Authors: Robert Swindells
Retold by Robert Swindells
Illustrated by Tomislav Tomic
the Big Boss
engaged to Theseus
Master of the Revels
father to Hermia
daughter of Egeus, in love with Lysander
in love with Hermia
in love with Hermia
in love with Demetrius
king of the fairies
queen of the fairies
You could tell by his house that Theseus was not without a bob or two. Big, it was. Detached. Garden like a public park.
Some people reckoned Hippolyta was marrying him for his brass. Once, she'd been active in the women's movement. A braburning Amazon. Now, suddenly, here she was, engaged to the neighbourhood tycoon. It just didn't sound like her.
Nobody commented openly about any of this. Theseus was a dangerous guy; you didn't poke your nose into his business unless you wanted it chewed off. Plus Hippolyta had taken a few assertiveness courses in her time. Let
catch you rabbiting on and you'd end up sweeping your teeth off the floor. They were getting married, Theseus was happy about it and that was that.
In fact, Theseus could hardly wait. Now they stood side by side, in the big bay window, gazing down the garden. His arm was round her waist. He gave her a squeeze,
and sighed. âNot long now, sweetheart. Four days. Dragging a bit, though.'
Hippolyta laughed. âDon't be such a wimp, Theseus, you big girl's blouse.' Hippolyta was probably the only person in the world who could call Theseus a big girl's blouse without waking up in hospital. âIt'll pass in no time. Know why?'
Theseus shook his head. âYou tell me, sweetie pie.'
âWell, for a start, we'll spend nearly half the time sleeping. You don't know time's passing when you're asleep.' She dug him in the ribs. âWe'll dream. You can be in my dream if I can be in yours.'
Theseus squeezed her waist again, and turned to Philostrate, who'd been admiring a picture on the wall. Philostrate was the guy that Theseus had hired to arrange the wedding reception, organise the marquee, see to it that there'd be enough chairs, supervise the caterers, line up a photographer, find an
act of some sort to entertain the guests, and generally make sure the whole thing went off without a glitch.
âPhil? Why don't you go check the post? See who else has RSVP'd. Let's hope we get more fun people than sentimental ones. Can't be doing with folk having a good cry all over the place when I haven't even tortured 'em.'
Philostrate scribbled a memo in his notebook and left. He was a professional. Everything would be fine.
Theseus turned fondly to Hippolyta. âHave I ever told you, Hippo, how muchâ¦'
âDon't call me Hippo,' snarled Hippolyta. âMakes me sound obese. If you
abbreviate my name, what's wrong with Lyta?'
âLyta, then,' smiled Theseus. âHave I everâ¦'
Somebody knocked on the door. Theseus sighed and called, âCome in.'
The door opened to reveal Egeus, a manager in one of the tycoon's enterprises. He had his daughter with him, and two young men Theseus hardly knew. Egeus looked nervous.
âI â¦ er, hope we haven't interrupted something important, sir. I know how busy you must be at this time.'
Theseus shook his head. âDon't worry about it. What can we do for you, Egeus?'
The manager indicated the girl beside him. âIt's my daughter, Hermia. I've arranged a marriage for her, to this young man.' He nodded toward one of the youths. âHis name's Demetrius. He's a good lad. Steady. Make a very suitable husband. But she says no, won't have him at any price. I've tried every way I know to persuade her. She won't budge.'
Theseus gazed at the girl. âYou must obey your father, child. It's the way I like things done, and you know what tends to happen to people who upset me, don't you?'
Hermia held the tycoon's gaze. âI do, sir, but I love this man.' She pointed. âHis name's Lysander, and I'll marry only him.'
,' spat Egeus. âWorthless youth. All
has to offer is his pretty face and some flattering words. You can't feed a family on poncy hairdos and poems.' He appealed to Theseus. âIf my daughter persists in her refusal to marry Demetrius, I fear I'll have no option but to do her in, or banish her from society. I hope you'll back me up, sir.'
Theseus looked at Hermia. âDo you understand your situation, girl? Defy your father, defy
, and you'll either die or be sent far away to live the life of a drudge. Such is the fate of a disobedient daughter.'
Hermia shook her head. âLysander is as good as Demetrius, sir.'
Theseus nodded. âI dare say he is, but your father approves of Demetrius, not Lysander.'
âWell then, let my
marry Demetrius and I'll marry Lysander.'
Theseus frowned. âYou have until May Day to reflect, Hermia. That's four days. On that day, Hippolyta and I will marry, and if you haven't consented by then to marry Demetrius, you'll suffer the consequences.' He turned to Egeus. âCome with me, Egeus. You, too, Demetrius. I need to speak to you in private.'
The three men left, followed by Hippolyta.
As soon as they were alone, Lysander turned to his love. âListen, Hermia,' he murmured, âwe don't have long. I've got an auntie who lives miles away from here. We can go to her, she'll put us up, hide us. We can marry there, and there'll be nothing anybody can do about it.'
Hermia nodded. âWhat d'you want me to do?'
Lysander gripped her shoulders and looked into her eyes. âRemember the wood â Cottingley Wood â where I saw you once with Helena?'
âMeet me there tomorrow night.
The girl's eyes shone. âTry and stop me!'
âGood.' Lysander glanced towards the door. âSssh! Here comes Helena now.'
Hermia composed herself, and smiled as her friend walked in. âHi, gorgeous, where you off to?'
?' Helena scoffed. âI wish I
gorgeous: drop-dead gorgeous, then Demetrius might love me instead of you.'
Hermia shrugged. âI don't know what he sees in me, Helena, I really don't. I try to shake him off, but the more I diss him, the harder he chases me. The more I hate him, the more he loves me. 'Tisn't
fault he's daft.' She smiled and whispered, âNever mind, listen. Demetrius won't be seeing me any more. We're off tomorrow night, Helena. Me and Lysander. We'll meet in Cottingley Wood, where you and I used to play. Then it's away, where nobody will ever find us.'
Helena looked at Lysander, who nodded.
Hermia touched her friend's arm. âWish us luck, Helena. I hope things work out for you with Demetrius.'
When the two conspirators had left, Helena sat thinking.
If I warn Demetrius that Hermia's eloping, she thought, perhaps he'll be grateful to me. That's not much, but it's better than being ignored. And who knows: when he sees how determined Hermia is to dump him, maybe he'll turn to me for consolation. How cool will that be
With six guys in it, Quince's bedsit was packed. Quince sat on the bed and looked at the five lads sitting crosslegged on his floor. They were all on the dole, doing a drama course at college to pass the time.
âAll here, are we?'
âYou could call the register, like at college,' suggested Bottom sarcastically.
Everybody groaned. College is an OK
place to hang out when you're unemployed, but they do tend to treat you like kids.
Quince ignored the sarcasm. âI've got all your names in this notebook. I'll sing 'em out, and you can say “Present, sir”.'
Bottom shook his head. âWhy don't you tell us about this gig you've landed us â this play we're supposed to do at Theseus's wedding reception? Like, what's it
, what's it
, stuff like that? We need to know.'