— 4.2 —
Quince, Flute, Snout, and Starveling were meeting in Peter Quince’s house in Athens.
Quince asked Starveling, “Have you sent anyone to Bottom’s house to ask about him? Has he come home yet?”
“No one has seen him,” Starveling replied. “No doubt, the fairies have carried him away.”
“If he cannot be found, then the play is ruined, isn’t it?” Flute said. “We cannot perform it, can we?”
“That would be impossible,” Quince replied. “In all of Athens, no one but Bottom can play the part of Pyramus.”
“That’s true,” Flute said. “Bottom has simply the best wit of all the craftsmen in Athens.”
“Yes, and he is the most handsome, too,” Quince said. “And he is a very paramour for a sweet voice.”
“You must say ‘paragon,’” Flute said. “A paramour is, God bless us, a wicked thing.”
Snug knocked on Quince’s door and entered the house and said, “Friends, the Duke is coming from the temple. He and Hippolyta have been married, and so have two other couples. If we had been able to put on our play, we would all have been made men — we would have received a pension for life.”
“Sweet friend Bottom!” Flute said. “I wish you were here! You would be able to earn for yourself a pension of sixpence a day for the rest of your life. I’ll be hanged if you would not have earned a pension of sixpence a day for playing Pyramus. Bottom would have deserved it, too. For playing Pyramus, he would have gotten sixpence a day — or nothing.”
Bottom now knocked on Quince’s door and entered the house, saying, “Where are these lads! Where are these good fellows! Hello, friends!”
“Bottom!” Quince said happily. “Oh, most courageous day! Oh, most happy hour!”
“Friends, I have wonders to recount,” Bottom said, “but do not ask me about them, for if I tell you, I am no true Athenian.”
He paused and then said, “I will tell you everything, exactly as it happened.”
“Let us hear, sweet Bottom,” Quince requested.
“I won’t say a word,” Bottom said, “but I will tell you that the Duke has dined. Get your costumes together. Get good strings to use to attach your false beards, and new ribbons to use to tie your shoes. Let us go to the palace right away. Every actor, look over your part. The long and the short of it is that our play is on a list of the entertainments that Theseus shall choose from to see. Let Thisby have clean linen, and let not him who plays the lion pare his fingernails, for they shall hang out for the lion’s claws. And, most dear actors, eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath, and I have no doubt but that we shall hear the audience say, ‘It is a sweet comedy.’ Most important of all, adjust your testicles. No actor can perform competently unless the two stones in his pants are sitting comfortably. No more words, friends! Let’s go!”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce
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