laughter never shed.       [70]

  15. Theseus:

    What are they that do play it?

  16. Philostrate:

    Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
    Which never laboured in their minds till now,
    And now have toiled their unbreathed memories
    With this same play, against your nuptial.       [75]

  17. Theseus:

    And we will hear it.

  18. Philostrate:

                     No, my noble lord,
    It is not for you. I have heard it over,
    And it is nothing, nothing in the world,
    Unless you can find sport in their intents,
    Extremely stretched and conned with cruel pain,    [80]
    To do you service.

  19. Theseus:

                      I will hear that play.
    For never anything can be amiss,
    When simpleness and duty tender it.
    Go bring them in —and take your places, ladies.

  20. [Exit Philostrate.]

  21. Hippolyta:

    I love not to see wretchedness o’ercharged,   [85]
    And duty in his service perishing.

  22. Theseus:

    Why gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.

  23. Hippolyta:

    He says they can do nothing in this kind.

  24. Theseus:

    The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.
    Our sport shall be to take what they mistake,     [90]
    And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect
    Takes it in might, not merit.
    Where I have come, great clerks have purposèd
    To greet me with premeditated welcomes.
    Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,  [95]
    Make periods in the midst of sentences,
    Throttle their practised accent in their fears
    And, in conclusion, dumbly have broke off
    Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,
    Out of this silence yet I picked a welcome.         [100]
    And in the modesty of fearful duty
    I read as much as from the rattling tongue
    Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
    Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity
    In least, speak most to my capacity.               [105]

  25. [Enter Philostrate.]

  26. Philostrate:

    So please your grace, the Prologue is addressed.

  27. Theseus:

    Let him approach.  

  28. Trumpets sound offstage.
    Enter Quince as the Prologue.

  29. Prologue (Quince):

    If we offend, it is with our good will.
    That you should think, we come not to offend,
    But with good will. To show our simple skill,
    That is the true beginning of our end.                [110]
    Consider then, we come but in despite.
    We do not come, as minding to content you,
    Our true intent is. All for your delight,
    We are not here. That you should here repent you,
    The actors are at hand, and, by their show,        [115]
    You shall know all, that you are like to know.

  30. Theseus:

    This fellow doth not stand upon points.

  31. Lysander:

    He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt. He knows
    not the stop. A good moral, my lord. It is not enough
    to speak, but to speak true.                                   [120]

  32. Hippolyta:

    Indeed he hath played on his prologue like a child on a
    recorder, a sound, but not in government.

  33. Theseus:

    His speech was like a tangled chain, nothing impaired,
    but all disordered. Who is next?

  34. Enter a trumpeter, followed by Bottom as Pyramus,
    Flute as Thisbe, Snout as Wall, Starveling as Moonshine,
    and Snug as the Lion.

  35. Prologue (Quince):

    Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show,          [125]
    But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.
    This man is Pyramus, if you would know.
    This beauteous lady, Thisbe is certain.
    This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present
    Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder.     [130]
    And through Wall’s chink (poor souls) they are content
    To whisper. At the which, let no man wonder.
    This man, with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn,
    Presenteth Moonshine. For if you will know,
    By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn         [135]
    To meet at Ninus’’ tomb, there, there to woo.
    This grisly beast (which Lion hight by name)
    The trusty Thisbe, coming first by night,
    Did scare away, or rather did affright.
    And as she fled, her mantle she did fall;                [140]
    Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.
    Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,
    And finds his trusty Thisbe’s mantle slain;
    Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
    He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast,        [145]
    And Thisbe, tarrying in mulberry shade,
    His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest,
    Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain,
    At large discourse, while here they do remain.