Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night;
And in the wood, a league without the town,
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May,
There will I stay for thee. (1.1.169-174)
Theseus. No doubt they rose up early to observe
The rite of May...
Fittingly, we're reading A Midsummer Night's Dream in the first week of May. The Norton Shakespeare notes that "observing the May" or "the rite of May," as both Lysander and Theseus mention, was a tradition where young people went out into the fields and woods to sing and dance in celebration of the coming of Spring - and this wonderfully magical and dazzling play is perfect to read or see on "a morn of May." It just overflows with the feeling of springtime: everyone finds themselves out in the woods, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and everyone's getting married. In fact, there's a ROYAL WEDDING on! (Maybe Hippolyta and Theseus' wedding was sort of like this.) I personally am delighted and feel like celebrating myself, because, after a very gray and rainy winter, (just like in the play:
Titania. Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents...
- it seems like the spring is finally here! The bulbs I planted last fall are all blooming, and the sun is actually shining!
(Spring tulips! Not actually a picture of my tulips, but they look a lot like this.)
Of course all is not sweetness and light in A Midsummer Night's Dream - the spring, the woodland, and its fairy inhabitants are not uniformly kind - but all works out well in the end. Of course it does, because it's May!