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Midsummer Night's Dream

Written: 1595; Texts: Quartos 1600, 1619, First Folio 1623 (Comedy)
Source: Perhaps influenced by: Theseus and Hippolyta; Plutarch (c.46-120). Lives (Thomas North's translation in 1579); Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340-1400). The Canterbury Tales “The Knight's Tale” (1400); The story of “Pyramus and Thisbe” and the name of Titania; Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Metamorphoses (Arthur Golding's English translation in 1567); Oberon; Huon of Bordeau, a 13th-century French adventure tale translated by Lord Berners (1534)
Characters: Helena, Oberon, Theseus Duke of Athens, Puck, Lysander, Hermia, Titania, Demetrius, Bottom, Quince, Flute, Egeus
Setting: Athens
Time: Undetermined

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The Forms of Things Unknown

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For all the power of his poetry, volume of his vocabulary and sheer prolific output, Shakespeare seemed intent on telling us that we cannot know, truly know, what we most want to know, or even think we already know. We know this on several levels.

We’re frustrated enough that he left no correspondence, no diary, no memoir, no hand-written manuscripts.
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Video: Lo! She is one of this confederacy

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From Peter Hall’s film (January 30, 1968) of A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring Michael Jayston, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg, and David Warner.

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Town and Country

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In Cymbeline, Belarius advises his two adoptive sons to embrace the idyllic life in the country rather than the political life at court:

“O, this life
Is nobler than attending for a check;
Richer than doing nothing for a bable;
Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk:
Such gain the cap of him that makes him fine,
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Double Cherries and Drops of Water

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In A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Helena’s expression of love as a union that makes a couple one inseparable being —

We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
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Ay me! For aught that I could ever read

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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.
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Act 1
Scene 1

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How happy some o’er other some can be!

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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, folding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity:
Love looks not with the eyes,
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 232

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And the quaint mazes in the wanton green

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And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
For lack of tread, are undistinguishable.
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Act 2
Scene 1

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And this same progeny of evils comes

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And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.
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Act 2
Scene 1

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And thorough this distemperature

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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 mazed world,
By their increase,
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Act 2
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How now, spirit? Whither wander you?

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Robin
How now, spirit? Whither wander you?

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;

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Act 2
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These are the forgeries of jealousy

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These are the forgeries of jealousy:
And never, since the middle summer’s spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
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Act 2
Scene 1
Line 84

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Come, now a roundel and a fairy song

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Titania
Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;
Then, for the third part of a minute, hence—
Some to kill cankers in the muskrose buds,
Some war with reremice for their leathern wings
To make my small elves coats, and some keep back
The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders
At our quaint spirits.
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Act 2
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And yet, to say the truth

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And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days.
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Act 3
Scene 1

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Dark night, that from the eye his function takes

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Dark night, that from the eye his function takes,
The ear more quick of apprehension makes;
Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense,
It pays the hearing double recompense.
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Act 3
Scene 2

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