"A Lion Among Ladies"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The celebration of the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, fair captive Queen of the Amazons, will take place at the rise of the new moon. Some common craftsmen plan to produce a play based on the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. During a rehearsal fears are voiced that the ladies in the audience will be frightened at the death of Pyramus by his own sword and at the appearance of a lion. The dialogue among the craftsmen proceeds thus:


SNOUT
Will not the ladies be afeard of the lion?
STARVELING
I fear it, I promise you.
BOTTOM
Masters, you ought to consider with yourselves–to bring in, God
shield us, a lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing. For there is
not a more fearful wild-fowl than your lion living; and we ought
to look to't.
SNOUT
Therefore another prologue must tell he is not a lion.

"A Local Habitation, And A Name"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: As the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the captive Queen of the Amazons, approaches, revelry prevails. A group of craftsmen present, for the amusement of the Athenian court, a play based on the Pyramus and Thisbe legend. At the conclusion of the production, Theseus comments to Hippolyta that the pen of the poet gives the air of reality to legend and fantasy.


THESEUS
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation, and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy.
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

"A Part To Tear A Cat In, To Make All Split"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The handicraftsmen Quince, the carpenter; Snug, the joiner; Bottom, the weaver; Flute, the bellowsmender; Snout, the tinker; the Starveling, the tailor, are commanded to prepare a play for possible presentation, at the wedding festivities of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and his bride Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. These naïve souls have neither dramatic experience nor ability, but they are determined to compensate for any deficiency through sheer effort and flamboyant histrionics. Shakespeare is no doubt having fun at the expense of his profession as he comically depicts the problems of casting and staging. Bottom is the nonpareil of dramatic hams. Convinced he can perform all roles–if need be simultaneously–he is quick to extemporize in order to impress the harassed Quince, who is serving as director. When Quince announces that the play shall be The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe, Bottom immediately voices his approval of the play and calls for casting. Told he is to play the lover Pyramus, he complains that his best talents are being wasted, that his forte is the tyrant's role in which his full range of furious Thespian skills can be exercised:


QUINCE
You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.
BOTTOM
What is Pyramus? A lover, or a tyrant?
QUINCE
A lover, that kills himself, most gallant, for love.
BOTTOM
That will ask some tears in the true performing of it. If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes. I will move storms. I will condole in some measure. To the rest. Yet my chief humour is for a tyrant. I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in, to make all split.
The raging rocks,
And shivering shocks,
Shall break the locks
Of prison gates,
And Phibbus' car
Shall shine from far,
And make and mar
The foolish Fates.
This was lofty. Now name the rest of the players. This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein. A lover is more condoling.

"A Proper Man As One Shall See In A Summer's Day"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the fair captive Queen of the Amazons, is to be celebrated when the new moon shall appear. Among the revelries planned is the production of a homely version of the Pyramus and Thisbe legend put on by a group of craftsmen. The weaver, Bottom, vies for every part until finally Quince, a carpenter who has written the play, tells Bottom that the role of Pyramus is clearly his:


QUINCE
You can play no part but Pyramus, for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man, a proper man as one shall see in a summer's day; a most lovely, gentleman-like man. Therefore you must needs play Pyramus.
BOTTOM
Well, I will undertake it. What beard were I best to play it in?
QUINCE
Why, what you will.

"Ercles' Vein"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In Athens the festivities have commenced in celebration of the marriage of Duke Theseus and the fair captive, Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. To honor the royal couple, a group of craftsmen rehearse a play based upon the legend of Pyramus and Thisbe. The talkative weaver, Bottom, assigned the role of Pyramus, the lover who gallantly kills himself for love, comments, that, though the part of Pyramus will require acting skill, he would prefer to enact the part of the tyrant familiar to the Elizabethan stage, Hercules:


BOTTOM
That will ask some tears in the true performing of it. If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes. I will move storms. I will condole in some measure. To the rest. Yet my chief humour is for a tyrant. I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in, to make all split.
The raging rocks,
And shivering shocks,
Shall break the locks
Of prison gates,
And Phibbus' car
Shall shine from far,
And make and mar
The foolish Fates.
This was lofty. Now name the rest of the players. This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein. A lover is more condoling.

"Every Mother's Son"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Quince, a carpenter; Snug, a joiner; Bottom, a weaver; Flute, a bellows-maker; Snout, a tinker; and Starveling, a tailor, have met in Quince's house to rehearse an interlude to be played "before the Duke and the Duchess, on his wedding-day at night." Quince assigns the various parts and explains them. Bottom wants to play all the parts. He demonstrates that he could play Thisbe as well as Flute could. When the part of the lion is given to Snug, Bottom again protests that he would make a good lion. The following bit of dialogue reveals his theatrical talent and intentions, and the doubt held by Quince and the others:


BOTTOM
Let me play the lion too. I will roar, that I will do any man's heart good to hear me. I will roar, that I will make the Duke say, let him roar again, let him roar again.
QUINCE
An you should do it too terribly, you would fright the Duchess, and the ladies, that they would shriek, and that were enough to hang us all.
ALL
They would hang us, every mother's son.

"I Know A Bank Where The Wild Thyme Blows"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Excitement prevails in Athens over the marriage of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta, his fair captive Queen of the Amazons. Even the fairies of India, including King Oberon and Queen Titania, have come to celebrate. Oberon and Titania, however, argue over a changeling boy that Titania refuses to give to Oberon. Vowing vengeance, Oberon sends Puck to secure a love potion that will make Titania fall foolishly in love with whatever her eyes behold, even a beast. As Puck appears with the herb, Oberon says:


OBERON
. . .
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.
And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.
. . .

"Maiden Meditation, Fancy-free"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: There is great excitement at the approach of the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and the captive Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. The romantic time is shared even by fairies from India, including, Oberon, their king, and Titania, their queen. Oberon, however, angry with Titania because she refuses to relinquish a changeling child, orders Puck to secure for him an herb used as a love potion so that he can play a trick upon Titania. In a poetic speech, possibly directed at Queen Elizabeth, Oberon explains to Puck the origin of the magical qualities of the flower: once upon a time Cupid, flying between the moon and earth, directed at a virgin a dart, not visible to mortal eyes; but the beams of the moon, "the imperial vot'ress," averted the course of the arrow so that it missed its target and hit instead the flower, giving it power to influence love.


OBERON
. . .
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial vot'ress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower;
Before, milk-white; now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it, love-in-idleness.
Fetch me that flower; the herb I shewed thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid,
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
. . .

"Roar You As Gently As Any Sucking Dove"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The festivities have begun in Athens to celebrate the approaching marriage of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta, fair captive Queen of the Amazons. At the house of Quince, a carpenter, rehearsals are beginning for the enactment of a play based upon the Pyramus and Thisbe legend. The weaver, Bottom, who monopolizes the conversation, is not satisfied with having the leading role of Pyramus, but also demands the parts of Thisbe and of the lion. Chided by his friends that he would roar too loudly and frighten the ladies so badly that the whole company would be hanged, Bottom responds:


BOTTOM
I grant you, friends, if you should fright the ladies out of their wits, they would have no more discretion but to hang us; but I will aggravate my voice so, that I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you an 'twere any nightingale.

"Single Blessedness"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Hermia, daughter of Egeus, Duke of Athens, is ordered by her father to marry Demetrius. But she refuses because she loves Lysander. Furthermore, Demetrius is loved by Helena, Hermia's friend. Under the Athenian law, however, a daughter must obey her father's orders. Theseus tells Hermia "To you your father should be as a god." Hermia asks what the punishment will be if she disobeys her father, and the duke says that she must die or join a nunnery. He comments on her alternatives:


THESEUS
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.

"The Best In This Kind Are But Shadows"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: As the wedding festivities of Theseus and Hippolyta draw to a close, Philostrate, Master of Revels, is commanded to bring a dramatic performance before the royal group. Various selections are rejected as inappropriate for the nuptial occasion: the eunuch reciting the battle with the centaurs, the riot of the tipsy Bacchanals, the thrice three muses mourning for the death of learning. Instead, Theseus prefers the Athenian handicraftsmen's production of The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe. Philostrate is quick to caution the duke that the quality of performance leaves much to be desired, but Theseus replies that "never anything can be amiss,/ When simpleness and duty tender it." He informs his bride of the honesty and sincerity of such a group in comparison with the finely polished performances of deceit. Moreover, if the rustics confuse line, meter, and meaning in their delivery, it will be no worse than "great clerks" who have come to me with "premeditated welcome," but who "shiver and look pale," making "periods in the midst of sentences" and throttling "their practis'd accent in their fears." Following the duke's example, the courtiers attempt to receive the performance with graceful pleasure, but, when the character representing Wall informs the crowd his part is concluded and stalks off stage, the farce is more than Hippolyta can bear. Again Theseus reminds her that all players are but shadows of the mind which must be fitted to proper form by the imagination:


WALL
Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;
And, being done, thus Wall away doth go. [Exit.]
THESEUS
Now is the Moon to see between the two neighbours.
DEMETRIUS
No remedy my lord, when walls are so wilful, to hear without warning.
HIPPOLYTA
This is the silliest stuff that e'er I heard.
THESEUS
The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.
HIPPOLYTA
It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
THESEUS
If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men.

"The Poet's Eye, In A Fine Frenzy Rolling"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, captive Queen of the Amazons, is an occasion of general merriment. The legendary story of Pyramus and Thisbe is enacted by a group of craftsmen as part of the nuptial festivities. Hippolyta comments on the strangeness of the fantasy they have witnessed, and Theseus agrees that all poets exaggerate past credence.


THESEUS
. . . I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation, and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy.
Or in the night imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

"True Love Never Did Run Smooth"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Hermia, daughter of Egeus, insists that regardless of her father's command that she marry Demetrius she will instead marry Lysander, whom she loves. Theseus, Duke of Athens, insists that the choice either to obey her father or to be put to death or forced into a nunnery cannot be softened. After delivering himself of this announcement according to Athenian law, the duke and all his attendants exit, leaving Hermia and her love Lysander together. Lysander then foolishly asks Hermia, "Why is your cheek so pale? / How chance the roses there do fade so fast?" Then Lysander assures her that love has always traveled a rough road.


LYSANDER
Ay me! For ought that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth.
. . .

"Well Roared, Lion"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: One of Shakespeare's favorite comic devices is the scene within a scene in which the spectators observe a group which in turn is observing another group. Such an occasion is the final act of A Midsummer Night's Dream in which Theseus, Hippolyta, and the royal wedding party are provided amateur dramatic entertainment by Quince and his fellow handicraftsmen. Their production is an utter fiasco; lines are transposed, punctuation is confused, words are mispronounced, tragic intent is destroyed by flamboyant histrionics. The sophisticated courtiers, though encouraged by Theseus to judge the performance with tolerant eyes, cannot avoid humorous remarks at moments of particular ineptness. The Lion, on entering, carefully explains his true identity as Snug the joiner in order that his performance will not frighten the ladies. In the climactic scene he is called upon to roar "in wildest rage" at the fair Thisby, who has come to Ninnus' tomb to meet Pyramus. The mispronunciation of Ninnus' and the feeble roar from the king of breasts trigger a volley of good-natured gibes from the royal spectators:


THISBY
This is old Ninny's tomb. Where is my love?
LION
[The LION roars; exit THISBY.]
O–!
DEMETRIUS
Well roared, Lion.
THESEUS
Well run, Thisby.
HIPPOLYTA
Well shone, Moon. Truly the moon shines with a good grace.
[The LION tears THISBY'S mantle, and exit.]
THESEUS
Well moused, Lion.
Enter PYRAMUS
DEMETRIUS
And then came Pyramus.
LYSANDER
And so the lion vanished.

"What Fools These Mortals Be!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Demetrius, who is in love with Hermia, but who is loved by Helena, Hermia's good friend, is followed into the woods by Helena. He becomes angry with her for following him. Puck, fairy servant of Oberon, King of the fairies, is ordered to place on the eyelids of the sleeping Demetrius some of the juice of the magical flower love-in-idleness, so that when he awakes he will fall in love with Helena, whom he will see first. Puck, however, mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and places the love-juice on Lysander's eyelids. When he awakes, he sees first not his real love Hermia, but Helena, to whom he professes his love. Helena thinks Lysander is making fun of her and resents his professions. Oberon discovers Puck's mistake and places some of the juice on Demetrius' eyes, then has Puck place Helena near so that she will be the first creature that Demetrius sees when he awakes. Puck is amused by all these happenings. He sums up his disdain for all concerned in his remark:


PUCK
Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover's fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!

"Yet Marked I Where The Bolt Of Cupid Fell"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Titania and Oberon, Queen and King of the fairies, argue because Titania will not give to Oberon a little changeling boy for his page. In order to make Titania obey him, Oberon sends Puck, also called Robin Goodfellow, on a journey to get the juice of "a little western flower" which "Before, milk-white; now purple with love's wound, / And maidens call it, love-in-idleness." The juice from this marvelous flower, when touched to the sleeping eyelids, will make the person fall madly in love with the "next live creature that it sees." Oberon's knowledge of this magical flower came when he saw Cupid, "Flying between the cold moon and the earth," fire his "love-shaft." Cupid missed his target, but Oberon watched:


OBERON
. . .
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower;
Before, milk-white; now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it, love-in-idleness.
. . .