Act V

[Athens. The palace of Theseus]

Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Philostrate, and Lords

'Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak
More strange than true. I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,(5)
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;(10)
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth(15)
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,(20)
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear?
But all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigured so together,(25)
More witnesseth than fancy's images,
And grows to something of great constancy,
But howsoever strange and admirable.

Enter Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, and Helena

Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.
Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days of love(30)
Accompany your hearts!
More than to us
Wait in your royal walks, your board, your bed!
Come now; what masques, what dances shall
we have,(35)
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between our after-supper and bed-time?
Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?(40)
Call Philostrate.
Here, mighty Theseus.
Say, what abridgment have you for this evening?
What masque? what music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?(45)
There is a brief how many sports are ripe;
Make choice of which your Highness will see first.

[Giving a paper]

‘The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.’
We'll none of that: that have I told my love,(50)
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
‘The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.’
That is an old device, and it was play'd
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.(55)
‘The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceas'd in beggary.’
That is some satire, keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
‘A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus(60)
And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.’
Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?
A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,(65)
Which is as brief as I have known a play;
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
Which makes it tedious; for in all the play
There is not one word apt, one player fitted.
And tragical, my noble lord, it is;(70)
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
Which when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed.
What are they that do play it?(75)
Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never labour'd in their minds till now;
And now have toil'd their unbreathed memories
With this same play against your nuptial.
And we will hear it.(80)
No, my noble lord,
It is not for you. I have heard it over,
And it is nothing, nothing in the world;
Unless you can find sport in their intents,
Extremely stretch'd and conn'd with cruel pain,(85)
To do you service.
I will hear that play;
For never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go, bring them in; and take your places, ladies.(90)

[Exit Philostrate]

I love not to see wretchedness o'er-charged,
And duty in his service perishing.
Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.
He says they can do nothing in this kind.
The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.(95)
Our sport shall be to take what they mistake;
And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect
Takes it in might, not merit.
Where I have come, great clerks have purposed
To greet me with premeditated welcomes;(100)
Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
Make periods in the midst of sentences,
Throttle their practised accent in their fears,
And, in conclusion, dumbly have broke off,
Not paying me a welcome. Trust me, sweet,(105)
Out of this silence yet I picked a welcome;
And in the modesty of fearful duty
I read as much as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
Love, therefore, and tongue-tied simplicity(110)
In least speak most to my capacity.

[Re-enter Philostrate]

So please your Grace, the Prologue is
Let him approach.

Flourish trumpets

Enter [Quince as] the Prologue

If we offend, it is with our good will.(115)
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will. To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
Consider then, we come but in despite.
We do not come, as minding to content you,(120)
Our true intent is. All for your delight
We are not here. That you should here repent you,
The actors are at hand; and, by their show,
You shall know all, that you are like to know.
This fellow doth not stand upon points.(125)
He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he
knows not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not
enough to speak, but to speak true.
Indeed he hath play'd on this prologue like a
child on a recorder,—a sound, but not in government.(130)
His speech was like a tangled chain; nothing
impaired, but all disordered. Who is next?

Enter, with a trumpet before them, [as in dumb show,] [Bottom as] Pyramus and [Flute as] Thisbe, [Snout as] Wall, [Starveling as] Moonshine, and [Snug as] Lion

Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;
But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.
This man is Pyramus, if you would know;(135)
This beauteous lady Thisbe is certain.
This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present
Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder;
And through Wall's chink, poor souls, they are content
To whisper. At the which let no man wonder.(140)
This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,
Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,
By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn
To meet at Ninus' tomb, there, there to woo.
This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,(145)
The trusty Thisbe, coming first by night,
Did scare away, or rather did affright;
And as she fled, her mantle she did fall;
Which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain.
Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall,(150)
And finds his trusty Thisbe's mantle slain;
Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broach'd his boiling bloody breast;
And Thisbe, tarrying in mulberry shade,
His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest,(155)
Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain,
At large discourse while here they do remain.

Exeunt all but Wall

I wonder if the lion be to speak.
No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many
asses do.(160)
In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall as I would have you think
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe,(165)
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast, and this stone, doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so;
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.(170)
Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?
It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse,
my lord.

Enter [Bottom as] Pyramus

Pyramus draws near the wall; silence.
O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black!(175)
O night, which ever art when day is not!
O night, O night, alack, alack, alack,
I fear my Thisbe's promise is forgot!
And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,
That stand'st between her father's ground and mine;(180)
Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,
Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine eyne.

[Wall shows his chink]

Thanks, courteous wall. Jove shield thee well for this!
But what see I? No Thisbe do I see.
O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss,(185)
Curs'd he thy stones for thus deceiving me!
The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse
No, in truth, sir, he should not. Deceiving me is
Thisbe's cue. She is to enter now, and I am to spy her(190)
through the wall. You shall see it will fall pat as I told
you; yonder she comes.

Enter [Flute as] Thisbe

O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans,
For parting my fair Pyramus and me!
My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones,(195)
Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.
I see a voice; now will I to the chink,
To spy an I can hear my Thisbe's face.
My love! thou art my love, I think.(200)
Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover's grace;
And like Limander am I trusty still.
And I like Helen, till the Fates me kill.
Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true.
As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you.(205)
O, kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.
I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.
Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straightway?
'Tide life, 'tide death, I come without delay.
Thus have I, wall, my part discharged so;(210)
And, being done, thus Wall away doth go.


Now is the mural down between the two neighbors.
No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to
hear without warning.
This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.(215)
The best in this kind are but shadows; and the
worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.
It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves,
they may pass for excellent men. Here come two(220)
noble beasts in, a man and a lion.

Enter Lion and Moonshine

You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear
The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,
May now, perchance, both quake and tremble here,
When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.(225)
Then know that I, as Snug the joiner, am
A lion fell, nor else no lion's dam;
For, if I should as lion come in strife
Into this place, 'twere pity on my life.
A very gentle beast, and of a good conscience.(230)
The very best at a beast, my lord, that e'er I saw.
This lion is a very fox for his valour.
True; and a goose for his discretion.
Not so, my lord; for his valour cannot carry his
discretion, and the fox carries the goose.(235)
His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valour;
for the goose carries not the fox. It is well. Leave it to his
discretion, and let us listen to the moon.
This lanthorn doth the horned moon present—
He should have worn the horns on his head.(240)
He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible
within the circumference.
This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;
Myself the man i' the moon do seem to be.
This is the greatest error of all the rest; the man(245)
should be put into the lantern. How is it else the man i'
the moon?
He dares not come there for the candle; for,
you see, it is already in snuff.
I am aweary of this moon. Would he would(250)
It appears, by his small light of discretion, that he
is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all reason, we
must stay the time.
Proceed, Moon.(255)
All that I have to say is to tell you that the lanthorn
is the moon; I, the man i' the moon; this thorn-bush, my
thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog.
Why, all these should be in the lantern; for all
these are in the moon. But silence; here comes Thisbe.(260)

[Re-]enter Thisbe

This is old Ninny's tomb. Where is my love?
O— The Lion roars [Flute as] Thisbe runs off
Well roared, Lion.
Well run, Thisbe.
Well shone, Moon. Truly, the moon shines with(265)
a good grace.

[The Lion tears Thisbe's mantle, and exits]

Well moused, Lion.
And then came Pyramus.
And so the lion vanished.

[Re-]enter [Bottom as] Pyramus

Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;(270)
I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright;
For, by thy gracious, golden, glittering gleams,
I trust to take of truest Thisbe sight.
But stay, O spite!
But mark, poor knight,(275)
What dreadful dole is here!
Eyes, do you see?
How can it he?
O dainty duck! O dear!
Thy mantle good,(280)
What! stain'd with blood?
Approach, ye Furies fell.
O Fates! come, come;
Cut thread and thrum;
Quail, crush, conclude, and quell.(285)
This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would
go near to make a man look sad.
Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
O wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?
Since lion vile hath here deflower'd my dear;(290)
Which is—no, no—which was the fairest dame
That lived, that loved, that liked, that looked with cheer.
Come, tears, confound;
Out, sword, and wound
The pap of Pyramus;(295)
Ay, that left pap,
Where heart doth hop.
Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.

[Stabs himself]

Now am I dead,
Now am I fled;(300)
My soul is in the sky.
Tongue, lose thy light;
Moon, take thy flight.

[Exit Moonshine]

Now die, die, die, die, die.


No die, but an ace, for him; for he is but one.(305)
Less than an ace, man; for he is dead; he is
With the help of a surgeon he might yet recover
and yet prove an ass.
How chance Moonshine is gone before Thisbe(310)
comes back and finds her lover?
She will find him by starlight. Here she comes; and
her passion ends the play.

[Re-]enter [Flute as] Thisbe]

Methinks she should not use a long one for
such a Pyramus; I hope she will be brief.(315)
A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus,
which Thisbe, is the better,—he for a man, God warrant
us: She for a woman, God bless us!
She hath spied him already with those sweet
And thus she moans, videlicet:—
Asleep, my love?
What, dead, my dove?
O Pyramus, arise,
Speak, speak. Quite dumb?(325)
Dead, dead? A tomb
Must cover thy sweet eyes.
These lily lips,
This cherry nose,
These yellow cowslip cheeks,(330)
Are gone, are gone;
Lovers, make moan;
His eyes were green as leeks.
O Sisters Three,
Come, come to me,(335)
With hands as pale as milk;
Lay them in gore,
Since you have shore
With shears his thread of silk.
Tongue, not a word.(340)
Come, trusty sword;
Come, blade, my breast imbrue. [Stabs herself]
And farewell, friends;
Thus Thisbe ends;
Adieu, adieu, adieu. [Dies](345)
Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead.
Ay, and Wall too.
No, I assure you; the wall is down that parted
their fathers. Will it please you to see the epilogue, or to
hear a Bergomask dance between two of our company?(350)
No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no excuse.
Never excuse; for when the players are all dead
there need none to be blamed. Marry, if he that writ it had
played Pyramus, and hanged himself in Thisbe's garter, it
would have been a fine tragedy. And so it is, truly; and(355)
very notably discharged. But come, your Bergomask; let
your epilogue alone.

[A dance]

The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve.
Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
I fear we shall out-sleep the coming morn,(360)
As much as we this night have overwatch'd.
This palpable-gross play hath well beguiled
The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
In nightly revels and new jollity.(365)


Enter Puck [with a broom]

Now the hungry lion roars,
And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task fordone.
Now the wasted brands do glow,(370)
Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,
Puts the wretch that lies in woe
In remembrance of a shroud.
Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,(375)
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide.
And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate's team
From the presence of the sun,(380)
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic. Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house.
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.(385)

Enter [Oberon and Titania], with all their train

Through the house give glimmering light,
By the dead and drowsy fire;
Every elf and fairy sprite
Hop as light as bird from brier;
And this ditty, after me,(390)
Sing and dance it trippingly.
First, rehearse your song by rote,
To each word a warbling note;
Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.(395)

The Song

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create(400)
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be;
And the blots of Nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand;(405)
Never mole, hare-lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be.
With this field-dew consecrate,(410)
Every fairy take his gait,
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace, with sweet peace;
And the owner of it blest
Ever shall in safety rest.(415)
Trip away; make no stay;
Meet me all by break of day.

Exeunt [all but Puck]

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here(420)
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.(425)
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call.(430)
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.




  1. Puck’s speech also alludes to the physical space of a theater. After A Midsummer Night’s Dream has ended, all will actually be silent, and the theatre will have to be cleaned and swept with a “broom.” Here, Puck essentially verifies that he has been helping Oberon to stage this play from the beginning. Shakespeare thus illustrates the ephemeral nature of theatre; the performance must eventually come to an end, at which point the theatre will return to the “hallow’d house” it was, awaiting the next performance.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Puck acts as it the play is actually real and promises to clean up anything that remains from the play. His speech here not only shows how all that has happened will soon fade into the past, but also that the play will leave its mark on the audience. This emphasis on the real and the unreal again highlights the potential of theatre: to find common ground between reality and the imaginary, wherein the actors, the characters, and the audience can all coexist.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Consider that although this speech is comical due to Snug’s silly assumption that the audience will be unable to distinguish reality from make believe, the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have actually struggled to distinguish between the two throughout the play. Characters have doubted their experiences in the forest, unsure of whether they were real or simply very vivid dreams. So while Snug’s speech can seem ridiculous, it also underscores that the line between reality and illusion may not be quite so easily defined. Furthermore, Snug’s worries also highlight the real magic of good theatre—it has the incredible potential to feel real even while the audience knows that it is not.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Snug and the other laborers assume that the “ladies” in the audience will be frightened by his character, meaning that they will think he is an actual lion rather than a fictional one. Snug’s speech illustrates the way in which the actors constantly misunderstand the viewer’s experience of theatre. The scene is comical because the actors constantly “break the fourth wall” (address the audience directly, pulling them out of the fictional world of the play). No audience member would really believe that the Snug was really a lion; they know that they are watching a performance. His speech functions as an amusing breach of theatrical conventions.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The actors in Quince’s play have often worried that Theseus would not be able to see that they are actually acting, implying that they think themselves highly skilled actors. We know this is a silly concern, because the actors are actually quite terrible. Here, Theseus says that he is always able to see the real behind the act, and he extends the notion of acting into day-to-day life. Theseus suggests that people are essentially actors in their own lives, and that life is itself a play in a sense.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. In yet another example of how badly the laborers are acting, Bottom breaks character to speak directly to Theseus because he is worried that his acting is so good that no one will be able to tell that he is just an actor playing Pyramus. This is ironic, of course, because the audience (meaning Theseus and the others) as well as Shakespeare’s audience know that they are watching a play and that there never was a risk of someone mistaking Bottom for actually being Pyramus.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. The performance of the laborers parallels Shakespeare’s performance of the lovers in the woods with the fairies. Quince’s prologue provides the exposition and rhythm, and the audience (Theseus, et al) laugh at the performance much in the same way that the fairies laughed at the “performance” of the lovers in the forest. This parallel emphasizes the theme of play within a play.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Note also that Theseus contrasts “apprehend” and “comprehends,” further emphasizing the motif of perception by contending that what lunatics see is different from what the rational people with “cool reason” see. This illustrates how Theseus sees logic as more valuable and reliable than empirical knowledge. However consider that rationality was ultimately unsuccessful in resolving the lovers’ discord. Shakespeare thus highlights the limitations of Theseus’ mindset, implying that there is value in the perceptions and practices of the artist even if they seem irrational at times.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. While the word government refers to an organization of people who create and enforce laws, Hippolyta uses it in a more general sense to say that the sounds are not harmonious, that they are not working together towards the same purpose.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Theseus insists that rather than experiencing something supernatural, love has merely caused the lovers to experience reality in an altered way, which he seems to suggest is natural. He compares “the lunatic, the lover, and the poet,” and states that these are all people whose perception of reality is fantastical. This line echoes a theme that we have seen throughout the play that love has the power to determine one’s perception, but the comparison of the poet to the lunatic is interesting. Shakespeare is a poet himself, and many characters in the play have functioned as playwrights and poets, documenting both the “real” and the “unreal” via art.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Bottom and Flute get the names of these two characters from Greek myth wrong. The story of Cephalus and his wife Procris as related in Ovid’s Metamorphoses has several versions, but generally the plot revolves around Cephalus’s accidental killing of his wife. It’s not a terribly romantic story of love, making its location here in the laborer’s play another example of how poorly written their script is.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Dreams are a major motif throughout this play. The characters's fluctuation between sleeping and waking, forest and city, enchanted love and real love, plays with social boundaries that operated within Shakespeare's time period. Puck concludes this play by telling the audience to treat the play itself like a bad dream if they were offended by the content.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff