A Midsummer Night’s Dream


  • For example, what happens to the four lovers in the woods as well as Bottom’s dream represents chaos that contrasts with Theseus’ political order.

  • It seems that a desire to lose one’s individuality and find identity in the love of another is what quietly moves the events of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  • [18] Victor Kiernan, a Marxist scholar and historian, writes that it is for the greater sake of love that this loss of identity takes place and that individual characters
    are made to suffer accordingly: “It was the more extravagant cult of love that struck sensible people as irrational, and likely to have dubious effects on its acolytes.

  • [18] It is the brawl between Oberon and Titania, based on a lack of recognition for the other in the relationship, that drives the rest of the drama in the story and makes
    it dangerous for any of the other lovers to come together due to the disturbance of Nature caused by a fairy dispute.

  • [9] Writing in 1998, David Wiles stated that: “The starting point for my own analysis will be the proposition that although we encounter A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a text,
    it was historically part of an aristocratic carnival.

  • [30] Criticism and interpretation Critical history 17th century[edit] Samuel Pepys, who wrote the oldest known comments on the play, found A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be
    “the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life”.

  • Problem with time[edit] There is a dispute over the scenario of the play as it is cited at first by Theseus that “four happy days bring in another moon”.

  • In his book Power on Display, Leonard Tennenhouse says the problem in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the problem of “authority gone archaic”.

  • In reference to the triple wedding, he says, “The festive conclusion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream depends upon the success of a process by which the feminine pride and power
    manifested in Amazon warriors, possessive mothers, unruly wives, and wilful daughters are brought under the control of lords and husbands.

  • 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, but no evidence exists to support this theory.

  • Malone thought that this play had to be an early and immature work of Shakespeare and, by implication, that an older writer would know better.

  • Like Hazlitt he felt that the work is best appreciated when read as a text, rather than acted on stage.

  • He found the play to be “the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life”.

  • The play also intertwines the Midsummer Eve of the title with May Day, furthering the idea of a confusion of time and the seasons.

  • He instructs Puck to retrieve the flower with the hope that he might make Titania fall in love with an animal of the forest and thereby shame her into giving up the little
    Indian boy.

  • Titania and Bottom (1848) Maurice Hunt, Chair of the English Department at Baylor University, writes of the blurring of the identities of fantasy and reality in the play that
    make possible “that pleasing, narcotic dreaminess associated with the fairies of the play”.

  • The first was that the entire play should be seen as a dream.

  • He also viewed Bottom as the best-drawn character, with his self-confidence, authority, and self-love.

  • [18] By emphasising this theme, even in the setting of the play, Shakespeare prepares the reader’s mind to accept the fantastic reality of the fairy world and its happenings.

  • [13] Helena and Demetrius are both oblivious to the dark side of their love, totally unaware of what may have come of the events in the forest.

  • It is driven by a desire for new and more practical ties between characters as a means of coping with the strange world within the forest, even in relationships as diverse
    and seemingly unrealistic as the brief love between Titania and Bottom: “It was the tidal force of this social need that lent energy to relationships.

  • However, the play also alludes to serious themes.

  • [18] Similarly, this failure to identify and to distinguish is what leads Puck to mistake one set of lovers for another in the forest, placing the flower’s juice on Lysander’s
    eyes instead of Demetrius’.

  • The play belongs to the author’s early-middle period, a time when Shakespeare devoted primary attention to the lyricism of his works.

  • Act 4 Scene 2[edit] After they exit, Bottom awakes, and he too decides that he must have experienced a dream “past the wit of man”.

  • The lovers at first believe they are still in a dream and can’t recall what has happened.

  • After all the other characters leave, Puck “restores amends” and suggests that what the audience experienced might just be a dream.

  • [23] Green writes that the “sodomitical elements”, “homoeroticism”, “lesbianism”, and even “compulsory heterosexuality”—the first hint of which may be Oberon’s obsession with
    Titania’s changeling ward—in the story must be considered in the context of the “culture of early modern England” as a commentary on the “aesthetic rigidities of comic form and political ideologies of the prevailing order”.

  • “[19] He believes that identities in the play are not so much lost as they are blended together to create a type of haze through which distinction becomes nearly impossible.

  • He denied the theory that this play should be seen as a dream.

  • [2] According to John Twyning, the play’s plot of four lovers undergoing a trial in the woods was intended as a “riff” on Der Busant, a Middle High German poem.

  • According to Tennenhouse, by forgiving the lovers, he has made a distinction between the law of the patriarch (Egeus) and that of the monarch (Theseus), creating two different
    voices of authority.

  • [1] Aristophanes’ classical Greek comedy The Birds (also set in the countryside near Athens) has been proposed as a source due to the fact that both Procne and Titania are
    awakened by male characters (Hoopoe and Bottom the Weaver) who have animal heads and who sing two-stanza songs about birds.

  • [31] In 1849, Charles Knight also wrote about the play and its apparent lack of proper social stratification.

  • He was preoccupied with the question of whether fairies should be depicted in theatrical plays, since they did not exist.

  • Nick Bottom, who is playing the main role of Pyramus, is over-enthusiastic and wants to dominate others by suggesting himself for the characters of Thisbe, the Lion, and Pyramus
    at the same time.

  • Marriage is seen as the ultimate social achievement for women while men can go on to do many other great things and gain social recognition.

  • Act 1 Scene 1[edit] The play opens with Theseus and Hyppolyta who are four days away from their wedding.

  • [21] Ambiguous sexuality[edit] The Awakening of the Fairy Queen Titania In his essay “Preposterous Pleasures: Queer Theories and A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Douglas E. Green
    explores possible interpretations of alternative sexuality that he finds within the text of the play, in juxtaposition to the proscribed social mores of the culture at the time the play was written.

  • However, she is convinced that her two suitors are mocking her, as neither loved her originally.

  • Once they fell asleep, Puck administers the love potion to Lysander again, returning his love to Hermia again, and cast another spell over the four Athenian lovers, claiming
    all will be well in the morning.

  • [35] James Halliwell-Phillipps, writing in the 1840s, found that there were many inconsistencies in the play, but considered it the most beautiful poetical drama ever written.

  • “[21] In Marshall’s opinion, this loss of individual identity not only blurs specificities, it creates new identities found in community, which Marshall points out may lead
    to some understanding of Shakespeare’s opinions on love and marriage.

  • Theseus offers her another choice: lifelong chastity as a nun worshipping the goddess Diana, but they both deny his choice and make a secret plan to escape into the forest
    for Lysander’s Aunt’s house, in order to run away from Theseus.

  • In his view, Shakespeare implied that human life is nothing but a dream, suggesting influence from Plato and his followers who thought human reality is deprived of all genuine

  • [15] Also, in the next scene, Quince states that they will rehearse in moonlight,[16] which creates a real confusion.

  • [3] According to Dorothea Kehler, the writing period can be placed between 1594 and 1596, which means that Shakespeare had probably already completed Romeo and Juliet and
    was still in contemplation of The Merchant of Venice.

  • Another possibility is that, since each month there are roughly four consecutive nights that the Moon is not seen due to its closeness to the Sun in the sky (the two nights
    before the moment of new moon, followed by the two following it), it may in this fashion indicate a liminal “dark of the moon” period full of magical possibilities.

  • He grew to be a beautiful young man, and when Aphrodite returned to retrieve him, Persephone did not want to let him go.

  • Sources It is unknown exactly when A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written or first performed, but on the basis of topical references and an allusion to Edmund Spenser’s Epithalamion,
    it is usually dated 1595 or early 1596.

  • The audience who saw the play in the public theatre in the months that followed became vicarious participants in an aristocratic festival from which they were physically excluded.

  • Bottom would also rather be a tyrant and recites some lines of Ercles.

  • [32] Edmond Malone, a Shakespearean scholar and critic of the late 18th century, found another supposed flaw in this particular play, its lack of a proper decorum.

  • When the concoction is applied to the eyelids of a sleeping person, that person, upon waking, falls in love with the first living thing they perceive.

  • [8] The wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta and the mistaken and waylaid lovers, Titania and Bottom, even the erstwhile acting troupe, model various aspects (and forms) of love.

  • “[22] Green does not consider Shakespeare to have been a “sexual radical”, but that the play represented a “topsy-turvy world” or “temporary holiday” that mediates or negotiates
    the “discontents of civilisation”, which while resolved neatly in the story’s conclusion, do not resolve so neatly in real life.

  • While blood as a result of menstruation is representative of a woman’s power, blood as a result of a first sexual encounter represents man’s power over women.

  • The play is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and is widely performed.

  • The story of Venus and Adonis was well known to the Elizabethans and inspired many works, including Shakespeare’s own hugely popular narrative poem, Venus and Adonis, written
    while London’s theatres were closed because of plague.

  • He says, “And ere I take this charm from off her sight, / As I can take it with another herb, / I’ll make her render up her page to me.”

  • Act 3 Scene 1[edit] A drawing of Puck, Titania and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Act III, Scene II by Charles Buchel, 1905 Meanwhile, Quince and his band of six
    labourers (“rude mechanicals”, as they are described by Puck) have arranged to perform their play about Pyramus and Thisbe for Theseus’ wedding and venture into the forest, near Titania’s bower, for their rehearsal.

  • [33] In 1817, William Hazlitt found the play to be better as a written work than a staged production.

  • Marshall remarks that “To be an actor is to double and divide oneself, to discover oneself in two parts: both oneself and not oneself, both the part and not the part.

  • Oberon and Puck decide that they must resolve this conflict, and by the morning, none of them will have any memory of what happened, as if it were a dream.

  • He was particularly amused by the way Bottom reacts to the love of the fairy queen: completely unfazed.

  • He agreed with Malone that this did not fit their stations in life, but viewed this behaviour as an indication of parody about class differences.

  • He writes that the fairies make light of love by mistaking the lovers and by applying a love potion to Queen Titania’s eyes, forcing her to fall in love with an ass.

  • It is possible that the Moon set during the night allowing Lysander to escape in the moonlight and for the actors to rehearse, then for the wood episode to occur without moonlight.

  • Act 1 Scene 2[edit] Peter Quince and his fellow players Nick Bottom, Francis Flute, Robin Starveling, Tom Snout and Snug plan to put on a play for the wedding of the Duke
    and the Queen, “the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe”.

  • Theseus’s statement can also be interpreted to mean “four days until the next month”.

  • The lovers decide that the night’s events must have been a dream.

  • [31] He did, however, admit that it had “some good dancing and some handsome women, which was all my pleasure”.

  • [17] Loss of individual identity[edit] Edwin Landseer, Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  • [33] 19th century[edit] William Hazlitt preferred reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream over watching it acted on stage.


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Editions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream[edit]
• Brooks, Harold F., ed. (1979).
A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Arden Shakespeare, 2nd series. Methuen & Co. ISBN 0-415-02699-7.
• Ball, Robert Hamilton (2016) [first published 1968]. Shakespeare on Silent Film: A Strange Eventful History. Routledge Library Editions: Film and
Literature. Vol. 1. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-99611-3.
• Barnes, Clive (18 April 1967). “Midsummer Night’s Dream: Balanchine Helps Turn Classic into Film”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
• “A
Midsummer Night’s Dream”. BBC. 28 November 2005. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
• Bevington, David (1996). “But We Are Spirits of Another Sort’: The Dark Side of Love and Magic in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream'”. In Dutton, Richard (ed.). A Midsummer
Night’s Dream. New York: St. Martin’s Press. pp. 24–35. ISBN 978-0-333-60197-6.
• Broich, Ulrich (2006). “Oberon and Titania in the City Park: The Magic of Other Texts as the Subject of Der Park by Botho Strauß”. In Jansohn, Christa (ed.). German
Shakespeare Studies at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century. International studies in Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press. pp. 144–60. ISBN 978-0-87413-911-2.
• Cavendish, Dominic (21 June 2014). “10
things you didn’t know about A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 29 September 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
• Charles, Gerard (2000). “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. BalletMet. Archived from the original on 1
May 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
• Forward, Stephanie (1 August 2006). “A reader’s guide to Lords And Ladies”. The Open University. Archived from the original on 7 October 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
• Garner, Shirley Nelson (1998). “A Midsummer
Night’s Dream: “Jack Shall Have Jill; / Nought Shall Go Ill””. In Kehler, Dorothea (ed.). A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Critical Essays. Garland reference library of the humanities. Vol. 1900 (reprint ed.). Psychology Press. pp. 127–44. ISBN 978-0-8153-3890-1.
• Gibson,
Gloria J. (1996). “Gone but Never Forgotten: B. McQueen, M. Sinclair, R. Cash and T. Cade Bambara”. Black Camera. Indiana University Press. 11 (1): 3–4. eISSN 1947-4237. ISSN 1536-3155. JSTOR 27761473.
• Green, Douglas E. (1998). “Preposterous Pleasures:
Queer Theories and A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. In Kehler, Dorothea (ed.). A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Critical Essays. Garland reference library of the humanities. Vol. 1900 (reprint ed.). Psychology Press. pp. 369–400. ISBN 978-0-8153-3890-1.
• Halliday,
F. E. (1964). A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964. Baltimore: Penguin.
• Howard, Jean E. (2003). “Feminist Criticism”. In Wells, Stanley; Orlin, Lena Cowen (eds.). Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 411–23. ISBN 978-0-19-924522-2.
• Hunt,
Maurice (1986). “Individuation in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream””. South Central Review. The South Central Modern Language Association. 3 (2): 1–13. doi:10.2307/3189362. eISSN 1549-3377. ISSN 0743-6831. JSTOR 3189362.
• “The Donkey Show: A Midsummer
Night’s Disco”. Internet Off-Broadway Database. n.d. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
• Kehler, Dorothea (1998). “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Bibliographic Survey of the Criticism”. In Kehler, Dorothea (ed.). A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Critical Essays.
Garland reference library of the humanities. Vol. 1900 (reprint ed.). Psychology Press. pp. 3–76. ISBN 978-0-8153-3890-1.
• Kiernan, Victor Gordon (1993). Shakespeare, Poet and Citizen. London: Verso. ISBN 978-0-86091-392-4.
• Kimber, Marian Wilson
(2006). “Reading Shakespeare, Seeing Mendelssohn: Concert Readings of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ca. 1850–1920”. The Musical Quarterly. Oxford University Press. 89 (2/3): 199–236. doi:10.1093/musqtl/gdm002. eISSN 1741-8399. ISSN 0027-4631. JSTOR
• MacQueen, Scott (2009). “Midsummer Dream, Midwinter Nightmare: Max Reinhardt and Shakespeare versus the Warner Bros”. The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists. University of Minnesota Press. 9 (2):
30–103. doi:10.1353/mov.2010.0012. eISSN 1542-4235. ISSN 1532-3978. JSTOR 41164591. S2CID 191461112.
• Mancewicz, Aneta (2014). Intermedial Shakespeares on European Stages. Palgrave Studies in Performance and Technology. Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-36004-5.
• Marks,
Peter (28 May 1999). “More a Backstage Bacchanal Than a Midsummer Dream”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
• Marshall, David (1982). “Exchanging Visions: Reading A Midsummer
Night’s Dream”. ELH. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 49 (3): 543–75. doi:10.2307/2872755. eISSN 1080-6547. ISSN 0013-8304. JSTOR 2872755. S2CID 163807169.
• Montrose, Louis (2000). “The Imperial Votaress”. In Brown, Richard Danson; Johnson,
David (eds.). A Shakespeare Reader: Sources and Criticism. London: Macmillan Press. pp. 60–71. ISBN 978-0-312-23039-5.
• O’Donovan, Gerard (30 May 2016). “Russell T Davies made Shakespeare engaging, fresh and funny”. The Telegraph. Archived from
the original on 5 August 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
• Reynolds, Norman (14 July 2006). “Ein Sommernachtstraum” [A Midsummer Night’s Dream]. Ballet.co.uk. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
• “Stage History”.
The Royal Shakespeare Company. n.d. Archived from the original on 13 December 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
• “Shakespeare in the Arb”. University of Michigan. n.d. Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
• Slights,
William W. E. (1988). “The Changeling in A Dream”. SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500–1900. Rice University. 28 (2, Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama): 259–72. doi:10.2307/450551. eISSN 1522-9270. ISSN 0039-3657. JSTOR 450551.
• Tennenhouse, Leonard
(1986). Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare’s Genres. Routledge library editions: Shakespeare. Vol. 48 (reprint ed.). New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-35315-1.
• Twyning, John (2012). Forms of English History in Literature, Landscape,
and Architecture. New York: Springer Nature. ISBN 978-1-137-28470-9.
• “Planet and Satellite Names and Discoverers”. USGS. n.d. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
• Waleson, Heidi (25 January 2011). “A Remarkably Inventive A Cappella Premiere”. The Wall
Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. OCLC 781541372.
• Watts, Richard W. (1972). “Films of a Moonstruck World”. In Eckert, Charles W. (ed.). Focus on Shakespearean Films. Film focus. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-807644-3.
• Whittall, Arnold (1998).
“Midsummer Night’s Dream, A”. In Sadie, Stanley (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Vol. 3 (8 ed.). Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 0-333-73432-7. Retrieved 31 March 2017 – via Grove Music Online.
• Wiles, David
(2008). “The Carnivalesque in A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. In Bloom, Harold; Marson, Janyce (eds.). A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bloom’s Shakespeare Through the Ages. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism. pp. 208–23. ISBN 978-0-7910-9595-9.
• Wiles,
David (1993). Shakespeare’s Almanac: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Marriage and the Elizabethan Calendar. Woodbridge: D.S.Brewer. ISBN 0859913988.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/standupp/5529341024/’]