Midsummer Night's Dream 5.1.2-22 Interpretation

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ORIGINAL PASSAGE
More strange than true. I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold:
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination
That if it would but apprehend some joy
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!
Antique – ancient; strange, grotesque (as in “antic”)
Toys – trifles
Fantasies – imaginations
Apprehend – conceive
Compact – composed
See’s Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt – In a gypsy’s face. Helen: Helen of Troy Bringer – source
Fear – object to be feared

INTERPRETATION
I may never believe
These strange fables, nor these fairy trifles.
Lovers and madmen have such furious brains,
Such influential imaginations, that conjure up
More than unruffled logic ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet (playwright)
Are all made up of imagination.
One sees more devils than hell can hold:
That is the madman. The lover, all as anxious,
Sees beauty in an ugly face.
The poet’s eye, in a fine fury progressing,
Does glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,
And as imagination continues onward
The forms of unknown things, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes (makes them “real”), and gives to airy(lighthearted?) nothing A local environment and a name.
Imagination has such strong tricks
That if it would only apprehend(take in for questioning) that joy;...
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