A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

For indeed, who would set his wit to so foolish a bird?
Who would give a bird the lie, though he cry “cuckoo” never so?
Of course they don’t say “no”! Who’d waste his time talking to such a stupid bird? Who’d bother to accuse

a bird of lying,

Cuckoos symbolize cuckolds (men whose wives cheat on them). The cuckoo’s song was sometimes imagined as a mocking accusation that the men who hear it are cuckolds.

a bird of lying,
even if the bird were telling him that his wife was cheating on him?
I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.
65Mine ear is much enamored of thy note.
So is mine eye enthrallèd to thy shape.
And thy fair virtue’s force perforce doth move me
On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.
Please sing again, sweet human. I love to listen to your voice, and I love to look at your body. I know this is the first time I’ve ever seen you, but you’re so wonderful that I can’t help swearing to you that I love you.
Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for that.
70And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays. The more the pity that some honest neighbors will not make them friends. Nay, I can gleek upon occasion.
I don’t think you’ve got much of a reason to love me. But to tell you the truth, reason and love have very little to do with each other these days. It’s too bad some mutual friend of theirs doesn’t introduce them. Ha, ha! No, I’m just kidding.
Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful.
You’re as wise as you are beautiful.
Not so, neither. But if I had wit enough to get out of this wood, I have enough to serve mine own turn.
No, that’s not true. But if I were smart enough to get out of this forest, I’d be wise enough to satisfy myself.
Out of this wood do not desire to go.
Thou shalt remain here whether thou wilt or no.
75I am a spirit of no common rate.
The summer still doth tend upon my state.
And I do love thee. Therefore go with me.
I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee.
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
80And sing while thou on pressèd flowers dost sleep.
And I will purge thy mortal grossness so
That thou shalt like an airy spirit go.—
Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed!
Don’t bother wishing you could leave this forest, because you’re going to stay here whether you want to or not. I’m no ordinary fairy. I rule over the summer, and I love you. So come with me. I’ll give you fairies as servants, and they’ll bring you jewels from the depths of the ocean, and sing to you while you sleep on a bed of flowers. And I’ll turn you into a spirit like us, so you won’t die as humans do.—Come here, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed!