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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,
From the presence of the sun,

Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic; not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door 6.

Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with all their Train. Obe. Through the house give glimmering light,

By the dead and drowsy fire;
Every elf, and fairy sprite,

Hop as light as bird from brier ;
And this ditty after me
Sing, and dance it trippingly.

Tita. First, rehearse your song by rote ',
To each word a warbling note :
Iland in hand with fairy grace
Will we sing, and bless this place.

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,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be;
And the blots of nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand:
Never mole, hare-lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be.
With this field-dew consecrate,
Every fairy take his gait,
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace with sweet peace;
Ever shall in safety rest,
And the owner of it blest.
Trip away; make no stay;
Meet me all by break of day.

[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train. Puck. If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here,
While these visions did appear;
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,

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:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I'm an honest Puck”,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long,
Else the Puck a liar call :
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.


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.

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