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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1

Play

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.

Theseus

Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.

Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days of love

Accompany your hearts.

Lysander

More than to us

Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed.

Theseus

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?

Call Philostrate.

Philostrate

Here, mighty Theseus.

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?

Philostrate

There is a brief, how many sports are ripe.

Make choice of which your highness will see first.

Theseus

“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?

Philostrate

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.

Theseus

What are they that do play it?

Philostrate

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.

Theseus

And we will hear it.

Philostrate

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.

Theseus

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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