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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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What does the quote, "enough: hold or cut bowstrings" mean from A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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"Enough: hold or cut bowstrings" is the last line in act 1, scene 2 of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1.2.101). To understand the meaning of the line, let's look at its context within the play.

The "rude mechanicals" (skilled craftsmen, but a little rough around the edges), Peter Quince the Carpenter, Snug the Joiner, Nick Bottom the Weaver, Francis Flute the Bellows-mender, Tom Snout the Tinker, and Robin Starveling the Tailor, are gathered at Peter Quince's house to discuss the play that they're going to present at the palace in four days in honor of the wedding of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.

Nick Bottom, presumably the resident literary critic, assures the men that the play, The Most Lamentable Comedy And Most Cruel Death Of Pyramus And Thisbe, is "A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a Merry" (1.2.13–14).

Then the "director," Peter Quince, assigns each "actor" a role in the play. That done, with some little bickering about casting and a discussion about what kind of beard Nick Bottom should have as Pyramus, they agree to rehearse "in the palace wood, a mile without the town" (1.2.92) in order to avoid being "dogg'd with company" (1.2.94) and other distractions and where they can "rehearse most obscenely and courageously" (1.2.97–98).

Peter Quince makes note of the agreement as to the location of rehearsal, "At the duke's oak we meet" (1.2.100), wrapping up the meeting, and Nick Bottom remarks off-handedly, "Enough: hold or cut bowstrings" (1.2.101).

Shakespeare scholars have explored the derivations of the line—from archery terms ("keep your promise or we'll cut your bowstrings"), music terms (likewise, relating to stringed instruments), and variations of the line which occur in slightly later 17th-century plays (in George Chapman's The Ball and Anthony Brewer's The Country Girl)—the meaning of the line is really nothing more complicated than being Nick Bottom's way of saying what anybody today would say at the end of a meeting: "We're done here," and as for the rehearsal in the woods, "Be there, or be square." Or, to put the meaning of the line in theatrical terms—which has been attributed (with variations) to many actors over the years, from Noel Coward to Spencer Tracy—"Know your lines and don't bump into the furniture."

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This quote is found in Shakespeare's play " A Midsummer Night's Dream", Act 2, scene2. It is a response from Bottom to Quince. Translated, Bottom is saying " I understand. Just be there, or don't show yourself again." 

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