http://www.cambio.com/2011/10/03/a-midsummer-nights-dream/# A Midsummer’s Night Dream
Anachronistic: something that is out of harmony with the period in which it is placed The Basics Believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596, it is unknown exactly when A Midsummer Night's Dream was written or first performed, but on the basis of topical references and the reference to courtiers being afraid of a stage lion (this may allude to an incident in Scotland in August 1594), it is usually dated 1594 or 1596. Some have theorised that the play might have been written for an aristocratic wedding (for example that of Elizabeth Carey, Lady Berkeley), while others suggest that it was written for the Queen to celebrate the feast day of St. John. No concrete evidence exists to support this theory. In any case, it would have been performed at The Theatre and, later, The Globe. Although notionally it is set in Athens, the play could almost be set in a pastoral British environment. Many of Shakespeare’s comedies are set abroad or in fictional realms. Some people believed this was helpful because it prevented Shakespeare from upsetting anyone in Britain and negated any censorship. Even though the play is set in Greece, it still contains many images, words and ideas from British society of the time. This can make some concepts anachronistic. Like the model set in previous centuries. Shakespeare realised that the best kind of comedy is generated by a series of mix-ups where disorder is rife and life is turned upside down. All of his comedies look at the foolishness of human beings.
Midsummer Day June 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. It falls only three days after the Summer Solstice, the day on which the sun reaches its highest glory, and thereafter begins to decline. Anciently, it was a fire-festival of great importance. Midsummer’s Eve, June 23rd, is believed to be the most magical night of the year. It was believed that on Midsummer Night that the fairies and witches held their festival. To dream about Midsummer Night was to conjure up images of fairies and witches and other similar creatures and supernatural events.
Shakespeare’s Language • General facts about Shakespearean language: • The syntax is inverted (SOV or OVS instead of SVO) • There were no set rules for grammar or dictionaries, English was more fluid • People went to hear plays as well as see them, so humor and irony are often in the language • Shakespeare invented over 3,000 words that we still use today • The meanings of some Renaissance words have changed in modern English
Shakespeare’s Language Because Shakespeare wrote nearly four hundred years ago, some of the conventions that he uses in his plays are unfamiliar to modern audiences. Shakespeare's writing falls into three categories: • Rhyming Verse • Blank Verse • Prose MSND is 80% verse, 20% prose. There are fairly high incidents of rhyme, including deliberately bad rhyme in ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’.
Shakespeare’s Language • Rhyming Verse (“poetry” as we generally think of it): There is a distinct rhythm, and the ends of sentences or phrases rhyme (usually an exact rhyme, but sometimes words are used that almost rhyme). In general, comedies use rhyming verse throughout the dialogue, and fairies and witches always use it to cast spells or weave enchantments. When characters in a play speak rhymes they do it to emphasize what they're saying, to reflect the language of love or to make the speech light-hearted or comic. Romeo: If I profane with my unworthy hand This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this— My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Shakespeare’s Language 2. Blank Verse: Lines written in a poetic meter but the ends of sentences or phrases do not rhyme. Shakespeare's blank verse is usually in iambic pentameter. It is important to realize that “iambic” is the natural rhythm of the English language. If you are a native English speaker, you will automatically emphasize every second syllable. ‘I think I’d like to have a cup of tea.’ Is this the sort of thing we say every day? Is it iambic pentameter?
Iambic Pentameter iambic pentameter; means that there are five measures (pentameters) and two syllables within each measure, with the accent (or emphasis) placed on the second syllable. [Note: "penta" means "five" and "meter" means measure; iambic refers to where the accent is placed]. Thus, there are generally 10 syllables to a Shakespearean line of blank verse; this is considered "regular". ROMEO: But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
Shakespeare’s Language The placement of punctuation, choice of words, the sound of words (harsh consonant sounds vs. soft vowel sounds), help keep regular blank verse lines from sounding alike. All of the lines below have ten syllables, with the accent on the second syllable of each meter, but they sound very different when pronounced out loud. A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse! She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd. MethoughtI heard a voice cry, "Sleep no more!" As I do live by food, I met a fool, Tisbut thy name that is my enemy
Shakespeare’s Language Irregular Blank Verse: Although most of the lines in Shakespeare are written in regular blank verse, there are many which have more or less than 10 syllables. The reasons for adding or taking away syllables, or reversing the accent often help to clarify meaning, add emotional weight, or allow room for a change of thought. Some lines begin with the accent on the first syllable, which is determined by the sense of the line. These are called trochaic measures: Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling, Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel… Other Clues to Understanding Meaning, Emotion and Motivation: Once we know the basic rules of verse, we can look at lines or sections of text and use other information to find out more about its meaning.
Shakespeare’s Language 3. Prose has: • Run-on lines (unlike iambic pentameter) • No rhyme or metric scheme • The qualities of everyday language You can easily spot dialogue written in prose because it appears as a block of text, unlike the strict rhythmic patterns of Shakespeare’s verse.
Shakespeare’s Language Shakespeare used prose to tell us something about his characters by interrupting the rhythmic patterns of the play. Many of Shakespeare’s low-class characters speak in prose to distinguish them from the higher-class, verse-speaking characters. Shakespeare used prose to give the play a sense of realism. In some longer speeches, Shakespeare allowed the audience to identify more closely with his characters by using the everyday language of the time. Shakespeare used prose to create comic effect. Some of Shakespeare’s low-class comic creations aspire to speak in the formal language of their superiors, but do not have the intelligence to achieve this and therefore become objects of ridicule. It can alsosuggest a character’s mental instability. In Shakespeare’s day, it was conventional to write in verse, which was seen as a sign of literary excellence. By writing some of his most serious and poignant speeches in prose, Shakespeare was fighting against this convention.
Reading Iambic Pentameter Here is how to scan for meter: First, divide the lines into five meters. Then speak each line out loud. Keeping the accent on the second syllable, experiment with how much emphasis you place on each word. See if the emotion changes with more or less emphasis. For instance, in the first line, the word “horse” is always the accented syllable (the second syllable in a meter). But you might not place equal stress on the word all three times. What will happen if the first two "horses" have a medium stress, and the last gets a heavy emphasis. How does this make the speaker feel? Or, how do you feel if you place the most emphasis on the first "horse", then less on the second and even less on the third? Experimenting with the amount of stress is a great way to start exploring what the character is going through in the moment. A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse! She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd. Methought I heard a voice cry, "Sleep no more!" As I do live by food, I met a fool, Tis but thy name that is my enemy