Fairies, sleeping powders, love triangles, and lots of drama – this is the loose summary of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Very loosely, at least, since it would be a major offense to try and reduce any of his plays to a few words. They may not be “To be or not to be” or “Romeo, Romeo, where art thou, Romeo,” but the lines acted out in this stage play are just as noteworthy and serve faithfully as excellent examples of the Shakespearean mastery. On the year that marks four hundred years since the English legend passed away, we’ve laid out 10 Memorable Quotes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Hippolyta, I woo’d thee with my sword
And won thy love doing thee injuries,
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling.
This quote illustrates Theseus’ perception of love, which he deems earnable through the use of sheer force. Because he managed to conquer Hyppolyta’s people, the Amazons, he considers that it’s only natural for the two of them to have a wedding. It’s not the only instance in which Theseus displays his personal views on love, with another mention being made only moments later. According to him, young women are required to marry even against their will, should their fathers name a husband for them.
Full of vexation come I, with complaint
Against my child, my daughter Hermia.—
Stand forth, Demetrius.—My noble lord,
This man hath my consent to marry her.—
Stand forth, Lysander.—And my gracious duke,
This man hath bewitch’d the bosom of my child.—
Thou, thou, Lysander,
The play is a strife between arranged marriages and the freedom to choose your own partner. Egeus arrives in front of Theseus, explaining that he wishes to wed his daughter, Hermia with Demetrius, but that her heart is with Lysander. This scene establishes the beginning of the plot, which centers on Hermia and Lysander’s quest to be together despite social conventions.
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments.
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth.
Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
The pale companion is not for our pomp.
This quote is a reflection of the culture of 17th century English, respectively to the world of entertainment. Theseus tells his Master of the Revels to engulf Athens in a merry atmosphere of partying. In the time of Shakespeare, the Mater of the Revels was responsible for London’s entertainment, making decisions such as entertainers to hire and stage plays to display.
And, gentle Puck, take this transformèd scalp
From off the head of this Athenian swain,
That he awaking when the other do
May all to Athens back again repair
And think no more of this night’s accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream.
In this scene, Oberon tells Puck that the four squabbling Athenians are going to remember that night’s events as nothing more than a distant dream. Through this moment, Midsummer’s Night Dream shows us that even someone as mighty as the King of Fairies fears the consequences of responsibility.
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.
Arguably the most memorable of A Midsummer Night’s Dream quotes, Lysander’s declaration of love is the essence of the play’s script. He claims that true love is never without difficulties and obstacles. In his and Hermia’s case, these obstacles are social conventions, Egeus’ disapproval, and the other characters which accidentally intervened in their relationship.
Why are you grown so rude? What change is this,
Thy love? Out, tawny Tartar, out!
Out, loathèd med’cine! O. hated potion, hence!
This dialogue occurs right after Lysander has been powdered with the love spell. When he wakes up, not only is he madly in love with Helena, but he no longer harnesses any romantic feelings for Hermia either. In fact, it seems that love has turned into hatred, which seems to hint towards the infamous “thin line” between love and hatred.
Lysander, keep thy Hermia. I will none.
If e’er I loved her, all that love is gone.
My heart to her but as guest-wise sojourned,
And now to Helen is it home returned,
There to remain.
Demetrius is the most fickle of characters. Before the enchantment, he loved Helena, only for his heart to be then stolen by Hermia. Oberon’s spell make him fall in love with Helena again, as seen in the quote above. However, one needs to wonder where his heart truly lies.
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.
Another pivotal concept of the plot is how love can often make us blind. Helena claims that, although she is as pretty as Hermia, Demetrius can only see Hermia’s beauty. In this sense, she adds that she too has been blind to Demetrius’ flaws. This basis is quite literally translated when Titania falls in love with the donkey-headed Bottom.
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
A short yet iconic quote, Puck exclaims this as he observes the ridiculous behavior of the four characters. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is all about the erratic and chaotic aspect of love, which might just be something typically human.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
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.
Near the end of the play, Puck addresses the audience and speaks these lines. He makes us question the truth of what we’ve just witnessed, requesting that we, too, think of the play as a dream in case it offended us. This creates a certain ambiguity between reality and the dream world.
A synopsis can hardly capture the whole charm of this Shakespearean masterpiece, but with the aid of 10 Memorable Quotes from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, we’ve exhibited some of the key elements of the script. The intriguing plot spawned not just one A Midsummer’s Night Dream movie, but two – a 30’s adaptation and a 1999 one, whose characters are portrayed by an impressive casting line-up.