Act II - Scene I

[A wood near Athens]

Enter a Fairy at one door, and Robin Goodfellow [Puck] at another.]

How now, spirit! whither wander you?
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,(5)
I do wander every where,
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;(10)
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.(15)
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone.
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.
The king doth keep his revels here tonight;
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,(20)
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;(25)
But she perforce withholds the loved 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(30)
Creep into acorn cups and hide them there.
Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow. Are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery,(35)
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,(40)
You do their work, and they shall have good luck.
Are not you he?
Thou speakest aright:
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,(45)
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,(50)
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;(55)
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.
And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!(60)

Enter the King of Fairies, [Oberon] at one door, with his train,

and the Queen of Fairies, [Titania] at another, with hers.]

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
What, jealous Oberon! Fairies, skip hence;
I have forsworn his bed and company.
Tarry, rash wanton; am not I thy lord?
Then I must be thy lady; but I know(65)
When thou hast stolen away from fairy land,
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?(70)
But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,
Your buskin'd mistress and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded, and you come
To give their bed joy and prosperity?
How canst thou thus, for shame, Titania,(75)
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?
Didst not thou lead him through the glimmering night
From Perigouna, whom he ravished?
And make him with fair Aegle break his faith,(80)
With Ariadne and Antiopa?
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,(85)
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,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea(90)
Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land,
Hath every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn(95)
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,(100)
For lack of tread, are undistinguishable.
The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest;
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,(105)
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(110)
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, now knows not which is which.(115)
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.
Do you amend it, then; it lies in you.
Why should Titania cross her Oberon?(120)
I do but beg a little changeling boy,
To be my henchman.
Set your heart at rest;
The fairy land buys not the child of me.
His mother was a votaress of my order;(125)
And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side;
And sat with me on Neptune's yellow sands,
Marking the embarked traders on the flood;
When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive,(130)
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,(135)
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.
How long within this wood intend you stay?(140)
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.
Give me that boy, and I will go with thee.(145)
Not for thy fairy kingdom. Fairies, away.
We shall chide downright if I longer stay.

Exeunt [Titania with her train]

Well, go thy way; thou shalt not from this grove
Till I torment thee for this injury.
My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememberest(150)
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(155)
To hear the sea-maid's music.
I remember.
That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,
Flying between the cold moon and the earth
Cupid all arm'd; a certain aim he took(160)
At a fair vestal throned 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
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon;(165)
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,(170)
And maidens call it love-in-idleness.
Fetch me that flower, the herb I show'd thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.(175)
Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league.
I'll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes.

[Exit Puck]

Having once this juice,(180)
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,(185)
She shall pursue it with the soul of love.
And ere I take this charm from off 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;(190)
And I will overhear their conference.

Enter Demetrius, Helena following him.

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 stolen unto this wood,(195)
And here am I, and wood within this wood,
Because I cannot meet my Hermia.
Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.
You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant;
But yet you draw not iron, for my heart(200)
Is true as steel. Leave you your power to draw,
And I shall have no power to follow you.
Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair?
Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth
Tell you I do not nor I cannot love you?(205)
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,(210)
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 used as you use your dog?
Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit;(215)
For I am sick when I do look on thee.
And I am sick when I look not on you.
You do impeach your modesty too much
To leave the city and commit yourself
Into the hands of one that loves you not;(220)
To trust the opportunity of night,
And the ill counsel of a desert place,
With the rich worth of your virginity.
Your virtue is my privilege. For that
It is not night when I do see your face,(225)
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?(230)
I'll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,
And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
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;(235)
The dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind
Makes speed to catch the tiger; bootless speed,
When cowardice pursues and valour flies.
I will not stay thy questions; let me go;
Or, if thou follow me, do not believe(240)
But I shall do thee mischief in the wood.
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;(245)
We should be woo'd, and were not made to woo.

[Exit Demetrius]

I'll follow thee, and make a heaven of hell,
To die upon the hand I love so well.

Exit [Helena]

Fare thee well, nymph; ere he do leave this grove,
Thou shalt fly him, and he shall seek thy love.(250)

[Re-]enter Puck

Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.
Ay, there it is.
I pray thee give it me.
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,(255)
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine;
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,(260)
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.
Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove:
A sweet Athenian lady is in love(265)
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(270)
More fond on her than she upon her love.
And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.
Fear not, my lord; your servant shall do so.



  1. Notice the vivid imagery of the wild plants and flowers, and that the speech is in rhyming couplets. The effect of these clever details is that Oberon’s eloquent speech sounds almost hypnotizing and entrancing, similar to the way the flower’s enchantment may affect the lovers. However, notice the contrast between this dreamy language and the somewhat dark and sinister tone that the imagery of the snake carries, especially since the next line features a kind of entrapment. Oberon’s speech illustrates the deceptiveness of the forest and of love in general; both may seem wonderful on the surface, but their enchantment can make one blind to their darker aspects.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The juice from the flower literally causes people to blindly fall in love with the first person they see, but it is also a symbol of how love has been portrayed in the play thus far. Hermia and Helena have both commented on how love affects the eyes—suggesting that it is a blinding force that is all-encompassing.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Titania’s reasons for wanting to raise the changeling are fair, noble, and rational, but Oberon refuses to see reason. Despite his objections, Oberon’s motives for keeping the changeling are somewhat unclear. He seems to feel the boy is his by right and feels that his wife should obey him without question, due in part to the subservient role of women during Shakespeare’s time. However, recall that at the beginning of the scene, Puck refers to Oberon as “jealous Oberon,” suggesting that Oberon may be jealous that Titania devotes so much time and attention to the child. Regardless, Shakespeare here emphasizes Oberon’s somewhat stubborn and jealous nature.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. When the fairy identifies Robin Goodfellow, it does not initially say his name, but rather describes him by his attributes, “shrewd and knavish.” The term “knavish” means mischievous and “shrewd” means cunning, immediately characterizing Goodfellow as impish and sly in nature. Note too that even Goodfellow’s name is deceptive and tricky, as a “goodfellow” refers to a pleasant and agreeable ally, which strongly contrasts with a slick knave.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. A “changeling” generally refers to a child that has been secretly replaced with another during infancy. In European folklore, a changeling specifically refers to a child that has been left by fairies in exchange for one stolen.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. While this introduction to the two characters may not seem particularly special, the way the fairy and Robin Goodfellow reveal themselves to one another introduces a theme revolving around deception and the forest as a place where identities can change. For example, the fairy identifies Robin Goodfellow in an odd way by saying “Either I mistake your shape” and then following that with descriptions that connote deception. The interaction between these two therefore illustrate that deception and confusion are normal in this magical area, which stands in stark contrast to the environment from the first scene.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Adamant was a very strong kind of rock, otherwise unidentified, that was originally believed to be unbreakable. During Shakespeare’s time, adamant was also associate with lodestone, a rock made of magnetite. So, when Helena compares Demetrius to “hard-hearted adamant” she is saying that she is drawn to him like metal to a magnet.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Helena expresses frustration that she must defy her gender role and pursue Demetrius because he will not pursue her. While this can be read as a comedic line, it can also be read as a serious critique of courtship traditions during Shakespeare's time. Women were generally not allowed to choose their husbands or pursue the men that they desired; their fathers would make contractual arrangements with men who were monetarily and socially suited for their daughters, and then the man was allowed to court the woman before wedding her. If we read Helena's "should be" as an indication of obligation or duty rather than a belief, then Helena can be seen as frustrated that she is subject to this unfair gendered system in which she has no control over her fate.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff