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A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream


by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream Man and the Natural World Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to Folger's online edition.

Quote #1

These are the forgeries of jealousy;
And never, since the middle summer's spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land,
Hath every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The plowman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard.
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock.
The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
For lack of tread, are undistinguishable.
The human mortals want their winter here.
No night is now with hymn or carol blest.
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world
By their increase, now knows not which is which.
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original. (2.1.84-120)

Titania, Queen of the Fairies, reveals that it isn't the magical realm, but the natural world that is disturbed by her quarrels with Oberon. The relationship between magic and the natural world is highlighted here. This long list of what's gone wrong in the world could very well be a list of unfortunate occurrences in the natural world: the weather is bad, hardworking farmers find their corn is rotting, and the seasons are all screwed up. It all points to the fact that things must be right in the magical world if there is to be balance in the natural world.  Man can see the effects of magic on his environment, but he is likely to interpret them as some natural failing, not a magical one.

Quote #2

I'll follow you. I'll lead you about a round,
Through bog, through bush, through brake, 
through brier; Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound,
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire,
And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,
Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn. (3.1.107-113)

Puck lists off a group of truly fearsome things, but you'll note that none of them are magic. They are all little terrors that abound in nature.  Nature itself, without the aid of magic, can be terrifying to humans.

Quote #3

Be kind and courteous to this gentleman.
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;
The honey bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes
To have my love to bed and to arise;
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies. (3.1.170-180)

Again the Fairy Queen, who has access to magic, calls for the finest things of nature to be given to her lover.  These luxuries are at their best when they are natural, so there is no need for magical enhancement. Further, it makes sense that Titania's fairies are all named for natural and country things.  It adds to the evidence that the natural world complements the magical one, rather than contrasts it.

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