'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' Vocabulary

Shakespeare’s language has been baffling and intriguing scholars practically since he started writing. He known for his poetic turn-of-phrase and rich imagery. In plays like A Midsummer Night's Dream, vocabulary can be especially especially confusing because of this innovative and opulent style.

What's more, Shakespeare is even known to have made up words, many of which are still used today. Even if it can be difficult to understand, Shakespeare’s complex language is what makes A Midsummer Night's Dream such a celebrated work, and getting the hang of the vocabulary makes reading the play extremely rewarding.

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Abjure

Definition: to swear off or abstain from, especially with an oath or with solemnity

Example: "Theseus: Either to die the death or to abjure / For ever the society of men..." (I, i)

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Amity

Definition: friendship, goodwill

Example: "Oberon: Now thou and I are new in amity, / And will to-morrow midnight solemnly / Dance in Duke Theseus' house triumphantly." (IV, i)

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Anoint

Definition: to apply, often of an oil or juice

Example: "Oberon: anoint his eyes; / But do it when the next thing he espies / May be the lady..." (II, i)

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Base

Definition: being of low value, also of short height

Example: "Helena: Things base and vile, folding no quantity, / Love can transpose to form and dignity..." (II, i)

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Beseech

Definition: to beg

Example: "Hermia: But I beseech your grace that I may know / The worst that may befall me in this case, / If I refuse to wed Demetrius." (I, i)

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Changeling

Definition: an infant secretly switched with another at birth, or here, a fairy child

Example: "Oberon: I do but beg a little changeling boy, / To be my henchman." (II, i)

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Concord

Definition: peace, harmony

Example: "Theseus: How comes this gentle concord in the world, / That hatred is so far from jealousy?" (IV, i)

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Condole

Definition: to express sympathy

Example: "Bottom: I will move storms, I will condole in some / measure…" (I, ii)

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Dissembling

Definition: distorting of the truth

Example: "Helena: What wicked and dissembling glass of mine / Made me compare with Hermia's sphery eyne?" (II, ii)

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Dulcet

Definition: sweet, pleasing to the senses

Example: "Oberon: And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back / Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath..." (II, i)

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Edict

Definition: A proclamation, decree

Example: "Hermia: If then true lovers have been ever cross'd,/ It stands as an edict in destiny..." (I, i)

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Entice

Definition: to attract, to lure

Example: "Demetrius: Do I entice you? do I speak you fair?" (II, i)

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Expound

Definition: to state, or to explain in careful detail

Example: "Bottom: Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream" (IV, i)

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Fawn

Definition: to show affection, often in a way that may demean the fawner

Example: "Helena: I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, / The more you beat me, I will fawn on you..." (II, i)

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Livery

Definition: the distinctive clothing of a certain profession, a uniform

Example: "Theseus: You can endure the livery of a nun, / For aye to be in shady cloister mew'd..." (I, i)

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Nuptial

Definition: having to do with a wedding

Example: "Theseus: Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour draws on apace…" (I, i)

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Odorous

Definition: having a notable odor or smell, often a good one

Example: "Titania: An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds / Is, as in mockery, set..." (II, i)

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Perforce

Definition: by physical force (not often used today, but often in Shakespeare)

Example: "Puck: But she perforce withholds the loved boy, / Crowns him with flowers and makes him all her joy..." (II, i)

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Progeny

Definition: children, or outcome

Example: "Titania: And this same progeny of evils comes / From our debate, from our dissension; / We are their parents and original." (II, i)

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Revels

Definition: a wild celebration

Example: "Titania: If you will patiently dance in our round / And see our moonlight revels, go with us..." (II, i)

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Surfeit

Definition: a surplus, an overabundant supply

Example: "Lysander: For as a surfeit of the sweetest things / The deepest loathing to the stomach brings." (II, ii)

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Tempest

Definition: a violent storm

Example: "Hermia: Belike for want of rain, which I could well / Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes..." (I, i)

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Visage

Definition: the face or appearance of someone

Example: "Lysander: To-morrow night, when Phoebe doth behold / Her silver visage in the watery glass…" (I, i)