A Midsummer Night's Dream: an Ecological Interpretation

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream: An Ecocritical Interpretation
Lieutenant Asit Biswas
Bio-Notes: Lieut. Asit Biswas is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of English, and Associate NCC Officer, Acharya B.N. Seal (Govt.) College, Cooch Behar, W.B. ABSTRACT: Shakespeare studies in India started as early as in the early decades of the 19th century when the Indians seldom engaged in Shakespeare interpretation and so the term ‘ecocriticism’ was unheard of. What we mean by the phrase ‘Critical studies of Shakespeare’ started in India in 1917 when Hindu College (later on Presidency College and now Presidency University) was founded. Then Shakespeare began to be evaluated from an oriental point of view. Some of those interpretations may be considered ecocriticism. The same thing was done by Purna Chandra Basu (in his article “Sahitye Khoon”, D. L. Roy (in his book, Kalidas O Bhababhuti) etc. Eco-criticism as a literary movement, as Yogesh K. Tiwari and N.D.R. Chandra say, began in the 1990s. But ecocritical evaluation of Shakespeare’s plays from Indian point of view is yet to flourish well. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream one can find plethora of materials relevant not only for the students of literature but of environmental studies also. The aim of the present play is to reinterpret Shakespeare’ play A Midsummer Night’s Dream from ecocritical point of view and thereby justify the contemporaneity of the Bard. Now-a-days many in many universities in India the students have to read English and Environmental Studies as compulsory subjects, Shakespeare being a part of the former. As the students of literature they would be keen to trace out the aesthetic aspects of the dramas of Shakespeare while belonging to various disciplines they would naturally seek for the relevance of Shakespeare in the present context. So the paper is an attempt to bring out Shakespeare’s anticipation of the environmental problems and thereby prove Shakespeare as a topic of both literature and environmental studies. Modern environmentalism began with ‘A Fable for Tomorrow’, in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). Mrs. Frederick Boas edited the Cambridge collection of Tempest Essays; Richard Kerridge N. Shammells published Writing the Environment, Eco-criticism and Literature (Zed Books-1998); J. Bate & L. Coupe published The Green Studies Reader from Romanticism to Eco-Criticism (by New York, Routeledge-2000);but the most outstanding book in this field is Green Shakespeare by Gabriel Egan who says, Crossing the boundaries of literary and cultural studies to draw in politics, philosophy and ecology, this volume not only introduces one of the most lively areas of contemporary Shakespeare studies, but also puts forward a convincing case for Shakespeare's continuing relevance to contemporary theory. There is a significant school named as the Association for the study of Literature and Environment which was started in America and now has its branches in Japan and UK. It is mainly an association of the eco-critics. The Role of Literature in Placing a Value on the Environment: As Daniel B. Botkin and Edward A. Keller say in their book Environmental Science (5th edition, Page No. 11) the value of the environment is based on the following justifications: aesthetic, creative, recreational, inspirational, moral, cultural and utilitarian (materialistic). Aesthetic justification has to do with our appreciation of beauty of nature. Many people prefer living in the world of wilderness to one without it. Rabindranath Tagore created an instance by leaving the clutter of Calcutta settling down in the lap of Nature in Santiniketan. In Shakespeare the Forest of Arden minimizes the bereavement of the Duke in As You Like It. But in the Duke’s bemoaning for the subordination of the forest we hear the voice of an ecologist. It would not be a digression to say that Tagore’s ecocentrism is again found in Siksha: Tapoban in his comment on Shakespeare’s plays. While ecology is a mother branch...
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