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pointed out of the plots introduced and employed by Shakespeare. Oberon, Titania, and Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, are mentioned, as belonging to the fairy mythology, by many authors of the time. The Percy Society, in 1841, reprinted a tract called "Robin Goodfellow, his Mad Pranks and Merry Jests," from an edition in 1628; but there is little doubt that it originally came out at least forty years earlier: together with a ballad inserted in the Introduction to that reprint, it shows how Shakespeare availed himself of existing popular superstitions. In " Percy's Reliques" (iii. 254, edit. 1812,) is a ballad entitled "The Merry Pranks of Robin Goodfellow," attributed to Ben Jonson, of which I have a version in a MS. of the time: it is the more curious, because it has the initials B. J. at the end. It contains some variations and an additional stanza, which, considering the subject of the poem, it may be worth while here to subjoin:
"When as my fellow elfes and I
In circled ring do trip around,
Do happen to be seen or found;
If that they
No words do say,
But mum continue as they go,
Each night I do
Put groat in shoe,
And wind out laughing, ho, ho, ho!"
The incidents connected with the life of Robin Goodfellow were, no doubt, worked up by different dramatists in different ways; and in "Henslowe's Diary" are inserted two entries of money paid to Henry Chettle for a play he was writing in Sept. 1602, under the title of "Robin Goodfellow."
There is every reason to believe that "Midsummer-Night's Dream" was popular: in 1622, the year before it was reprinted in the first folio, it is thus mentioned by Taylor, the water-poet, in his "Sir Gregory Nonsense:"-" I say, as it is applausfully written, and commended to posterity, in the Midsummer-Night's Dream :if we offend, it is with our good will: we came with no intent but to offend, and show our simple skill.”—(See A. v. sc. 1.)
It appears by a MS. preserved in the Library at Lambeth Palace, that "Midsummer-Night's Dream" was represented at the house of John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln, on 27th Sept., 1631. Hist. of Eng. Dram. Poetry and the Stage, ii. 26.
2 A wood-cut is on the title-page, intended to represent Robin Goodfellow he is like a Satyr, with hoofs and horns, and a broom over his shoulder. Sir Hugh Evans, in The Merry Wives of Windsor," was no doubt thus dressed, when he represented Puck, or Robin Goodfellow. A copy of the wood-cut may be seen in "The Bridgewater Catalogue," 4to, 1837, p. 258.
THESEUS, Duke of Athens.
in love with Hermia.
PHILOSTRATE, Master of the Revels to Theseus.
Other Fairies attending their King and Queen.
SCENE, Athens, and a Wood not far from it.
1 The early editions are without any enumeration of the persons. It was first given by Rowe.
ACT I. 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 Another moon; but, oh, methinks, how slow This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires, Like to a step-dame, or a dowager, Long withering out a young man's revenue.
Hip. Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights; Four nights will quickly dream away the time'; And then the moon, like to a silver bow New bent in heaven ', shall behold the night Of our solemnities.
Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,
1 Four NIGHTS will quickly dream away the time;] The 4to. by Roberts has daies instead of "nights:" the 4to. by Fisher, and the folio, give it correctly.
2 NEW bent in heaven,] So the corr. fo. 1632, and so Rowe altered the text, but the old copies, 4to. and folio, have "Now bent in heaven." That "new is the right reading we may perhaps take on the authority of the old annotator: if the moon were not "new bent in heaven," she would hardly have had the likeness of "a silver bow."
But I will wed thee in another key,
Enter EGEUS, with his daughter HERMIA, LYSANDER, and
Ege. Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!
The. Thanks, good Egeus: what's the news with thee?
and with REVELLING.] "And with revelry" is the emendation of the corr. fo. 1632, but as the change is not at all necessary, though possibly some improvement as regards the rhyme, we do not adopt it.
4 Stand forth, Demetrius.] It ought to be mentioned, that in all the old editions, "Stand forth, Demetrius," and afterwards, "Stand forth, Lysander," are printed as stage-directions, and not as part of the text, to which they appear to belong, because they form portions of the lines completed in one case by the words, "my noble lord," and in the other by the words, "and my gracious duke." Egeus wished them to show themselves separately for greater distinctness. This arrangement is in exact accordance with the corr. fo. 1632, and doubtless Demetrius and Lysander stood forward as desired.
5 To stubborn harshness.] The corr. fo. 1632 has hardness for "harshness;" but as there is no necessity for the change, the text being perfectly clear, we do not make it. It was very possibly only a variation made by a performer.
The. What say you, Hermia? be advis'd, fair maid.
Her. So is Lysander.
In himself he is;
Her. I would, my father look'd but with my eyes!
I know not by what power I am made bold,
In such a presence here, to plead my thoughts;
The. Either to die the death, or to abjure
For aye to be in shady cloister mew'd,
Her. So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
6 But EARTHLY HAPPIER is the rose distill'd,] The old editions read, earthlier happy; but there can be little doubt that the printer made the wrong word in the comparative degree. The change which the sense seems to require was adopted by Capell, and is precisely that recommended in the corr. fo. 1632.
7 Unto his lordship, To whose unwish'd yoke] The second folio gives the line as in the text. The sense is incomplete without "to," which is not found in anterior editions, but had probably dropped out.