A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

 “The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
 Of learning, late deceased in beggary.”
50That is some satire, keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
 “A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
 And his love Thisbe. Very tragical mirth.”
“Merry” and “tragical”? “Tedious” and “brief”?
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?
Thebes. “The nine Muses mourning the death of learning and scholarship.” That’s some sharp, critical satire, and it’s not appropriate for a wedding. “A tedious short drama about young Pyramus and his love Thisbe, a very sad and tragic comedy.” A sad comedy? Short but still tedious? That’s like hot ice and strange snow. How can this drama be so many contradictory things?
PHILOSTRATE
55A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
Which is as brief as I have known a play.
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
Which makes it tedious. For in all the play
There is not one word apt, one player fitted.
60And tragical, my noble lord, it is.
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
Which, when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water—but more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed.
PHILOSTRATE
It’s a play about ten words long, which is the shortest play I’ve ever heard of. But in my opinion, it’s about ten words too long. That’s why it’s tedious. In the entire play, not one word is well-written, and not one of the actors is right for his part. It’s tragic because Pyramus kills himself. I have to admit that when I saw his suicide during rehearsal, I had tears in my eyes—but they were tears of laughter.
THESEUS
65What are they that do play it?
THESEUS
Who are the actors?
PHILOSTRATE
Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never labored in their minds till now,
And now have toiled their unbreathed memories
With this same play against your nuptial.
PHILOSTRATE
Rough workmen from Athens who never spent much time thinking. Now they’ve worn out their out-of-shape brains to put on this play for your wedding.
THESEUS
70And we will hear it.
THESEUS
So let’s see it.
PHILOSTRATE
  No, my noble lord.
It is not for you. I have heard it over,
And it is nothing, nothing in the world—
Unless you can find sport in their intents,
Extremely stretched and conned with cru 'l pain
75To do you service.
PHILOSTRATE
No, my noble lord. This play isn’t right for you. I’ve seen the whole thing, and it’s completely worthless—unless you think their bad acting and their misremembered lines—which they memorized so painfully—are funny.