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Overnight

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 3, Scene 1

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Previously on Sketchbook, the Athenian thespians of William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream met in Athens to plan their play. Peter Quince assigned and handed-out the play’s parts, and then he entreated, requested, and desired that the players “con them by tomorrow night and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moonlight. There will we rehearse, for if we meet in the city, we shall be dogged with company and our devices known.”

Our story continues in the woods the next night. Unknown to the players, they are meeting near the sleeping Fairy Queen, Titania.

The woods near Athens.

Enter Quince the carpenter, Snug the joiner, Bottom the weaver, Flute the bellows-mender, Snout the tinker, and Starveling the tailor.

Bottom

Are we all met?

Quince

Pat, pat. And here’s a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our stage, this hawthorn brake our tiring-house, and we will do it in action as we will do it before the duke.

Bottom

Peter Quince?

Quince

What sayest thou, bully Bottom?

Bottom

There are things in this comedy of Pyramus and Thisbe that will never please. First, Pyramus must draw a sword to kill himself, which the ladies cannot abide. How answer you that?

Snout

By ’r lakin, a parlous fear.

Starveling

I believe we must leave the killing out, when all is done.

Bottom

Not a whit. I have a device to make all well. Write me a prologue, and let the prologue seem to say we will do no harm with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed. And, for the more better assurance, tell them that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver. This will put them out of fear.

Quince

Well, we will have such a prologue, and it shall be written in eight and six.

Bottom

No, make it two more. Let it be written in eight and eight.

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.

Bottom

Nay, you must name his name, and half his face must be seen through the lion’s neck, and he himself must speak through, saying thus, or to the same defect: “Ladies,” or “Fair ladies, I would wish you,” or “I would request you,” or “I would entreat you not to fear, not to tremble. My life for yours. If you think I come hither as a lion, it were pity of my life. No. I am no such thing. I am a man as other men are.” And there indeed let him name his name and tell them plainly he is Snug the joiner.

Quince

Well, it shall be so. But there is two hard things: that is, to bring the moonlight into a chamber. For, you know, Pyramus and Thisbe meet by moonlight.

Snout

Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?

Bottom

A calendar, a calendar. Look in the almanac. Find out moonshine, find out moonshine.

Quince

Yes. It doth shine that night.

Bottom

Why, then, may you leave a casement of the great chamber window, where we play, open, and the moon may shine in at the casement.

Quince

Ay, or else one must come in with a bush of thorns and a lantern and say he comes to disfigure or to present the person of Moonshine. Then there is another thing: we must have a wall in the great chamber. For Pyramus and Thisbe, says the story, did talk through the chink of a wall.

Snout

You can never bring in a wall. What say you, Bottom?

Bottom

Some man or other must present Wall. And let him have some plaster, or some loam, or some rough-cast about him, to signify wall; or let him hold his fingers thus, and through that cranny shall Pyramus and Thisbe whisper.

Quince

If that may be, then all is well. Come, sit down, every mother’s son, and rehearse your parts. Pyramus, you begin. When you have spoken your speech, enter into that brake, and so every one according to his cue.

Enter Robin Goodfellow, unseen.

Robin

What hempen home-spuns have we swagg’ring here,

So near the cradle of the Fairy Queen?

What, a play toward? I’ll be an auditor,

An actor too, perhaps, if I see cause.

Next time: rehearsal.

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