A Midsummer Night's Dream Character and Theme Quotes

William Shakespeare

Essential Passage by Character: Nick Bottom

[Wakes] When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer.
My next is ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho! Peter
Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout, the tinker!
Starveling! God's my life, stolen hence, and left me
asleep! I have had a most rare vision. I have had a
dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.
Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream.
Methought I was—there is no man can tell what dream.
Methought I was, and methought I had, but man is but
a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had.
The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath
not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to
conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was. I
will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It
shall be call'd ‘Bottom's Dream,’ because it hath no bottom;
and I will sing it in the latter end of a play, before the Duke.
Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I
shall sing it at her death.

Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 204-221

Nick Bottom is part of a group of (very) amateur players who have decided to perform for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. They are rehearsing a play based on the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, two thwarted lovers. They have come to the forest to practice without interruption, but have indeed been interrupted by the fairies and other mischievous creatures of the woods.

The king of the fairies, Oberon, has played a trick on his wife, Titania, as revenge for her supposed infidelity. Using a magic flower, he has anointed her eyes so that she will fall in love with the first living creature she sees. As fate would have it, she first sees Nick Bottom, who has been given the head of an ass by Robin Goodfellow (or Puck). Despite the ridiculousness of the situation, Titania becomes passionate toward Bottom, adorning him with love and decoration.

Seeing nothing odd in this, Bottom goes along, enjoying every minute of it. Around him, the true action of the story—the mix-up of the loves of Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena—continues until Puck corrects all so that the right partners come together.

Bottom, on waking up, cannot decide if what has happened is a dream or has actually occurred. Thinking that he has merely falling asleep while he was waiting for his cue, he rehearses his lines although the other players are nowhere near (having run off once they saw the ass’s head on their companion).

Bottom, in his puzzlement, says that “man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream.” There is no point in explaining it. He considers thinking it through and coming up with an explanation, but...

(The entire section is 1179 words.)

Essential Passage by Character: Helena

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;
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.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd 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,
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 look'd on Hermia's eyne,
He hail'd down oaths that he was only mine;
And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
So he dissolv'd, and showers 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
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.

Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 232-257

Hermia and Lysander are in love, but their marriage does not receive the approval of Hermia’s father, Egeus. Instead, he wants her to marry Demetrius, who would be happy to do so, but Hermia is against this proposal. Egeus appeals to Theseus as ruler: if Hermia will not follow her father’s commands and marry Demetrius, she will be either condemned to a life of perpetual celibacy as a nun, or she shall be put to death.

To complicate matters further, Hermia’s best friend Helena is in love with Demetrius. The two had at one time been together, but Demetrius’s affection faded and has been transferred to Helena. He is thus very much in favor of Egeus’s plan, though he is the only one who is.

To avoid a death sentence or a life of celibacy, Hermia plans to elope with Lysander that evening, going through the forest to Lysander’s aunt where they hope to gain refuge. Hermia tells Helena about the plan. Helena is, of course, unhappy that Demetrius has rejected her and says that she will keep her friend’s secret. Hermia and Lysander wish Helena the best of luck with Demetrius.

Left alone, Helena delivers the above soliloquy on love. She bemoans the fact that some people are happier than...

(The entire section is 1067 words.)

Essential Passage by Theme: Love

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,
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 enthrall'd to low.

Or else misgraffed in respect of years—

O spite! too old to be engag'd 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,
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!’
The jaws of darkness do devour it up;
So quick bright things come to confusion.

If then true lovers have ever cross'd,
It stands as an edict 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.

Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 130-157

Hermia is in love with Lysander, and her feelings are reciprocated. However, Hermia’s father Egeus has commanded Hermia to marry his choice for her husband, Demetrius. If she does not, then he will appeal to the Athenian law that states that she will either be put to death or exiled to a nunnery and live a life of celibacy. Pleading before Theseus, Egeus begs for his official approval. Lysander, speaking in his and Hermia’s defense, points out to the Athenian ruler that Demetrius had previously been attached to Helena. To force him to marry Hermia (though Demetrius is altogether willing) would break the young woman’s heart. Theseus says that he had heard of the attachment and was going to speak to Demetrius about it, but it had slipped his mind with cares of state. Theseus then tells Egeus and Demetrius that he wants a word with them in private. Before leaving, Theseus warns Hermia that she must comply with her father’s wishes, or else the laws of Athens will condemn her to death or celibacy. The others then depart, leaving Lysander and Hermia alone.

Lysander asks Hermia why she is so pale, to which Hermia replies that it might because of lack of rain, though she could remedy that with her own tears. Lysander begins to philosophize, stating the “the course of true love never did run smooth.” He speculates that in...

(The entire section is 1279 words.)

Essential Passage by Theme: Reality

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call.
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 418-433


(The entire section is 1039 words.)