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Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task fordone. Now the wasted brands do glow,
Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud, Puts the wretch, that lies in woe,
In remembrance of a shroud. Now it is the time of night,
That the graves, all gaping wide, Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide: And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate's team,
Following darkness like a dream,
Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with all their Train. Obe. Through the house give glimmering light,
By the dead and drowsy fire;
Hop as light as bird from brier ;
Tita. First, rehearse your song by rote ',
6 To sweep the dust behind the door.] As has been remarked in the "Intrduction,” on the title-page of “ Robin Goodfellow, his Mad Pranks and Merry Jests,” 4to, 1628 (reprinted for the Percy Society), Puck is represented in a wood-cut with a broom over his shoulder.
7 First, rehearse your song by rote,] The folio, adopting the reading of Roberts's 4to, has this for “ your.” Titania is, however, referring to the “ditty" assigned by Oberon.
Obe. Now, until the break of day,
[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train. Puck. If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
8 The Song.) In the folio, but not in either of the 4to. editions, Oberon's speech is printed in italic, as if it were “the song ;" but it seems in fact to be wanting : in old plays songs, though mentioned, were often omitted. In obedience to the injunction of Oberon, the Fairies must have “ danced it trippingly," while the song was sung. The 4to. editions do not lead us to suppose that any song was given, excepting that it was spoken of by Oberon and Titania. The words, “ the song,” are from the folio, and are to be taken as a stage-direction.
Gentles, do not reprehend:
9 And, as I'm an HONEST Puck,] “ Puck," or Pouke, meant the devil; and, as Tyrwhitt remarks, it is used in that sense in “ Pierce Ploughman's Vision,” and elsewhere. It was therefore necessary for Shakespeare's fairy messenger to assert his honesty, and to clear himself from any connexion with the helle Pouke."
“The excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreme cruelty of Shylocke the lew towards the saide Merchant, in cutting a just pound of his flesh. And the obtaining of Portia, by the choyse of three caskets. Written by W. Shakespeare. Printed by J. Roberts, 1600.” 4to, 40 leaves.
“ The most excellent Historie of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the lewe towards the sayd Merchant, in cutting a iust pound of his flesh: and the obtayning of Portia by the choyse of three chests. As it hath beene diuers times acted by the Lord Chamberlaine his Seruants. Written by William Shakespeare. At London, Printed by I. R., for Thomas Heyes, and are to be sold in Paules Church-yard, at the signe of the Greene Dragon, 1600." 4to, 38 leaves.
It is also printed in the folio, 1623, where it occupies 22 pages, viz., from p. 163 to p. 184, inclusive, in the division of "Comedies." Besides its appearance in the later folios, the Merchant of Venice was republished in 4to, in 1637 and 1652.