A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is traditionally viewed as a romantic comedy written by William Shakespeare and dated to 1595 or 1596. Since A Midsummer Night’s Dream was first performed it has been full of spectacle, music, dancing and fairy flights. A Midsummer Night’s Dream “moves in dreamlike sequences as if on the brink of eternal bliss” . A Midsummer Night’s Dream is structured as most comedies around family tensions. Such as daughter against father, wife against husband, these tensions are in the middle scenes, heightened and complicated. At the end of the play, usually with marriage, resolves the complications. The complications in the middle of the play, are to frighten the audience into thinking that things might not turn out happily, so when everything has been resolved at end the audience is all more pleased.
The humour in A Midsummer Night’s Dream relates magic and superstition. The title of the play emphasises a “sceptical attitude by calling the comedy a dream”. A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows the traditional structure of a comedy by the end at the epilogue everything has been resolved, Hermia’s father has forgiven her, the Duke is understanding and kind and all three of the couples end in matrimony. But at the start of the play in the prologue shows the tensions and darker side to the play as Hermia’s father has demanded his right for her death ‘as she is mine to dispose of’ (1:1:42), as she has chosen to defy him. Hermia chose to love Lysander and reject her father’s choice of Demetrius, when there is little to distinguish between the two men, expect the father’s approval. The world in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is “cruel and irrational at the same time, it makes a mockery of all feeling. But the love itself is irrational too” .
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare combines the mortal world of Athens with the fairy realm in the surrounding forests, the forests represents nature in the play. To Shakespeare nature is just as “irrational as law and customs. It makes a mockery of feelings, order, conscious and decisions” . The forest is where Oberon and Titania live, but is also the realm of Puck who is an instigator of trouble. Shakespeare made Oberon, who is prince of the fairies into the May King and Titania is a Summer Lady and that Puck is a jester “who promotes the night rule version of misrule” lead by Oberon. Puck is the instigator of the comedy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is a quick change artists, “a prestidigitator and producer comedy errors” . Puck confuses the lovers and turns Bottom into an ass; because of him Titania falls in love with an ass. Puck exposes the folly of love in the play with comedic errors but he can read as a playful fairy or as a demonic investigator of trouble.
New readings of the Shakespearean texts especially the comedies are based not only on the “text itself but are produced by the interaction of text and its readers, within their specific cultures and histories”. That how we read the play is based on how the readers understand and react to the play, this was also true for Shakespeare when he was writing and performing his play is in his theatre. One of the influential and important works of Shakespearean criticism in this century is Jan Kott’s ‘Shakespeare Our Contemporary’. Jan Kott a polish director and critic published his book ‘Shakespeare Our Contemporary’ in 1964 and insists that we ask as readers and critics not only what does play mean but “rather what does it say to us now?”. How can we make a play work for our time “especially in the politics of our post nuclear age”. His work has influenced many leading theatre producers and directors to change their plays and films from the traditional view of the play as light entertainment and to the subplots of sexual repression and angst.
This new criticism of the play does not mean that A Midsummer Night’s Dream can not be read in the traditional romantic or...
Bibliography: C.L. Barder, ‘Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy’, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, (1959), p. 79
Douglas Lanier, Nostalgia and theatricality: the fate of the Shakespearean stage in the Midsummer Night 's Dreams of Hoffman, Noble and Edzard, In Shakespeare, the movie, II: popularizing the plays on film, TV, video, and DVD, Richard Burt and Lynda E. Boose (eds.), Routledge, London; New York, (2003), pp. 154 – 172
Gary Walker, ‘Shakespeare’s Comedies’, Longman Inc., London & New York, (1991), pp. 8 – 9
Jan Kott, ‘Shakespeare Our Contemporary’, Methuen & Co Ltd, London, (1965), pp. 70, 225, 255 - 256
Kenneth S. Rothwell, Hall’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, In A history of Shakespeare on screen : a century of film and television; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York, (1999), pp. 147- 149
Thomas McFarland, ‘Shakespeare’s Pastoral Comedy, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, (1972), p. 78
William Shakespeare, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Wordworth Classics, Hertfordshire, (2002)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, (author unknown), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night%27_Dream, 2001, accessed 10th June 2007
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