Chapter 1: The first missing scene
The action begins at Act 3:2:394; Oberon intends to ask again that Titania yields up to him her little changeling boy. He must act speedily, since day is near, and - though Oberon and Titania are both greater beings than most inhabitants of their realm - the fairy world inhabits night.
Oberon: But notwithstanding, haste, make no delay
We may effect this business yet, ere day.
Puck: Go you that way then, lord, and I will this
To set to right what has been done amiss
Up and down, up and down
I will lead them up and down...
Act 3, Scene 3.
Titania's bower. Titania, asleep with Bottom. Enter Oberon.
Oberon: What flowers and soft airs are lavished here
On the unthinking Ass. She clips him near,
Fondles him, strokes him, feeds him with dainties, sings
And so dotes that her full contentment brings
A plenteous summer to her curtained bower,
Here worms dance as stars, each fragrant flower
Breathes musky blessing, and each herb beside
Is crowned, dew-pearled, but I am denied.
(He approaches Titania.)
Wake, sluggard Queen! You sleep too long,
The night wastes. Wake. Amend your wrong
Titania: To break my soft dark night with peevish brawl
Proves this Lord Oberon. Fairies, stand near,
And guard my love. (To Oberon) Begone; I am abed.
Oberon: Too long abed. The moon mounts higher yet
Our shadow-kingdom westward seeps away.
Titania: And am I not Titania? Titan-sprung
With Titan's power to send back the moon
If I so please?
(She stands, and looks to the rising moon.)
Phoebe will do no harm.
Oberon: She heralds day. Release the boy to me.
Titania: Why must you have him? He is none of yours
But sprung of princely stock in farthest Inde
Where still th'imperial parent mourns his queen,
Paces in silence alabaster halls,
Weeping, as I did, once.
Oberon: Nor is he yours.
What was, has gone. Surrender me the boy.
Titania: Not for your kingdom.
Oberon: No, but for this sphere
Entire. From us, you lessoned me, has come
the pale destruction laying waste the land,
that we have quarrelled, who should have the boy.
From us comes this vexation and this grief,
The cankered bud, the dark worm in the corn,
floods making sodden the once-fruitful fields
to the most distant margin of the world.
If this from us, then ours it is to heal.
Resign your claim, Titania. Be again
My glorious queen of summer, and my friend.
Titania: This is more wisdom than of late you used,
My king of shadows. What is gone, is gone,
and she is gone, and cannot be held here.
Oberon: Resign your claim. Set free the captive child.
Titania: Where we have wronged, we may restore and bless,
Our discord may resolve to harmony.
It shall be so. Here is Titania's hand.
(Music. Flurry of birds in trees.)
Fairies! You hear your king! Then fly you hence
We will for summer’s wrongs make recompense
We will restore to all fecundity
The land once wasted by our enmity
and my sweet fosterling is here resigned
that he may the more fitting warder find.
(Nightingales and doves call.)
Away, and bear the boy to the king’s bower!
(Exeunt fairies .)
Oberon: O, rightly ruled! and now I feel the day
Close in the air. I will no longer stay.
(She looks again at the moon.)
True, that this little room of night
Cramps up our pleasures. Now let Titan's might
Unfold and so bear down the day that this
One night has space enough for my love's bliss.
Nor ill attend this charm; I do but borrow
One night's surfeit of darkness from the morrow.
(The moon returns, sinking; the night deepens; nightingales, doves.)
Act 3, Scene 4. Another part of the wood.
Enter Puck, singing.
Puck: ... I am feared in field and town
Goblin, lead them up and down...
Here comes one.
[Play continues as published, to Act 4, Scene 1, line 90]
Chapter 2: The second missing scene
Oberon, believing he has secured his aim, has freed Titania from her enchantment. But then, as dawn nears for the second time, she asks him to explain what has been happening through the night...
Puck: Fairy King, attend and mark
I do hear the morning lark
Titania: (She takes Oberon's hand) Come, my lord, and in our flight
Tell me how it came this night
That I sleeping here was found
With these mortals on the ground.
Oberon: Know'st thou the little purple flower
Cupid-blessed, in happy hour
Whose juice expressèd on the eyes
Titania: (She interrupts him, dropping his hand and moving apart.)
I know the flower.
(Her suspicions manifest as a low roll of thunder.)
Its virtue is to cast
Enchantment, to make love what next is seen.
Oberon: With that selfsame flowery balm
I your own eyes so did charm
While my merry henchman here
(Puck looks up, apprehensively.)
Titania: Leave talk of henchmen, King of Fairyland.
What did you do?
(Longer roll of thunder. Oberon is silent.)
Hast thou upon me, on thy lawful Queen
Oberon: You forswore my bed,
Denied a trifling gift, a toy, which I
Deigned to require of you, and asked again
and was again refused.
(Trees begin to toss in wind. a bird screams.)
What torment then
Did you deserve of me, your lawful king?
(His anger brings lightning. Fairies begin to edge away.)
Titania: And that I had refused, rightly refused,
(Answering lightning. Trees toss more wildly.)
To give my votress' child into your hands
You in such shrinking, low, hedge-sneaking ways
Essayed revenge? I in another sort
Will teach thee what I am, fire for fire.
Oberon: Essayed and did achieve!
(Huge crash of thunder and simultaneous lightning.)
and had you not
Yielded the child to me, you still were charmed,
Titania: Yielded the child to thee?
Oberon: Confess my victory! You gave your hand
and bade your fairies take him to my bower.
Titania: I bade? My fairies better know my mind.
Titania: The king would know where lies my votress' child.
Peaseblossom: (cautiously) Where we were bidden take him.
Oberon: To my bower.
Mustardseed: (looking anxiously) To the king's bower.
Oberon: You rightly ruled it when you so ordained;
Therefore you were released from Cupid's charm
Titania: And did my lord the king of Fairyland
fly straight to see the child he so desired?
Oberon: I was much occupied. Four lovers strayed…
(Puck, foreseeing trouble, exits.)
Titania: Though I had, as you thought, surrendered him
Oberon: Why 'as I thought'?
(Rumble of rising thunder.)
Your word was 'to my bower.'
Titania: My word was… fairies? Say!
Cobweb and Moth: (from shelter) To the king's bower.
Titania: To where that king his father, stately dwells,
In perfumed India.
Oberon: Tigress! Cozening kite!
(Storm, wind and lightning. Birds scream.)
Titania: Though you uproot the trees, treacherous king,
The child is gone.
Oberon: Rank vixen! Harpy!
(Trees are now lashing furiously in the storm. Fairies flee.)
And what more now, my lord? Call up wild beasts?
(Roaring and shadows of beasts. Exeunt remaining Fairies.)
Well, so can I. Rain fire and sulfrous hail?
(Rain of fire. Titania and Oberon are now alone.)
So I. Though we lay waste this dancing-ground
He is gone from our hands, Lord Oberon.
Gone to his father's realm, whose bounteous shores
Teem with the largesse of the kindly gods,
Where golden lamps hang in his emerald bower,
But his best jewel holds his restorèd son.
Oberon: To me denied.
(Low, distant thunder.)
Titania: Denied, Lord Oberon?
You tarried when you thought the boy was yours,
Dawdling in th'Athenian lovers' broils.
You did not want the gift; you rather sought
To make occasion for this strife with me.
Oberon: As you denied me, wanton, froward queen,
But to unloose your power to deny.
Titania: No. (Pause, then, sadly) No. I thought that holding to her child
I might yet hold the mortal who is gone,
Who, being mortal, could not here be held.
(Oberon moves to Titania.
Silence, as the sky lightens toward dawn.)
Still, king, I will confess I did enjoy
This summer storm, this matching of our power.
(She looks to him.)
Oberon: We are well-met and well matched in this hour.
Titania: So were we not with that frail mortal's frame
(She rises a little from the ground.)
He would not long endure our mazy game.
Oberon: So were you not with your poor blundering ass.
(He rises to meet her in the air.)
I will repent I brought you to that pass
If aught should rankle from one prankish night.
Titania: Too strong a liquor is our fierce delight
For unus'd palates, but what to them must burn
Warms in our blood. You have done me no harm.
(Sound of hounds.)
Oberon: Give me your hand. Day nears, and closely sounds
The deep-mouthed music of Athenian hounds.
The Duke rides to the hunt, and we, away
To hunt the night before th'advancing day.
Titania: Westerly then, the dark chase to pursue
until the moon and night are made anew.
Chapter 3: Letter, tentatively dated July 1596.
A letter, found with the scattered pages which carried the above deleted scenes, seems to shed some light on what lay behind the cutting of scenes so crucial to the plot.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
To Will Shakspere,
Of the Ld Chamberlain’s Men
Though I write you so, Will, you are so no more, and nor am I, for our good Chamberlain has gone, suddainly, cutt down, and with him cutt our funding and supplies this season.
Lord H. being gone we poor Players must perforce wait on his new lordship’s pleasure wh I thinke will bee no Pleasure to our Companie. Sir G. is not so rich a man as his Fthr by worth of his place, and though he has done good service in the wars, lacks that good soldier money. From which, our chief funder being gone, we have not now the wherewithal for those Engines and Devices requisite to make such Magickings and Tempests as you have writ in yr new Play.
Therefore your Faerie Queene must abjure calling the lightning down on her King, and forswear allso her playe with the Moone, since we cannot afford to pay for such. To be brief, I have cutt those Sceenes entire, and yr Midsomer’s Night must be the shorter by so muche. Thatt this will not be by your good will, I know well, but needs must when beggary drives.
Natheless, heart up, Will! Sir G. has said that he will beg from his great Cousin that Place and Payment which his Fthr held, and we shall one day be in funds again, please Heaven and his Ldshp, to afford Storm-Engines, Bears, Flyings Aloft and I wot not else, and you shall then, an’t please you, write us such a Tempest as now we only dream of.
Yrs, more than mine owne, since you have writ me new this many times.
All that which can be done withouten Engines, as the Musick and the Hunte, I have alloude, since Sir G. has given me surety that we shall still have his Hounds, at least, to run with your Athenian Duke, but Bear, Fire and Tygers, forsooth, Thunderings and Lightnings are all swept away. There is no help for this, Will, and the companie even now has it in rehearsal so.
I leave to you to rewrite the First Sceene. Since that the business with the Moon is cutt, it will not do to let the Duke talk of fower days till the Moon is new, and then it to be new but three scant days after. Though I out-Oberonned Oberon, still I think our groundlings would have the Witt to notice that Fower Days are past in Two Nights.
But as you will, my Will, our Will, and above all, Your Own Will, as I am yr own
Henry, Baron Hunsdon, was patron of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, until his death in July 1596. He was succeeded by his son, Sir George Carey (later also Baron, and Lord Chamberlain), who was a much less wealthy man.