The Beatles performed Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on 28th April 1964 for a TV special in honour of Sheakespeare’s 400th birthday during the show ‘Around the Beatles’.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison also mimed a trumpet fanfare at the start of the show, before Ringo Starr appeared with a flag to set off a cannon ball.
For the Shakespeare spoof, John Lennon took the female role of Thisbe, Paul McCartney played Pyramus, George Harrison was Moonshine and Ringo played Lion.
The script of the scene:
Act V, Scene I
Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;
But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.
This man is Pyramus, if you would know;
This beauteous lady Thisby is certain.
Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder;
And through Wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content
To whisper. At the which let no man wonder.
This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,
This grisly beast, which Lion hight by name,
For all the rest,
Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain
At large discourse, while here they do remain.
In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
Go back to Liverpool!
O I fear my Thisby’s promise is forgot!
And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,
That stand’st between her father’s ground and mine!
Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,
Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine eyne!
But what see I? No Thisby do I see.
O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss!
Hit him back wall!
He should not, for this is Thisby’s cue and she comes in and we look through the wall…
O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans,
For parting my fair Pyramus and me!
My cherry lips have often kiss’d thy stones
I see a voice: now will I to the chink,
To spy an I can hear my Thisby’s face.
Off to the chink now, come along.
My love, my love. Thou art my love I think.
Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straightway?
Ninny’s tomb, is that still there?!
Oh jolly good!
Exit Pyramus and Thisbe
Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;
And, being done, thus Wall away doth go.
Enter Lion and Moonshine
You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear
The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,
May now perchance both quake and tremble here,
When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar. Roar!
I know that I one Ringo the drummer am, but if I was really a lion I wouldn’t be making all the money I am today, would I?!
This lanthorn doth the horned moon present
Speak up, can’t hear!
This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;
I the man in the moon doth seem to be.
Look you! All I have to tell you is that this lanthorn is the moon, ya see, got it? I’m the man in the moon, this thorn bush is my thorn bush and this doggy woggy is my dog. And if you don’t wrap up I’ll give ya a kick in the eye!
So this is old Ninny’s tomb. (knocks) Thank you.
Where is my love?
Lion jumps out and chases Thisbe and they both exit.
Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;
Ello, ello, ello, what is this? (finds part of Thisbe’s dress covered in blood)
Eyes, do you see?
How can it be?
What dreadful dole is here!
Thy mantle good;
All covered in blood
O dainty duck! O dear!
Come, tears, confound
Out sword, a- (sees how small the sword is)
The pap of Pyramus;
Ay, that left pap.
Thus die I, thus *lays on ground*
It’s alright, it’s alright
Now am I dead, now am I fled
Ah well, ya can’t win ’em all
Tongue, lose thy light;
Moon take thy flight
See you, George.
Now, die, die, die, die, die!
Diddy, ei di di!
Asleep, my love?
Die, die, die!
What, dead, my dove?
Pyramus, arise, arise! Speak, speak. Quite dumb?
Must cover thy sweet eyes.
Those lily lips,
This cherry nose,
These yellow cowslip cheeks,
Are gone, are gone
Lovers, make moan:
His eyes were green as leeks.
So not a word, not a word
Not a word.
Not a word…
Come, trusty eh… sword;
Come, blade, my breast imbrue.
Thisbe and Pyramus:
And, so, farewell friends
Thus Thisby ends:
adieu, adieu, adieu
(Thisbe and Pyramus lay down and die holding hands)