Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare 


How now spirit! whither wander you? ~ Robin Goodfellow aka Puck

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy by William Shakespeare, written late 16thcentury.


It begins with the impending marriage between Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta queen of the Amazons – all very dignified and elegant, but pretty quickly things take a rather absurd turn.

There is a love quadrangle: Demetrius intends to wed fair Hermia. He has her father’s blessing, but not Hermia’s – who is in love with Lysander. Hermia’s friend Helena is in love with Demetrius, who once toyed with her affections, but has now cast her off for Hermia. In short – two dudes love Hermia, but she loves only one, while her father approves of the other, and nobody loves poor Helena. 

It’s rather dizzying at first – and there are further complications, but I still found it easier to read than many of Shakespeare’s plays. Some of the dialogue between Hermia and Helena for example:

Hermia     O, teach me how thou look; and with what art
                You sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart
Hermia     I frown upon him, yet he loves me still
Helena     O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill
Hermia     I give him curses, yet he gives me love
Helena     O that my prayers could such affection move
Hermia     The more I hate, the more he follows me
Helena     The More I love, the more he hateth me
Hermia     His folly, Hermia is no fault of mine
Helena     None, but your beauty: would that fault were mine

And then the fairies get involved with some magic love potion, some of it applied to the wrong suitor, some of it applied to a fairy queen causing her to fall in love with an ass.

One of the fairies, cavalier Puck, is delighted by the confusion of it all and declares:
Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Maybe, but really? Their foolishness is caused by the meddling fairies. I shouted back at Puck: Lord, what pests these fairies be!

And then, there is a play within the play, as some none too accomplished thespians enact a comic tragedy for the wedding celebration. The acting is so bad that Hippolyta, ordinarily rather gracious and dignified exclaims:
This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard

And the wedding parties riff the play. Some of the scenes are so absurd in design and delivery that the actors break character to explain things, evoking yet more riffs from the audience.

It’s a lot of fun, and a very happy ending. But…

It may have all been…but a dream. 

Excerpt from Puck’s epilogue

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this – and all is mended –
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.

I read this as part of the 2019 Year of Shakespeare Challenge.


Film Rendition: I watched the 68 version with very young Helen Mirren, Judy Dench and Ian Holm as Puck. You know the scene in LOTR when Ian Holm as Bilbo gets all crazed and evil looking and grabs for the ring? He makes nearly the same face as Puck in this. Good rendition...as a film of a Shakespeare play should be it was true to the play.

9 comments:

  1. I think this is my favourite of Shakespeare's plays. It was definitely the easiest read. I love to see an actual production some time.

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    1. Yes...it's definitely #1 that I'd like to see the way Shakespeare is supposed to be experienced, but still a good read.

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  2. The closest I’ve come to seeing a production of this play, is in Dead Poet’s Society 😁

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  4. Sorry, let me restate my comment...
    My kids put this play on a few years ago. It's really special to us now b/c it was so adorable. I think we watched the Judi Dench version for fun.

    Now it's time for me to get serious about reading Shakespeare, and I am soon to complete my second one this week. Yay! It's NOT easy.

    P.S. We just watched Dead Poet's Society the other night (for the FIRST time, I'm embarrassed to say.)

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    1. I find his plays get easier, the more of them I read (nothing too brilliant about that).

      Dead Poet's Society...loved it.

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  5. How interesting about the face, I assumed it was mainly computer generated. Was that acting? I'll have to rewatch that scene in LOTR and see the Midsummer Night's dream. :)

    I should have read this play during the comedy months - I guess I still have time! Glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Pretty sure the face in LOTR has some computer enhancement...but the face he made as Puck didn't, and it was very reminiscent of LOTR.

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