we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear;
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
Puck speaks these lines in an address
to the audience near the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, extending
the theme of dreams beyond the world of the play and putting the
reality of the audience’s experience into question (V.epilogue.1–8).
As many of the characters (Bottom and Theseus among them) believe
that the magical events of the play’s action were merely a dream,
Puck tells the crowd that if the play has offended them, they too
should remember it simply as a dream—“That you have but slumbered
here, / While these visions did appear.” The speech offers a commentary
on the dreamlike atmosphere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and
casts the play as a magical dream in which the audience shares.