A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 4, Scene 2
Previously on Sketchbook, the Athenian thespians of William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream met in the woods near Athens for a secret rehearsal and found themselves haunted by the knavish sprite Robin Goodfellow. Unbeknownst to Nick Bottom, his head was transformed into the head of an ass, and upon seeing him, his terrified companions scattered. Bottom, believing that the others were trying to play a trick on him, began to defiantly sing to show them he wasn’t afraid.
More strange adventures ensued for Bottom before sunrise, but those we leave in the haunted grove and catch up with the players the next morning.
Enter Quince the carpenter, Flute the bellows-mender, Snout the tinker, and Starveling the tailor.
Have you sent to Bottom’s house? Is he come home yet?
He cannot be heard of. Out of doubt he is transported.
If he come not, then the play is marred. It goes not forward, doth it?
It is not possible. You have not a man in all Athens able to discharge Pyramus but he.
No, he hath simply the best wit of any handicraftman in Athens.
Yea and the best person too; and he is a very paramour for a sweet voice.
You must say “paragon.” A paramour is, God bless us, a thing of naught.
Enter Snug the joiner.
Masters, the duke is coming from the temple, and there is two or three lords and ladies more married. If our sport had gone forward, we had all been made men.
O sweet bully Bottom! Thus hath he lost sixpence a day during his life; he could not have ’scaped sixpence a day. An the duke had not given him sixpence a day for playing Pyramus, I’ll be hanged; he would have deserved it. Sixpence a day in Pyramus, or nothing.
Where are these lads? Where are these hearts?
Bottom! O most courageous day! O most happy hour!
Masters, I am to discourse wonders. But ask me not what; for if I tell you, I am no true Athenian. I will tell you everything, right as it fell out.
Let us hear, sweet Bottom.
Not a word of me. All that I will tell you is that the duke hath dined. Get your apparel together, good strings to your beards, new ribbons to your pumps; meet presently at the palace; every man look o’er his part; for the short and the long is, our play is preferred. In any case, let Thisbe have clean linen; and let not him that plays the lion pair his nails, for they shall hang out for the lion’s claws. And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy. No more words. Away! Go, Away!
Next time: in the palace of Theseus.
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