17 April 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Yes, it's been way too long since I've updated with a play. Let's blame pregnancy brain on it. The baby may be tiny, but apparently it has the ability to take my ability to concentrate and toss it around like a football. I think I owe my readers about 6 plays right now, which should get us through the rest of the comedies in short order. I'm planning for the next update to the Shakespeare Attempt to be on the 22nd of April. 

I've been very familiar with A Midsummer Night's Dream since I was twelve, when I played one of the fairies in it. I was Peaseblossom, which came with the distinction of getting to say, "An' I!" first. I had other bits of the show memorized, of course, and knew it backwards and forwards. It's a good show to use if you want to introduce teenagers to Shakespeare. The plot is absurd: It involves lots of running around in the woods, and a guy who gets his head turned into a donkey's head. There are also a play-within-a-play, love spells, and several couples to contend with.

The basic story is this: Hermia wants to marry Lysander. Her father wants her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius wants to marry Hermia and doesn't want to marry Helena, whom he's been flirting with. She wants to marry him. Hermia's father takes the debacle to their ruler, Theseus, due to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, in a few days. Theseus tells Hermia she can do what her father says, join a convent, or die, and she has until his wedding to make up her mind.

Hermia, naturally, finds this intolerable. She and Lysander plan to run off together. Helena overhears them, and to get at least some minor attention from Demetrius, she tattles. Hermia and Lysander flee into the woods one night, pursued by Helena, who is in turn pursued by Lysander. There they encounter the fairies who inhabit the wood, there to bless Theseus and Hippolyta's marriage. Oberon, king of the fairies, takes pity on Helena, and orders his servant Puck to charm Demetrius into being in love with her. Puck mixes up the couples, and Lysander falls in love with Helena, followed by Demetrius, when Oberon charms him to be in love. Now no one loves Hermia. After the requisite shouting at each other, they're all charmed to sleep again by Oberon and Puck, who then correct Puck's mistake. When they wake in the morning, discovered by Theseus and Hippolyta's hunting party, Demetrius is in love with Helena and is no longer interested in Hermia. Theseus, pleased to have the problem resolved, tells Hermia's father that she's marrying Lysander, like she wants to, and in fact, they'll have a triple wedding to get all the couples safely married off before anything else happens.

The side-plot tells the story of a group of tradesmen, eager to perform a play at the Duke's wedding celebration. They high-tail it into the woods one night to practice, so no one else will steal their ideas. Puck, wandering by, notices just how much of an idiot one of the men is, and decides it's time for a prank. Bottom, the man, stumbles into the brush and then stumbles back out with a donkey's head instead of his own. His friends flee in terror, leaving him alone. Puck then fulfills his duty to Oberon, who is upset with his wife. He's been ordered to get Titania, queen of the fairies, to fall in love with some hideous monster. Bottom fits that part quite nicely. (Oberon and Titania are in town to bless the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta since, in the past, Oberon's been Hippolyta's lover and Titania's been Theseus'. They're upset with each other, not because of the constant cheating on each other, but because Titania's taken in a child that belonged to one of her worshippers, and Oberon wants the little boy in his retinue). Eventually, Oberon gets what he wants, releases Titania from the love-spell, and then Bottom is released from the spell of having an ass' head, although he does not cease to be one in personality. The team of tradesmen perform the tragic tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (a Romeo and Juliet-like story) at the wedding celebrations, although their interpretation is more comic than tragic. The story ends with the fairies coming to bless the newly established households after the festivities are over.

Midsummer is one of the more well-known comedies. It's goofy, it's fun to perform, and the fairy component means that costuming can be highly imaginative. I have fond memories of just being one of the fairies who barely gets a line. The moral implications of the story aren't terribly great, however. If you and your spouse are having a fight, just drug them until they agree with you (Oberon and Titania). Forcing your daughter into a marriage she doesn't want, and getting the ruler of the city to agree with you is a great idea! (Egeus, Hermia's father). Everything can be solved by running off into the woods (most of the cast). Yes, it's a fun show, but I wouldn't want to take life or relationship advice from it.

Next up: The Merchant of Venice, which is not a comedy, but for some reason, my Complete Works has it filed in that section.

Favourite Quotes

"This man hath bewitch'd the bosom of my child" Egeus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, I.1.27 (a serious accusation, but a little odd--only her bosom? what about the rest of her?)

"Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste:
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguil'd." Helena, A Midsummer Night's Dream. I.1.232-239

"We will meet; and there we may rehearse more obscenely and courageously" Bottom,  A Midsummer Night's Dream, I.2.111-112

"Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is, hot ice and wonderous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?" Theseus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, V.1.58-60

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