A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

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HERMIA
So is Lysander.
HERMIA
So is Lysander.
THESEUS
  In himself he is.
But in this kind, wanting your father’s voice,
55The other must be held the worthier.
THESEUS
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.
HERMIA
I would my father looked but with my eyes.
HERMIA
I wish my father could see them with my eyes.
THESEUS
Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.
THESEUS
No, you must see them as your father sees them.
HERMIA
I do entreat your grace to pardon me.
I know not by what power I am made bold
60Nor how it may concern my modesty
In such a presence here to plead my thoughts,
But I beseech your grace that I may know
The worst that may befall me in this case,
If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
HERMIA
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.
THESEUS
65Either to die the death or to abjure
Forever the society of men.
Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires.
Know of your youth. Examine well your blood—
Whether, if you yield not to your father’s choice,
70You can endure the livery of a nun,
For aye to be in shady cloister mewed,
To live a barren sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold, fruitless moon.
Thrice-blessèd they that master so their blood
75To undergo such maiden pilgrimage.
But earthlier happy is the rose distilled
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.
THESEUS
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, wearing a priestess’s habit and caged up in a cloister forever, living your entire life without a husband or children, weakly chanting hymns to the cold and virginal goddess of the moon. People who can restrain their passions and stay virgins forever are holy. But although a virgin priestess might be rewarded in heaven, a married woman is happier on Earth. 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.

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