A line-by-line translation

A Midsummer Night's Dream

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

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A FAIRY and ROBIN GOODFELLOW enter from opposite sides of the stage.

ROBIN

How now, spirit? Whither wander you?

ROBIN

How are you, spirit? Where are you going?

FAIRY

Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough brier, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire. I do wander everywhere Swifter than the moon’s sphere. And I serve the fairy queen To dew her orbs upon the green. The cowslips tall her pensioners be: In their gold coats spots you see. Those be rubies, fairy favors. In those freckles live their savors. I must go seek some dewdrops here And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear. Farewell, thou lob of spirits. I’ll be gone. Our queen and all our elves come here anon.

FAIRY

Over hill, over valley, through bush, through thorn, over park, over fenced-in pastures, through water, through fire. I wander everywhere faster than the moon revolves around the Earth. I serve the fairy queen, decorating the grass with dew. The tall cowslip flowers are her bodyguards: the spots you see on their gold coats are rubies, fairy gifts. Their sweet smells come from those spots. Now I must go find some dewdrops, and hang a pearl of dew in every cowslip flower. Farewell, you silly unsophisticated spirit. I must go. The queen and her elves will be here soon.

ROBIN

The king doth keep his revels here tonight. Take heed the queen come not within his sight. For Oberon is passing fell and wrath Because that she, as her attendant hath A lovely boy stolen from an Indian king. She never had so sweet a changeling. And jealous Oberon would have the child Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild. But she perforce withholds the lovèd boy, Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy. And now they never meet in grove or green, By fountain clear or spangled starlight sheen. But they do square, that all their elves for fear Creep into acorn cups and hide them there.

ROBIN

The king is having a party here tonight. Be careful that the queen doesn’t come within his sight, because King Oberon is beyond angry. She stole an charming boy from an Indian king to be her servant. She’s never kidnapped such an adorable human child, and Oberon is jealous. He wants the child to be a knight within his own retinue, to wander with him through the wild forests. But the queen refuses to give up the beloved boy. Instead she crowns the boy’s head with flowers and treasures him. Now Oberon and Titania refuse to meet each other, whether in the forest or the fields, by the clear water of a stream, or beneath the stars. They just argue, so that all their elves get frightened and sneak off to hide in acorns.

FAIRY

Either I mistake your shape and making quite, Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite Called Robin Goodfellow. Are not you he That frights the maidens of the villagery, Skim milk, and sometimes labor in the quern And bootless make the breathless housewife churn, And sometime make the drink to bear no barm, Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm? Those that “Hobgoblin” call you, and “sweet Puck,” You do their work, and they shall have good luck. Are not you he?

FAIRY

Either I’m completely mistaken, or else you’re that mischievous and naughty spirit named Robin Goodfellow. Aren’t you the one who plays pranks on the maidens in the village, skimming the cream off the milk; clogging up the flour mill so they can't grind grain into flour; and making housewives breathless by keeping their milk from turning into butter no matter how much they churn? Don't you stop beer from foaming, and lead people out at night the wrong way while you laugh at them? But those who call you “Hobgoblin,” or “sweet Puck"— you do their work for them and make sure they have good luck. Aren't you him?

ROBIN

Thou speak’st aright. I am that merry wanderer of the night. I jest to Oberon and make him smile When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile, Neighing in likeness of a filly foal. And sometime lurk I in a gossip’s bowl In very likeness of a roasted crab, And when she drinks, against her lips I bob And on her withered dewlap pour the ale. The wisest aunt telling the saddest tale Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me. Then slip I from her bum, down topples she, And “Tailor!” cries, and falls into a cough, And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh, And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear A merrier hour was never wasted there. But, room, fairy! Here comes Oberon.

ROBIN

You are correct. I am the mischievous wanderer of the night. I joke to Oberon and make him smile. Sometimes I’ll trick a fat, well-fed horse by neighing as if I'm a young filly. Sometimes I hide at the bottom of an old gossipy woman’s cup in the form of a crab apple. When she drinks, I bob against her lips so that she spills the beer on her old wrinkly neck. Sometimes an old woman telling a sad story will mistake me for a three-legged stool and try to sit on me. Then I slip out from underneath her butt and she falls down, crying, “I'm sitting cross-legged like a tailor!” Then she starts to cough, and everyone around holds their bellies and laughs. Their laughter grows, and they sneeze, and I swear none of them has ever wasted an hour in greater fun. But make room, fairy! Here comes Oberon.

FAIRY

And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!

FAIRY

And here’s my queen. I wish he’d go away!

OBERON

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.

OBERON

I'm not glad to see you this night, proud Titania.

OBERON, the Fairy King, and his followers enter. On the other side of the stage, TITANIA, the Fairy Queen, and her followers enter.

TITANIA

What, jealous Oberon? Fairies, skip hence.I have forsworn his bed and company.

TITANIA

What, are you jealous, Oberon? Fairies, let’s leave this place. I’ve sworn I’ll never sleep with him or be near him again.

OBERON

Tarry, rash wanton. Am not I thy lord?

OBERON

Wait, you impulsive and willful creature. Am I not your lord and husband?

TITANIA

Then I must be thy lady. But I know When thou hast stolen away from Fairyland, And in the shape of Corin sat all day, Playing on pipes of corn and versing love To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here, Come from the farthest steep of India? But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon, Your buskined mistress and your warrior love, To Theseus must be wedded, and you come To give their bed joy and prosperity.

TITANIA

If you were, then I would have to be your lady and wife, to whom you are faithful. But I know that you snuck away from Fairyland disguised as a shepherd, and spent all day playing music and reciting love poems to an infatuated shepherdess. Why have you come here, all the way from the furthest mountains of India? Because, of course, that bouncing Amazon Hippolyta—your half-boot-wearing mistress and warrior lover—is getting married to Theseus, and you’ve come to bless their wedding bed with joy and prosperity.

OBERON

How canst thou thus for shame, Titania, Knowing I know thy love to Theseus? Glance at my creditwith Hippolyta, Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night From Perigouna, whom he ravishèd? And make him with fair Ægles break his faith, With Ariadne and Antiopa?

OBERON

How can you shamelessly make insinuations about my relationship with Hippolyta, when you know that I know about your love for Theseus? Didn't you entice him through the glimmering night away from Perigouna, whom he had just abducted and raped? And didn't you make him be unfaithful to Aegles, Ariadne, and Antiopa?

TITANIA

These are the forgeries of jealousy. And never, since the middle summer’s spring, Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead, By pavèd fountain, or by rushy brook, Or in the beachèd margent of the sea, To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind, But with thy brawls thou hast disturbed our sport. Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain, As in revenge, have sucked up from the sea Contagious fogs, which falling in the land Have every pelting river made so proud That they have overborne their continents. The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain, The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard. The fold stands empty in the drownèd field, And crows are fatted with the murrain flock. The nine-men’s-morris is filled up with mud, And the quaint mazes in the wanton green For lack of tread are undistinguishable. The human mortals want their winter here. No night is now with hymn or carol blessed. Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, Pale in her anger, washes all the air, That rheumatic diseases do abound. And thorough this distemperature we see The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose, And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer, The childing autumn, angry winter change Their wonted liveries, and the mazèd world, By their increase, now knows not which is which. And this same progeny of evils comes From our debate, from our dissension. We are their parents and original.

TITANIA

These are lies that emerge from your jealousy. Not once, since the beginning of midsummer—whether on a hill, in a valley, a forest, or a meadow, by a pebbly spring or rushing brook, or on a beach next to the ocean—have my fairies and I been able to meet and perform our ring dances to honor the whistling wind without you showing up with your shouting to interrupt our fun. Because of that, the winds have gotten angry at our lack of response to their calls. In revenge the winds have made nasty fogs rise up from the sea, and make rain fall upon the land so that rivers have grown so large they flood the land around them. All the work done by farmers' and their oxen has been ruined, and the corn has rotted before it could grow ripe. Animal pens stand empty in flooded fields, and the crows are fat from eating the bodies of sheep and cattle killed by disease. The village greens where men play games together are filled with mud, and the maze-like paths people have made through the high-grown grass have faded away because no one walks on them. The humans have not gotten the winter they should have, and the nights to not receive the blessings of the hymns or carols of that season. As a result the moon, who controls the tides, is pale with anger, and moistens the air so that colds and flu spread everywhere. Because of this disturbance in the normal natural order, the seasons have changed: bitter frosts descend upon red roses. And Old Man Winter wears an icy crown decorated with sweet summer flower buds, like some kind of cruel prank. The spring, summer, fruitful autumn, and angry winter have all changed out of their normal clothes, and now the confused world can't tell one from the other. And all of these bad outcomes are the result of our argument. We are the cause of this.

OBERON

Do you amend it then. It lies in you. Why should Titania cross her Oberon? I do but beg a little changeling boy, To be my henchman.

OBERON

So fix it, then. You have the power to do that. Why would Titania want to argue with her Oberon? All I’m asking for is to have that little human boy to be my attendant.

TITANIA

Set your heart at rest. The Fairyland buys not the child of me. His mother was a votaress of my order, And in the spicèd Indian air by night Full often hath she gossiped by my side, And sat with me on Neptune’s yellow sands, Marking th' embarkèd traders on the flood, When we have laughed to see the sails conceive And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind; Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait Following—her womb then rich with my young squire— Would imitate, and sail upon the land To fetch me trifles and return again As from a voyage, rich with merchandise. But she, being mortal, of that boy did die. And for her sake do I rear up her boy, And for her sake I will not part with him.

TITANIA

Calm your little heart. I wouldn't trade the child for all of Fairyland. His mother was one of my priestesses, and we often used to gossip together in the spiced night air in India, or sit on the beach by the ocean watching merchant ships sail by on the water. We'd laugh when we saw the wind fill up the sails, as if that amorous wind had made them pregnant and big-bellied. She would imitate the ships—she was pregnant at the time with the little boy—and she would pretend to sail over the land to get me little presents, and then come back carrying gifts like she was a trading ship returning from a voyage, rich with cargo. But she was a mortal, and she died giving birth to the boy. For her sake I will not give him up.

OBERON

How long within this wood intend you stay?

OBERON

How long do you plan to stay in this forest?

TITANIA

Perchance till after Theseus' wedding day. If you will patiently dance in our round And see our moonlight revels, go with us. If not, shun me, and I will spare your haunts.

TITANIA

Perhaps until after Theseus’ wedding day. If you will join us in our circle dance and moonlight celebrations without causing trouble, then come with us. If not, stay away from me, and I’ll avoid your lands.

OBERON

Give me that boy and I will go with thee.

OBERON

Give me that boy and I’ll come with you.

TITANIA

Not for thy fairy kingdom. Fairies, away!We shall chide downright, if I longer stay.

TITANIA

Not for your entire fairy kingdom. Fairies, let’s go! We’re going to have a real fight if I stay any longer.

OBERON

Well, go thy way. Thou shalt not from this grove Till I torment thee for this injury. [To ROBIN GOODFELLOW] My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememberest Since once I sat upon a promontory And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath That the rude sea grew civil at her song And certain stars shot madly from their spheres To hear the seamaid’s music?

OBERON

Well, then go on your way. You won’t leave this grove until I’ve made you suffer for this insult.

[To ROBIN GOODFELLOW]
My noble Puck, come here. Do you remember that time when I was sitting on a cliff and heard a mermaid riding on a dolphin’s back sing with such a sweet and harmonious voice that the rough waters of the ocean grew calm, and some stars shot out of the sky in order to hear her sing?

TITANIA and her followers exit.

ROBIN

I remember.

ROBIN

I remember.

OBERON

That very time I saw (but thou couldst not) Flying between the cold moon and the Earth, Cupid all armed. A certain aim he took At a fair vestal thronèd by the west, And loosed his love shaft smartly from his bow As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts. But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon, And the imperial votaress passèd on, In maiden meditation, fancy-free. Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell. It fell upon a little western flower, Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound. And maidens call it “love-in-idleness.” Fetch me that flower. The herb I showed thee once. The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid Will make or man or woman madly dote Upon the next live creature that it sees. Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again Ere the leviathan can swim a league.

OBERON

On that night, I saw Cupid (even though you couldn't); Cupid with all his arrows, flying from the cold moon to the earth. He aimed at a beautiful virgin who sat upon a throne in the western end of the world, and he shot his love arrow hard enough to pierce a hundred thousand hearts. But I saw young Cupid’s fiery arrow weakened by the virginal beams of the watery moon, and so the royal virgin was unaffected by the arrow, and so continued on with her virginal thoughts, without a care. But I noticed where Cupid’s arrow fell. It fell on a little western flower, which used to be as white as milk but turned purple when it was wounded by the arrow of love. Young women call that flower “love-in-idleness." Bring me that flower. I showed the plant to you once. If the juice of that flower is dropped on the eyelids of a sleeping person, that man or woman will then fall madly in love with the next living creature he or she sees. Bring me this plant, and return here before Leviathan can swim three miles.

ROBIN

I’ll put a girdle round about the EarthIn forty minutes.

ROBIN

I'll circle the world in forty minutes.

OBERON

Having once this juice, I’ll watch Titania when she is asleep And drop the liquor of it in her eyes. The next thing then she waking looks upon— Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, On meddling monkey or on busy ape— She shall pursue it with the soul of love. And ere I take this charm from of her sight— As I can take it with another herb— I’ll make her render up her page to me. But who comes here? I am invisible. And I will overhear their conference.

OBERON

Once I get this juice, I’ll spy on Titania until she falls asleep and then drop some of it on her eyes. The first thing she sees when she wakes up—whether it's a lion, bear, wolf, bull, monkey, or an ape—she'll fall deeply and madly in love with. And before I remove the spell from her eyes—which I can do by using another plant—I’ll make her give that little boy to me. But who’s that coming this way? I've made myself invisible and listen in on their conversation.

ROBIN exits.

DEMETRIUS enters, followed by HELENA.

DEMETRIUS

I love thee not, therefore pursue me not. Where is Lysander and fair Hermia? The one I’ll slay, the other slayeth me. Thou told’st me they were stol'n unto this wood. And here am I, and wood within this wood, Because I cannot meet my Hermia. Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.

DEMETRIUS

I don’t love you, so stop following me. Where are Lysander and beautiful Hermia? I want to kill Lysander, but Hermia kills me with her beauty. You told me they snuck into this forest. And here I am, going crazy in the middle of the woods because I cannot find my Hermia. Go away, get out of here, and stop following me.

HELENA

You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant. But yet you draw not iron, for my heart Is true as steel. Leave you your power to draw, And I shall have no power to follow you.

HELENA

You attract me to you, you heartless magnet! But you must not attract iron, because my heart is as true as steel. If you give up your power to attract me, then I won’t have any power to follow you.

DEMETRIUS

Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair?Or rather, do I not in plainest truthTell you I do not, nor I cannot, love you?

DEMETRIUS

Do I invite you to follow me? Do I speak to you kindly? Instead, don’t I tell you as clearly and plainly as possible that that I do not and cannot love you?

HELENA

And even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel. And, Demetrius, The more you beat me, I will fawn on you. Use me but as your spaniel—spurn me, strike me, Neglect me, lose me. Only give me leave, Unworthy as I am, to follow you. What worser place can I beg in your love— And yet a place of high respect with me— Than to be usèd as you use your dog?

HELENA

And for that I love you even more. I’m your little dog. And, Demetrius, the more you beat me, the more I’ll love you. Treat me like a dog—kick me, hit me, ignore me, try to lose me. Just allow me to follow you, even though I'm not good enough for you. Is there a worse position I could ask to be held in your heart than to be treated as you would treat a dog? And yet I would consider it a place of honor.

DEMETRIUS

Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit.For I am sick when I do look on thee.

DEMETRIUS

Don’t tempt me to hate you any more than I already do. It makes me sick just to look at you.

HELENA

And I am sick when I look not on you.

HELENA

And I am sick when I'm not looking at you.

DEMETRIUS

You do impeach your modesty too much, To leave the city and commit yourself Into the hands of one that loves you not, To trust the opportunity of night And the ill counsel of a desert place With the rich worth of your virginity.

DEMETRIUS

You shouldn't risk your reputation or your virginity by leaving the city and putting yourself into the hands of someone who doesn’t love you in the middle of the night in a deserted place, what with all the bad ideas that occur to people in deserted places.

HELENA

Your virtue is my privilege. For that It is not night when I do see your face. Therefore I think I am not in the night. Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company, For you in my respect are all the world. Then how can it be said I am alone When all the world is here to look on me?

HELENA

Your goodness will protect me. And, anyway, the beauty of your face shines, so it doesn't seem like nighttime to me. Besides, the forest doesn’t seem deserted, because for me you are the entire world. So how can anyone say I’m alone, when the whole world is here to look at me?

DEMETRIUS

I’ll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.

DEMETRIUS

I’ll run away from you and hide in the bushes, and leave you to the mercy of wild animals.

HELENA

The wildest hath not such a heart as you. Run when you will, the story shall be changed. Apollo flies and Daphne holds the chase. The dove pursues the griffin. The mild hind Makes speed to catch the tiger —bootless speed, When cowardice pursues and valor flies.

HELENA

Not even the wildest animal is as vicious as you. Run whenever you want to. The old story of the lustful god Apollo chasing the virginal nymph Daphne will be flipped: Apollo will run, and Daphne will pursue him. The dove will chase the griffin. The gentle deer will race to catch the tiger. Speed is useless when the cowardly person is chasing the brave one.

DEMETRIUS

I will not stay thy questions. Let me go.Or if thou follow me, do not believeBut I shall do thee mischief in the wood.

DEMETRIUS

I’m not going to wait around listening to your arguments. Let me go by myself. Or if you follow me, understand that I’ll do bad things to you in the forest.

HELENA

Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius! Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex. We cannot fight for love as men may do. We should be wooed and were not made to woo.

HELENA

Well, you've already done bad things to me in the church, in the town, and in the fields. Curse you, Demetrius! Your bad behavior is an insult to all women. We can't fight for love as men can. We should be pursued. We weren’t made to be the pursuer.

DEMETRIUS exits.

ROBIN enters.

I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of hell, To die uponthe hand I love so well.

I’ll follow you and turn this hell of mine into a heaven, by ensuring that I am killed by the one I love so much.


HELENA exits.

OBERON

Fare thee well, nymph. Ere he do leave this grove,Thou shalt fly him and he shall seek thy love.

OBERON

Goodbye, nymph. Before he leaves this forest, you’ll be running from him and he'll be chasing after your love.

ROBIN

Ay, there it is.

ROBIN

Yes, here it is.

Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.

Do you have the flower? Welcome, traveler.

OBERON

I pray thee, give it me. [He takes flower from ROBIN] I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk roses and with eglantine. There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight. And there the snake throws her enameled skin, Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in. And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes And make her full of hateful fantasies. [He gives ROBIN some of the flower] Take thou some of it and seek through this grove: A sweet Athenian lady is in love With a disdainful youth. Anoint his eyes. But do it when the next thing he espies May be the lady. Thou shalt know the man By the Athenian garments he hath on. Effect it with some care, that he may prove More fond on her than she upon her love. And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.

OBERON

Please, give it to me.[He takes the flower from ROBIN.] I know a hill where wild thyme blooms, and oxlips and violets grow. It’s covered with a canopy of luscious honeysuckle, sweet musk-roses, and sweetbrier. Titania sometimes sleeps there at night among the flowers, soothed to sleep by dances and delights. In that place snakes shed their skin, producing clothes just large enough to wrap a fairy in. There I’ll wet her eyes with the juice of this flower, and fill her with pathetic fantasies.[He gives ROBIN part of the flower] You take some of it and search the forest: there's a sweet Athenian lady who is in love with a young man who does not want her. Put some juice on his eyes, and do it in a way that ensures that the lady will be the next thing he sees. You’ll recognize the man by the Athenian clothes he's wearing. Be careful when you do it, so that when it's done he loves her more than she loves him. Then meet me before the rooster’s first crow at dawn.

ROBIN

Fear not, my lord. Your servant shall do so.

ROBIN

Don't worry, my lord. As your servant, I'll follow your orders.

They all exit, in opposite directions.

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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.