A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1
Previously on Sketchbook, Quince the carpenter, Snug the joiner, Bottom the weaver, Flute the bellows-mender, Snout the tinker, and Starveling the tailor set out with good strings on their beards and new ribbons on their pumps for the palace of Theseus to celebrate the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Married at the same time as Theseus and Hippolyta were Demetrius and Helena, and Lysander and Hermia.
Our story continues that evening in the palace of Theseus, with Theseus, Hippolyta, and Philostrate.
Enter Lysander, Hermia, Helena, and Demetrius.
Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.
Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days of love
Accompany your hearts.
More than to us
Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed.
Come now. What masques, what dances shall we have
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between or after-supper and bed-time?
Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
Here, mighty Theseus.
Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?
What masque, what music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?
There is a brief, how many sports are ripe.
Make choice of which your highness will see first.
“The battle with the centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp”?
We’ll none of that. That have I told my love,
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
“The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage”?
That is an old device. And it was played
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
“The thrice three Muses, mourning for the death
Of learning, late deceased in beggary”?
That is some satire keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
“A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth”?
Merry and tragical? Tedious and brief?
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?
A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
Which is as brief as I have known a play.
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
Which makes it tedious. For in all the play,
There is not one word apt, one player fitted.
And tragical, my noble lord, it is.
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself,
Which when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water. But more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed.
What are they that do play it?
Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never laboured in their minds till now,
And now have toiled their unbreathed memories
With this same play, against your nuptial.
And we will hear it.
No, my noble lord,
It is not for you. I have heard it over,
And it is nothing, nothing in the world,
Unless you can find sport in their intents,
Extremely stretched and conned with cruel pain
To do you service.
I will hear that play.
For never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go, bring them in, and take your places, ladies.
Next time: the play!
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