Be kind and courteous to this gentleman;
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes,
To have my love to bed and to arise;
And pluck the wings from Painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes:
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.
Name: The Empress - Midsummer Night's Dream
Dramatis Personae: Titania, Queen of the Fairies; Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons; Hermia; Thisbe.
Astrology: Venus, Taurus, Libra
Hebrew Letter: GIMEL
Text & Context: The Hebrew word gimel means "benefactor", and represents a person of wealth knocking on the door [dalet] of a poor man [The Emperor]. Here, material wealth signifies spiritual wealth, as the fruits of the earth symbolize god's bounty. Gimel is comprised of the word yod, which means "hand", caught in the act of giving, and zayin, meaning "sword", indicating the act of judgement. As with Eve, cast out from Eden, the pleasures of this world and the boon of parturition carry within it a poverty and a curse. In Aramaic, the Hebrew and Phoenecian gimel becomes gamal, meaning "camel". Camels, thought to carry water in their humps, are nicknamed "the ship of the desert". Their milk is a bedouin staple. The queen of Sheba came with a caravan of camels when seeking the wisdom of Solomon. The raiment worn by John the Baptist was made of camel's hair; his feast day is June 24th, Midsummer day.
Recall the name Lucrece from The High Priestess card, which means "wealthy", and Shakespeare's variations on Ovid's Inopem me copia fecit [plenty has made me poor], viz. "poorly rich", "make something nothing by augmenting it". There, the magisterial hand rested on the written word; here, the word is made manifest. Embodiment of love, beauty, and fertility, The Empress is Venus, mother of the Romans through her son Aeneas and Britain through his descendant Brutus.
In Midsummer Night's Dream is seen three distinct worlds: the mythical, the mortal, & the mechanical. Empress of the mythical world is Titania, Queen of the Fairies, foremother of Spenser's Faerie Queene. It may be noted that although mythical, she is nonetheless affected by potions derived from the material realm. So too is she the guardian of the Changeling child, born of one of her mortal votresses. In Oberon's desire to have this child for henchman vs. his wife's higher obligations we can see the conflict for Titania's affections, literal and surrogate, further allegorized in her besotted adoration of Bottom. Bottom, the lowest rung in the play's ladder, is metamorphosed even lower into an ass - symbol of male concupiscence. This brief union between Fairy Queen and actor hems the top of the play to the bottom - Titania, in her rose bower, becomes for one night Thisbe to the weaver's Pyramus, tinkering with a number of walls in the process.
One of the morals to the Thisbe and Pyramus story, if there is one, is of the perils of amour fou. A parody then of Romeo and Juliet. And mirror to the mortals of the story. The men themselves being mirrors of male inconstancy, the women of constancy, made explicit in the very similarity of their names: Hermia and Helena. Their identities change and take each other's place as often in the men's minds as they do in the minds of the audience. Under the influence of Robin's goodfellow moonshine, and again under Robin's starveling moonshine, a veil is lifted. A bloodied veil, inverting the male notion ascribing female vicissitudes to the cycles of the moon. Pyramus, it will be remembered, takes his life for a misbegotten notion, while Thisbe takes her's for the real life ramifications of this, his act. When Hermia leaves to follow the duke "and my father", she has spoken her last line. When Helena recognizes Demetrius as "Mine own and not mine own" her voice is silenced. When the dream is over, the women return to the world of man's making. A world written by a male playwright, for a male audience, where the women are played by men.
Hippolyta meanwhile, for whom all this is taking place, disagrees with her husband to be. Theseus, a past master of lechery and treachery, is a grotesque rationalist of painfully limited perspective. His assertion the night's events are "more strange than true" is patently wrong while his subsequent denigration of both love and poetry is patently wrongheaded. Both wrongs are graciously countered by his bride to be's avowal the world witnessed by poets and lovers "grows to something of great constancy". Hippolyta then, as The Empress, knocks at her emperor's door offering riches, which her emperor Theseus answers by erecting walls.
In the end, weddings will take place and Theseus will go on to possess Hippolyta, Amazon Queen, only to spurn her. It may be worth noting Hippolyta's name - her identity itself - derives retroactively from her future son with Theseus, Hippolytus, whom Theseus himself will come to kill. But right now is the height of summer, its solstice and soul, where the world of The Empress is one of grace, beauty, fertility, constancy, well-being, and all the earthly wealth available to mankind. She is both benefactor and benefactress. A fresco painted of abundance, enshrining bounty in femininity personified, meted out and circumscribed at bottom by the edification of man.
"Swift as a shadow, short as any dream" - a dream and fruitless vision, written by Peter Quince.
Intertext: Crowns 6 Theseus
The Empress III Midsummer Night's Dream