The Libretto

A Midsummer Night’s Dream - opera a cappella

Music by Michael Ching, Text by William Shakespeare, adapted by the composer

(Musical quotations from other sources are indicated in the libretto as they appear.)


Act 1, Scene 1 (Corresponds to Shakespeare’s Act 1, Scene 1)

Athens. The palace of THESEUS

Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, and Attendants


[1] Prologue


Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour

Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in

Another moon.


Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time;

And then the moon, like to a silver bow

New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night

Of our solemnities.


Hippolyta, I woo’d thee with my sword,

And won thy love, doing thee injuries,

But I will wed thee in another key,

With pomp, with triumph and with reveling.



Happy be Theseus, our renowned duke!


Thanks, good Egeus: what’s the news with thee?


[2] Full Of Vexation


Full of vexation come I, with complaint

Against my child, my daughter Hermia—

Stand forth, Demetrius.

This man hath my consent to marry her.—

Stand forth, Lysander.—And, my gracious duke,

This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child.—

Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes

And interchanged love-tokens with my child.

With cunning hast thou filch’d my daughter’s heart,

Turned her obedience (which is due to me)

To stubborn harshness.— And, my gracious duke,

Be it so she will not here before your Grace

Consent to marry with Demetrius,

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens:

As she is mine, I may dispose of her,

Which shall be either to this gentleman

Or to her death.


[3] What Say You, Hermia?


What say you, Hermia? Be advised fair maid.

To you, your father should be as a god,

One that composed your beauties, yea, and one

To whom you are but as a form in wax

By him imprinted, and within his power

To leave the figure or disfigure it.

Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.


I am, my lord, as well derived as he,

As well possessed. My love is more than his;

My fortunes every way as fairly ranked

(If not with vantage) as Demetrius’;

And (which is more than all these boasts can be)

I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.

Why should not I then prosecute my right?

Demetrius, I’ll avouch it to his head,

Made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena,

And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,

Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,

Upon this spotted and inconstant man.


I must confess that I have heard so much,

And with Demetrius thought to have spoke thereof;

But, being over-full of self-affairs,

My mind did lose it.—But, Demetrius, come,

And come, Egeus; you shall go with me.

I have some private schooling for you both.—

For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself

To fit your fancies to your father’s will,

Or else the law of Athens yields you up

(Which by no means we may extenuate)

To death, or to a vow of single life.

Exit all but LYSANDER and HERMIA


[4] I Have a Widow Aunt


How now, my love! Why is your cheek so pale?

How chance the roses there do fade so fast?


Belike for want of rain, which I could well

Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.


Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,

Could ever hear by tale or history,

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Hear me, Hermia:

I have a widow aunt, a dowager

Of great revenue, and she hath no child.

From Athens is her house remote seven leagues,

And she respects me as her only son.

There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee;

And to that place the sharp Athenian law

Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me, then

Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night,

And in the wood, a league without the town,

There will I stay for thee.


My good Lysander!

I swear to thee, by Cupid’s strongest bow,

By his best arrow with the golden head,

By the simplicity of Venus’ doves,

By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,

And by that fire which burned the Carthage queen

When the false Trojan under sail was seen,

By all the vows that ever men have broke,

(In number more than ever women spoke),

In that same place thou hast appointed me,

Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee.


So/I’ll steal forth thy/my father’s house tomorrow night.

And in the wood, a league without the town,


There will I stay,


There will I stay,


There will I stay,


There will I stay,


I stay for thee.



[5] Call You Me Fair?


God speed fair Helena! Whither away?


Call you me “fair”? That “fair” again unsay.

Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair!

Your eyes are lodestars and your tongue’s sweet air

More tunable than lark to shepherd’s ear,

When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.

Sickness is catching: O, were favor so!

Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go.

My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye;

My tongue should catch your tongue’s sweet melody.

Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated,

The rest I’d give to be to you translated.

O, teach me how you look and with what art

You sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart!


I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.


O, that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!


I give him curses, yet he gives me love.


O, that my prayers could such affection move!


Take comfort: he no more shall see my face.

Lysander and myself will fly this place.


Tomorrow night, when Phoebe doth behold

Her silver visage in the wat’ry glass,

Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass

(A time that lovers’ flights doth still conceal),

Through Athens’ gates have we devised to steal.




Farewell, sweet playfellow.




And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius!



How happy some o’er other some can be!

Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.

But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;

I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight.

Then to the wood will he tomorrow night

Pursue her. And for this intelligence

If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.

But herein mean I to enrich my pain,

To have his sight thither and back again.



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