There was a line in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Act 1 Scene 1 that says:

"... Thrice-blessèd they that master so their blood

To undergo such maiden pilgrimage." (Theseus)

So, could anyone tell me the meaning of "Thrice-blessed"? Because I can't find it on the web. The meaning of blessed three times sounds strange, but if it is, what is the origin?

Thank you very much!

Edit: I searched on SparkNotes and the translation said:

People who can restrain their passions and stay virgins forever are holy.

So, "thrice-blessèd" means holy???

  • 2
    There was a question about what "thrice honoured" means, and the accepted answer seems to give many of examples of using "thrice" as an intensifier to simply mean "very" or "extremely". english.stackexchange.com/questions/439161/… This sounds to be the same use in this play, "very holy are those who can restrain their passions and remain virgins forever." – Zebrafish Oct 5 '18 at 14:34
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    Thrice-blessèd simply means "blessed three times". There's no "origin", it's just a simple statement, exaggerated for dramatic effect. Look up the definition of "blessed" (adjective), and consider "thrice" as an old-fashioned way of saying really, really, really blessed. – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '18 at 14:36
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    @Chappo That is not what it means. If you interpret it literally, that seems to be what it means, but here it's a figure of speech. See my answer below. Basically, it just means "very blessed", as in "blessed by God" or "favored by God". Not literally "blessed three times". – R Mac Oct 5 '18 at 17:55
  • @RMac No, thrice-blessed really does mean blessed three times. In this particular context, the expression is used figuratively to emphasise how blessed the virgins are - as my comment noted ("really really really blessed"). Note that literary analysis is off-topic on EL&U. – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Oct 6 '18 at 2:25

The full text of the related passage is this, with Duke Theseus speaking:

Either to die the death, or to abjure
Forever the society of men.
Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires,
Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
Whether (if you yield not to your father’s choice)
You can endure the livery of a nun,
For aye to be in shady cloister mew’d,
To live a barren sister all your life,
Chaunting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
Thrice blessed they that master so their blood
To undergo such maiden pilgrimage;
But earthlier happy is the rose distill’d,
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.

The part of the passage not quoted in the question adds context here. Theseus is talking to Hermia about remaining a virgin. He's encouraging her to consider for herself whether it is right to do so. Hermia's father wants her to marry Demetrius, but Hermia wants to marry Lysander. The Duke is telling Hermia that she may choose death, abjuration of the society of men (become a nun), or marry Demetrius, as it is the father's right and entitlement to decide who Hermia shall marry.

Here the use of "thrice blessed" is basically explaining that the path of a nun is hard and full of self sacrifice; that God finds extreme favor with them and that they are guaranteed a place in Heaven by their virtues, but also that they strive to attain or maintain those virtues all throughout life ("[...] to master so their blood / To undergo such maiden pilgrimage"). He then explains that the alternative, to marry Demetrius, would bring Hermia a happier and easier life (time on Earth).


Find it in a dictionary...

literary, formal

1 Three times.
‘a dose of 25 mg thrice daily’

1.1 [as submodifier] Extremely; very.
‘I was thrice blessed’


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