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phrases, unintelligible and improper, except in the sense of their primitive roots, which occur so copiously in his plays, seem to be unaccountable on the supposition of absolute ignorance. In the Midsummer-Night's Dream, these are much less frequent than in his later dramas. But here we find several instances. Thus,
things base and vile, holding no quantity,” for value ; rivers that “have overborne their continents,” the continente ripa of Horace ;
compact of imagination,” “ something of great constancy,” for consistency ; "sweet Pyramus translated there ;" “ the law of Athens which by no means we may extenuate.” I have considerable doubts whether any of these expressions would be found in the contemporary prose of Elizabeth's reign, which was less overrun by pedantry than that of her successor ; but could authority be produced for Latinisms so forced, it is still not very likely that one who did not understand their proper meaning would have introduced them into poetry.'—HALLAM.
• There is no apparent reason why it should be called a dream of midsummer-night in particular. Midsummer-night was of old, in England, a time of bonfires and rejoicings, and in London of processions and pageantries. But there is no allusion to anything of this kind in the play. Midsummer-night cannot be the time of the action, which is very distinctly fixed to Maymorning and a few days before. May-morning, even more than midsummer-night, was a time of delight in those times which, when looked back upon from these days of incessant toil, seem to have been gay, innocent, and paradisaical. See in what sweet language, and in what a religious spirit the old topographer of London, Stowe, speaks of the universal custom of the people of the city on May-day morning : “to walk into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds praising God in their kinds." We have abundant materials for a distinct and complete account of the May-day sports in the happy times of Old England ; but they would be misplaced in illustration of this play: for though Shakespeare has made the time of his story the time when people went forth to“ do observance
to the morn of May,” and has laid the scene of the principal event in one of those half-sylvan, half-pastoral spots which we may conceive to have been the most favourable haunts of the Mayers, he does not introduce any of the May-day sports or shew us anything of the May-day customs of the time. Yet he might have done so. His subject seemed even to invite him to it, since a party of Mayers, with their garlands of sweet flowers, would have harmonised well with the lovers and the fairies, and might have made sport for Robin Goodfellow. Shakespeare loved to think of flowers and to write of them, and it may seem that it was a part of his original conception to have made more use than he has done of May-day and Flora's followers.'—HUNTER.
'I am convinced that Shakespeare availed himself of the title of this play in his own mind, and worked upon it as a dream throughout.'-COLERIDGE.
DRAMATIS PERSON Æ.
THESEUS, Duke of Athens.
in love with Hermia.
HIPPOLYTA, queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Thescus.
OBERON, king of the fairies.
characters in the Interlude performed by WALL,
Other fairies attending their King and Queen. Attendants on
THESEUS and HIPPOLYTA.
SCENE.—ATHENS, AND A WOOD NEAR IT.
Quin. Answer, as I call you.-Nick Bottom, the weaver.- Act I. Sc. 2. ;
SCENE I.—Athens. A Room in the Palace of THESEUS.
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, and Attendants. THE. Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial-hour
Draws on apace ; four happy days bring in
Hip. Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights ;