A Midsummer Night's Dream

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A weaver who's supreme confidence in his acting skill convinces the other laborers to give him the lead role of Pyramus in their version of Pyramus and Thisbe. In fact, Bottom is a seriously incompetent actor who understands neither his lines nor theater in general. All this makes him a profoundly funny character. Because he has no idea he's incompetent, he never ceases to make long, overly dramatic speeches filled with incorrect references and outright absurdities. Even when Puck transforms his head into an ass's head, Bottom fails to realize it and takes it as unsurprising when Titania falls in love with him. Yet though Bottom is certainly extremely foolish and self-important, he means well.

Nick Bottom Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The A Midsummer Night's Dream quotes below are all either spoken by Nick Bottom or refer to Nick Bottom. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream published in 2004.
Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
That will ask some tears in the true performing of it. If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes. I will move storms. I will condole in some measure.—To the rest.—Yet my chief humor is for a tyrant. I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in to make all split.
The raging rocks
And shivering shocks
Shall break the locks
Of prison gates.
And Phoebus' car
Shall shine from far
And make and mar
The foolish Fates.
This was lofty!—Now name the rest of the players.—This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein. A lover is more condoling. (12)
Related Characters: Nick Bottom (speaker)
Page Number: 1.2.23-39
Explanation and Analysis:

A set of fellow novice actors discuss their upcoming play Pyramus and Thisbe. One of them, Bottom, pompously describes his acting talents and presents a short monologue to back up that claim.

Though the tone of this passage is difficult to capture in text alone, Bottom and his fellow actors are meant to be ridiculously comic, bumbling characters. His pronouncements are overly ornate and self-aggrandizing: He claims to be able to provide the “tears” desired by audience members, but also to “move storms” or physically change the environment. Despite his profession as a weaver, he claims to have a natural affinity for “a tyrant” and implies that the audience will need a measure of “condoling” after his performance because it will be so moving.

The ridiculous quality of these claims is made more evident by the example monologue that Bottom delivers. His close adherence to the end-rhymes comes off as sing-song and childish in nature, while the brevity of each line sabotages the grand images he purports to convey. Some of the images are themselves nonsensical. Rocks do not rage, and shocks do not shiver; in fact it would be more logical to speak of shivering rocks and raging shocks. Similarly, it is Bottom who is far more “foolish” than the Fates. Shakespeare establishes the farcical quality of Bottom and his fellow troop. At the same time, through Bottom and his troupe, Shakespeare begins to good-naturedly mock the conventions of tragic romances as well as theater more generally.

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Act 3, scene 2 Quotes
When in that moment, so it came to pass,
Titania waked and straightway loved an ass. (33)
Related Characters: Robin Goodfellow (Puck) (speaker), Nick Bottom, Titania
Related Symbols: The Love Juice
Page Number: 3.2.35-36
Explanation and Analysis:

The first being that Titania sees when she awakes is a bewitched Bottom who now has the head of a donkey. Puck explains those events to Oberon with what might be best described as delighted glee.

These lines fulfill Oberon’s earlier hope that Tatiana would spy something “vile” when she awoke. Indeed, his wish seems to have been fulfilled far beyond his hopes. For she has fallen in love not only with a “vile” human but actually a partial animal: an “ass” both in name (Bottom) and body. That Puck conveys this information with his characteristic singsong tone presents it to be lighthearted. But beyond that levity, he also adopts the distanced perspective of a theater director or storyteller. Puck describes Titania’s actions—“so it came to pass”—as if they were performed by a character in a different tale. Thus he presents himself and Oberon as the creators of the plot events being watched by the audience. Shakespeare forefronts, in this way, how people can function as playwrights, scripting their lives and those of others from a distanced point of view.

Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about t'expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called 'Bottom's Dream', because it hath no bottom. (Bottom)
Related Characters: Nick Bottom (speaker), Peter Quince
Page Number: 4.1.215-226
Explanation and Analysis:

After the other characters have left, Bottom finally wakes. He can recall the events of the previous night, but considers them to be a dream.

Although Bottom tries to explain the content of his dream, the majority of his description actually points out how inarticulable he finds his experience. That it is “past the wit of man” implies that it cannot be understood by human intelligence, and indeed he contends that a man would have to be “but an ass” and “but a patched fool” (both of which Bottom actually was during the night) if he believed he could describe the dream. The repetition of “methought” similarly undermines the certainty of what has transpired: Bottom presents each sentence as potential rather than certain. He then explores the limits of the human senses, contending that sight, sound, touch, taste, and even the emotional faculties of men are unable to make sense of what has occurred.

These lines presents Bottom as newly humbled by his experience in the forest which he sees as beyond human control. They further divide the illusory experiences of the night with rational human faculties. His comments are also quite ironic, for Shakespeare himself has described the contents of the dream by writing this very play. Bottom’s wish that his dream serve itself as fodder for Peter Quince’s play directs the audience’s attention to this exact incongruity. Shakespeare thus subtly differentiate between two processes: comprehending an event and conveying it through art. Though man may not be able to make sense of Bottom’s dream, that dream can be transformed into art that might be able to give them a kind of access to the experience of the dream.

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Nick Bottom Character Timeline in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The timeline below shows where the character Nick Bottom appears in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 2
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Elsewhere in Athens, a group of common laborers including Snug (a joiner), Bottom (a weaver), Flute (a bellows-mender), Snout (a tinker), and Starveling (a tailor) meet at the... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
As Quince tries to conduct the meeting, Nick Bottom constantly interrupts with advice. Quince calls out each man's name and his role in the... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...has a beard growing. Quince decides that Flute will play the role in a mask. Bottom again interrupts, asking to be allowed to play Thisbe as well as Pyramus, and showing... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
...parts. Starveling: Thisbe's mother. Snout: Thisbe's father. When Quince announces Snug will be the lion, Bottom begs to be allowed to play the lion. He brags about how loud he'll roar.... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
...laborers unknowingly enter the glade where Titania sleeps to rehearse their play. Before they start, Bottom states his concern that parts of their play are problematic. For instance, he thinks the... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...their cues. The play calls for Pyramus to exit at one point, and Puck follows Bottom offstage. When Bottom returns, his head has been replaced by the head of an ass... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Titania wakes at the sound of Bottom's voice. She begs Bottom to continue singing and tells him that she loves him. Bottom... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Titania tells Bottom he must stay with her in the woods whether he wants to or not, because... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...has fallen in love with a monster. He explains how he saw the laborers, transformed Bottom's head into the head of an ass, and then "Titania waked and straightway loved an... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
In her bower, Titania dotes on Bottom, placing flowers in his hair and kissing his mule-like ears as Bottom orders the other... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...especially since she gave him the changeling the night before. He tells Puck to give Bottom back his original head, so that when he wakes he can return to Athens. (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Bottom wakes, calling out that he should be called when it is his cue to come... (full context)
Act 4, scene 2
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
In Athens, the laborers meet to rehearse. But without Bottom, whom they consider the only man in Athens able to perform the role of Pyramus,... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Bottom enters as Pyramus, and curses the Wall for dividing him from his love. Theseus comments... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
...Theseus and the lovers continue to make fun of the play all the while. Finally, Bottom asks the audience if they would like to see an epilogue or a dance. Theseus... (full context)