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.