Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit    

Lesson 29: A Midsummer Night's Dream Act I, Scene ii

Performer: Librivox - Group

ACT I, SCENE ii. Athens. A room in a cottage.
ACT I, SCENE ii. Athens. A room in a cottage.
Is all our company here?
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Is everybody here?
You were best to call them generally,
man by man, according to the scrip.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
Best to call them one at a time as on this list.
Here is the scroll of every man's name,
which is thought fit, through all Athens,
to play in our interlude before the duke and the duchess,
on his wedding-day at night.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Here is the list of everyone's name
capable of acting in the play
for the Duke and Duchess of Athens on their wedding night.
First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on,
then read the names of the actors, and so grow to a point.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
First tell us about the play,
then who is acting in which role,
and then be quiet.
Marry, our play is, The most lamentable comedy,
and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Okay, our play is A Tragic Comedy
of the Cruel Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe.
A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry.
Now, good Peter Quince,
call forth your actors by the scroll.
Masters, spread yourselves.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
A good and funny play.
Now Peter Quince,
call out the names of the actors on the list.
Gentlemen, gather around to hear.
Answer as I call you. Nick Bottom, the weaver.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Answer as I call your name. Nick Bottom, the weaver?
Ready. Name what part I am for, and proceed.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
Here. Tell me my part and keep going.
You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
You, Nick Bottom, are cast as Pyramus.
What is Pyramus? a lover, or a tyrant?
BOTTOM (Weaver)
Is Pyramus a lover or a villain?
A lover, that kills himself most gallantly for love.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
A heroic lover that kills himself for love.
That will ask some tears in the true performing of it:
if I do it, let the audience look to their eyes;
I will move storms, I will condole in some measure.
To the rest: yet my chief humor is for a tyrant:
I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to
tear a cat in, to make all split.
The raging rocks
And shivering shocks
Shall break the locks
Of prison gates;
And Phibbus' car
Shall shine from far
And make and mar
The foolish Fates.
This was lofty! Now name the rest of the players.
This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein;
a lover is more condoling.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
I'll have to cry to make it look good.
If I cry, I'll make the audience cry buckets of tears.
I'll act sorrowful too.
But I'd rather play a tyrant.
I could play Hercules or other part involving mad ranting.
(Recites passage while ranting.)
That was great! Now tell us who's been cast in the other parts. My recitation was like Hercules, like a tyrant.
A lover would be more sorrowful.
Francis Flute, the bellows-mender.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Francis Flute, the bellows-fixer?
Here, Peter Quince.
FLUTE (Bellows-fixer)
Here, Peter Quince.
Flute, you must take Thisbe on you.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Flute, you'll play Thisbe.
What is Thisbe? a wandering knight?
FLUTE (Bellows-fixer)
Is Thisbe a wandering knight?
It is the lady that Pyramus must love.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Thisbe is the lady Pyramus loves.
Nay, faith, let me not play a woman; I have a beard coming.
FLUTE (Bellows-fixer)
No way. I won't play a woman. I'm growing a beard.
That's all one: you shall play it in a mask,
and you may speak as small as you will.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
No matter. You'll wear a mask
and can speak high-pitched.
An I may hide my face, let me play Thisbe too,
I'll speak in a monstrous little voice.
'Thisne, Thisne;'
'Ah, Pyramus, lover dear!
thy Thisbe dear, and lady dear!'
BOTTOM (Weaver)
If I can hide my face, I'll play Thisbe too!
I'll speak in a very silly, high-pitched voice:
"Thisne, Thisne!"
"Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear!
thy Thisbe dear and lady dear!"
No, no; you must play Pyramus: and, Flute, you Thisbe.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
No, no. You'll play Pyramus and Flute will play Thisbe.
Well, proceed.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
Fine, get on with it.
Robin Starveling, the tailor.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Robin Starveling, the tailor?
Here, Peter Quince.
Here, Peter Quince.
Robin Starveling, you must play Thisbe's mother.
Tom Snout, the tinker.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Starveling, you'll play Thisbe's mother.
Tom Snout, the handyman?
Here, Peter Quince.
SNOUT (Handyman)
Here, Peter Quince.
You, Pyramus' father: myself, Thisbe's father:
Snug, the joiner; you, the lion's part:
and, I hope, here is a play fitted.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
You'll play Pyramus' father.
I'll play Thisbe's father. Snug will play the lion's part, and I hope this is a play well-cast.
Have you the lion's part written?
pray you, if it be, give it me,
for I am slow of study.
SNUG (Joiner)
Did you already write the lion's part?
If you did, let me have it.
I am slow to memorize things.
You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
You may improvise, for all you must do is roar.
Let me play the lion too: I will roar,
that I will do any man's heart good to hear me;
I will roar, that I will make the duke say
'Let him roar again, let him roar again.'
BOTTOM (Weaver)
Let me be a lion too.
I will roar such that I inspire people.
I will roar such that the duke
asks me to roar again and again.
An you should do it too terribly,
you would fright the duchess and the ladies,
that they would shriek;
and that were enough to hang us all.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
If you roar too terribly
you will frighten the duchess
and the ladies will scream.
That's enough to get us all killed.
That would hang us, every mother's son.
Yep, they'd kill us all.
I grant you, friends,
if that you should fright the ladies out of their wits,
they would have no more discretion but to hang us:
but I will aggravate my voice so that
I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove;
I will roar you an 'twere any nightingale.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
Okay, I'll give you that
they would have to hang us if we scared the ladies out of their minds.
But I will soften my voice
and roar as gently as a baby bird.
I will roar like a nightingale.
You can play no part but Pyramus;
for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man;
a proper man, as one shall see in a summer's day;
a most lovely gentleman-like man:
therefore you must needs play Pyramus.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
You will only play Pyramus.
Pyramus is handsome, polite, a gentleman.
So you absolutely must play him.
Well, I will undertake it.
What beard were I best to play it in?
BOTTOM (Weaver)
Fine. How should I grow my beard for the part?
Why, what you will.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
However you want.
I will discharge it in either your straw-color beard,
your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard,
or your French-crown-color beard,
your perfect yellow.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
I will wear a blonde beard,
or a tan beard, or a red beard,
or a perfect yellow beard like a golden French coin.
Some of your French crowns have no hair at all,
and then you will play bare-faced.
But, masters, here are your parts:
and I am to entreat you, request you and desire you,
to con them by tomorrow night;
and meet me in the palace wood,
a mile without the town, by moonlight;
there will we rehearse, for if we meet in the city,
we shall be dogged with company, and our devices known.
In the meantime I will draw a bill of properties,
such as our play wants.
I pray you, fail me not.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
Some French have no beards,
so you will have a bare face.
But men, these are your parts.
And I beg you, ask you, wish you
to learn them by tomorrow night
and meet me in the woods
a mile from town under the moonlight
for rehearsal. If we meet in the city,
people will bother us and they'll know the whole play beforehand.
In the meantime, I'll make a list of props we need.
I beg you, please don't let me down.
We will meet; and there we may rehearse most obscenely and courageously.
Take pains; be perfect: adieu.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
We will come and rehearse with courage and spirit.
We'll try hard and perfect our acting. Goodbye.
At the duke's oak we meet.
QUINCE (Carpenter)
We'll meet at the duke's oak tree.
Enough; hold or cut bow-strings.
BOTTOM (Weaver)
I understand. Be there or don't show your face again.
Everyone leaves

    Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit    

Lesson 29: A Midsummer Night's Dream Act I, Scene ii

Performer: Librivox - Group


Study the assigned Shakespeare scene over the week.

Over the week:

  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read along while listening to the lesson audio recording.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


In Act I, Scene ii of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' Peter Quince, master of celebrations for Duke Theseus, gathers a group of Athenian tradesmen, or Players. Duke Theseus tasks Quince to arrange amusements to celebrate Theseus' wedding to Hippolyta. Quince plans to enact a play, 'A Tragic Comedy of the Cruel Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe.' Quince casts the tradesmen into roles within the play, including Nick Bottom (the weaver) as the tragic hero Pyramus, Francis Flute (the carpenter) as the lady Thisbe, and Snug (the joiner) as a Lion.


Activity 1: Recite the Play Information

  • Recite aloud the play title, the numbers of the act and scene, and the author of the play.

Activity 2: Narrate the Scene

  • After reading or listening to the scene, narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 3: Read Aloud the Dramatis Personae of the Scene

Referred to as the Players, Clowns, or Mechanicals:

  • PHILOSTRATE, Master of the Revels to Theseus
  • QUINCE, the Carpenter
  • SNUG, the Joiner
  • BOTTOM, the Weaver
  • FLUTE, the Bellows-mender
  • SNOUT, the Tinker
  • STARVELING, the Tailor

Activity 4: Map the Play

  • The comedic play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' takes place in and around the city of Athens, Greece.
  • Study the map featuring Greece.
  • What is the name of the sea to the west of Greece? Recite its name aloud.

Activity 5: Read the Modern Translation Aloud

  • With family or friends, choose roles and read the modern translation of the scene aloud.

Activity 6: Read the Original Text Aloud

  • With family or friends, choose roles and read the original text of the scene aloud.

Activity 7: Discuss the Story

The title of the play cast in this scene is 'The most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.'

  • 'Lamentable' means 'causing sorrow, distress, or regret.'
  • 'Comedy' means 'a light, amusing play with a happy ending.'
  • Describe the contradictions in the title of the play.

In this scene, tradesmen are cast into a play for the wedding celebration of Duke Theseus and Queen Hippolyta.

  • Tradesmen use manual skills instead of intellectual power to earn a wage and are often paid low to middle class wages.
  • How does Shakespeare portray the tradesmen in this scene? (e.g. are they shown as clever, capable, silly, unintelligent, etc.)
  • Contrast how the wealthy Athenians are portrayed in the first scene versus the lower-class tradesmen in this scene.


  1. 'Shakespeare's Comedy of A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' by William Shakespeare and William Heath {1914, PD-US}. n.p.
  2. Illustrations from 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream for Young People,' by Lucy Fitch Perkins {1907, PD-US}. n.p.