A line-by-line translation

A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream Translation Act 1, Scene 1

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THESEUS and HIPPOLYTA enter along with PHILOSTRATE and others.

THESEUS

Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in Another moon. But oh, methinks how slow This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires, Like to a stepdame or a dowager Long withering out a young man’s revenue.

THESEUS

Now, beautiful Hippolyta, the hour of our wedding is speeding closer. In four joyful days there will be a new crescent moon, and we will marry. But oh! The old moon seems to me to shrink away so slowly! It delays me from getting what I desire, just like an old rich widow will force her stepson to wait forever to receive his inheritance.

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.

HIPPOLYTA

Four days will quickly pass and turn to night. And each night, we will dream away the time. And soon the moon—like a silver bow newly bent into a curve in the sky—will look down on the night of our wedding celebration.

THESEUS

Go, Philostrate, Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments. Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth. Turn melancholy forth to funerals. The pale companion is not for our pomp.

THESEUS

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PHILOSTRATE exits.

Hippolyta, I wooed 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 reveling.

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EGEUS

Happy be Theseus, our renownèd duke.

EGEUS

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EGEUS enters with his daughter HERMIA, along with LYSANDER and DEMETRIUS.

THESEUS

Thanks, good Egeus. What’s the news with thee?

THESEUS

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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 bewitched 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 unhardened youth. With cunning hast thou filched my daughter’s heart, Turned 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.

EGEUS

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THESEUS

What say you, Hermia? Be advised, fair maid: To you your father should be as a god, One that composed your beauties, yea, and one To whom you are but as a form in wax, By him imprinted and within his power To leave the figure or disfigure it. Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.

THESEUS

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HERMIA

So is Lysander.

HERMIA

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THESEUS

In himself he is.But in this kind, wanting your father’s voice,The other must be held the worthier.

THESEUS

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HERMIA

I would my father looked but with my eyes.

HERMIA

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THESEUS

Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.

THESEUS

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HERMIA

I do entreat your grace to pardon me. I know not by what power I am made bold Nor how it may concern my modesty In such a presence here to plead my thoughts, But I beseech your grace that I may know The worst that may befall me in this case, If I refuse to wed Demetrius.

HERMIA

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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, For aye to be in shady cloister mewed, To live a barren sister all your life, Chanting faint hymns to the cold, fruitless moon. Thrice-blessèd they that master so their blood To undergo such maiden pilgrimage. But earthlier happy is the rose distilled Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn, Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.

THESEUS

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HERMIA

So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord, Ere I will yield my virgin patent up Unto his lordship, whose unwishèd yoke My soul consents not to give sovereignty.

HERMIA

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THESEUS

Take time to pause, and by the next new moon— The sealing day betwixt my love and me For everlasting bond of fellowship— 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.

THESEUS

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DEMETRIUS

Relent, sweet Hermia And, Lysander, yieldThy crazèd title to my certain right.

DEMETRIUS

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LYSANDER

You have her father’s love, Demetrius.Let me have Hermia’s. Do you marry him.

LYSANDER

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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.

EGEUS

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LYSANDER

[To THESEUS] I am, my lord, as well derived as he, As well possessed. My love is more than his. My fortunes every way as fairly ranked, (If not with vantage) as Demetrius'. 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.

LYSANDER

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THESEUS

I must confess that I have heard so much And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof, But being overfull of self-affairs, My mind did lose it. But, 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 (Which by no means we may extenuate) To death, or to a vow of single life. Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love? Demetrius and Egeus, go along. I must employ you in some business Against our nuptial and confer with you Of something nearly that concerns yourselves.

THESEUS

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EGEUS

With duty and desire we follow you.

EGEUS

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They exit, except LYSANDER and HERMIA.

LYSANDER

How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale?How chance the roses there do fade so fast?

LYSANDER

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HERMIA

Belike for want of rain, which I could wellBeteem them from the tempest of my eyes.

HERMIA

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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. But either it was different in blood—

LYSANDER

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HERMIA

O cross! Too high to be enthralled to low.

HERMIA

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LYSANDER

Or else misgraffèd in respect of years—

LYSANDER

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HERMIA

O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.

HERMIA

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LYSANDER

Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—

LYSANDER

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HERMIA

O hell, to choose love by another’s eyes!

HERMIA

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LYSANDER

Or, if there were a sympathy in choice, War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it, Making it momentary as a sound, Swift as a shadow, short as any dream, Brief as the lightning in the collied night; That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and Earth, And ere a man hath power to say “Behold!” The jaws of darkness do devour it up. So quick bright things come to confusion.

LYSANDER

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HERMIA

If then true lovers have been ever crossed, It stands as an edict in destiny. Then let us teach our trial patience, Because it is a customary cross, As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs, Wishes and tears, poor fancy’s followers.

HERMIA

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LYSANDER

A good persuasion. Therefore, 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 tomorrow night. And in the wood, a league without the town— Where I did meet thee once with Helena To do observance to a morn of May— There will I stay for thee.

LYSANDER

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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, And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen When the false Troyan under sail was seen, By all the vows that ever men have broke (In number more than ever women spoke), In that same place thou hast appointed me, Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.

HERMIA

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LYSANDER

Keep promise, love. Look, here comes Helena.

LYSANDER

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HERMIA

Godspeed, fair Helena! Whither away?

HERMIA

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HELENA enters.

HELENA

Call you me “fair?” That “fair” again unsay. Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair! Your eyes are lodestars, and your tongue’s sweet air More tunable than lark to shepherd’s ear When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear. Sickness is catching. Oh, were favor 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. Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated, The rest I’d give to be to you translated. O, teach me how you look and with what art You sway the motion of Demetrius' heart.

HELENA

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HERMIA

I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.

HERMIA

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HELENA

Oh, that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!

HELENA

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HERMIA

I give him curses, yet he gives me love.

HERMIA

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HELENA

Oh, that my prayers could such affection move!

HELENA

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HERMIA

The more I hate, the more he follows me.

HERMIA

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HELENA

The more I love, the more he hateth me.

HELENA

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HERMIA

His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

HERMIA

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HELENA

None, but your beauty. Would that fault were mine!

HELENA

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HERMIA

Take comfort. He no more shall see my face. Lysander and myself will fly this place. Before the time I did Lysander see Seemed Athens as a paradise to me. Oh, then, what graces in my love do dwell, That he hath turned a heaven unto a hell!

HERMIA

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LYSANDER

Helen, to you our minds we will unfold. Tomorrow night when Phoebe doth behold Her silver visage in the watery glass, Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass (A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal), Through Athens' gates have we devised to steal.

LYSANDER

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HERMIA

[To HELENA] 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.

HERMIA

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LYSANDER

I will, my Hermia.

LYSANDER

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HERMIA exits.

Helena, adieu.
As you on him, Demetrius dote on you!
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LYSANDER exits.

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. 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 winged Cupid painted blind. Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment 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 looked on Hermia's eyne, He hailed 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.

HELENA

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HELENA exits.

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Ben florman
About the Translator: Ben Florman

Ben is a co-founder of LitCharts. He holds a BA in English Literature from Harvard University, where as an undergraduate he won the Winthrop Sargent prize for best undergraduate paper on a topic related to Shakespeare.