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ever saw, and has no great wit. He calls The Taming of the Shrew a ‘silly play,’ while Othello, which he had once thought “mighty good, seemed to him but a mean thing after reading ‘The Adventures of Five Houres.” No doubt he reflected the taste of his time, and it is not much to be wondered at that he did not care for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There...is in truth no plot in the play at all and ... very little dramatic movement. indeed it is rather a masque than a play, or at any rate a play of situation rather than of plot or character. And as with a masque was combined the antimasque as a kind of comic counterpart or farce, so in the present play the fairies and the clowns supply the place of the antimasque of which they form the sub-divisions or semi-choruses. The title of the play has often been the subject of dispute. Aubrey has a story, which is as worthless as most of his worthless gossip is, to the effect that “ The humour of the constable in A Midsommer-Night-Dreame he happened to take at Crendon [or Grendon] in Bucks (I think it was Midsomer-night that he happened to be there); which is the road from London to Stratford; and there was living
that constable about 1642, when I first came to Oxon.' (Shake
speare, ed. I 821, ii. 491.) In the play itself the time is about May day, but Shakespeare from haste or inadvertence has fallen into some confusion in regard to it. Theseus' opening words point to April 27, four days before the new moon which was to behold the night of his marriage with Hippolyta. He orders Hermia “By the next new moon, The sealing day between my love and me,’
to make up her mind either to wed Demetrius or be condemned to death or perpetual virginity. The next night, which would be April 28, Lysander appoints for Hermia to escape with him from Athens. ‘Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night.” The night of the second day is occupied with the adventures in the wood, and in the morning the
lovers are discovered by Theseus and his huntsmen, and it is Supposed that they have risen early to observe the rite of May. So that the morning of the third day is the 1st of May, and the last two days of April are lost altogether. Titania's reference to the ‘middle-summer's spring” must therefore be to the summer of the preceding year. It is a curious fact, on which however I would not lay too much stress, that in 1592 there was a new moon on the 1st of May; SO that if A Midsummer Night's Dream was written so as to be acted on a May day when the actual age of the moon corresponded with its age in the play, it must have been written for May day 1592. Midsummer Eve appears to have been regarded as a period when the imagination ran riot, and many of the old superstitions which characterised it are recorded in Brand’s Popular Antiquities. For instance, ‘Grose tells us that any person fasting on Midsummer Eve, and sitting in the church porch, will at midnight see the spirits of the persons of that parish who will die that year, come and knock at the church door, in the order and succession in which they will die (i. p. 33.1). ‘Maidens practised divination on this night to find out their future husbands, and Levinus Lemnius . . . tells us that the Low Dutch have a proverb, that when men have passed a troublesome night's rest, and could not sleep at all, they say, we have passed St. John Baptist’s Night; that is, we have not taken any sleep, but watched all night; and not only so, but we have been in great troubles, noyses, clamours, and stirs, that have held us waking’ (i. p. 305). We know that Malvolio's strange conduct is described by Olivia (Twelfth Night, iii. 4. 61) as very Midsummer madness, and A Midsummer Night's Dream therefore is no inappropriate title for the series of wild incongruities of which the play consists.
W. A. W. CAMBRIDGE, 20 October, 1877.
A MIDSU M M ER– NIGHT’S
E) RAMATIS PERSONAE.
THESEUS, Duke of Athens. HERMIA, daughter to Egeus, in love with EGEUS, father to Hermia. Lysander. s Boos g in love with Hermia. HELENA, in love with Demetrius PHILOSTRATE, master of the revels to The- OBERON, king of the fairies.
SellS. TITANIA, queen of the fairies. QUINCE, a carpenter, PUCK, or Robin Goodfellow. SNUG, a joiner. PEASEBLOSSOM, BOTTOM, a weaver. COBWEB, fairies FLUTE, a bellows-mender. MOTH, j * SNOUT, a tinker. MUSTARDSEED, g
STARV y - s e e - - - -
HIPPOLYTA, queen of the Amazons, be- Attendants on Theseus and Hippolyta.
A CT I.
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, and Attendants.
The. Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Hip. Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
The . Go, Philostrate,
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth:
Enter EGEUS, HERMIA, LySANDER, and DEMETRIUS.
Ege. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke 2 O 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: Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes And interchanged love-tokens with my child: Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung 3o With feigniag voice verses of feigning love, And stolen the impression of jo. With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds, conceits, Knacks, trifles, nosegays, Sweetmeats, messengers Jf 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, 40 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 advised, fair maid : To you your father should be as a god; One that composed your beauties, yea, and one