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Enter EGEUS, HERMIA, LYSANDER, and DEMETRIUS.
Ege. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!1 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 hath bewitched the bosom of my child.
Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes,
And interchanged love tokens with my child;
Thou hast by moon-light at her window sung,
With feigning voice, verses of feigning love;
And stolen the impression of her fantasy
With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds 3, conceits,
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,
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,
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
To whom you are but as a form in wax,
By him imprinted, and within his power
1 Duke, in our old language, was used for a leader or chief, as the Latin dux.
2 The old copies read, "This man hath bewitched."
3 Baubles, toys, trifles.
To leave the figure, or disfigure it.
Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
Her. So is Lysander.
In himself he is. But, in this kind, wanting your father's voice, The other must be held the worthier.
Her. I would my father looked but with my eyes. The. Rather your eyes must with his judgment look. Her. 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
The worst that may befall me in this case,
If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
The. Either to die the death, or to abjure
Forever the society of men.
Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires,
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,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold, fruitless moon.
Thrice blessed 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,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.
Her. So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
My soul consents not to give sovereignty.
The. Take time to pause; and, by the next new
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;
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;
Or on Diana's altar to protest,
For aye, austerity and single life.
Dem. Relent, sweet Hermia;-and, Lysander, yield Thy crazed title to my certain right.
Lys. You have her father's love, Demetrius;
Let me have Hermia's. Do you marry him.
Ege. 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
I do estate unto Demetrius.
Lys. 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';
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,
And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
Upon this spotted and inconstant man.
The. I must confess, that I have heard so much, And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof; But, being over-full 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
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)
Tc death, or to a vow of single life.-
Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love?-
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.
As spotless is innocent, so spotted is wicked.
Ege. With duty and desire we follow you.
[Exeunt THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, EGEUS, DEMETRIUS, and Train. Lys. How now, my love! Why is your cheek so pale?
How chance the roses there do fade so fast?
Her. Belike, for want of rain; which I could well Beteem them from the tempest of mine eyes.
Lys. Ah me! For aught that ever I could read, Could ever hear by tale or history, The course of true love never did run smooth! But either it was different in blood,
Her. O cross! too high to be enthralled to low!
Lys. Or else misgraffed, in respect of years.
Her. O spite! too old to be engaged to young!
Lys. Or else it stood upon the choice of friends.
Her. O hell! to choose love by another's eye!
Lys. Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it;
Making it momentany as a sound,
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
Brief as the lightning in the collied3 night,
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,
And ere a man hath power to say,-Behold!
The jaws of darkness do devour it up.
So quick bright things come to confusion.
Her. If then true lovers have been ever crossed, It stands as an edíct in destiny.
Then let us teach our trial patience,
Because it is a customary cross;
As due to love, as thoughts, and dreams, and sighs,
Wishes, and tears, poor fancy's followers.
Lys. A good persuasion; therefore, hear me, Her
I have a widow aunt, a dowager
Of great revénue, and she hath no child.
From Athens is her house remote seven leagues;
1 Bestow, or, according to Steevens, pour out.
3 Blackened, as with smut, coal.
And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee;
And to that place the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us. If thou lov'st me then,
Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow 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,
There will I stay for thee.
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;
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 woman ever spoke ;-
In that same place thou hast appointed me,
To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.
Lys. Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.
Her. God speed fair Helena! Whither away? Hel. Call you me fair? That fair again unsay. Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair! Your eyes are lode-stars; and your tongue's sweet air More tunable than lark to shepherd's car,
When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
Sickness is catching; O, were favor so,
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 melody.
1 Shakspeare forgot that Theseus performed his exploits before the Trojan war, and, consequently, long before the death of Dido.
2 Fair for fairness, beauty-very common in writers of Shakspeare's age.
3 The lode-star is the leading or guiding star, that is, the polar-star. The magnet is, for the same reason, called the lode-stone. 4 Countenance, feature.