[Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Philostrate and Attendants]
Thesus: My beautiful Hippolyta, our wedding day will soon be here. (Moves towards Hippolyta) Oh, but how could four days be considered soon? (Passionately hugs her, attempts to kiss her)
Hippolyta: (Pushes him an arm's length away)Four days will turn into night, which we'll quickly dream away. (Slightly pulls him closer)
Thesus: (To Philostrate) Go Phil! Cheer up and excite the people! We don't want any dreary people at our wedding! (Philostrate, bows, then exits) Hippolyta, I wooed you as a mighty conqueror, I even conquered you. But I shall marry you in another manner, with pomp, festivity and rejoicing!
[Egeus enters, with his daughter, Hermia, followed by Lysander and Demetrius]
Egeus: Happy be Theseus, our renowned Duke.
Theseus: Thanks good Egeus. What's the news with you?
Egeus: I'm full of vexation and here to complain about my daughter, Hermia. (To Demetrius) Come forward, Demetrius. (To Theseus) My noble lord, this man has my consent to marry her. (To Lysander) Come forward Lysander. (To Theseus) This man, my gracious Duke, has infatuated her. (To Lysander) You, Lysander, you have given her poems, love-tokens, trinkets, flowers, candies and you have even serenaded her at her window by moonlight, singing songs of so-called love. Very cleverly you've stolen my daughter's heart and turned her obedience, which is due to me, too stubborn harshness. (To Theseus) And, my gracious Duke, if she will not here before your grace, consent to marry with Demetrius, then I beg my ancient Athenian right. As she is mine, I can decide her fate. She shall either marry Demetrius or she shall die, according to our law, immediately provided in such a case.
Theseus: (To Hermia) What say you, Hermia? Be advised, dear girl, to you, your father should be like a god. He gave you your beauty, he helped create you, so you are his to let be or destroy. Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
Hermia: So is Lysander.
Theseus: True, apart from these events, he is. But in this case, lacking your father's approval, the other must be seen as the worthier.
Hermia: I wish my father saw things my way.
Theseus: Rather, you must see things as he does.
Hermia: I beg your Grace to pardon me. I don't know what has given me the courage but I beg your Grace, to tell me the worst that can happen to me if I refuse to marry Demetrius.
Theseus: You must either die or become a nun. Therefore, beautiful Hermia, think about what you want. Consider your youth. Examine your feelings carefully. If you don't marry your father's choice, could you tolerate wearing nun's clothing and being cooped up forever in some shady cloister, a virgin all your life, singing quiet hymns to the bleak and barren moon? The rose that gives off its perfume is happier than the rose, withering on the untouched stalk, grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.
Hermia: So I'll grow, so live, so die, my lord, rather than surrender my virginity to an unwanted husband.
Theseus: Take time to reconsider. By the next new moon, our (indicating Hippolyta) wedding day, either prepare to die for disobeying your father, marry Demetrius or on the altar of Diana, patroness of chastity, vow to live forever the life of a nun.
Demetrius: Relent, sweet Hermia. Lysander, yield your crazed claim to my certain right.
Lysander: You have her father's love, Demetrius. Let me have Hermia's. Why don't you marry him?
Egeus: Why, scornful Lysander, true, he has my love. And because of that love I'll give him what's mine. And she is mine and I hand over all my rights in her to Demetrius.
Lysander: I come from, my lord, as good of family as he. I'm as rich. My love is more than his. My fortunes, in every way, my lord, is equal to, if not better than, those of Demetrius. And what's more important than all these claims, Hermia loves me. Why, then, shouldn't I press for my rights? Demetrius, I'll say it to his face, he made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena, and won her heart and soul. Now she, sweet lady, dotes, devoutly dotes, worships and idolizes this tainted unfaithful man!
Theseus: I must confess, that I've heard that, and was going to speak to Demetrius about it. But being preoccupied with my own affairs, it slipped my mind. Demetrius and Egeus, I've some advice to give you in privet. As for you, fair Hermia: see to it that you obey your father, or else the law of Athens, which I can't alter, condemns you to death or the life of a nun. (Hippolyta looks dismayed) Cheer up my Hippolyta, come, my love. (He and Hippolyta turn to go) Demetrius and Egeus, come along. I must talk with you about our wedding celebrations and talk about your personal lives.
Egeus: With duty desire, we follow you.
[They all leave except Hermia & Lysander]
Lysander: Well, then, my love. Why are your cheeks so pale? What's made the roses fade so fast?
Hermia: Probably lack of rain, which I could well provide with storms of tears!
Lysander: (Kisses her cheek) Judging by all I've ever read or ever heard of, the course of true love never did run smooth. Either it was a class difference -
Hermia: O cross! Too high born to love a commoner!
Lysander: Or else the ages were ill-matched -
Hermia: O spite! Too old to be engaged to young.
Lysander: Or relations had a say in it -
Hermia: O heck! To choose love by another's eyes.
Lysander: Or even if the match pleased everyone, war, death or sickness destroyed it. Then it's as swift as a shadow, short like a dream, as brief as a lightning bolt on a pitch-black night, and ere you have the power to say, 'Behold!' the jaws of darkness do devour it up. That's how quickly bright hopes fade.
Hermia: If true lovers have always been thwarted, it must a law of life. So let's bear this patiently, for it's a usual cross to bear among love.
Lysander: Well said. Listen, Hermia. I have a widowed aunt, she's old, rich and has no children. Her house is about 20 miles from Athens and she sees me as her only son. There, my sweet Hermia, I can marry you. The severe Athenian laws can't follow us there.
Hermia: Are you serious?
Lysander: Yes I am. If thou truly loves me,(looks to make sure they're alone) then, steal forth thy father's house tomorrow night, and in the wood three miles outside the town, where I did meet you once with Helena one May morning.
Hermia: My good Lysander, I swear to thee by Cupid's strongest bow, by his best gold-tipped arrow, tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.
Lysander: Keep your promise, my love. Look here comes Helena.
[Helena enters, hurriedly with a pet]
Hermia: (Pleasantly) Safe journey, fair Helena! Where are you going?
Helena: (Taking offence)Whom are you calling "fair"? Take that "fair" back! Demetrius loves your fairness! To him, your eyes are stars, your voice is more pleasing than a lark's song to a shepherd in spring. Sickness is infectious, I wish good looks were too. I'd catch yours, fair Hermia, before I left. My throat would catch your voice, my eye your eye, my tongue would catch your tongue's sweet melody. If I owned the world, I'd give it all, except Demetrius, to change places with you. Tell me how you attract Demetrius.
Hermia: I frown at him, yet he loves me still.
Helena: I wish your frowns could teach my smiles such skill.
Hermia: I give him curses, yet he give me love.
Helena: I wish my prayers could do the same!
Hermia: The more I hate him, the more he follows me.
Helena: The more I love and follow him, the more he hates me.
Hermia: His stupidity, Helena, isn't my fault.
Helena: Yes it is! It's the fault of your beauty. I wish that fault were mine!
Hermia: Take comfort. He won't see me again. Lysander and I are running away. Before I saw Lysander, Athens seemed like paradise.
Lysander: Helena, we'll confide in you. Tomorrow night when the moonlight shines on the seas, we plan to steal through the gates of Athens.
Hermia: And in the wood, where you and I used to lie on beds of pale primroses, telling our secrets to each other, Lysander and I will meet. We'll turn our backs on Athens forever. (Gives her a long hug) Farewell, dearest friend! Pray for us, and good luck with Demetrius. (To Lysander) Keep your promise, Lysander. We must starve our sight of each other, until midnight tomorrow.
Lysander: I will, my sweet Hermia! Goodbye, Helena. Just as you dote on Demetrius, may he dote on you.
Helena: (To pet) How happier some are than others! All of Athens thinks I'm as beautiful as her! But what of that? Demetrius doesn't think so. He just won't accept what everyone else knows well. (Groans) Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. Not that Love's mind has good judgment. Wings and blindness suggest rash haste. Before Demetrius saw Hermia, he hailed down oaths that he was only mine. Then when he felt warmth from her, all those oaths melted away. (Sighs) I will tell him of fair Hermia's flight. Then he'll follow her to the wood tomorrow night and if he pays me with a mere "thanks", it'll be a dear expense and make my pain worthwhile, and we'll see each other again.