A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the play that made me fall in love with Shakespeare. Granted at the age of 11 I had no idea what was going on, but something in the magical world of the 1999 Michael Hoffman film (ranked No. 16 on our Best Shakespeare Films list) drew me in, and has never quite let me go. Since first watching that play I have been in a number of productions, and I am currently rehearsing an open air version in which I am playing Oberon. I have a real soft spot for this play, so much so that I named it No. 6 on our best Shakespeare plays list.
This play is one of three Shakespeare plays that appears to have no origin. Most of Shakespeare’s works were either influenced by poems, short stories or other plays. However, this wild and incredible play was a pure creation of Shakespeare. And that is insane. For me this play has so much, and is Shakespeare’s crowning achievement in comedy.
I would encourage all actors to dive into the monologues from this play. And I have listed all the major monologues here. I have decided for this page to list them in chronological order.
Egues Monologue (Act 1 Scene 1)
Full of vexation come I, with complaint
Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
Stand forth, Demetrius. My noble lord,
This man hath my consent to marry her.
Stand forth, Lysander. And my gracious Duke,
This man hath bewitch’d the bosom of my child.
Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes,
And interchanged love-tokens with my child:
Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung
With feigning voice verses of feigning love,
And stol’n the impression of her fantasy
With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gauds, conceits,
Knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats (messengers
Of strong prevailment in unharden’d youth):
With cunning hast thou filch’d my daughter’s heart,
Turn’d her obedience, which is due to me,
To stubborn harshness. And, my gracious Duke,
Be it so she will not here, before your Grace,
Consent to marry with Demetrius,
I beg the ancient privilege of Athens:
As she is mine, I may dispose of her;
Which shall be either to this gentleman,
Or to her death, according to our law
Immediately provided in that case.
For more on Egues (Act 1 Scene 1)
Helena Monologue (Act 1 Scene 1)
How happy some o’er other some can be!
Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;
He will not know what all but he do know;
And as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes,
So I, admiring of his qualities.
Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity:
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind;
Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgement taste:
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
So the boy Love is perjured everywhere;
For ere Demetrius look’d on Hermia’s eyne,
He hail’d down oaths that he was only mine;
And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.
I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight:
Then to the wood will he tomorrow night,
Pursue her; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither and back again.
For more on Helena (Act 1 Scene 1)
Titania (Act 2 Scene1)
These are the forgeries of jealousy:
And never, since the middle summer’s spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,
By paved fountain or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
The nine-men’s-morris is fill’d up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable.
The human mortals want their winter cheer:
No night is now with hymn or carol blest.
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose;
And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown,
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set; the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which.
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.
For more on Titania Monologues (Act 2 Scene 1)
Helena (Act 3 Scene 2)
Lo, she is one of this confederacy!
Now I perceive they have conjoin’d all three
To fashion this false sport, in spite of me.
Injurious Hermia! most ungrateful maid!
Have you conspired, have you with these contrived
To bait me with this foul derision?
Is all the counsel that we two have shared,
The sisters’ vows, the hours that we have spent,
When we have chid the hasty-footed time
For parting us,–O, is it all forgot?
All school-days’ friendship, childhood innocence?
We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds,
Had been incorporate. So we grow together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition;
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem;
So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart;
Two of the first, like coats in heraldry,
Due but to one and crowned with one crest.
And will you rent our ancient love asunder,
To join with men in scorning your poor friend?
It is not friendly, ’tis not maidenly:
Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it,
Though I alone do feel the injury.
Oberon (Act 4 Scene 1)
Welcome, good Robin.
See’st thou this sweet sight?
Her dotage now I do begin to pity:
For, meeting her of late behind the wood,
Seeking sweet favours from this hateful fool,
I did upbraid her and fall out with her;
For she his hairy temples then had rounded
With a coronet of fresh and fragrant flowers;
And that same dew, which sometime on the buds
Was wont to swell like round and orient pearls,
Stood now within the pretty flowerets’ eyes
Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail.
When I had at my pleasure taunted her
And she in mild terms begg’d my patience,
I then did ask of her her changeling child;
Which straight she gave me, and her fairy sent
To bear him to my bower in fairy land.
And now I have the boy, I will undo
This hateful imperfection of her eyes:
And, gentle Puck, take this transformed scalp
From off the head of this Athenian swain;
That, he awaking when the other do,
May all to Athens back again repair
And think no more of this night’s accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream.
But first I will release the fairy queen.
Be as thou wast wont to be;
See as thou wast wont to see:
Dian’s bud o’er Cupid’s flower
Hath such force and blessed power.
Now, my Titania; wake you, my sweet queen.
Puck (Act 5 Scene 2)
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.