Act I, Scene I

Athens. The palace of THESEUS. 

 

Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, and PHILOSTRATE.

 

THESEUS

Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour

Draws on apace; four happy days bring in

Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow

This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires.

 

HIPPOLYTA

Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time;

And then the moon, like to a silver bow

New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night

Of our solemnities.

 

THESEUS

Go, Philostrate,

Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments;

Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth.

Exit PHILOSTRATE

Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,

And won thy love, doing thee injuries;

But I will wed thee in another key,

With pomp, with triumph and with revelling.

Enter EGEUS, HERMIA, LYSANDER, and DEMETRIUS

EGEUS

Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!

 

THESEUS

Thanks, good Egeus: what's the news with thee?

 

EGEUS

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.

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.

 

THESEUS

What say you, Hermia? be advised fair maid:

To you your father should be as a god;

Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.

 

HERMIA

So is Lysander.

 

THESEUS

In himself he is;

But in this kind, wanting your father's voice,

The other must be held the worthier.

 

HERMIA

I would my father look'd but with my eyes.

 

THESEUS

Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.

 

HERMIA

I do entreat your grace to pardon me.

I know not by what power I am made bold,

But I beseech your grace that I may know

The worst that may befall me in this case,

If I refuse to wed Demetrius.

 

THESEUS

Either to die the death or to abjure

Forever the society of men.

Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;

Know of your youth, examine well your blood,

Whether, if you yield not to your father's choice,

You can endure the livery of a nun,

To live a barren sister all your life,

Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.

 

HERMIA

So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,

Ere I will yield my virgin patent up

Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke

My soul consents not to give sovereignty.

 

THESEUS

Take time to pause; and, by the next new moon--

The sealing-day betwixt my love and me--

Upon that day either prepare to die

For disobedience to your father's will,

Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;

Or on Diana's altar to protest

For aye austerity and single life.

 

DEMETRIUS

Relent, sweet Hermia: and, Lysander, yield

Thy crazed title to my certain right.

 

LYSANDER

You have her father's love, Demetrius;

Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him.

 

EGEUS

Scornful Lysander! true, he hath my love,

And what is mine my love shall render him.

And she is mine, and all my right of her

I do estate unto Demetrius.

 

LYSANDER

I am, my lord, as well derived as he,

As well possess'd; my love is more than his;

And, which is more than all these boasts can be,

I am beloved of beauteous Hermia:

Why should not I then prosecute my right?

Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head,

Made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena,

And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,

Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,

Upon this spotted and inconstant man.

 

THESEUS

Demetrius, come;

And come, Egeus; you shall go with me,

I have some private schooling for you both.

For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself

To fit your fancies to your father's will;

Or else the law of Athens yields you up

To death, or to a vow of single life.

Come, my Hippolyta: what cheer, my love?

Exeunt all but LYSANDER and HERMIA

LYSANDER

How now, my love! why is your cheek so pale?

How chance the roses there do fade so fast?

 

HERMIA

Belike for want of rain, which I could well

Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.

 

LYSANDER

Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,

Could ever hear by tale or history,

The course of true love never did run smooth.

 

HERMIA

If then true lovers have been ever cross'd,

It stands as an edict in destiny:

As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs,

Wishes and tears.

 

LYSANDER

Hear me, Hermia.

I have a widow aunt, a dowager

Of great revenue, and she hath no child:

From Athens is her house remote seven leagues;

And she respects me as her only son.

There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee;

And to that place the sharp Athenian law

Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me then,

Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night;

And in the wood, a league without the town,

There will I stay for thee.

 

HERMIA

My good Lysander!

I swear to thee, by Cupid's strongest bow,

By his best arrow with the golden head,

By the simplicity of Venus' doves,

By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,

By all the vows that ever men have broke,

In number more than ever women spoke,

In that same place thou hast appointed me,

To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.

 

LYSANDER

Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.

Enter HELENA

HERMIA

God speed fair Helena! whither away?

 

HELENA

Call you me fair? that fair again unsay.

Demetrius loves your fair: O happy fair!

Sickness is catching: O, were favour so,

Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go;

My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,

My tongue should catch your tongue's sweet melody.

O, teach me how you look, and with what art

You sway the motion of Demetrius' heart.

 

HERMIA

I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.

 

HELENA

O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!

HERMIA

I give him curses, yet he gives me love.

 

HELENA

O that my prayers could such affection move!

 

HERMIA

The more I hate, the more he follows me.

 

HELENA

The more I love, the more he hateth me.

 

HERMIA

His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

 

HELENA

None, but your beauty: would that fault were mine!

 

HERMIA

Take comfort: he no more shall see my face;

Lysander and myself will fly this place.

 

LYSANDER

Helen, to you our minds we will unfold:

To-morrow night, 

Through Athens' gates have we devised to steal.

 

HERMIA

And in the wood, where often you and I

Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie,

Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,

There my Lysander and myself shall meet;

And thence from Athens turn away our eyes,

To seek new friends and stranger companies.

Farewell, sweet playfellow: pray thou for us;

And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!

Keep word, Lysander: we must starve our sight

From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight.

 

LYSANDER

I will, my Hermia.

Exit HERMIA

Helena, adieu:

As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!

Exit LYSANDER

HELENA

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:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;

And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind:

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 to-morrow 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.

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