From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.
2. Pat, pat, in the very nick of time; cp. Haml. iii. 3. 73,
"Now might I do it pat." Skeat says, "This can hardly be
other than the same word as pat, a tap. ... But the sense is clearly
due to an extraordinary confusion with Du. pas, pat, fit, convenient in time"...: marvellous, used adverbially; see Abb. § 1.
4. hawthorn-brake, thicket formed of hawthorn bushes: tiring
house, house for attiring ourselves, dressing-room: to 'tire,'
an abbreviation of 'attire,' is used specially of dressing the head;
do it in action, act it.
7. bully, properly a blustering fellow, but frequently used by
Shakespeare in a familiarly patronizing sense.
10. abide, endure; more properly 'aby,' as in iii. 2. 175, the
word in this sense being from the A.S. abicgan, to pay for, while
in the sense of 'wait for' it is from the A.S. abidan to expect.
10, 1. How answer you that? What answer will you make to
that? How will you meet that objection?
12. By'r lakin, by our little lady, i.e. the Virgin Mary, used in
an affectionate sense; cp. Temp. iii. 3. 1: parlous, a contraction
of 'perilous'; always used by Shakespeare with a certain comic
13, 4. when all is done, after all; more commonly in modern speech 'when all is said and done.'
15. Not a whit, not in the least; by no means; whit, "a thing,
a particle, a bit. The h is in the wrong place; whit stands for
wiht = wight, and is the same word as wight a person" ... (Skeat,
Ety. Dict.): to make all well, to set everytning straight; to
obviate the difficulties you fear.
16. seem to say, merely Bottomese for 'say.' Wright compares
Launcelot's language, M. V. ii. 4. 11, "An it shall please you to
break up this, it shall seem to signify."
18. more better, for the double comparative, see Abb. § 11.
22. written in eight and six, in verses alternately of eight and
25. afeard, afraid; though in affearda- represents a corruption
of the A.S. intensive of, the E. E. form of the verb being offeren,
while 'afraid' is the participle of affray, to frighten.
26. I fear ... you, I fear they will be afraid, I can assure you.
27. consider with yourselves, ponder the matter among you.
28. God shield us! God protect us! Bottom is horrified at the
very idea. Malone compares a real occurrence at the Scottish
Court in the year 1594, at the christening of Prince Henry, when
a triumphal chariot was drawn in by a blackamoor because it was
feared that the lion by which it was intended to be drawn might
frighten the spectators, or the lighted torches drive the lion
29. wild-fowl, of course for 'wild-beast:' living goes with
wild-fowl, not with lion.
30. ought to look to 't, ought to be careful what we are doing.
35. defect, effect.
37, 8. my life for yours, I stake my life for yours; I pledge
you by my life that there is no reason for you to fear.
38, 9. it were ... life, it would be a thing I should regret
most bitterly; or perhaps of my life = I swear on my life;
the phrase with 'of' as here, or 'on,' is frequent in Shakespeare; e.g. M. M. ii. 1. 77, T. N. ii. 5. 14; for of = as regards,
see Abb. § 174.
40. there, at that point in his speech. Malone thinks there is here an allusion to a contemporary incident. "There was a
spectacle presented to Queen Elizabeth upon the water, and
among others Harry Goldingham was to represent Arion upon the
dolphin's backe; but finding his voice to be verye hoarse and
unpleasant, when he came to perform it, he tears off his disguise,
and swears he was none of Arion, not lie, but even honest Harry
Goldingham; which blunt discoverie pleased the queene better
than if he had gone through in the right way"... (Merry Passages
and Jeasts, M.S. Harl, 6395).
41. Joiner, carpenter.
42. there is, for the inflection in -s preceding a plural subject,
see Abb. § 335, though here probably we have an intentional
46. calendar, almanac; from "Lat. calendarium an account
book of interest kept by money-changers, so called because interest
became due on the calends (or first day) of each month; in later
times a calendar" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
49. casement, window; properly the frame forming a window,
or part of a window, which opened on hinges attached to the
upright side of the frame in which it was fixed.
53. disfigure, figure, personate.
56. did talk ... wall, in the story, Pyramus and Thisbe, living
in adjoining houses, made a hole in the partition wall through
which to carry on their love-making.
60. rough-cast, plaster mixed with small pebbles.
61. or is altered by Collier's M.S. Corrector into and, a reading
which Dyce, Delius and the Camb. Edd. adopt, but which does
not seem to be necessary. Bottom mentions two alternative
ways in which the wall may be symbolized; first, by the actor
appearing daubed with marks of his occupation; secondly, as the
story was so well known, by his holding his hand out with the
first and second fingers separated from the third and fourth to
signify a chink in the wall. It is true that in the representation
both means are adopted, but it does not follow that this was the
64. every mother's son, every one of you.
66. brake, the thicket at the side represents the 'wings' of the
stage behind which the actors retire when they have played their
parts: cue, according to some, from F. queue, a tail; according
to others from Q, a note of entrance for actors, because it was
the first letter of the Latin word quando, when, showing when
to enter and speak.
67. What hempen ... here, what rude rustics do I find ranting
and strutting about here? 'Homespun' is literally coarse cloth
spun at home, and 'hemp' is one of the materials used in the
68. So near ... queen? Puck resents their daring to approach
so near the resting place of his sovereign.
69. toward, in preparation; cp. Haml. v. 2. 876, "What feast
is toward thine eternal cell?"
72. savours, though there are many instances in Shakespeare
of the third person plural in -s, Bottom's illiterate speech is
probably indicated here.
76. a While, for a time, for a minute or two.
77. by and by, almost directly; cp. Oth. ii. 3. 309, 10, "To
be now (i.e. at one moment) a sensible man, by and by (i.e. a
short time afterwards) a fool, and presently (i.e. almost immediately after that) a beast!"
78. here, Steevens supposes a reference to the theatre in which
the piece was being acted; played, acted, represented.
80. marry, a corruption of 'Mary,' i.e. the Virgin Mary, the
Mother of Christ; a petty adjuration.
81. goes but ... heard, Quince means that Bottom has gone to
find out how the noise he heard had been caused, but of course
the absurdity of seeing a noise is intentional; cp. below, iv. 1.
206, 7; V. 1. 338, 9: is to come, will come, may be certainly
expected to come.
82, 3. Most ... brier, whose complexion combines the delicate
white of the lily and the brilliant red of the rose; cp. Constance's
poetical description of Arthur's beauty, K. J. iii. 1. 53, 4, "Of Nature's gifts thou may'st with lilies boast And with the half-blown rose": triumphant, rearing itself aloft.
84. juvenal, youth; an imitation of euphuistic language, as in
L. L. L. i. 2. 8, "my tender juvenal": eke, also, from the verb
eke, to augment: Jew, for the sake of the alliteration with juvenal, though in L. L. L. iii. 1. 136, Costard addresses Moth as
"my incony (i.e. delicate) Jew," as though in compliment.
85. yet, i.e. however far he might go.
89. cues and all, including the cues.
89, 90. It is ... tire, i.e. you should enter to speak your speech
directly. Flute has uttered the words 'never tire.'
93. If I were fair, Malone thinks we ought perhaps to punctuate If I were, fair Thisby, i.e. if I were as true, etc.: I were
only thine, I would dedicate myself wholly to your love.
96. I'll lead ... round, I will lead you a pretty dance; about,
97. Through bog ... brier, to complete the metre, Johnson,
would insert 'through mire,' after bog, Ritson 'through burn',
Lettsom 'through brook.'
102, 3. this is ... afeard, this is one of their knavish tricks
played in order to make me afraid; for afeard, see note on 1. 25,
106. you see ... do you? do you see as great a fool as yourself?
Bottom is as yet unconscious of Puck's transformation of him by
the ass' head on his shoulders.
108. translated, transformed.
112. do what they can, whatever they may do to frighten me.
113. that, so that: shall, the future where we should use the
subjunctive; see Abb. 348.
114. ousel cock, the male blackbird, whose bill is of a bright
116. throstle, the song-thrush, which, like the blackbird, has
a very sweet note; the word is "a variant of throshel [a form
not found], a diminutive of thrush" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.),
117. quill, pipe, i.e. throat-pipe.
121. plain-song cuckoo, the cuckoo whose note is without
variation; plain-song, "the uniform modulation or simplicity
of the chaunt was anciently distinguished, in opposition to prick-
song or variegated music sung by note" (Warton).
122. Whose note ... mark, the cry of the bird, 'cuckoo!' was
of old supposed to be connected etymologically with the word
'cuckold,' a man whose wife has been unfaithful to him, and,
when uttered, to point at some man thus situated.
123. dares not utter nay, is unable to repel the charge.
124. set his wit... bird, oppose his wit to, challenge, the cuckoo
by denying its slanderous accusation; cp. T. G. i. I. 94, "Will
you set your wit to a fool's?"
125. give a bird the lie, tell a bird that it is lying: though ...
so, however often it might cry 'cuckoo!'
127. of, with.
128. enthralled to thy shape, led captive by the beauty of
129. thy fair ... me, the overpowering modesty which restrains
you from urging your love, compels me, etc.
130. On the first view, hers is love at first sight, as we say:
to swear, not merely to say, but even to swear.
132, 3. reason ... now-a-days, are not often found together in
133. the more the pity, all the greater pity is it.
134. will not ... friends, will not do their best to bring them
135. gleek, jeer, joke in a satirical way; cp. H. V. v. 1. 78,
"I have seen you gleeking and galling at this gentleman twice or
thrice." Staunton remarks, "The all-accomplished Bottom is
boasting of his versatility. He has shown, by his last profound observation on the disunion of love and reason, that he possesses
a pretty turn for the didactic and sententious; but he wishes
Titania to understand that, upon a fitting occasion, he can be as
waggish as he has just been grave"; 'gleek,' "sc. glaiks, reflection of the rays of light from a lucid body in motion; to cast the
glaiks on one, to dazzle, confound; glaik a deception, trick; to
play the glaiks, get the glaiks, to cheat, be cheated. To glaik, to
trifle; glaiking, folly, wantonness; O. N. leika to play; O. E.
to lake, to play; lakin, plaything" (Wedgwood, Dict.): upon
occasion, when the occasion calls for a joke.
137. wit, wisdom.
138. to serve mine own turn, to suit my purpose.
141. rate, estimate; cp. Temp. i. 2. 92, "With that which ...
O'erprized all popular rate."
142. The summer ... state, the very summer is my slave and
follows me wherever I go; still, ever; state, regal greatness,
majesty; cp. Temp. iv. 1. 101, "High'st queen of state."
145. Jewels from the deep, Steevens compares R. III. 1. 4. 31,
"reflecting gems That woo'd the shiny bottom of the deep."
146. pressed flowers, flowers strewed as a bed for you.
148. go, move about: here, fly as spirits do.
150. Where shall we go? on what errand do you wish to
152. Hop ... eyes, dance before him as he walks, and display
your gambols to amuse him.
153. apricocks, from "F. abricot, ...from Port, albricoque, an
apricot ... These words are traced, in Webster and Littre, back
to the Arabic al-barquq ... where al is the Arabic definite article,
and the word barquq is no true Arabic word, but a corruption of
the Greek borrowed from the Lat.
154. mulberries, a garden fruit, resembling blackberries,
though a good deal larger in size.
155. honey-bags, the small cysts in which the honey is
carried: humble-bees, humming bees; to 'humble' is to hum,
from M. E. humbelen; also called 'bumble-bees' from O. Du.
bommelen, to buzz.
156. And for ... thighs, and crop their thighs of the wax with
which they are laden, to serve as tapers; the pollen which is borne
home by the bees on the outside of their legs being apparently
taken by Shakespeare for wax: and waxen thighs not meaning
literally made of wax, but laden with wax.
157. at the ... eyes, as the light of the glow-worm is in its tail,
Johnson thought he had here caught Shakespeare napping, but,
as Mason points out, 'eye' is here used poetically for the
158. To have ... arise, to conduct my love to his bed, and to
wait on him when he gets up; cp. C. E. ii. 2. 10, "Your mistress
sent to have me home to dinner."
159. painted, gaudily decorated.
160. to fan ... from, to keep off from, using the wings as
161. Nod, bow.
162. Hail, health to you; A.S. hoel, health.
166. I cry ... heartily, from the bottom of my heart I beg your
pardon; an expression of deprecatory politeness frequent in
169. I shall desire ... acquaintance, I shall hope to become
better acquainted with you; literally, I shall make a request
to you as regards more acquaintance; for of, in this sense, see
Abb. § 174.
170. I shall ... you, I shall venture to make use of your
services; the cobweb film being sometimes applied to a cut by
way of plaster.
173. commend me, make my respectful compliments to, and so
ensure me a welcome by, etc.: a 'squash' is an unripe peascod;
cp. T. N. i. 5. 166, "Not yet old enough for a man, nor young
enough for a boy; as a squash is before 'tis a peascod, or a codling when 'tis almost an apple."
178. I know ... well, I know how much you have to endure.
179. that same ... oxbeef, that oxbeef which you and I know
179, 80. hath devoured ... house, mustard being taken as a
relish to beef, that meat is spoken of as devouring, etc.; house,
180, 1. I promise ... now, I can assure you that the members of
your family have often brought tears to my eyes; as though
the pungency of mustard which causes the eyes to water, had
made him weep for its family misfortunes.
183. bower properly means a chamber, thence used generally
of a shady recess formed by trees and shrubs.
184. with a watery eye, the watery look of the moon, caused
by vapours hanging round it, indicates rainy weather.
185. weeps ... flower, their tears being the dew.
186. enforced chastity, violence done to some chaste maiden.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1891. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/mids_3_1.html >.