List iconA Midsummer Night’s Dream:
Act 1, scene 1
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Act 1, scene 1


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Scene 1
Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, and Philostrate, with others.

 Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
 Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
 Another moon. But, O, methinks how slow
 This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires
5 Like to a stepdame or a dowager
 Long withering out a young man’s revenue.
 Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
 Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
 And then the moon, like to a silver bow
10   New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
 Of our solemnities.
THESEUS  Go, Philostrate,
 Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments.
 Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth.
15 Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
 The pale companion is not for our pomp.
Philostrate exits.
 Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword
 And won thy love doing thee injuries,
 But I will wed thee in another key,
20 With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
ACT 1. SC. 1

Enter Egeus and his daughter Hermia, and Lysander
and Demetrius.

 Happy be Theseus, our renownèd duke!
 Thanks, good Egeus. What’s the news with thee?
 Full of vexation come I, with complaint
 Against my child, my daughter Hermia.—
25 Stand forth, Demetrius.—My noble lord,
 This man hath my consent to marry her.—
 Stand forth, Lysander.—And, my gracious duke,
 This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child.—
 Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes
30 And interchanged love tokens with my child.
 Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung
 With feigning voice verses of feigning love
 And stol’n the impression of her fantasy
 With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gauds, conceits,
35 Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats—messengers
 Of strong prevailment in unhardened youth.
 With cunning hast thou filched my daughter’s heart,
 Turned her obedience (which is due to me)
 To stubborn harshness.—And, my gracious duke,
40 Be it so she will not here before your Grace
 Consent to marry with Demetrius,
 I beg the ancient privilege of Athens:
 As she is mine, I may dispose of her,
 Which shall be either to this gentleman
45 Or to her death, according to our law
 Immediately provided in that case.
 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

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
ACT 1. SC. 1

50 To whom you are but as a form in wax
 By him imprinted, and within his power
 To leave the figure or disfigure it.
 Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
 So is Lysander.
THESEUS 55 In himself he is,
 But in this kind, wanting your father’s voice,
 The other must be held the worthier.
 I would my father looked but with my eyes.
 Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.
60 I do entreat your Grace to pardon me.
 I know not by what power I am made bold,
 Nor how it may concern my modesty
 In such a presence here to plead my thoughts;
 But I beseech your Grace that I may know
65 The worst that may befall me in this case
 If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
 Either to die the death or to abjure
 Forever the society of men.
 Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires,
70 Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
 Whether (if you yield not to your father’s choice)
 You can endure the livery of a nun,
 For aye to be in shady cloister mewed,
 To live a barren sister all your life,
75 Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
 Thrice-blessèd they that master so their blood
 To undergo such maiden pilgrimage,
 But earthlier happy is the rose distilled
 Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
80 Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.

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ACT 1. SC. 1

 So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
 Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
 Unto his Lordship whose unwishèd yoke
 My soul consents not to give sovereignty.
85 Take time to pause, and by the next new moon
 (The sealing day betwixt my love and me
 For everlasting bond of fellowship),
 Upon that day either prepare to die
 For disobedience to your father’s will,
90 Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would,
 Or on Diana’s altar to protest
 For aye austerity and single life.
 Relent, sweet Hermia, and, Lysander, yield
 Thy crazèd title to my certain right.
95 You have her father’s love, Demetrius.
 Let me have Hermia’s. Do you marry him.
 Scornful Lysander, true, he hath my love;
 And what is mine my love shall render him.
 And she is mine, and all my right of her
100 I do estate unto Demetrius.
LYSANDER, to Theseus 
 I am, my lord, as well derived as he,
 As well possessed. My love is more than his;
 My fortunes every way as fairly ranked
 (If not with vantage) as Demetrius’;
105 And (which is more than all these boasts can be)
 I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.
 Why should not I then prosecute my right?
 Demetrius, I’ll avouch it to his head,
 Made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena,
110 And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
 Upon this spotted and inconstant man.
 I must confess that I have heard so much,
 And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;
115 But, being overfull of self-affairs,
 My mind did lose it.—But, Demetrius, come,
 And come, Egeus; you shall go with me.
 I have some private schooling for you both.—
 For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
120 To fit your fancies to your father’s will,
 Or else the law of Athens yields you up
 (Which by no means we may extenuate)
 To death or to a vow of single life.—
 Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love?—
125 Demetrius and Egeus, go along.
 I must employ you in some business
 Against our nuptial and confer with you
 Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.
 With duty and desire we follow you.
All but Hermia and Lysander exit.
130 How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale?
 How chance the roses there do fade so fast?
 Belike for want of rain, which I could well
 Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.
 Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,
135 Could ever hear by tale or history,
 The course of true love never did run smooth.
  But either it was different in blood—
 O cross! Too high to be enthralled to low.
 Or else misgraffèd in respect of years—

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ACT 1. SC. 1

140 O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.
 Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—
 O hell, to choose love by another’s eyes!
 Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
 War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
145 Making it momentany as a sound,
 Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
 Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
 That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and Earth,
 And, ere a man hath power to say “Behold!”
150 The jaws of darkness do devour it up.
 So quick bright things come to confusion.
 If then true lovers have been ever crossed,
 It stands as an edict in destiny.
 Then let us teach our trial patience
155 Because it is a customary cross,
 As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs,
 Wishes and tears, poor fancy’s followers.
 A good persuasion. Therefore, hear me, Hermia:
 I have a widow aunt, a dowager
160 Of great revenue, and she hath no child.
 From Athens is her house remote seven leagues,
 And she respects me as her only son.
 There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee;
 And to that place the sharp Athenian law
165 Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me, then
 Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night,
 And in the wood a league without the town
 (Where I did meet thee once with Helena
 To do observance to a morn of May),
170 There will I stay for thee.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
ACT 1. SC. 1

HERMIA  My good Lysander,
 I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow,
 By his best arrow with the golden head,
 By the simplicity of Venus’ doves,
175 By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,
 And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen
 When the false Trojan under sail was seen,
 By all the vows that ever men have broke
 (In number more than ever women spoke),
180 In that same place thou hast appointed me,
 Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.
 Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.

Enter Helena.

 Godspeed, fair Helena. Whither away?
 Call you me “fair”? That “fair” again unsay.
185 Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair!
 Your eyes are lodestars and your tongue’s sweet air
 More tunable than lark to shepherd’s ear
 When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
 Sickness is catching. O, were favor so!
190 Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go.
 My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye;
 My tongue should catch your tongue’s sweet
 Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated,
195 The rest I’d give to be to you translated.
 O, teach me how you look and with what art
 You sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart!
 I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.
 O, that your frowns would teach my smiles such
200 skill!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
ACT 1. SC. 1

 I give him curses, yet he gives me love.
 O, that my prayers could such affection move!
 The more I hate, the more he follows me.
 The more I love, the more he hateth me.
205 His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.
 None but your beauty. Would that fault were mine!
 Take comfort: he no more shall see my face.
 Lysander and myself will fly this place.
 Before the time I did Lysander see
210 Seemed Athens as a paradise to me.
 O, then, what graces in my love do dwell
 That he hath turned a heaven unto a hell!
 Helen, to you our minds we will unfold.
 Tomorrow night when Phoebe doth behold
215 Her silver visage in the wat’ry glass,
 Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass
 (A time that lovers’ flights doth still conceal),
 Through Athens’ gates have we devised to steal.
 And in the wood where often you and I
220 Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie,
 Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,
 There my Lysander and myself shall meet
 And thence from Athens turn away our eyes
 To seek new friends and stranger companies.
225 Farewell, sweet playfellow. Pray thou for us,
 And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius.—

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Keep word, Lysander. We must starve our sight
 From lovers’ food till morrow deep midnight.
 I will, my Hermia.Hermia exits.
230 Helena, adieu.
 As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!
Lysander exits.
 How happy some o’er other some can be!
 Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
 But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so.
235 He will not know what all but he do know.
 And, as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes,
 So I, admiring of his qualities.
 Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
 Love can transpose to form and dignity.
240 Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind;
 And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
 Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgment taste.
 Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.
 And therefore is Love said to be a child
245 Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
 As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
 So the boy Love is perjured everywhere.
 For, ere Demetrius looked on Hermia’s eyne,
 He hailed down oaths that he was only mine;
250 And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
 So he dissolved, and show’rs of oaths did melt.
 I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight.
 Then to the wood will he tomorrow night
 Pursue her. And, for this intelligence
255 If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.
 But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
 To have his sight thither and back again.
She exits.