9 iconic lines to listen out for in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Set in a magical, mythical forest, it’s no surprise that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is full of unforgettable lines that have been remembered for centuries. Take a read of nine iconic lines that you may have heard uttered in conversation without realising Shakespeare coined the phrase. From ‘the course of true love’ and ‘foolish mortals’, discover more about the Bard’s fantastical comedy.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream lines
“The course of true love never did run smooth”
(Lysander, Act 1 Scene 1)
Spoken by Lysander in the first scene of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this scene focuses on the idea that there will always be problems in a romantic relationship. While lovers’ paths can cross each other regularly, Lysander’s wise comment shows that falling for someone will never be as idyllic as it can initially seem. Although Shakespeare often coined phrases with a different meaning than at first glance, this is an example of a Shakespearean quote that carries a literal meaning.
“Love looks not with the eyes”
(Helena, Act 1 Scene 1)
Helena utters this line in a monologue at the end of the first scene, as she considers what it means to be in love. Seeing others mutually fall for people, Helena notes that love is a confusing emotion and that love is more than a physical attraction. The full line sees Helena say: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind… Love said to be a child, Because in choice he is so oft beguiled” commenting on the equal youthfulness and immaturity in a loving relationship.
“I must go seek some dewdrops here”
(Fairy, Act 2 Scene 1)
As Puck and a fairy meet for the first time in the text, Puck initially asks “How now, spirit! whither wander you?” to which the fairy comments on their benevolent spirit. During this speech, the fairy discusses what it means to work for Titania, the Fairy Queen, with rubies as her fairy gifts and cowslips protecting her. By making sure to “seek some dewdrops here, And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear”, the fairy puts down tokens of love in order to be rewarded, with fairy rings later growing for good health in the forest.
“Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania”
(Oberon, Act 2, Scene 1)
Even though the pair rule as Fairy King and Queen, Oberon’s greeting to Titania suggests that the pair are not always warm to one another. During the scene, Titania self-empowers her identity to suggest that she does not have to follow all commands stated by Oberon. However, as the Fairy Queen, this scene indicates Titania has a relegated status in their relationship.
“Lord, what fools these mortals be”
(Puck, Act 3, Scene 2)
As Puck speaks to Oberon about the humans that have found themselves in the forest, he despairs at the human intellect. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the full line is: “Shall we their fond pageant see? Lord, what fools these mortals be!” indicating he enjoys observing human interaction and he is pleased to watch newcomers enter the spellbinding forest.
“Though she be but little, she is fierce”
(Helena, Act 3 Scene 2)
In the play, Helena says “O, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd. She was a vixen when she went to school, And though she be but little, she is fierce.” in a scene with Hermia and Lysander as the three of them confront existing relationships. In fact, Helena says this as a sarcastic comment to Hernia about her fits of anger, with Hernia insulted and saying ““Little” again? Nothing but “low” and “little”!”. Helena’s use of the word vixen indicates that this is an insult directed towards a female, with the suffix ‘-en’ highlighting womanly ways to describe someone. Arguably one of the most recognisable lines in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the line suggests that being little does not equate to physical strength. However, the line is often taken out of context in 21st-century speech.
“My Oberon! what visions have I seen!”
(Titania, Act 4 Scene 1)
Commenting on a strange dream that she has just had, Titania states “My Oberon! what visions have I seen! Methought I was enamoured of an ass.” Waking up from a love spell that was previously cast upon her, this line indicates Titania’s changing opinions on those around her. While the Fairy King (Oberon) and Titania reflect on their newly realised feelings on love, Titania quickly commands others to sleep by playing enchanting music, leaving the pair to understand why she went to sleep surrounded by humans, rather than in a fairy-filled environment.
“I have had a dream”
(Bottom, Act 4, Scene 1)
Awaking from a slumber, Bottom’s speech is uttered after an adventure with Titania, seeing the intertwining relationship between fairies and humans grow ever closer. At first, Bottom believes that the pair’s encounter was nothing more than a dream, but he cannot believe what has supposedly happen, saying that it is “past the wit of man to say what dream it was”. Mixing up the senses and body parts, it’s clear that Bottom enjoys what has just happened to him, wanting to relive it in a ballad written by Peter Quince.
“If we shadows have offended”
(Puck, Act 5 Scene 1)
In the final monologue of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck wishes the audience a good night and that, while tensions may have built during the play, everything will eventually become good in the end. While apologising for potential offence caused, he says that “all is mended, that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear.” as individuals from all walks of life can make amends with one another and continue to be civil.