A Midsummer Night's Dream | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night's Dream | Quotes

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1.

The course of true love never did run smooth.


Lysander, Act 1, Scene 1

Lysander comforts his love, Hermia, noting that the troubles they are experiencing show their love to be true love. His words also anticipate the confusion that will shortly ensue in the play.

2.

Either to die the death or to abjure / Forever the society of men.


Theseus, Act 1, Scene 1

When Hermia asks what the punishment is if she refuses to wed Demetrius, Theseus tells her she must choose death or a chaste life as a nun. She replies, "So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord, / Ere I will yield my virgin patent up / Unto his Lordship whose unwishèd yoke / My soul consents not to give sovereignty." Although Theseus clearly thinks she is making a hasty decision, Hermia is committed to Lysander in her heart and will have no other man, even if it means never being with any man.

3.

The King doth keep his revels here tonight. / Take heed the Queen come not within his sight.


Puck, Act 2, Scene 1

Puck references the quarrel between Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his queen. The crux of the matter is that Titania has taken a changeling boy as a servant and Oberon wants the boy as his own servant. He has demanded that Titania give him the boy, but she has refused.

4.

And this same progeny of evils comes / From our debate, from our dissension; / We are their parents and original.


Titania, Act 2, Scene 1

After listing a number of problems their quarrel has caused in the natural world, including alterations in the seasons, Titania explains that these disruptions owe their origin to the argument between Titania and Oberon. This explanation demonstrates the close connection between the fairies and nature. When the fairies are at peace, so is nature.

5.

The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid / Will make or man or woman madly dote / Upon the next live creature that it sees.


Oberon, Act 2, Scene 1

Oberon instructs Puck, his servant, to fetch him a flower that has absorbed some of the magic of Cupid's arrow, which is known to cause people to fall in love suddenly. This flower will be used to enchant three characters: Demetrius, Lysander, and Titania. The love spells placed on these three are the cause of both confusion and hilarity in the play.

6.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows ... Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine, / With sweet muskroses, and with eglantine.


Oberon, Act 2, Scene 1

Oberon eloquently describes Titania's bower as he explains to Puck his plan to come quietly upon Titania as she sleeps, streak her eyelids with the magic flower's nectar, and hope she wakes when something hateful is before her enchanted eyes.

7.

What angel wakes me from my flow'ry bed?


Titania, Act 3, Scene 1

Titania wakes to hear the ass-headed Bottom singing loudly. This line signals that the charm of the flower has indeed done its work and typically receives a loud laugh from the audience, especially if Bottom's singing is particularly bad and braying.

8.

Then will two at once woo one ... And those things do best please me / That befall prepost'rously.


Puck, Act 3, Scene 2

Although Puck mistakenly applies the flower's nectar to Lysander's eyes, forcing Oberon to try to undo the mess by also anointing Demetrius's eyes, Puck is beyond pleased by the hilarious mess that he anticipates. He echoes the audience's gleeful anticipation when they realize how this disorder will play out.

9.

And though she be but little, she is fierce.


Helena, Act 3, Scene 2

With both men in love with her and Hermia in a confused rage, Helena lashes out at her one-time friend with insults about her stature. The petty insults and fighting in this scene bring the plot to its climactic chaos. To add to the humor, Helena's insults are echoed by Lysander a few lines later: "Get you gone, you dwarf, / You minimus of hind'ring knotgrass made, / You bead, you acorn."

10.

Jack shall have Jill; / Naught shall go ill.


Puck, Act 3, Scene 2

Puck applies the remedy to the love spell to the eyes of Lysander but leaves Demetrius permanently enchanted: each Jack shall have one Jill.

11.

I have had a most rare / vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say / what dream it was.


Bottom, Act 4, Scene 1

Bottom, having been transformed back into his normal body, recalls his experience as Titania's lover as if it were a vision or dream. His description here notes that it was fantastical beyond a man's ability to explain. Shakespeare goes on to have Bottom nonsensically mix up the biblical quote from 1 Corinthians 2:9: "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."

12.

And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for / we are to utter sweet breath.


Bottom, Act 4, Scene 2

After he returns to his fellow mechanicals, magically restored to normalcy, Bottom gives his fellow actors advice to make sure that their play does not offend the nobles. He is both advising them and encouraging them.

13.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet / Are of imagination all compact.


Theseus, Act 5, Scene 1

Referring to the stories of the night in the woods told by the lovers, Theseus expresses the opinion that lunatics, lovers, and poets are nothing but imagination. Yet he goes on to say that "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." It is hard not to imagine Shakespeare referencing his own vocation as playwright and poet in these lines. He has brought the forms of things unknown into being.

14.

'Merry' and 'tragical'? 'Tedious' and 'brief'? / That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow!


Theseus, Act 5, Scene 1

Theseus reads the description of the mechanicals' play before making a decision on which to see: "A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus / And his love Thisbe, very tragical mirth." Understandably, Theseus becomes confused by the contradictory description. He makes fun of the oxymorons merry/tragical and tedious/brief with his own: hot ice.

15.

If we shadows have offended, / Think but this and all is mended: / That you have but slumbered here / While these visions did appear.


Puck, Act 5, Scene 1

At the end of the play, Puck—left onstage alone and addressing the audience—encourages any audience members who didn't care for the play to think of it as a dream. He goes on to ask the audience for pardon and for their applause.

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