Hump Day (a day late) Shakespearean Quote – 16 April 2015


Spring is upon us here in Wisconsin, so how about an airy, summer-like delight from the magical Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow? This delightful verse–especially in the hands of a skilled actor–can ‘spring’ to hilarious delight: 


My mistress with a monster is in love.

Near to her close and consecrated bower,

While she was in her dull and sleeping hour,

A crew of patches, rude mechanicals,

That work for bread upon Athenian stalls,

Were met together to rehearse a play

Intended for great Theseus’ nuptial-day.

The shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort,

Who Pyramus presented, in their sport

Forsook his scene and enter’d in a brake

When I did him at this advantage take,

An ass’s nole I fixed on his head:

Anon his Thisbe must be answered,

And forth my mimic comes. When they him spy,

As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye,

Or russet-pated choughs, many in sort,

Rising and cawing at the gun’s report,

Sever themselves and madly sweep the sky,

So, at his sight, away his fellows fly;

And, at our stamp, here o’er and o’er one falls;

He murder cries and help from Athens calls.

Their sense thus weak, lost with their fears thus strong,

Made senseless things begin to do them wrong;

For briers and thorns at their apparel snatch;

Some sleeves, some hats, from yielders all things catch.

I led them on in this distracted fear,

And left sweet Pyramus translated there:

When in that moment, so it came to pass,

Titania waked and straightway loved an ass. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene ii 

Repeated rhymed couplets, especially to a modern ear, can sound cloying. But in the hands of Shakespeare and a skilled orator, this form lends itself perfectly to the scene at hand, where the magical Puck relates to Oberon how his wife Titania, through the powers of a magic potion, has fallen in love with a ‘rude mechanical’ most recently transformed into an ass. 

Go ahead, read the last four lines out loud. 

To this very day, A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, a masterpiece of comic delight and sublime language.   

The image is of Steven Lee Johnson as Puck in last year’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Hump Day Shakespearean Quote – 18 March 2015


With this, the last Wednesday of winter, it’s time to celebrate. Spring is almost here and after that, Summer.   From one of The Bard’s most popular plays, performed more often today than just about any other, here’s the lovely and lyrical closing lines of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

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:
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;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.  

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene i 

The ethereal spirit Puck delivers this postlude, which at first blush seems so much fluff.   But I think Shakespeare is saying something important here about the reality of theatre and the nature of Art. He has Puck urging the audience to pretend this was all but a dream–or is he? Shakespeare and Puck are playing with us: Puck, throughout the course of the play, has proven himself a trickster, yet he claims to be ‘honest Puck’; he admits the play’s themes are ‘weak and idle’ yet here we are, 400 years later, still parsing them out; the actors are shadows and the play ‘no more yielding than a dream’, yet they still have the power to offend–sending Puck out to address the audience directly to plead for amends. 

Such a strangely thoughtful ending, more than just a beautiful reel of couplets, it’s an evocative rumination on reality and dream, on memory and imagination.   And all of this at the tail end of a delightful fantasy-comedy.   

The image is of Stanley Tucci’s delightfully ridiculous Puck from the 1999 movie.