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'A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM' was first got hold of the Theseus and Hippolyta of printed in 1600. In that year there ap- the heroic ages, would have made them peared two editions of the play ;—the one ultra-heroical. They would have commanded published by Thomas Fisher, a bookseller; events, instead of moving with the superthe other by James Roberts, a printer. The natural influence around them in harmony differences between these two editions are and proportion. An immature poet, again, very slight. The play was not reprinted if the marvellous creation of Oberon and after 1800, till it was collected into the folio Titania and Puck could have entered into of 1623; and the text in that edition differs such a mind, would have laboured to make in few instances from that of the quartos. the power of the fairies produce some
Malone has assigned the composition of strange and striking events. But the exA Midsummer-Night's Dream' to the year quisite beauty of Shakspere's conception is, 1594. We are not disposed to dissent from that, under the supernatural influence, "the this; but we entirely object to the reasons human mortals" move precisely according upon which Malone attempts to show that to their respective natures and habits. Deit was one of our author's "earliest attempts metrius and Lysander are impatient and rein comedy.” It appears to us a misapplica- vengeful;—Helena is dignified and affectiontion of the received meaning of words, to ate, with a spice of female error ;-Hermia talk of “the warmth of a youthful and is somewhat vain and shrewish. And then lively imagination with reference to 'A. Bottom! Who but the most skilful artist Midsummer-Night's Dream' and the Shak- could have given us such a character? Of spere of thirty. Of all the dramas of Shak. him Malone says, “Shakspere would natuspere there is none more entirely harmonious rally copy those manners first with which than 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream.' All he was first acquainted. The ambition of a the incidents, all the characters, are in per- theatrical candidate for applause he has fect subordination to the will of the poet. happily ridiculed in Bottom the weaver."
Throughout the whole piece," says Malone, A theatrical candidate for applause! Why, “the more exalted characters are subservient Bottom the weaver is the representative of to the interests of those beneath them." the whole human race. His confidence in Precisely so. An unpractised author-one his own power is equally profound, whether who had not " a youthful and lively imagi. | he exclaims, “Let me play the lion too;" nation" under perfect control—when he had or whether he sings alone, " that they shall hear I am not afraid;" or whether, conscious
That you have but slumber'd here,
While these visions did appear. that he is surrounded with spirits, he cries
And this wenk and idle theme, out, with his voice of authority, “Where 's
No more yielding but a dream, Peas-blossom ?" In every situation Bottom
Gentles, do not reprehend." is the same,-the same personification of But to understand this dream-to have all that self-love which the simple cannot con- its gay, and soft, and harmonious colours ceal, and the wise can with difficulty sup impressed upon the vision—to hear all the press. Lastly, in the whole rhythmical golden cadences of its poesy-to feel the structure of the versification, the poet has perfect congruity of all its parts, and thus put forth all his strength. We venture to to receive it as a truth-we must not supoffer an opinion that, if any single compo- pose that it will enter the mind amidst the sition were required to exhibit the power of lethargic Blumbers of the imagination. We the English language for purposes of poetry, must receive itthat composition would be the 'Midsummer
“ As youthful poets dream Night's Dream. This wonderful model,
On summer eves by haunted stream." which, at the time it appeared, must have
To offer an analysis of this subtle and ethebeen the commencement of a great poetical real drama would, we believe, be as unsatisrevolution,-and which has never ceased to
factory as the attempts to associate it with influence our higher poetry, from Fletcher to
the realities of the stage. With scarcely an Shelley,-was, according to Malone, the work
exception, the proper understanding of the of “the genius of Shakspeare, even in its
other plays of Shakspere may be assisted by minority.”
connecting the apparently separate parts of “ This is the silliest stuff that ever I
the action, and by developing and reconheard,” says Hippolyta, when Wall has "dis
ciling what seems obscure and anomalous in charged” his part. The answer of Theseus
the features of the characters. But to follow is full of instruction :-"The best in this
out the caprices and illusions of the loves of kind are but shadows; and the worst are no
Demetrius and Lysander,-of Helena and worse if imagination amend them.” It was
Hermia ;-to reduce to prosaic description in this humble spirit that the great poet
the consequence of the jealousies of Oberon judged of his own matchless performances.
and Titania ;— to trace the Fairy Queen He felt the utter inadequacy of his art, and under the most fantastic of deceptions, where indeed of any art, to produce its due effect
grace and vulgarity blend together like the upon the mind, unless the imagination, to
Cupids and Chimeras of Raphael's Arawhich it addressed itself, was ready to con
besques ;-and, finally, to go along with the vert the shadows which it presented into
scene till the illusions disappear-till the living forms of truth and beauty. "I am
lovers are happy, and “sweet bully Bottom" convinced,” says Coleridge, “that Shakspeare
is reduced to an ass of human dimensions ; availed himself of the title of this play in
such an attempt as this would be worse even his own mind and worked upon it as a dream
than unreverential criticism. No,- the throughout." The poet says so in express
'Midsummer-Night's Dream' must be left words :
to its own influences, “If we shadows have offended,
Think but this (and all is mended),
HERMA, daughter to Egens, in love with
Lysander. Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. s. 3. Act III. sc. 8.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 1.
Act IV. sc. I. Act V. sc. 1.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 2.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 2.
Act IV. sc. l. Act V. sc. 2. PEAS-BLOSSOM, COBWEB, MOTA, MUSTARD
SEED, fairies. Appear, Act III. sc. 1. Act IV. sc. 1. Pyramus, Thisbe, Wall, Moonshine, Lion,
characters in the Interlude performed by the Clowns.
Appear, Act V. sc. 1.
Other Fairies attending their King and
Queen. Attendants on Theseus and Hippolyta.
THESEUS, Duke of Athens.
EGEUS, father to Hermia.
LYSANDER, in love with Hermia.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 1.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 1.
Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act V. sc. I.
QUINCE, the carpenter.
SNUG, the joiner.
BOTTOM, the weaver.
FLUTE, the bellows-mender.
SNOUT, the tinker.
STARVELING, the tailor.
SCENE,—ATHENS, AND A WOOD NEAR.
The old editions have no List of Characters.
THE. Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace; four happy days bring in
Long withering out a young man's revenue.
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
Of our solemnities.
Enter EGEUS, HERMIA, LYSANDER, and DEMETRIUS:
EGE. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke !
Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
· New bent. The two quartos of 1600, and the folio of 1623, read “ now bent." New was supplied by Rowe. We believe that now was the original word, but used in the sense of new, both the words having an etymological affinity. In the same manner, we have, in 'All 's Well that Ends Well,' Act II., Scene 3
whose ceremony Shall seem expedient on the now-born brief." This, in many editions, has been changed to "new-born brief;" certainly without necessity. In the present case the corrected reading must, we apprehend, be received; for now could not be restored without producing an ambiguity. Now, we believe, cannot refer to the state of the moon when Theseus is speaking. The new moon will be bent like the “silver bow;" the “old moon” is surely not of the form to which the new moon gives the name-crescent.
See 'Two Gentlemen of Verona,' Illustrations of Act V. • Our renowned duke. In a note upon the first chapter of the first book of Chronicles, where we find a list of “the dukes of Edom," the editor of the ' Pictorial Bible' says, “ Duke is rather an awkward title to assign to the chiefs of Edom. The original word is aluph, which would perhaps be best rendered by the general and indefinite title 'prince."" At the time of the translation of the Bible, duke was used in this general and indefinite sense. The word, as pointed out by Gibbon, was a corruption of the Latin dux, which was indiscriminately applied to any military chief. Chaucer has duke Theseus,-Gower, duke Spartacus,-Stanyhurst, duke Æneas. The “awkward title” was a word in general use; and therefore Steevens is not justified in calling it "a misapplication of a modern title."
This man. So the old copies. In modern editions man is omitted; and the emphatic repetition of Egeus is in consequence destroyed.