A Midsummer Night's Dream Act IV, Scene 2
by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scene 2 Summary

In act 4, scene 2, the craftsmen (sans Bottom) gather before proceeding together to the wedding feast, where they will perform their play. They are upset that their star player, Bottom, is missing, and no one has been able to find him. They discuss whether there is any chance of performing the play without him, but they quickly recognize that no one in all of Athens could be found who could perform the role of Pyramus as well as Bottom. His wit, his appearance, and his voice, they claim, are unparalleled among craftsmen. This has a delightful sense of dramatic irony because the audience knows how foolish Bottom is and how he only recently shed his ass's head.

Shakespeare offers some wordplay when Quince says, "He is a very paramour for a sweet voice." Flute corrects him, pointing out that he means "paragon" rather than "paramour." Ruefully, he comments that he—or perhaps all of the craftsmen— has no paramour (a secret lover).

Snug reports that a triple wedding has occurred. He reasons that their reward for putting on a good play could therefore have been tripled: they would have "all been made men." The phrase means that their fortunes would have been made, but the pun implies that they are not real men now. Furthermore, the audience knows that Bottom has only recently been made a man again after spending the night as half donkey.

Flute breaks out with a lamentation for Bottom, mourning the loss of the reward he might have earned by performing well in front of three noble couples. He predicts that Bottom would have been given a pension of sixpence a day for life. He even takes an oath on the theoretical income, saying, "I'll be hanged" if he hadn't been so rewarded. This echoes the players' earlier discussions of how they might all be hanged if their frightful lion roars scared the women watching their play.

At that, Bottom himself bursts into the room. He says he has a wondrous story to tell, which he will never tell them. Breathlessly, he reverses everything he says in his next line, stating that he will tell them everything. More pressing, however, is that the duke has finished eating and that their play has been chosen to be performed. He issues quick instructions for his fellow actors, the most important of which is that none of them should eat any garlic or onions, since they don't want to offend their audience with bad breath. He hurries the craftsmen away with a brusque, "Away! Go, away!"