Important Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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1. "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"

      Synopsis: Lysander speaks these lines to comfort Hermia when she is disillusioned about her predicament. She is in love with Lysander and does not know if it is destined for her to get married to Lysander. She articulates about this to Lysander who consoles her by saying these lines regarding the difficulties faced by their love as Egeus, her father, has forbidden them to marry and that Theseus has threatened her with death if she disobeys her father. Lysander tells Hermia that as long as there has been true love, there have been invincible difficulties to challenge it. He continues to list a number of these difficulties, many of which later appear in the play: differences in birth or age ("misgraffed in respect of years") and difficulties caused by friends or "war, death, or sickness," which make love seem "swift as a shadow; short as any dream". But, as Hermia comments, lovers must persevere, treating their difficulties as a price that must be paid for romantic union and prosperity.

      Critical Analysis: The above lines introduce the play's exploration of the theme of love's difficulties and in a way prophesy what lies ahead for Lysander and Hermia and the other lovers, as well. All the lovers in the play, both from the mortal and the fairy world will face difficulties in matters of love but they will eventually surmount these difficulties.

2. "Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace; four happy days bring in
Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow
This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires,
Like to a step-dame or a dowager
Long withering out a young man revenue."

      Synopsis: These opening lines of the first scene are spoken by Theseus, the king of mortal beings in Athens. He is due to get married to Hippolyta who is the queen of Amazons. He is intensely in love with her and is unable to be patient while he waits for his wedding day. In these lines, he is expressing his agitation over the waiting which seems incessant and endless to him. He compares his waiting with the predicament of an heir whose widowed mother continues to live thereby depriving him of his time to enjoy the property which he would rightly inherit. Theseus does not spare the moon either, calling it old as it cannot set early making way for the sun to rise. Theseus feels that the moon has conspired to set very slowly leading Theseus to wait for a very long time.

      Critical Analysis: The opening lines of the first act are significant in establishing the tone of the play. The wedding of Theseus is an important event in the play which functions as a link between the strands of stories running in the play. These lines also offer a window into the character of Theseus. He comes across as an impatient and immature person who cannot seem to wait for his wedding day. However, these first impressions are shattered when we read the play further and realize that Theseus is an erudite and mature ruler, if not patient.

3. "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, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."

      Synopsis: Helena is the speaker of these lines. She speaks these words as a commentary on the irrational and illogical nature of love. She means to say that she is as beautiful as Hermia and this is a known fact in the whole of Athens. However it is not important as Demetrius does not return her love. Demetrius cannot see her beauty. Helena adds that she adores and loves Demetrius in the same way that he dotes on Hermia. She believes that love has the power to transform "base and vile" qualities into "form and dignity"—that is, even ugliness and bad behavior can seem attractive to someone in love. Love also has the power to lend beauty to "ugly and vile" things. This is the case, she argues, because "love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind"—love depends not on an objective assessment of appearance but on subjective perceptions of the beloved.

      Critical Analysis: These lines make love emerge as a significant theme in the play. Through these lines, Helena makes profound statements on the nature of love. They are also important as these lines are upheld by Titania's behavior later in the play. Titania falls in love with a "donkey". Therefore for her, a donkey which is an ugly thing is transformed into a dignified being because of love.

4. "To live a barren sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
Thrice-blessed they that master so their blood,
To undergo such maiden pilgrimage;
But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd,
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Theseus as a warning to Hermia. She has refused to marry Demetrius who has been chosen as a worthy husband by her father, Egeus. Angered by this, Egeus seeks the ancient Athenian law to be invoked against her daughter. Theseus is the king of Athens who listens carefully to Egeus' complaint. He sympathizes with Egeus and gives Hermia time to reconsider her decision. He says that if she does not marry Demetrius then she will have to give up all worldly pleasures and become a virgin nun. He says that women who undergo such a maiden pilgrimage are blessed but he also adds that women who get married and bear children are happier.

      Critical Analysis: The character of Theseus has been painted with various shades here. Theseus is extremely diligent in his hearing of Egeus complaint and Hermia's answer to it. He is suggestive in his answer and expects Hermia to choose Demetrius over Lysander. Egeus is "full of vexation" and his state of anger prepares us for the conflict and tension which is to ensure further in the play.


5. "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"

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by a fairy when she encounters Puck while she wanders about during the darkness of the night. She seems to be already acquainted with Puck and even knows his real name to be Robin Goodfellow. Puck is an evil and spiteful spirit who is known for his pranks which frighten and scare away the maidens of the village.

      Critical Analysis: The fairy becomes a source of introducing Puck to the audience. Puck is an important character in the play and therefore his introduction in the play is significant. This introduction prepares us for Puck's funny and ridiculous antics which would be shown further in the play. Puck is a dishonest and sharp-witted spirit who would create many troubles in the upcoming scenes of the play.

6. "How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?"

      Synopsis: These lines have been spoken by the king of fairies, Oberon to his wife, Titania. Titania accuses Theseus of betraying her and being disloyal and an infidel to her by wooing the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. This accusing by Titania happens in the lines just preceding these lines. In these lines, Oberon reacts angrily to Titania saying that she has no right to accuse him of infidelity. He says this because he feels that Titania was also disloyal to her as she wooed Theseus.

      Critical Analysis: These lines are important because they introduce the main conflict in Oberon and Titania's life to us. Oberon and Titania are married but their marriage is marred by conflicts and verbal duels which leads them to spend their time apart. This is the first argument which takes place between them. The argument about disloyalty in marriage serves as a commentary on the elusive eternal happiness.

7. "When thou wakest, it is thy dear:
Wake when some vile thing is near."

      Synopsis: These lines have been spoken by Oberon. Oberon is the king of fairies and being a fairy himself, has the possession of a flower which contains a magical potion. When the juice of this flower is squeezed on the eyelids of a person while sleeping, they will fall in love with the first person they see after waking up. Oberon wants Puck, his chief attendant to squeeze this juice into Titania' eyes so that she can fall in love with a living being. This will preoccupy her with that being and she will give up her changeling to Oberon.

      Critical Analysis: These lines are reflective of Oberon's nature. Oberon is stubborn and determined to achieve his end at any cost. He is also angry with Titania to the extent that he lets her make a fool of herself and look ridiculous. He is willing to rectify the situation only after he has had the opportunity to lay his hands on the Indian changeling.

8. "For as a surfeit of the sweetest things The deepest loathing to the stomach brings,
Or as tie heresies that men do leave
Are hated most of those they did deceive,
So thou, my surfeit and my heresy,
Of all be hated, but the most of me!"

      Synopsis: These lines have been spoken by Lysander. He means to say that an excess of sweet things lead to a person detesting even the sight of sweet things. Similarly when unorthodox religious beliefs are given up, they are most detested by people who w jre earlier deceived by them. Hermia is the same sweet food which Lysander consumed in excess and the religious doctrine which deceived me for too long. Let Hermia now be detested by everyone but most of all by Lysander himself.

      Critical Analysis: Through this line, Lysander presents a universal truth of human beings. When we have an excessive quantity about something, we do not value it or even get irritated by the presence of it. Since Lysander is unaware of the magic cast on him, he uses this logic to explain his sudden attraction to Helena and repulsion from Hermia, whom he now intensely detests.

9. "So I, being young, till now ripe not to reason;
And touching now the point of human skill,
Reason becomes the marshal to my will
And leads me to your eyes, where I o'erlook
Love's stories written in love's richest book"

      Synopsis: These lines have been spoken by Lysander. Lysander speaks these lines under the effect of the magic potion. He is not in love with Hermia anymore and loves Helena. He says that he was immature when he was in love with Hermia. However now, reason has become his guiding force. Therefore he has fallen in love with Helena whose eyes are like a repository of stories of love for him.

      Critical Analysis: These lines are a reflection of the transience and impermanence of love. We see that Lysander, within a fraction of a second falls in love with Helena. Even though this all happens under the influence of a magic potion, these lines can be taken to emphasize the transitory and ephemeral nature of love and the people we fall in love with.

10. "Speak, of all loves! I swoon almost with fear.
No? then I well perceive you all not nigh
Either death or you I'll find immediately."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Hermia who has just woken up from a deep slumber in the forest. Lysander was by her side when she had fallen asleep but now she cannot find him anywhere. She says that she is shaking with fear as she cannot seem to find Lysander. She also remarks that if she is unable to find Lysander, she will kill herself. She says that she will either find death or Lysander.

      Critical Analysis: These comments highlight the extent and intensity of Hermia's love for Lysander. This comment is especially important as it occurs towards the end of the second Act. This piques the interest of the audience as to whether Hermia will be able to find Lysander or whether he will die.


11. "Write me a prologue; and let the prologue seem to say, we will do no harm with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed; and, for the more better assurance, tell them that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver: this will put them out of fear."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Bottom who is organizing the play with Quince. He suggests that they should write a prologue as the play contains some scenes which may hassle the audience, especially the "women folk". He suggests that the prologue must mention that Pyramus does not actually die. This explanation will put the audience out of fear.

      Critical Analysis: These lines, spoken by Bottom signify the topsy-turvy approach which the mechanicals employ to rehearse for their play. They decide to write a prologue on an impulse. This prologue is extremely unrefined in nature and gives the secrets of the performance away thereby weakening the performance.

12. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Puck who makes this declaration in his amazement at the absurd and ridiculous behavior of the young Athenians. Puck is a jester who is known to be extremely funny and a prankster. Needless to say, he puts a funny twist to every situation. In this particular situation, Puck says that mortals or human beings are fools, especially when they are in love.

      Critical Analysis: This line is considered to be one of the most famous in A Midsummer Night's Dream for its terse and expressive humor, but it is also important from the thematic point of view: because it captures the exaggerated ridiculousness of the lovers behavior and also because it emphasizes the contrast between the mortal lovers, completely engulfed by their emotions, and the fairies, mischievous and roguish.

13. "Then, there is another thing: we must have a wall in the great chamber; for Pyramus and Thisbe says the story; did talk through the chink of a wall."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Quince who is the main director of the play. He is immersed in the rehearsal of the play and is instructing the other mechanicals to create or arrange for stage props. He says that the ancient tale of Pyramus and Thisbe says that they were separated by a wall and they could only communicate through a little chink in the wall.

      Critical Analysis: These lines echo Lysander's sentiment that the course of love "never runs smooth". Even the fictional characters of Pyramus and Thisbe's and their love are marred by difficulties. This line highlights a major theme of the play; love and its difficulties.

14. "I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me"

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Bottom. Completely unaware that he has been transformed, Bottom declares that his friends have run away from him in fear because they're trying to "make an ass" out of him. By this, he means to say that his friends, the other group of mechanicals are only trying to make a fool of him.

      Critical Analysis: After Puck has transposed a donkey's head on Bottom's head, Bottom becomes the butt of Shakespeare's biggest joke about transformation. This line is also significant due to its literary allusions. Shakespeare in all probability; got the idea from Apuleius's Golden Ass, a story about a guy who's turned into a donkey. Bottom's conversion is also central to the play's theme of transformation, illusion and reality, a concept Shakespeare borrowed from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

15. "Methinks, mistress, you should have little
reason for that. And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Bottom. Titania has fallen in love with him. He cannot believe this and therefore remarks that Titania has no reason, whatsoever to love him. He says that love and reason do not gel well together.

      Critical Analysis: These lines represent a quality typical of Shakespearean drama. In some cases, the dumbest character makes the most intelligent and wisest observation. Love is seen and portrayed to be ridiculous in this play and therefore Bottom remarks that love and reason seldom go together.


16. "How came these things to pass?
O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!"

      Synopsis: When Titania wakes up, free from the influence from the love spell, she is unable to comprehend anything which happened earlier. She is able to understand part of the story. She realizes that she was in love with a donkey. Now that she is free from the love spell, she cannot even stand the sight of this donkey.

      Critical Analysis: Titania falls in love with a donkey under the influence of a magical potion. When the effect of this potion is nullified, she detests the very creature she was earlier in love with. It can be said that time, in general is like a magic potion. It makes us fall in and out of love. This quote highlights the transience of love.

17. "Man is but an ass if he go about t'expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had"

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Bottom who makes this speech after he wakes up from his romantic adventure with Titania. His human head has now been restored human head and he believes that his experience with a donkey-headed monster beloved by the beautiful fairy queen was merely a bizarre and ridiculous dream. He remarks dramatically that his dream is beyond human comprehension and no man can tell what the dream really was about.

      Critical Analysis: These lines represent the limitations of human reason. Reason has traditionally been considered to be the higher faculty but in reality; it is human imagination which makes us experience surreal things. These experiences cannot be held or contained by human reason or comprehension.

18. "I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called 'Bottom's Dream', because it hath no bottom."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Bottom who says that he will ask Quince to write a ballad about this dream. He says that this ballad will be titled, “Bottom's Dream" because the dream which he saw did not have any logic and was without any "bottom".

      Critical Analysis: These lines are important because they offer humorous commentary on the theme of dreams throughout the play. It is difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy in the play. This idea is also important as it portrays the power and purpose of literature to capture events, ideas and experiences which are elusive to human reason. But it is the prerogative of literature to take flights of imagination.


19. "Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend."

      Synopsis: Puck speaks these lines in a concluding address to the audience near the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream. He says that the audience of their play may not have been able to enjoy the play fully and that the actors must be forgiven for that.

      Critical Analysis: These lines extend the theme of dreams beyond the boundary of the play and putting the reality of the audience's experience into question. As many of the characters (Bottom and Theseus among them) believe that the magical events of the play's action were merely a dream, Puck tells the crowd that if the play has offended them, they too should remember it simply as a dream— "That you have but slumbered here, / While these visions did appear." The speech offers a commentary on the dreamlike atmosphere of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

20. "Lovers and madmen have such seething brains."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Theseus who says that lovers and lunatics are men of the same category who have minds bubbling with intense energy, waiting to be released.

      Critical Analysis: Shakespeare is known to write his plays and intersperse them with his theory of art and literature. Here he seems to comment that lovers are like fanatics lacking any reason as their guiding light. It is important for lovers like fanatics to not repress their creative energy and ideas.

21. "For never anything can be amiss, When simpleness and duty tender it."

      Synopsis: These lines are spoken by Puck in the concluding epilogue in the play. He is apologizing to the audience for anything which was amiss in the play or for any lacuna which could not be filled. However Puck, in these lines remarks that nothing can be considered amiss if a particular task is accomplished with a sense of duty and sincerity.

      Critical Analysis: These lines are important as they emphasize a universal truth. No task which has been undertaken as a human endeavor can be fully justified or accomplished perfectly. Errors, misjudgments or gaps are bound to creep in the execution of a task. However, we must remember that if a piece of work is done with complete sincerity and honesty, then this must sincerity and honesty must be acknowledged and appreciated.

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