A Midsummer Nights Dream – Act 1 Scene 1


our wedding day is almost here, my beautiful Hippolyta. we will be getting married in 4 days, on the day of the new moon but it seems to me that that the days are a passing too slowly That old, slow moon is keeping me from getting what I want just like an old widow makes her stepson wait to get his inheritance. No, you’ll see, four days will quickly turn into four nights. And since we dream at night, time passes quickly then. Finally the new moon, curved like a silver bow in the sky, will look down on our wedding celebration. Go, Philostrate, get the young people of Athens ready to celebrate and have a good time. Hippolyta, I wooed you with violence, using my sword, and got you to fall in love with me by injuring you. But I’ll marry you under different circumstances with extravagant festivals, public festivities and celebration Long live Theseus, our famous and respected duke! Thanks, good Egeus. What’s new with you? I’m here, full of anger, to complain about my daughter Hermia. Step forward, Demetrius My lord, this man, Demetrius, has my permission to marry her. Step forward, Lysander But this other man, Lysander, has cast a magic spell over my child’s heart. You’ve connived to steal my daughter’s heart, making her stubborn and harsh instead of obedient (like she should be). And, my gracious duke, if she won’t agree to marry Demetrius right now I ask you to let me exercise the right that all fathers have in Athens. Since she belongs to me, I can do what I want with her I can either make her marry Demetrius —or have her killed. What do you have to say for yourself, Hermia? Think carefully, pretty girl. You should think of your father as a god, since he’s the one who gave you your beauty. To him, you’re like a figure that he’s sculpted out of wax, and he has the power to keep that figure intact or to disfigure it. Demetrius is an admirable man. So is Lysander. You’re right, Lysander’s admirable too. But since your father doesn’t want him to marry you, you have to consider Demetrius to be the better man. I wish my father could see them with my eyes. No, you must see them as your father sees them. Your grace, please forgive me. I don’t know what makes me think I can say this, and I don’t know if speaking my mind to such a powerful and noble person as yourself will damage my reputation for modesty. But please, tell me the worst thing that could happen to me if I refuse to marry Demetrius. You’ll either be executed or you’ll never see another man again. So think carefully about what you want, beautiful Hermia. Consider how young you are, and question your feelings. Then decide whether you could stand to be a nun, A married woman is like a rose who is picked and made into a beautiful perfume, while a priestess just withers away on the stem. I’d rather wither away than give up my virginity to someone I don’t love. Take some time to think about this. By the time of the next new moon the day when Hippolyta and I will be married— be ready either to be executed for disobeying your father, to marry Demetrius as your father wishes, DEMETRIUS: Please give in, sweet Hermia. And Lysander, stop acting like she’s yours. I’ve got more of a right to her than you do. Her father loves you, Demetrius and let me have Hermia So why don’t you marry him? It’s true, rude Lysander, I do love him. That’s why I’m giving him my daughter. She’s mine, and I’m giving her to Demetrius. LYSANDER: (to THESEUS) My lord, I’m just as noble and rich as he is. I love Hermia more than he does. Demetrius—and I’ll say this to his face—courted Nedar’s daughter, Helena, and made her fall in love with him. That sweet lady, Helena, loves devoutly. She adores this horrible and unfaithful man. I have to admit I’ve heard something about that, and meant to ask Demetrius about it, but I was too busy with personal matters and it slipped my mind.— Anyway, Demetrius and Egeus, both of you, come with me. I want to say a few things to you in private.— As for you, beautiful Hermia, get ready to do what your father wants, because otherwise the law says that you must die or become a nun, and there’s nothing I can do about that. Come with me, Hippolyta. How are you, my love? Demetrius and Egeus, come with us. I want you to do some things for our wedding, and I also want to discuss something that concerns you both. We’re following you not only because it is our duty, but also because we want to. What’s going on, my love? Why are you so pale? Why have your rosy cheeks faded so quickly? Probably because my cheeks’ roses needed rain, which I could easily give them with all the tears in my eyes. That’s the right attitude. So, listen, Hermia. I have an aunt who is a widow, who’s very rich and doesn’t have any children. She lives about twenty miles from Athens, and she thinks of me as a son. I could marry you there, gentle Hermia, where the strict laws of Athens can’t touch us. If you love me, sneak out of your father’s house tomorrow night and meet me in the forest a few miles outside of town. I’ll wait for you there. Oh, Lysander, I swear I’ll be there tomorrow. I swear by Cupid’s strongest bow and his best gold-tipped arrow by all the promises that men have broken (and men have broken more promises than women have ever made). I give you my word, I will meet you at that spot tomorrow. Keep your promise, my love. Look, here comes Helena. Hello, beautiful Helena! Where are you going? Did you just call me “beautiful”? Take it back You’re the beautiful one as far as Demetrius is concerned. Oh, you’re so lucky! Your eyes are like stars, and your voice is more musical than a lark’s song is to a shepherd in the springtime. Sickness is contagious—I wish beauty were contagious too! I would catch your good looks before I left. My ear would be infected by your voice, my eye by your eye, and my tongue would come down with a bad case of your melodious speech. If the world were mine, I’d give it all up—everything except Demetrius—to be you. Oh, teach me how you look the way you do, and which tricks you used to make Demetrius fall in love with you. I frown at him, but he still loves me. Oh, if only my smiles could inspire love as effectively as your frowns! I curse him, but he loves me. If only my prayers could inspire that kind of affection! The more I hate him, the more he follows me around. The more I love him, the more he hates me. It’s not my fault he acts like that, Helena. That’s true, it’s your beauty’s fault. I wish I had a fault like that! Don’t worry. He won’t see my face ever again. Lysander and I are running away from here. Helena, we’ll tell you about our secret plan. Tomorrow night, we plan to sneak out of Athens. In the woods, that’s where Lysander and I will meet. From then on we’ll turn our backs on Athens. We’ll look for new friends and keep the company of strangers. Goodbye, old friend. Pray for us, and I hope you win over Demetrius! Keep your promise, Lysander. We need to stay away from each other until midnight tomorrow. I will, my Hermia. Goodbye, Helena. I hope Demetrius comes to love you as much as you love him! It’s amazing how much happier some people are than others! People throughout Athens think I’m as beautiful as Hermia. But so what? Demetrius doesn’t think so, He refuses to admit what everyone else knows. But even though he’s making a mistake by obsessing over Hermia so much, I’m also making a mistake, since I obsess over him. When we’re in love, we don’t see with our eyes but with our minds. That’s why paintings of Cupid, the god of love, always show him as blind. And love doesn’t have good judgment either—Cupid, has wings and no eyes, so he’s bound to be reckless and hasty. Before Demetrius ever saw Hermia, he showered me with promises and swore he’d be mine forever. But when he got all hot and bothered over Hermia, his promises melted away. I’ll go tell Demetrius that Hermia is running away He’ll run after her in the woods If he’s grateful to me for this information, it’ll be worth my pain in helping him pursue my rival Hermia. At least I’ll get to see him when he goes, and then again when he comes back.

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