A beach near Athens. Enter THESEUS and HIPPOLYTA, with swords.
THESEUS: Come Hippolyta, yield the fight to me.
I have the upper hand: my sword has shed
your virgin blood --
HIPPOLYTA: aye, and that other sword
you yet keep sheathed will take my maidenhead
and leave me bloody with a lasting loss.
I'll none of you, you brute! Get thee from hence!
[she attacks again. They fight]
THESEUS: Stay, queen! I would not spill another drop
of that brave ichor that informs thy veins
with sword of iron nor yet with sword of flesh.
I beg you, yield! Let me and thee make peace,
And all your Amazons make peace too with my men.
HIPPOLYTA: You call it peace: we call it vanquishment.
THESEUS: I call it peace, and so I vow I mean.
We seek alliance with your warrior maids.
Alliance on the battlefield, I mean --
not any baser kind, as you imply.
HIPPOLYTA: Your reputation, duke, is ripe with tales
of women loved and left to weep alone,
your promises all broke. I did hear tell
you loved the faerie queen, Titania.
THESEUS: Speak not her name, for speaking it may bring
her furious to our battlefield, and this
is 'twixt the two of us.
HIPPOLYTA: This? Ah, you mean
my sword and thine, bright bronze against bright bronze,
[she clashes her sword against his]
my strength and thine, my honour and thy force
THESEUS: But I have honour too, Hippolyta,
and I will yield to you as you to me,
if we two might bring peace between our lands. [he steps back]
I feel your wounds as if my own flesh bled --
HIPPOLYTA: It does so: see, my blade is bloody too!
THESEUS: My wounds are naught, and I shall cherish them
in memory of she who dealt the blows.
Hippolyta! I love thee, I do swear.
I love thy heart, thy courage, and thy wit.
I love thy valour and thy queenliness,
I love thee and would have thee reign with me
in Athens, whence we came to meet your ships.
You call this love, to buffet me with blows,
to raise your sword in anger against one
who comes with gifts and solemn polities
to make a peace with Athens: they did say
my errand was a fool's. Yet I had hoped --
On guard! Your weasel words shall never find
their way into my heart: my armour's such
as you will never see, and though I am
a woman, yet I am a warrior fierce. [she wounds him. Again.]
Your blade bites deep, and wounds me savagely.
The pain is naught beside your hateful words.
If you could love me, pray put up your sword:
If you do hate -- ah!
HIPPOLYTA: Now, sir, will you yield?
Or will you die? I have no wish to slay
a valorous heart, an honourable man,
a duke whose people should bewail his loss.
A mother's son, a child's -- stay, have you sons?
THESEUS: I have no sons [aside] at least, that I do know.
[to Hippolyta] Strike, queen, and send me hurrying down to Hell.
Unheired, forgotten, wasted, yet content:
the last sight of mine eyes shall be of thee.
HIPPOLYTA: Do you, o Theseus, concede the fight?
We've fought, and I've defeated you --
THESEUS: 'tis true
great Theseus fallen to a woman's blade!
For, blinded by your beauty, I could not
acquit myself in battle as I ought.
HIPPOLYTA: [laughs] Your fame at arms shall not be lessened by
this matter 'twixt the two of us: we'll say
we only played at battle, while we spoke
THESEUS: And peace is what we've brokered here.
I did not jest when I did speak of love.
I love thee, Hippolyta, and I would
make you my duchess, equal at my side.
And ne'er will I compel thee to submit
in word or deed or polity, or as
a husband might compel his wedded wife
save that you wish it. Let us sleep tonight
with a bared blade between us in my bed
Your sword -- it's yours we'll use, a weapon rich
and worthy of a king -- will keep me chaste.
Though you beside me lie, I'll not lay hand
on your …
HIPPOLYTA: … On my ...?
THESEUS: … on your fair virgin form.
HIPPOLYTA: [aside] Methinks he lays much store upon that scrap
of flesh that shows me virtuous: perchance
'tis an unconquered country that he sees
when he doth gaze on me, all covetous.
And yet ... I like this Theseus. His heart
seems true, and he is passing fair of face
and stood against me equal, not afraid
to fight a woman, nor to yield to her.
[to Theseus] Your words are courtly, duke. Let us make peace
[lays down her sword] between our countries, and perchance our selves.
THESEUS: And will you have me for your wedded lord?
HIPPOLYTA: I own no lord, but I will be your queen
and we shall rule, together, our two lands.
[aside] For is it not the duty of a king
For country's sake, to give up every thing?
A wood near Athens. TITANIA and OBERON reclining in a shaded bower.
TITANIA: My lord, what news comes from the mortal world?
OBERON: The usual: wars, pillaging, revenge.
The pirate crony of my lord the Duke
makes war against the Centaurs in the north.
TITANIA: 'Tis Pirithous you mean?
OBERON: Aye, that's the name.
TITANIA: Duke Theseus holds him dear: they've grown close
as two buds on the vine. Yet I do think
that Pirithous holds sway o'er Theseus
and leads him down the path of perfidy.
Methinks the Duke should wed, and turn away
from martial conquests to a happier state.
OBERON: I know your love of Theseus, and hope
your heart will match your words: for he will wed
at Midsummer, the Amazonian queen
TITANIA: My lord! Can it be so?
Duke Theseus to wed Hippolyta?
Your warrior-love to wed a mortal man?
[aside] My warrior-love to wed an Amazon?
[to Oberon] They must not wed. You know what fate's in store
for their sweet son: you hear the whispered tales
of times long-lost, and times to come, and times
that may yet be: you hear them clear as I
upon the winds of Faerie. If they wed
'twill come to ruin, and destruction, and
the cursing by a father of his son.
OBERON: We see all that may pass, as if upon
a scrolling tapestry of histories.
But is it wise, Titania, that we speak
of these our visions to our mortal friends?
They know us not -- they know our nature not.
In other times they praise us heaven-high,
make temples, altars, sacrifice to us.
TITANIA: O, those are better times: when I as queen,
and you my king, omnipotent and wise,
sit high, enthroned, as rulers of the gods.
Eternal deities! Why should we not
disport ourselves with these fair mortals as
we sport with maid and man in heavenly guise?
How dare this Theseus choose her o'er me?
How dare that Amazon reject your suit?
OBERON: Because they mortal are, and mortal lives
admit no second chances, no regrets.
There's little time enough for love, when man
is as a mayfly.
TITANIA: Why have second-best?
Why, if their days are fleeting, do they choose
a muddy mortal love, who will grow old,
and wither like a flower in winter-time?
OBERON: Because they mortal are! And we are not.
Though Theseus and his folk don't name us gods
we are not mortal yet, nor of their kind.
We live between the waking world and dreams.
We fit our form to mortals' phantasies --
a shower of gold, a blossom-bowered mote.
They call us pagan, heathen, faerie-kind,
or spirits of the wood and field, or sprites,
or atoms dallying in a flower's bell --
TITANIA: Yet can we set them on the road to hell!
OBERON: The road to hell: or else the primrose path
that leads the other way to wedded bliss.
Either's our gift, bestowèd as we choose.
And I choose happiness for her I wooed.
PUCK: What's this solemn argument?
[to Oberon] What has veiled your face with care?
[to Titania] What has filled your heart with ire?
[to both] What this dire predicament?
TITANIA: Tell me, o Puck, what sort of thing are you?
Are you a sometime god, or only one
of those strange presences that haunt the night?
OBERON: The Puck is not as we, Titania.
He is a power of wood and night and earth.
He did not see, as I saw, Cupid fly
between the cold moon and the sleeping earth --
PUCK: Cupid is a knavish lad,
made to drive all mortals mad.
Hold! Is Love what makes you frown?
Is it Cupid shot you down?
TITANIA: Foolish spirit! Silent be!
[PUCK: is struck dumb]
OBERON: Puck's babble rings a bell of truth, my queen.
We bicker like those mayflies we deride.
Eternal deities, we should not care
if mortals whom we love should turn away
from us, and into one another's arms.
TITANIA: We should not, yet I do. My Theseus …
Lord Oberon, I bid you let us go
to visit bride and bridegroom ere they wed.
OBERON: To sway them from the bidding of their hearts?
TITANIA: To test that bidding: mayhap to remind
them each that once a faerie found them fair.
OBERON: The Amazon Hippolyta I'll beguile.
On Theseus you'll turn your brightest smile.
[to Puck] Puck! Your words let forth again!
PUCK: [rubbing mouth] I was dumb but still could hear,
Though your meaning's quite unclear.
Lady, do you mean to go
To the city, there to show
Theseus what he has lost?
His intended what she's cost?
Lord, Hippolyta is fair,
But Titania is more rare.
Mortals are made fools by Cupid --
OBERON: [to Puck] Puck be silent Puck be still!
[to Titania] My queen, the Duke and his intended bride
shall come a-hunting on the morrow: let
us meet with them alone, and speak of love
and what they have, and what they may yet lack.
But let them choose, and ne'er gainsay their choice:
nor you nor I may arrogate fate's voice.
A wood near Athens. THESEUS and HIPPOLYTA enter a-horseback, with attendants.
THESEUS: My Spartan hounds have led us to this grove
as though rare quarry fled before their chase.
Yet there's no questing beast, no mighty stag,
no boar of Celadon, nor lion of Thrace.
Our hunt is bootless: come, let us away.
HIPPOLYTA: Nay, tarry: let us rest a while within
these ancient woods, beneath these shading trees.
'Tis fine to hunt: the pleasure is pursuit,
not slaughter when we've run to ground our prey.
THESEUS: And yet I feel a presence here, a sense …
My lords, ride out and circle round this place.
Beat bushes, make a hue-and-cry, drive out
whatever lurks in yonder shadow'd gloom.
[exeunt attendants, hueing and crying]
HIPPOLYTA: At last we are alone again: my lord
[dismounts] Will you not sit beside me 'neath this tree?
Perchance a kiss, or more: we'll coo and court
like country folk who --
[enter OBERON and TITANIA]
OBERON: Hail, Hippolyta
TITANIA: Hail to you, Duke Theseus, and well-met.
Your hounds obedient are: see how they crouch
to honour we who have beguiled them here.
PUCK: It was I who did them lead
Over hill and stream and mead
And your huntsmen trailed after
Hounds, all following my laughter.
OBERON: [to PUCK] Thank you, Puck: that will suffice.
THESEUS [to OBERON] A merry chase we've had of it, my lord.
Is there some purpose to this … summoning?
HIPPOLYTA: Hush, Theseus: he the king of Faerie is.
THESEUS: That much I had surmised, for by him stands
Titania, she they call the Faerie Queen.
TITANIA: You spoke to me more sweetly, those long nights
when we did --
THESEUS: -- what we did, which we need not
elaborate in such strange company.
HIPPOLYTA: [laughs] My love, you need not fear my jealousy.
For Oberon (in other guise) hath wooed
me this year past, by playing on the pipes,
and speaking verses sweet and wild and strange
OBERON: -- such delights are 'twixt the two of us.
and anyway are passed, or so it seems.
We've heard the news and come to wish you joy
of your impending wedding: may you happy be.
TITANIA: We wish you joy, of course, albeit such
as mortals may share: but, my Theseus,
much grief would you be spared, and all the aches
of your old age, were you to come away
and dwell with me in faerie realms, beyond
the reach of time.
THESEUS: Would not your lord object?
OBERON: [eyeing him] You are a lovely boy, and do remind
me of a lad I loved, my Ganymede.
Perchance we three might come to some accord --
PUCK: Gods and mortals do agree.
one and one and one is three.
Where they differ, so 'tis said,
is whether three may sport a-bed.
Two suffice in mortal lore:
two make pleasure, three make more --
TITANIA: Hold your tongue or have it slit!
[PUCK: holds tongue. Literally]
OBERON: Hippolyta, I bid you close your ears
to Puck's lewd phantasies! Instead, recall
those summer midnights when I sent a breeze
from otherwhen -- from Faerie -- to blow cool
upon your fevered brow: recall the songs
I sang you, songs that are not written yet.
Recall the treasures I did bring to you
their like unseen by man. Recall the tales
of other times --
HIPPOLYTA: My lord, I do recall
those gifts you gave me: I shall ever hold
them in my heart. But henceforth do I choose
a mortal love, a mortal life, a span
of years sufficient to my mortal frame.
I shall grow old, unlovely, wizened, frail.
But I shall live each day as it doth come.
Perchance I'll bear my wedded lord a son --
TITANIA: I see the tapestries of mortal lives,
the threadbare triumphs, knots of trial and woe.
The ravelling procession of your years.
I see your son, and here the woman who --
OBERON: My lady, stay, lest naming make it so.
These mortals should not see what time doth hold
for them, lest they do quail at their fates.
On that I thought we had agreed.
THESEUS: My lord,
I do not dread the future, or my death.
[to Titania] A mortal life I choose, and mortal fame
Hippolyta my queen --
TITANIA: -- while she doth live --
THESEUS: While both of us are quick: and when we die,
our bodies laid to rest in earth shall be.
Mayhap you'll dance upon our graves: and yet
we shall have lived as faerie-folk do not.
Our days all numbered, each day like a jewel
that's marvelled at, then lost. Only our fame,
when we're dead, can immortalise our names.
PUCK: In earth your bones shall lie and rot,
In time your name shall be forgot,
In story only you will live,
where we faerie folk do thrive.
OBERON: Hippolyta, I loved you once, and do
most earnestly and truly wish you joy
of him you wed: Duke Theseus, I bid
you treasure her and keep her next your heart
as a rare jewel --
THESEUS: -- nay, as a mortal maid.
Not with sweet songs or stories did we woo
but heated blood and iron cold, and soon
with flesh and skin and bodies that do draw,
like lodestones, one to t'other. I do burn
for this my Amazon, and she for me.
The days pass slowly 'til the night we're wed.
My lord, my lady: prithee bless our bed.
HIPPOLYTA: Lord, you are fair and do enchant my mind:
but Theseus draws me, mind and body both.
The future likely holds some frightful fate:
but, too, it holds our wedding day, and night
when we shall lie together, man and wife.
Our days together end in death, but first
they promise life: we two, perchance a child.
Lord, lady, bless these mortals you've beguil'd.
TITANIA: [to Oberon] Mortals, eh?
We love them, leave them, find another fresh
like flowers to be plucked. [to Theseus] I wish you joy
of this your buskined bride, and may you never be
regretful for those pleasures you have spurned.
OBERON: [to Titania] When all is passed, my queen, you shall still have
your Oberon, and I, Titania.
A flower, plucked, withers: you and I do not.
Our infinite variety's unstained by time.
You'll be my love again, and I'll be thine.
And meantime mortals are a garden fair
of fleeting joys, sweet sorrows, blossoms rare.
[to Hippolyta] Bless'd be your wedding, and your marriage-bed:
bless'd be your countries two; bless'd be this man
who loves you, and the child that's born
from your bless'd union. And when you die
(as all that's mortal must) your name will live
in story for three times a thousand years.
[exeunt Oberon and Titania, mysteriously]
THESEUS: My head aches, and a drowsy numbness fills
my veins, as though I'd dreamt some phantasy:
a waking dream: Hippolyta, are you …?
HIPPOLYTA: 'Twas no dream, or it seemed not so to me.
'Twas truth, but I will wager that it fades
like dreams at morning, swiftly gone and yet
colouring our days henceforth. Those days
are numbered: let us make the most of them.
And I shall tell that moral to my maids.
And you must lesson it to all your men.
THESEUS: Hippolyta, my queen, your words are wise.
But sure our huntsmen shall all think us mad
if we recount what truly happened here.
This tale we'll tell: beguiled by slumber, we
laid down to sleep, and dreaming spoke of time,
mortality, philosophy: and woke.
[shouts] Attendants, ho! Where are you wandering?
[to Hippolyta] I hear them not: dost think the faerie folk
have stolen them, or else led them astray?
HIPPOLYTA: Theseus, let us leave this ancient grove.
It heavy is with magic and with dreams.
Perchance we'll meet with our brave huntsmen soon
and meantime, let us walk, your hand in mine,
and speak of time to come, and wedded bliss.
THESEUS: Right gladly will I walk with you, my bride:
while we both live, I shall be at your side.
[exeunt THESEUS and HIPPOLYTA]
PUCK: [following] I will weave a cunning spell
I will bring your huntsmen home
And the two of you shall tell
What has passed here while they roamed.
They will wonder at your tale
But your phant'sy shall prevail.
[turning back to audience] This noon's sport, in latter day
Might precede a famous play,
And a Yuletide tale breed,
Ariadne's Thread to read.
(If pentameter offended
Take out line breaks: all is mended!)
So good night, and all good cheer
Now the Puck is out of here.