A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

O cross! Too high to be enthralled to low.
Oh, what an obstacle that would be! Imagine being too high on the social ladder, and falling in love with someone beneath you.
Or else misgraffèd in respect of years—
Or else they were very different ages—
O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.
How awful! Being too old to marry someone young.
Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—
Or else their guardians and advisors said no—
140O hell, to choose love by another’s eyes!
What hell, to have your love life determined by someone else!
Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
Making it momentary as a sound,
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
145Brief as the lightning in the collied night;
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and Earth,
And ere a man hath power to say “Behold!”
The jaws of darkness do devour it up.
So quick bright things come to confusion.
Or, even if the lovers are a good match, their love might be ruined by war, death, or sickness, so that the affair only lasts an instant. Their time together might be as fleeting as a shadow or as short as a dream, lasting only as long as it takes a lightning bolt to flash across the sky. Before you can say “look,” it’s gone. That’s how intense things like love are quickly destroyed.
150If then true lovers have been ever crossed,
It stands as an edict in destiny.
Then let us teach our trial patience,
Because it is a customary cross,
As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs,
155Wishes and tears, poor fancy’s followers.
If true lovers are always thwarted, then it must be a rule of fate. So let’s try to be patient as we deal with our problem. It’s as normal a part of love as dreams, sighs, wishes, and tears.
A good persuasion. Therefore, hear me, Hermia.
I have a widow aunt, a dowager
Of great revenue, and she hath no child.
From Athens is her house remote seven leagues,
160And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee.
And to that place the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me then,
Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night.
165And in the wood, a league without the town—
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. So here’s the plan. 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.