Themes, Summary, Analysis A Midsummer Night’s Dream Go, make you ready. -WS in “Hamlet’s Speech to the Players”
Two Worlds -Midsummer develops the motif of contrasting worlds, one of social convention and the other of visionary fantasy. A play bringing together fairies and mortals raises questions of illusion and reality. -Midsummer develops the motif of love as an imaginative journey from a world of social conflict into a fantasy world created by the artist, ending in a reality that has itself been partly transformed by the experience of the journey. -motif - a recurring subject, theme, idea, etc., especially in a literary, artistic, or musical work http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Tinker_Bell
Plots and Subplots • Most of WS’s plots are not original; he borrowed from well-known stories, poems, Greek & Roman mythology, Bible stories, folktales, & a history book called the Holinshed Chronicles. • Most plays have at least one subplot; this was considered “breaking the rules” of good playwriting at the time. • WS was an innovator, didn’t adhere to Aristotle’s standard of the Three Unities – time, place, location – focusing on only one story throughout the play The Mechanicals https://acrossthepondandbackagain.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/a-midsummer-night%E2%80%99s-dream/
4 Plots, 4 Groups of Characters • Court party of Theseus • Four young lovers • The fairies • “Rude mechanicals,” or would-be actors • Each of these plots contains one or more pairs of lovers whose happiness has been frustrated by misunderstanding or parental opposition. • Two main locations for the play: Athens and a wood near it http://www.shakespearience.com/midsummer.html Demetrius, Helena, Lysander, Hermia
Athenians • Theseus – Duke of Athens • Hippolyta – Queen of the Amazons who were just conquered by the Athenians, betrothed to Theseus • Philostrate – Master of the Revels, responsible for finding suitable amusements for Theseus’ and Hippolyta’s wedding • Egeus – Hermia’s father, wants her to marry Demetrius, consults Theseus who warns Hermia that disobeying her father’s wishes could result in her being sent to a convent or even executed
Four Young Lovers • Hermia – Daughter of Egeus, in love with Lysander, NOT Demetrius • Lysander – In love with Hermia, wants to escape with her to his aunt’s house where they can get married • Demetrius – In love with Hermia, favored by her father Egeus, follows her & Lysander into the wood when they escape • Helena – Demetrius used to like her, she’s still in love with him; she chases him through the wood; both men fall in love with her when Puck puts love juice on their eyes from a special flower
FairieS • Oberon – King of the fairies, instructs Puck to put love juice on Titania’s eyes to make her fall in love with the next creature she sees because she refuses to hand over her Indian changeling child • Titania – Queen of the fairies, falls in love with Bottom because of the love juice and ends up giving the child to Oberon when she snaps out of it • Puck – a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow; mischievous, accidentally makes Lysander fall in love with Helena, makes both men fall in love with her in the process of fixing his mistake • Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mote, Mustardseed– Fairies attending Titania
The Mechanicals • Peter Quince – A carpenter; acts as the director, plays the role of Prologue in the play put on for Theseus’ & Hippolyta’s wedding • Nick Bottom – A weaver, strongest personality in the bunch, plays Pyramus in their play; Puck gives him the head of a donkey and makes Titania fall in love with him • Francis Lute – A bellows mender, plays Thisbe, the female role, in their play • Tom Snout – A tinker, plays the Wall in their play • Snug – A joiner, plays the Lion in their play • Robin Starveling – A tailor, plays Moonshine in their play
Definitions for Mechanicals • bellows-mender - Someone who repairs bellows, the instrument which puffs air into a fire to make it hotter. The bellows consists of two hinged pieces of wood with a leather bag attached to them, and the leather of the hinges and the bag was always wearing out. • tinker – A metalsmith, or simply smith, is a craftsman fashioning tools or works of art out of various metals. • joiner – In the building trades, a type of carpenter who cuts and fits joints in wood without the use of nails, screws, or other fasteners; cabinetmaker; skilled in making finished woodwork.
Know the Summary! • https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/msnd/summary.html • http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/m/a-midsummer-nights-dream/play-summary • Google Midsummer Night’s Dream Summary • Choose SparkNotes: A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Plot Overview and A Midsummer Night’s Dream – CliffsNotes • Read both summaries. There will be questions on your test over them.
Elements of Themes in Midsummer • Love – WS considered to be a (fun) form of mental illness, a brain fever taking away all reason and leaving only chaos & raw emotion. • Jealousy – One of the main reasons WS characters plot & scheme & do horrible things to each other http://midsummer15.tripod.com/id1.html
http://www.monologuedb.com/tag/shakespeare/ • The Supernatural – In WS’s day, fairies were considered to be another race that lived alongside humans with their own kings & queens & religious rites. • Fairies were not thought to be nice creatures; they were magic and would wreak havoc in your home if you weren’t nice to them. • WS invents something new yet again, making his Midsummer fairies basically nice. • They do play tricks though, making the lovers fall in love with the wrong people and giving Bottom the head of a donkey • They also play tricks on each other, like Oberon making Titania fall in love with the transformed Bottom http://www.sallyharrison.com/?cat=9&paged=2
Fairy Language • WS’s fairies use a more poetic language, with a lot of rhyming and unique meter patterns, than the usual verse of the plays. Ex. Puck’s entrance line in Midsummer: Captain of our fairy band, Helena is here at hand; And the youth, mistook by me, Pleading for a lover’s fee. Shall we their fond pageant see? Lord, what fools these mortals be!
Disguise – disguise and cross-dressing were conventions in several WS comedies • One of the best reasons for using this device was that boys played all female roles. • Women were not allowed to act in England; it was considered an indecent profession for them • The Puritans waged an attack on the theater and all forms of entertainment from dancing to card playing. • Queen Elizabeth’s strong support and love of the theater offset the efforts of the Puritans • The Queen especially enjoyed WS plays during the holiday season at court. http://bjws.blogspot.com/2013/01/queen-elizabeth-i-1598-eyewitness.html
Plays Within Plays • Plays within plays – 3 WS plays have plays inside them: Hamlet, Midsummer, The Taming of the Shrew • Midsummer – The amateur actors are called “rude mechanicals,” meaning they’re laborers who do theater as a hobby • There were usually no directors in WS’s time; the actors directed themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamorphoses
Glimpse Into Rehearsals of the Time • In MND, Peter Quince takes charge – chooses the play, hands out parts, & directs. • He only gives each actor his own lines, not a copy of the whole play. • He also makes them rehearse in the woods so no one else can spy & steal their ideas. Similar to Hollywood today. http://blog.shakespearesglobe.com/a-new-lens-on-an-old-favourite/
Rude Mechanicals • Bottom thinks himself a great actor, but he blusters and overacts. • He is only better than his fellow actors because they are awful: when they perform, they break character & speak to the audience, freeze up & panic, & mangle their lines. • The language in “Pyramus and Thisbe” is extra-heightened to indicate that Theseus’ court were watching a play (within a play) & the Mechanicals tend to get the lines wrong. http://theshakespearecode.wordpress.com/a-midsummer-nights-dream-decoded/
The Performance • “Pyramus and Thisbe” is an absurdly bad play in part because WS is satirizing the abuses of a theater he had helped to reform. • The performance calls forth mocking & sarcastic comments from Theseus’ court. • The simple Mechanicals are very responsive to the power of art. Their naive & strong faith contrasts favorably with the jaded rationality of the court party. • Theseus’ reminder that all art is only “illusion” is contrasted with Bottom’s insistence that imaginative art has a reality of its own.
Study Questions • 1.) What two worlds are explored in MND? Define motif. • 2.) List the four groups of characters. What are the two main locations for the play? • 3.) Know the summary! Know the characters, their connections to each other, and their roles in the plot! • 4.) List the four main elements of themes in MND. • 5.) What did people believe about fairies in the 16th century? How did WS go against this view in MND? • 6.) Who played the female roles in plays during Shakespeare’s time? Who’s strong support of Theatre offset the efforts of the Puritans? • 7.) Define “rude mechanicals.” • 8.) Who is the director of the Mechanicals? Why does he insist they rehearse in the wood? • 9.) Why is Bottom better than his fellow actors? • 10.) How do the simple Mechanicals contrast with Theseus’ court party?