A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

PHILOSTRATE

100So please your grace, the Prologue is addressed.

PHILOSTRATE

Your grace, the person who is going to deliver the prologue is ready.

THESEUS

Let him approach.

THESEUS

Let him come forward.
Enter QUINCE as the PROLOGUE
The PROLOGUE (QUINCE) enters.

PROLOGUE

(delivered by QUINCE)
If we offend, it is with our good will.
That you should think we come not to offend,
105But with good will. To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
Consider then we come but in despite.
We do not come as minding to contest you,
Our true intent is. All for your delight
110We are not here. That you should here repent you,
The actors are at hand, and by their show
You shall know all that you are like to know.

PROLOGUE

If we happen to offend you, it’s because we want to. We don’t want you to think we came here to offend you, except that we want to offend you with our good intentions. Our plan to show off our little bit of talent will wind up getting us executed. Please keep in mind we’re only here out of spite. We don’t come here with the intention of making you happy. We’re absolutely not here to delight you. The actors are ready to come out and make you sorry. By watching their show, you’ll find out everything you’re likely to know.

If Quince had read this speech with the proper punctuation, it would mean “If we happen to offend you, we hope you know that we didn’t come here intending to offend you, but with the good intention of showing off our little bit of skill. That’s all we want to do. Please keep in mind that we came here only to please you. Our true intention is to delight you. We didn’t come here to make you sorry. The actors are ready…”

THESEUS

This fellow doth not stand upon points.

THESEUS

This guy doesn’t pay much attention to punctuation.

LYSANDER

He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt. He knows not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not enough to speak, but to speak true.

LYSANDER

He rode that prologue like a wild horse. He didn’t know how to stop it. The moral of this story is that it’s not enough to speak; you have to speak grammatically.

HIPPOLYTA

Indeed he hath played on his prologue like a child on a recorder—a sound, but not in government.

HIPPOLYTA

Yes, he performed his prologue like a child plays a recorder—he can make sounds, but they’re out of control.