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A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream Translation Act 1, Scene 2

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QUINCE the carpenter, SNUG the cabinetmaker; BOTTOM the weaver, FLUTE the bellows-repairman, SNOUT the tinker; and STARVELING the tailor all enter.

QUINCE

Is all our company here?

QUINCE

Are all of us here?

BOTTOM

You were best to call them generally, man by man, according to the scrip.

BOTTOM

You'd be best off calling their names generally, one person at a time, following the order of the names on the list.

QUINCE

Here is the scroll of every man’s name which is thoughtfit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude before the duke and the duchess, on his wedding day at night.

QUINCE

Here is the list of the names of every man in Athens who we consider good enough to act in the short play we’re going to perform for the duke and duchess on the night of their wedding day.

BOTTOM

First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on, then read the names of the actors, and so grow to a point.

BOTTOM

First, Peter Quince, tell us what the play is about. Then read the names of the actors, and in that way build up to a conclusion.

QUINCE

Marry, our play i s The most lamentable comedy and mostcruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.

QUINCE

Indeed, I will. Our play is called The Very Tragic Comedy of the Awful Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe.

BOTTOM

A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry. Now, good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the scroll. Masters, spread yourselves.

BOTTOM

Believe me, it’s a great piece of work, and very funny, too. Now, Peter Quince, call out the actors on your list. Men, gather around.

QUINCE

Answer as I call you. Nick Bottom, the weaver?

QUINCE

Answer when I call your name. Nick Bottom, the weaver?

BOTTOM

Ready. Name what part I am for and proceed.

BOTTOM

Here. Say which part I’m going to play, and then continue.

QUINCE

You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.

QUINCE

Nick Bottom, you will play the role of Pyramus.

BOTTOM

What is Pyramus? A lover or a tyrant?

BOTTOM

What’s Pyramus? A lover or a tyrant?

QUINCE

A lover that kills himself, most gallant, for love.

QUINCE

A lover who, very nobly, kills himself for love.

BOTTOM

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.

BOTTOM

That role will require some tears from me if I am to perform it well. If I perform it, the audience better check their own eyes. I’ll make tears fall like rainstorms. I’ll make them weep.  I'll express grief—just the right amount of grief, of course. Okay, now list the other actors.   But, actually, my first choice would be to play a tyrant. I'd make a wonderful Hercules, or any other part that requires ranting and raving that will bring the house down.

The raging rocks
And shivering shocks
Will break the locks
Of prison gates.
And Phoebus' cart
Will shine from afar
And make and mar
The foolish Fates.

That was high art! Now say who the other actors are. That speech was in the style of Hercules, the tyrant's style. A lover would be more weepy.

QUINCE

Francis Flute, the bellows-mender?

QUINCE

Francis Flute, the bellows-repairman?

FLUTE

Here, Peter Quince.

FLUTE

Here, Peter Quince.

QUINCE

Flute, you must take Thisbe on you.

QUINCE

Flute, you’ll play the part of Thisbe.

FLUTE

What is Thisbe? A wandering knight?

FLUTE

Who’s Thisbe? A knight on a quest?

QUINCE

It is the lady that Pyramus must love.

QUINCE

Thisbe is the lady whom Pyramus loves.

FLUTE

Nay, faith, let me not play a woman. I have a beard coming.

FLUTE

No, really, please don’t make me play a woman. I’m growing a beard.

QUINCE

That’s all one. You shall play it in a mask, and you may speak as small as you will.

QUINCE

That makes no difference. You’ll be wearing a mask, and you can make your voice as high as you want.

BOTTOM

An I may hide my face, let me play Thisbe too! I’ll speak in a monstrous little voice: “Thisne, Thisne!” “Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear, thy Thisbe dear and lady dear!”

BOTTOM

If I can wear a mask, let me play Thisbe too! I’ll speak in an amazing high-pitched voice. Pyramus will say: “Thisne, Thisne!” Then I'll say: “Ah, Pyramus, my dear love! I’m your dear Thisbe—your dear lady!”

QUINCE

No, no. You must play Pyramus. And Flute, you Thisbe.

QUINCE

No, no. You’re playing Pyramus. And Flute, you’re playing Thisbe.

BOTTOM

Well, proceed.

BOTTOM

Well, all right. Continue.

QUINCE

Robin Starveling, the tailor?

QUINCE

Robin Starveling, the tailor?

STARVELING

Here, Peter Quince.

STARVELING

Here, Peter Quince.

QUINCE

Robin Starveling, you must play Thisbe’s mother. Tom Snout, the tinker?

QUINCE

Robin Starveling, you’re going to play Thisbe’s mother. Tom Snout, the repairman?

SNOUT

Here, Peter Quince.

SNOUT

Here, Peter Quince.

QUINCE

You, Pyramus' father. Myself, Thisbe’s father. Snug thejoiner, you, the lion’s part. And I hope here is a playfitted.

QUINCE

You’ll play Pyramus’ father. As for myself, I’ll play Thisbe’s father. Snug, the cabinetmaker, you’ll play the part of the lion. Now, I hope the play has been well cast.

SNUG

Have you the lion’s part written? Pray you, if it be, give it me, for I am slow of study.

SNUG

Do you have the lion’s part written down? If you do, please give it to me, because I'm a slow learner.

QUINCE

You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring.

QUINCE

You can improvise the whole thing, because it's just roaring.

BOTTOM

Let me play the lion too. I will roar, that I will do any man’s heart good to hear me. I will roar, that I will make the duke say, “Let him roar again. Let him roar again.”

BOTTOM

Let me play the lion, too! I’ll roar so well that it’ll delight anyone who hears me. I’ll roar so well that the duke will say, “Let him roar again. Let him roar again.”

QUINCE

An you should do it too terribly, you would fright the duchess and the ladies, that they would shriek. And thatwere enough to hang us all.

QUINCE

If you roar too terrifyingly, you’ll scare the duchess and the other ladies, and make them scream. And that would be enough to get us all hanged.

ALL

That would hang us, every mother’s son.

ALL

They'd hang every single one of us.

BOTTOM

I grant you, friends, if you should fright the ladies out of their wits, they would have no more discretion but to hang us. But I will aggravate my voice so that I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove. I will roaryou an ’twere any nightingale.

BOTTOM

I agree, my friends, that if you scare the ladies out of their wits, they’d have no choice but to hang us. But I’ll aggravate my voice so that I’ll roar as gently as a baby dove. I’ll roar like a melodic nightingale.

QUINCE

You can play no part but Pyramus. For Pyramus is a sweet-faced man, a proper man as one shall see in a summer’s day, a most lovely, gentlemanlike man. Therefore you must needs play Pyramus.

QUINCE

You can’t play any part but Pyramus. Because Pyramus is a good-looking man, the most handsome man you could find on a summer’s day, the most lovely gentlemanly man. Therefore you must play Pyramus.

BOTTOM

Well, I will undertake it. What beard were I best to play it in?

BOTTOM

Very well, I’ll do it. What would be the best beard for me to wear for the part?

QUINCE

Why, what you will.

QUINCE

Why, whichever one you want to wear.

BOTTOM

I will discharge it in either your straw-color beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French crown-color beard, your perfect yellow.

BOTTOM

I’ll play the role wearing either a straw-colored beard, or a brownish-yellow beard, or a deep red beard, or a bright yellow beard the color of a French crown.

QUINCE

Some of your French crowns have no hair at all, and then you will play barefaced. But masters, here are yourparts. And I am to entreat you, request you, and desireyou to con them by tomorrow night and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moonlight. There will we rehearse, for if we meet in the city we shall be dogged with company, and our devices known. In the meantime I will draw a bill of properties such as our play wants. I pray you, fail me not.

QUINCE

Some French heads have no hair at all, so maybe you could play the role clean-shaven. But, gentlemen, here are your scripts. I beg you, ask you, and desire you to please learn your lines by tomorrow night. Then meet me by moonlight in the duke’s forest a mile outside of town. There we will rehearse, because if we do it in the city, we’ll be bothered by crowds of people and everyone will know what we're going to perform. In the meantime, I’ll make a list of props that we’ll need for the play. Now, I beg you, don't miss the rehearsal.

BOTTOM

We will meet, and there we may rehearse most obscenely and courageously. Take pains. Be perfect. Adieu.

BOTTOM

We’ll be there, and there we’ll rehearse obscenely and courageously. Work hard, memorize your lines perfectly. Farewell.

QUINCE

At the duke’s oak we meet.

QUINCE

We’ll meet at the giant oak tree in the duke’s forest.

They all exit.

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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.