Act V

Scene I. Athens. The palace of Theseus.


Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Philostrate, Lords and Attendants


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


Theseus More strange than true: I never may believe

These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

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,

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:

The poet’s eye, in 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

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;

Or in the night, imagining some fear,

How easy is a bush supposed a bear!


Hippolyta But all the story of the night told over,

And all their minds transfigured so together,

More witnesseth than fancy’s images

And grows to something of great constancy;

But, howsoever, strange and admirable.


Theseus Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.


Enter Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, and Helena

Joy, gentle friends! joy and fresh days of love

Accompany your hearts!


Lysander More than to us

Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed!


Theseus Come now; what masques, what dances shall we have,

To wear away this long age of three hours

Between our after-supper and bed-time?

Where is our usual manager of mirth?

What revels are in hand? Is there no play,

To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?

Call Philostrate.


Philostrate   Here, mighty Theseus.


Theseus Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?

What masque? what music? How shall we beguile

The lazy time, if not with some delight?


Philostrate There is a brief how many sports are ripe:

Make choice of which your highness will see first.


Giving a paper


Theseus[Reads] ‘The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung

By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.’

We’ll none of that: that have I told my love,

In glory of my kinsman Hercules.




‘The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,

Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.’

That is an old device; and it was play’d

When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.




‘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.




‘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?


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:

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.


Theseus What are they that do play it?


Philostrate Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,

Which never labour’d in their minds till now,

And now have toil’d their unbreathed memories

With this same play, against your nuptial.


Theseus And we will hear it.


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 stretch’d and conn’d with cruel pain,

To do you service.


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.


Exit Philostrate


Hippolyta I love not to see wretchedness o’er charged

And duty in his service perishing.


Theseus Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.


Hippolyta He says they can do nothing in this kind.


Theseus The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.

Our sport shall be to take what they mistake:

And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect

Takes it in might, not merit.

Where I have come, great clerks have purposed

To greet me with premeditated welcomes;

Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,

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 pick’d a welcome;

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.


Re-enter Philostrate


Philostrate So please your grace, the Prologue is address’d.


Theseus Let him approach.


Flourish of trumpets


Enter Quince for the Prologue


Prologue 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.

Consider then we come but in despite.

We do not come as minding to contest 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

You shall know all that you are like to know.


Theseus This fellow doth not stand upon points.


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.


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


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


Enter Pyramus and Thisbe, Wall, Moonshine, and Lion


Prologue Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;

But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.

This man is Pyramus, if you would know;

This beauteous lady Thisby is certain.

This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present

Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder;

And through Wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content

To whisper. At the which let no man wonder.

This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,

Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,

By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn

To meet at Ninus’ tomb, there, there to woo.

This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,

The trusty Thisby, coming first by night,

Did scare away, or rather did affright;

And, as she fled, her mantle she did fall,

Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.

Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,

And finds his trusty Thisby’s mantle slain:

Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,

He bravely broach’d his boiling bloody breast;

And Thisby, 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.


Exeunt Prologue, Thisbe, Lion, and Moonshine


Theseus I wonder if the lion be to speak.


Demetrius No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many asses do.


Wall In this same interlude it doth befall

That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;

And such a wall, as I would have you think,

That had in it a crannied hole or chink,

Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,

Did whisper often very secretly.

This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show

That I am that same wall; the truth is so:

And this the cranny is, right and sinister,

Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.


Theseus Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?


Demetrius It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.


Enter Pyramus


Theseus Pyramus draws near the wall: silence!


Pyramus O grim-look’d night! O night with hue so black!

O night, which ever art when day is not!

O night, O night! alack, alack, alack,

I fear my Thisby’s promise is forgot!

And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,

That stand’st between her father’s ground and mine!

Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,

Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine eyne!


Wall holds up his fingers


Thanks, courteous wall: Jove shield thee well for this!

But what see I? No Thisby do I see.

O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss!

Cursed be thy stones for thus deceiving me!


Theseus The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again.


Pyramus No, in truth, sir, he should not. ‘Deceiving me’ is Thisby’s cue: she is to enter now, and I am to spy her through the wall. You shall see, it will fall pat as I told you. Yonder she comes.


Enter Thisbe


Thisbe O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans,

For parting my fair Pyramus and me!

My cherry lips have often kiss’d thy stones,

Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.


Pyramus I see a voice: now will I to the chink,

To spy an I can hear my Thisby’s face. Thisby!


Thisbe My love thou art, my love I think.


Pyramus Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover’s grace;

And, like Limander, am I trusty still.


Thisbe And I like Helen, till the Fates me kill.


Pyramus Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.


Thisbe As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.


Pyramus O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall!


Thisbe I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.


Pyramus Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straightway?


Thisbe ’Tide life, ’tide death, I come without delay.


Exeunt Pyramus and Thisbe


Wall Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;

And, being done, thus Wall away doth go.




Theseus Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.


Demetrius No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to hear without warning.


Hippolyta This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.


Theseus The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.


Hippolyta It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.


Theseus If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here come two noble beasts in, a man and a lion.


Enter Lion and Moonshine


Lion You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear

The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,

May now perchance both quake and tremble here,

When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.

Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am

A lion-fell, nor else no lion’s dam;

For, if I should as lion come in strife


Into this place, ’twere pity on my life.

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