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Bot. Well, I will undertake it. What beard were I best to play it in ?
Quin. Why, what you will.
Bot. I will discharge it in either your straw-coloured beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-colour beard, your perfect yellow.
Quin. 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 to-morrow night; and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moon-light: there will we rehearse: for if we meet in the city, we shall be dog'd with company, and our devices known. In the mean time I will draw a bill of properties?, such as our play wants. I pray you, fail me not.
Bot. We will meet ; and there we may rehearse more obscenely and courageously. Take pains; be perfect; adieu.
Quin. At the duke's oak we meet.
SCENE I.- A Wood near Athens.
Enter a Fairy at one door, and Puck at another. Puck. How now, spirit! whither wander you?
i — properties,] Properties are whatever little articles are wanted in a play for the actors, according to their respective parts, dresses and scenes excepted. The person who delivers them out is to this day called the property-man. 8 At the duke's oak we meet.
- Hold, or cut bow-strings.] To meet, whether bow-strings hold or are cut, is to meet in all events. To cut the bow-string,
Fai. Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough briar,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
In those freckles live their savours:
Puck. The king doth keep his revels here to-night;
when bows were in vise, was probably a common practice of those who bore enmity to the archer.
9 To dew her orbs upon the green :) These orbs are circles supposed to be made by the fairies on the ground, whose verdure proceeds from the fairies' care to water them.
1 The cowslips tall her pensioners be ;] This was said in consequence of Queen Elizabeth's fashionable establishment of a band of military courtiers, by the name of pensioners. They were some of the handsomest and tallest young men, of the best families and fortune, that could be found.
? — lob of spirits,] Lob, lubber, looby, lobcock, all denote both inactivity of body and dulness of mind, and were used as terms of contempt.
And now they never meet in grove, or green,
Fai. Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Thou speak’st aright;
- sheen,] Shining, bright, gay. Johnson. * But they do square ;] To square here is to quarrel. 5 — in the quern,] Quern is a hand-mill: kuerna, mola.
6 — no barm :] Barme is a name for yeast, in some parts of England, and universally in Ireland and Scotland.
7 Sweet Puck,] The epithet is by no means superfluous; as Puck alone was far from being an endearing appellation. It signified nothing better than fiend or devil. It seems that in the fairy mythology, Puck, or Hobgoblin, was the trusty servant of Oberon, and always employed to watch or detect the intrigues of Queen Mab, called by Shakspeare, Titania.
8 — a roasted crab;] i. e. a wild apple of that name.
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
Enter OBERON, at one door, with his train, and TITANIA,
at another, with hers. Obe. Ill met by moon-light, proud Titania.
Tita. What, jealous Oberon ? Fairy, skip hence; I have forsworn his bed and company.
Obe. Tarry, rash wanton; Am not I thy lord ?
Tita. Then I must be thy lady: But I know
Obe. How canst thou thus, for shame, Titania,
9 And tailor cries,] The custom of crying tailor at a sudden fall backwards, I think I remember to have observed. He that slips beside his chair, falls as a tailor squats upon his board. Johnson.
1- hold their hips, and loffe ;] i. e. laugh.
3 — the glimmering night -] The night faintly illuminated by stars.
Tita. These are the forgeries of jealousy:
* And never, since the middle summer's spring, &c.] The middle summer's spring, is, I apprehend, the season when trees put forth their second, or, as they are frequently called, their midsummer shoots. HENLEY.
- pelting -] This word is always used as a word of contempt.
6 — overborne their continents :) Borne down the banks that contain them.
i murrain flock ;] The murrain is the plague in cattle.
$ The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud ;] Nine men's morris is a game still played by the shepherds, cowkeepers, &c. in the midland counties, as follows :
A figure is made on the ground by cutting out the turf; and two persons take each nine stones, which they place by turns in the angles, and afterwards move alternately, as at chess or draughts. He who can place three in a straight line, may then take off any one of his adversary's, where he pleases, till one, having lost all his men, loses the game.
9 — the quaint mazes in the wanton green, ] This alludes to