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A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream


by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream The Supernatural Quotes

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

Quote #1

How now, spirit! whither wander you?

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire;
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon's sphere.
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favors;
In those freckles live their savors. (2.1.1-13)

It is important to note that the fairy is not talking about magic here, but about the natural world.  The magic is not about what the fairies do to nature, but about the beauty they see in it instead.  In this way, the wood makes for the perfect pastoral, as it's magical and beautiful by the very nature of its setting.

Quote #2

And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And "tailor" cries, and falls into a cough,
And then the whole choir hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth and neeze and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there. (2.1.49-59)

Puck's magic is less mean-spirited than mischievous.  He likes to play practical jokes that have the same homespun, playful nature of the villagers he teases.  Most importantly, his magic, though naughty, is not wicked.  The point is to make people be merry, as laughter is its own kind of magic.

Quote #3

That very time I saw (but thou couldst not)
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid, all arm'd; a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal, throned by the west,
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts.
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon,
And the imperial vot'ress passèd on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it "love-in-idleness."
Fetch me that flow'r, the herb I showed thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees. (2.1.1561-178)

Oberon explains why the pansy has a magical quality.  His explanation reveals magic's complexity, and how many strange factors magic relies on, especially the natural world. Cupid's arrows, aimed at a royal virgin, were misdirected by the beams of the moon, as the moon is personified by Diana, the virgin goddess.  As a result, Cupid's arrow hits the pansy, which becomes magic.  Shakespeare thus reveals that magic is not just some cheap tool that can easily explain away holes in a plot—it is actually the intersection between the mythic and natural worlds.

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