Imatges de pÓgina
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be regarded as proving that the play was not written till after the Summer of 1594. I refer to Titania's description, in ii. 1, of the strange misbehaviour of the weather, which she ascribes to the fairy bickerings. For the other part of the coincidence, Strype in his Annals gives the following from a discourse by the Rev. Dr. King: "And see whether the Lord doth not threaten us much more, by sending such unseasonable weather and storms of rain among us; which if we will observe, and compare it with what is past, we may say that the course of Nature is very much inverted. Our years are turned upside down: our Summers are no Summers; our harvests are no harvests; our seed-times are no seed-times. For a great space of time scant any day hath been seen that it hath not rained." Dyce, indeed, scouts the supposal that Shakespeare had any allusion to this eccentric conduct of the elements in the Summer of 1594, pronouncing it "ridiculous"; but I do not quite see it so, albeit I am apt enough to believe that most of the play was written before that date.

The Poet has been commonly supposed to have taken the ground-work of this play from The Knight's Tale of Chaucer. But the play has hardly any notes of connection with the Tale except the mere names of Theseus, Hippolyta, and Philostrate, the latter of which is the name assumed by Arcite in the Tale. The Life of Theseus, in North's translation of Plutarch doubtless furnished something towards the parts of the hero and his "bouncing Amazon"; while Golding's translation of Ovid's story of Pyramus and Thisbe probably supplied hints towards the interlude. So much as relates to Bottom and his fellows evidently came fresh from Nature as she had passed under the Poet's eye. The linking of these clowns with the ancient tragic tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, so as to draw the latter within the region of modern farce, is not less original than droll. The names of Oberon, Titania, and Robin Goodfellow were made familiar by the surviving relics of Gothic and Druidical mythology. But it was for Shakespeare to let the fairies speak for themselves. So that there need be no scruple about receiving Hallam's statement of the matter: "A Midsummer-Night's Dream is, I believe, altogether original in one of the most beautiful conceptions that ever visited the mind of a poet, - the fairy machinery. A

few before him had dealt in a vulgar and clumsy manner with popular superstitions; but the sportive, beneficent, invisible population of the air and earth, long since established in the creed of childhood, and of those simple as children, had never for a moment been blended with 'human mortals' among the personages of the drama."

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Other Fairies attending their King and Queen. Attendants on Theseus

and Hippolyta.

SCENE.- Athens, and a Wood near it.

ACT I.

SCENE I.- Athens. A Room in the Palace of THESEUS. Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, and Attendants.

The. 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,

Like to a step-dame, or a dowager,1
Long withering out a young man's révenue.

Hip. Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the Moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.

The.

Go, Philostrate,
Stir up th' Athenian youth to merriments;
Awake the pert 2 and nimble spirit of mirth :

Turn melancholy forth to funerals,—

The pale companion is not for our pomp.-[Exit PHILOSTRATE. Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,

And won thy love, doing thee injuries;

But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph,3 and with revelling.

Enter EGEUS, HERMIA, LYSANDER, and DEMETRIUS.

Ege. Happy be Theseus, our renowned Duke !4 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.

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1 A dowager is a widow with rights of dower, that is, with a portion of her husband's property secured to her by law. Of course, so long as she lives, a part of the inheritance is withheld from the children, whose revenue is said to be withered out, because their youth gets withered while they are waiting for it.

2 Pert had not always the ill meaning now attached to it. Skinner derives it from the Latin peritus, which means expert, skilful, prompt.

3 Triumph was used in a much more inclusive sense than it now bears; for various kinds of festive or public display or pageantry.

4 The application of duke to the heroes of antiquity was quite common; the word being from the Latin dux, which means a chief or leader of any sort. Thus in 1 Chronicles, i. 51, we have a list of "the dukes of Edom."

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