Nick Bottom had a conundrum on his hands. A rather messy conundrum in the form of another person. This person's name was Thisbe. Or, more correctly, this person's name was Francis Flute, the bellows mender, who was one of the company of players he was in.
Flute was a very nice young man. He had a slim, slender build, with thick dark hair and a feminine face. He was quite soft of voice and he had lovely eyes, leading to him often being given the female roles in their plays.
Ah, but Thisbe. She was beautiful! She had creamy skin and the widest eyes you ever did see, and she was soft of voice and gentle of touch. No lovelier a lady ever had walked the earth. Nick Bottom was quite smitten by her.
And that was where his conundrum was. As both Bottom and Pyramus, he had fallen for Thisbe and her beauty, her innocence, and he knew that the script dictated that Thisbe love Pyramus, but as Flute the bellows mender…well, Bottom could not love another man, a brother. And indeed he did not, his love was for the maiden Thisbe, and he had no passions towards this Athenian worker.
In rehearsing, he would often find his eyes drawn to Thisbe, the way she carried herself, the way she spoke her words. Oh, if only they were hers, not the foolish scribbling's of a bard, half-drunk with madness. In observing her, he would miss his lines, causing his colleagues great vexation with his so-called 'antics'.
But the passion he held for Thisbe burned deep, and there was nothing he could do to dissuade it. He tried his hardest not to think of her as a woman. It is just Flute wearing a dress! He would tell himself vehemently before every rehearsal. As ever, it had no effect.
"Bottom!" Peter Quince shouted, for what he felt surely had to be the final time, "That is not your cue! That is Lion's cue, yours is when Thisbe flees the stage!" The small man stood in the center of the stage, hands braced firmly on his hips, fury creasing his brow. Quince was not usually an angry man, but Bottom was pushing him past the bounds of his considerable patience. Did the man have no wits?
Bottom apologized profusely, his cheeks reddening with embarrassment. Could he not get it right, even once?! Quince sighed and began the scene anew.
Once more, Bottom was fascinated by Thisbe. She was so perfect, so wonderful, that he knew he would never call anything or anyone else beautiful again, and if he did it would be in falsehood. How could a being so fair exist? He did not understand.
His cue a way off, he disappeared himself into a nearby thicket to await it. He was standing there, wrapped up in his thoughts, when out of the corner of his eye; he spied a man, dressed in the manner of the fairy-folk, creeping upon him. He turned; ready to cry out, but the cry never reached his lips.
The events of the next night were as to Bottom as a dream half-remembered. He recalled a lady, much fairer than Thisbe, and the gentle words she had spoken to him. She had been beautiful, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
He stood now by the stage, awaiting his cue. Now, he could see all the ways that Thisbe was imperfect. She was not graceful, nor fair, nor divine. She had cheeks that were far too red, and her hands were rough from work. She was too tall and her shoulders too broad for those of a lady. No, this was not the lady Thisbe; this was just Francis Flute wearing a dress!