Everyone in Athens knew that Theseus was going to be married to
Hippolyta. Many people were wondering how they could celebrate the event in a
way that would please the Duke.
Everyone wanted to honour the Duke by organising a special entertainment
for him and his bride.
There was a weaver in the city called Bottom. He and his friends had
decided that they would perform a play for the Duke. They had never performed
in a play before, but they were certain it would be easy to do. They held a
meeting to decide what play they should perform, and the parts that each of them
'Well, friends,' asked Bottom, 'what play shall we perform for the Duke?'
He was answered by the carpenter. Quince.
'We have chosen the play Pyramus and Thisbe.'
'What is my part in the play?" asked Bottom, excitedly. 'Do I play a lover,
or do I play a bad king?'
'You play the part of a lover,' Quince told him. 'It's a wonderful part
because you kill yourself for love.'
Bottom was very excited at the idea of the part he was to play.
'Excellent!' he cried. 'I'll be very good at it, I'm sure. I'll make the audience
cry at my sufferings, you can he sure of that.'
He thought for a moment.
'But perhaps I'd be better as a king.' he said thoughtfully. 'I could terrify
them if I had the part of an evil king!'
He ran up and down excitedly, waving his arms about and pulling strange
faces. He was trying to look strong and powerful, but he only looked ridiculous.
His friends were embarrassed by his silliness.
That was a bad king - not bad, eh!'
He looked at his friends with a smile, expecting that they would
disappointed. He thought his acting was wonderful.
'Let's continue, then,' he suggested to Quince. 'Now tell us who the other
'The next is Flute,' Quince told them. He turned to Flute. 'You play the part
of Thisbe, the woman that Pyramus loves,' he explained.
'I don't want to play the part of a woman,' Flute complained. 'Besides. I'm
growing a beard - it'll be ridiculous!'
'Don't worry about that,' Quince reassured him. 'If you wear a mask, no one
will see your beard.'
'All right, then,' said Flute. 'If I can play the part that way. I don't mind.'
The idea of wearing a mask appealed to Bottom, and he could not resist
'I could play that part beautifully. I want to be Thisbe,' he cried. 'Let me
have the part of Thisbe!'
'No.' said Quince. 'You will play the part of Pyramus.'
Then Quince told the other actors which parts they would play. After
telling everybody which part they would play, finally he turned to Snug.
'Your part's a good one, too,' he informed him. 'You will be the lion.'
'The lion?' Snug said anxiously. 'Is it a difficult part to play. Quince? Do I
have to remember many long speeches?'
'No, don't worry,' Quince reassured him, 'the lion's part is very simple. You
just enter and roar. It's very easy.'
Once again Bottom was delighted at the idea of playing the lion. It seemed
a much more wonderful part than his own. He interrupted the proceedings once
it so well, I would roar so loudly that it would frighten everybody in the
By now Quince was becoming quite impatient with Bottom.
'A fine thing that would be,' he said angrily. 'The Duke would be very
angry if we frightened all the ladies. We'd all get into a lot of trouble!'
very gently. No one would be scared at all.'
'How many times must I tell you?' Quince said angrily. 'You're playing the
part of Pyramus. It's a lovely part.'
He paused for a moment. 'There is one other thing we need to do. We must
practise our play in a quiet place, away from the city. Let's go into the wood
tomorrow night. We can practise there without being disturbed by anybody.'