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Text, - The Stationers' Registers for 1600 contain an entry under the date October 8 of a license to Thomas Fisher for “A booke called A mydsommer nightes Dreame," and this obviously refers to what is now known as the first quarto (Q.), the title of which runs : A Midsommer nights dreame. As it hath beene sundry times publickely acted, by the Right honourable, the Lord Chamberlaine his servants. Written by William Shakespeare. Imprinted at London, for Thomas Fisher, and are to be soulde at his shoppe, at the Signe of the White Hart, in Fleetestreete. 1600.” The Neilson text used in the present issue of the play is based upon Q1. There is another quarto (Q2) with the title: “A Midsommer nights dreame. As it hath beene sundry times publikely acted, by the Right Honourable, the Lord Chamberlaine his servants. Written by William Shakespeare. Printed by James Roberts, 1600"; but recent investigation by Messrs. Pollard, Greg, and Neidig indicates that this was a piratical edition, really published, not in 1600, but in 1619. It follows Q1 page by page, and differs from it chiefly in the correction of minor errors and the addition of some stage directions. Further stage directions and the division into acts were added in the first folio edition of Shakespeare's plays (1623), the folio text of A MidsummerNight's Dream being apparently set up from a stage copy of Qz; as Q2 had been set up from a copy of Qi.

Date of Composition. — The one bit of certain and important evidence under this head is that A MidsummerNight's Dream is mentioned by Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia, which was published in 1598. Most editors agree that the play was written about 1594–1595. This conclusion is supported by various considerations as to the workmanship of the play its versification, the skill displayed in the character drawing, the richness of the humor, and the supreme lyrical note, which suggests that A Midsummer-Night's Dream was composed about the same time as Romeo and Juliet, where we find (in Mercutio's Queen Mab speech) Shakespeare's mind again at play with fairy lore. This date also agrees with somewhat doubtful allusions which have been discerned in the play itself. Of these the most trustworthy appears to be Titania's description of the unseasonable weather resulting from her quarrel with Oberon (II. i. 88–117), which would have additional point if the audience had in mind the summer of 1594; several contemporary authorities make mention of this as an unusually wet season. The lines,

The thrice three Muses mourning for the death

Of Learning, late deceas'd in beggary (V. i. 52-53), describe very accurately one of Spenser's minor poems, The Teares of the Muses, which was published in 1591; but poems of this kind were not uncommon. A parallel for the lion scenes (III. i. and V. i.) has been found in the substitution of a Moor for a lion that should have drawn a triumphal car at the baptism of Prince Henry of Scotland on August 30, 1594, “ because his presence might have

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brought some fear to the nearest "; but this is probably nothing more than a coincidence. The attempt to connect A Midsummer-Night's Dream with some courtly marriage, at best a conjecture, affords no clue as to the date.

Sources.

The relation of Theseus to Hippolyta, and the names of Egeus and Philostrate Shakespeare found (or might have found) in The Knightes Tale of Chaucer; Lysander and Demetrius are names in North's Plutarch, a volume which Shakespeare used for his Roman plays, and from which he took also some minor allusions in A Midsummer-Night's Dream. Titania (Titan-born) is an epithet applied by Ovid in Metamorphoses III, 173, to Diana, with whom the Elizabethans sometimes identified the queen of the fairies; if Shakespeare took the name from this passage in Ovid, he took it from the original, and not from Arthur Golding's translation of the Metamorphoses, to which he may have been indebted for the popular story of Pyramus and Thisbe. In all these cases, the debt is slight, for there is no play in which Shakespeare worked with greater originality, or made his material more completely his own. Bottom and his companions must have been drawn from life, and though Shakespeare no doubt heard and read a great deal of fairy lore, he created more than he borrowed. The English-speaking world of to-day has taken its conception of the fairy kingdom from Shakespeare to an even greater extent than our forefathers took their demonology from Milton. How much Shakespeare owed to his grandam for many a woman's story at a winter's fire" about fairy pranks can never be determined, and it may be that the main sources of A Midsummer

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Night's Dream were gathered from his playfellows in the woods and fields about Stratford; but the fairies exist for us as his imagination made them. Fairy Lore before Shakespeare. — Fairy literature is a

ovince by itself, and those who are curious about such matters in relation to this play will find them excellently set forth by Mr. Frank Sidgwick in The Sources and Analogues of A Midsummer-Night's Dream.Fairies play a large part in Celtic literature, and modern anthropologists are inclined to find a natural explanation for their · origin in an imaginative view of the doings of the smaller race which inhabited the British Isles before the Celts subjugated them or drove them to the wilds. But we may be content to go no further back than Chaucer, whose Wife of Bath, not without a touch of irony, speaks of the fairies as driven out by the friars, of whom, of course, women need have no fear:

In th' olde dages of the king Arthour,
Of which that Britons speken greet honour,
Al was this land fulfild of fayerye.
The elf-queen, with hir joly companye,
Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede;
This was the olde opinion, as I rede.
I speke of manye hundred yeres ago;

But now can no man see none elves mo. The English country people were, however, not all as sceptical as the Wife of Bath, and the belief in fairies lasted till long after Shakespeare's time in the more remote parts of the kingdom. Spenser turned it to literary uses in The Faerye Queene, the first three books of which were published in 1590, and there are abundant references to fairies in other poets and prose writers contemporary with Shakespeare. The best storehouse of information as to popular superstitions about fairies is Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, published 1584, which gives, among much other curious lore, a charm to invest people with horses' or asses' heads. Scot was himself sceptical enough as to the superstitions he was trying to do away with, and he is careful to ascribe to a bygone age the belief in the pranks of Robin Goodfellow, of which he gives a description agreeing in the main with the Fairy's account of Puck's doings in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, II. i. 32-41. “Robin Goodfellow . . . would supply the office of servants — specially of maids: as to make a fire in the morning, sweep the house, grind mustard and malt, draw water, etc.” But, again, Shakespeare's conception of the character of Puck is not Reginald Scot's; it is his own, though obviously founded upon the folk lore of his time.

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Relations to Contemporary Drama. Shakespeare was not the first to bring fairies on the English stage. There are earlier references to a play called The King of the Fairies, and Henslowe mentions one in his diary as acted in December-January, 1593–1594, the title of which was Huon of Bordeaux a hero of romance identical with Oberon. “ Oberon, King of Fayries," is one of the characters in Greene's Scottish History of James IV, entered in the Stationers' Registers on May 14, 1594, and probably written two or three years before the author's death in 1592. Oberon is a subordinate character, extraneous to the action of Greene's play, which he introduces and en

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