Power In A Midsummer Nights Dream
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Beatles Midsummer Night's Dream Spoof (in colour!)
This boy, Lysander, has similar feelings to Hermia and they decide that want to get married. Unfortunately, her father Egeus does not approve of this boy. Egeus has already chosen a man named Demetrius whom he wants Hermia to marry. Or to her death, according to our law, immediately provided in that case. Egeus believes that since Hermia is his daughter, he owns her and can make all of her decisions, and if she does not do what he says he will have her put to death. Unto his lordship,whose unwished yoke, my soul consents not to give sovereignty. I know not by what power I am made bold. Although she knows disobeying her father is what will truly make her happy, the pressures of society still leave her with a sense of guilt.
She is the childhood friend of Hermia, and is also in love with the man that is in love with her friend, Demetrius. Unfortunately for her, Demetrius completely despises her, wanting nothing to do with her at all. Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth , tell you, I do not nor I cannot love you? I am your spaniel; and; Demetrius, The more you beat me, I will fawn on you. Bottom returns, and the actors get ready to put on "Pyramus and Thisbe". The performers are so terrible playing their roles that the guests laugh as if it were meant to be a comedy, and everyone retires to bed. Afterwards, Oberon, Titania, Puck, and other fairies enter, and bless the house and its occupants with good fortune.
After all the other characters leave, Puck "restores amends" and suggests that what the audience experienced might just be a dream. 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 or early 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. In any case, it would have been performed at The Theatre and, later, The Globe. Though it is not a translation or adaptation of an earlier work, various sources such as Ovid 's Metamorphoses and Chaucer 's " The Knight's Tale " served as inspiration.
According to Dorothea Kehler, the writing period can be placed between and , which means that Shakespeare had probably already completed Romeo and Juliet and was still in contemplation of The Merchant of Venice. The play belongs to the author's early-middle period, a time when Shakespeare devoted primary attention to the lyricism of his works. The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers' Company on 8 October by the bookseller Thomas Fisher , who published the first quarto edition later that year. The title page of Q1 states that the play was "sundry times publickely acted" prior to In Ancient Greece , long before the creation of the Christian celebrations of St. John's Day , the summer solstice was marked by Adonia , a festival to mourn the death of Adonis , the devoted mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite.
According to Ovid's Metamorphoses , Aphrodite took the orphaned infant Adonis to the underworld to be raised by Persephone. He grew to be a beautiful young man, and when Aphrodite returned to retrieve him, Persephone did not want to let him go. Zeus settled the dispute by giving Adonis one-third of the year with Persephone, one-third of the year with Aphrodite, and the remaining third where he chose.
Adonis chose to spend two-thirds of the year with his paramour, Aphrodite. He bled to death in his lover's arms after being gored by a boar. Mythology has various stories attributing the color of certain flowers to staining by the blood of Adonis or Aphrodite. 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 theaters were closed because of plague. It was published in 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. It was written for a wedding, and part of the festive structure of the wedding night. 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.
My purpose will be to demonstrate how closely the play is integrated with a historically specific upper-class celebration. The date of the wedding was fixed to coincide with a conjunction of Venus and the new moon, highly propitious for conceiving an heir. David Bevington argues that the play represents the dark side of love. 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. Hermia and Lysander are both met by Puck, who provides some comic relief in the play by confounding the four lovers in the forest.
However, the play also alludes to serious themes. At the end of the play, Hippolyta and Theseus, happily married, watch the play about the unfortunate lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, and are able to enjoy and laugh at it. 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". 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.
Theseus's statement can also be interpreted to mean "four days until the next month". 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. This is further supported by Hippolyta's opening lines exclaiming "And then the moon, like to a silver bow New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night of our solemnities.
The play also intertwines the Midsummer Eve of the title with May Day , furthering the idea of a confusion of time and the seasons. This is evidenced by Theseus commenting on some slumbering youths, that they "observe The rite of May". 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".
This also seems to be the axis around which the plot conflicts in the play occur. Hunt suggests that it is the breaking down of individual identities that leads to the central conflict in the story. 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. 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.
The aesthetics scholar David Marshall draws out this theme even further by noting that the loss of identity reaches its fullness in the description of the mechanicals and their assumption of other identities. In describing the occupations of the acting troupe, he writes "Two construct or put together, two mend and repair, one weaves and one sews. All join together what is apart or mend what has been rent, broken, or sundered. Further, the mechanicals understand this theme as they take on their individual parts for a corporate performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. 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.
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. As the primary sense of motivation, this desire is reflected even in the scenery depictions and the story's overall mood. 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. He writes that his essay "does not seek to rewrite A Midsummer Night's Dream as a gay play but rather explores some of its 'homoerotic significations' 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.
Slights albeit all the characters are played by males. Male dominance is one thematic element found in the play. Upon their arrival in Athens, the couples are married. 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. 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.
A connection is drawn between flowers and sexuality. Montrose sees the juice employed by Oberon as symbolising menstrual blood as well as the "sexual blood shed by 'virgins'". 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. There are points in the play, however, when there is an absence of patriarchal control. Tennenhouse contrasts the patriarchal rule of Theseus in Athens with that of Oberon in the carnivalistic Faerie world.
The disorder in the land of the fairies completely opposes the world of Athens. He states that during times of carnival and festival, male power is broken down. 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. However, Theseus does not punish the lovers for their disobedience. 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. This can be compared to the time of Elizabeth I , in which monarchs were seen as having two bodies: the body natural and the body politic.
Tennenhouse says that Elizabeth's succession itself represented both the voice of a patriarch and the voice of a monarch: 1 her father's will, which stated that the crown should pass to her and 2 the fact that she was the daughter of a king. Dorothea Kehler has attempted to trace the criticism of the work through the centuries. The earliest such piece of criticism that she found was a entry in the diary of Samuel Pepys. He found the play to be "the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life".
The next critic known to comment on the play was John Dryden , writing in He was preoccupied with the question of whether fairies should be depicted in theatrical plays, since they did not exist. He concluded that poets should be allowed to depict things which do not exist but derive from popular belief. And fairies are of this sort, as are pigmies and the extraordinary effects of magic. Charles Gildon in the early 18th century recommended this play for its beautiful reflections, descriptions, similes, and topics. Gildon thought that Shakespeare drew inspiration from the works of Ovid and Virgil , and that he could read them in the original Latin and not in later translations.
William Duff , writing in the s, also recommended this play. He felt the depiction of the supernatural was among Shakespeare's strengths, not weaknesses. He especially praised the poetry and wit of the fairies, and the quality of the verse involved. He felt that the poetry, the characterisation, and the originality of the play were its strengths, but that its major weaknesses were a "puerile" plot and that it consists of an odd mixture of incidents. The connection of the incidents to each other seemed rather forced to Gentleman. 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.
He found that the "more exalted characters" the aristocrats of Athens are subservient to the interests of those beneath them. In other words, the lower-class characters play larger roles than their betters and overshadow them. He found this to be a grave error of the writer. 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.
Malone's main argument seems to derive from the classism of his era. He assumes that the aristocrats had to receive more attention in the narrative and to be more important, more distinguished, and better than the lower class. According to Kehler, significant 19th-century criticism began in with August Wilhelm Schlegel. Schlegel perceived unity in the multiple plot lines. He noted that the donkey's head is not a random transformation, but reflects Bottom's true nature. He identified the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe as a burlesque of the Athenian lovers. He found the work to be "a delightful fiction"  but when staged, it is reduced to a dull pantomime.
He concluded that poetry and the stage do not fit together. She notes that prior to the s, all stage productions of this play were adaptations unfaithful to the original text. In —, Samuel Taylor Coleridge made two points of criticism about this play. The first was that the entire play should be seen as a dream. Second, that Helena is guilty of "ungrateful treachery" to Hermia. He thought that this was a reflection of the lack of principles in women, who are more likely to follow their own passions and inclinations than men. Women, in his view, feel less abhorrence for moral evil , though they are concerned with its outward consequences.
Coleridge was probably the earliest critic to introduce gender issues to the analysis of this play. Kehler dismisses his views on Helena as indications of Coleridge's own misogyny , rather than genuine reflections of Helena's morality. In , William Maginn produced essays on the play. He turned his attention to Theseus' speech about "the lunatic, the lover, and the poet" [a] and to Hippolyta's response to it.
He regarded Theseus as the voice of Shakespeare himself and the speech as a call for imaginative audiences. He also viewed Bottom as a lucky man on whom Fortune showered favours beyond measure. He was particularly amused by the way Bottom reacts to the love of the fairy queen : completely unfazed. Maginn argued that "Theseus would have bent in reverent awe before Titania. Bottom treats her as carelessly as if she were the wench of the next-door tapster. He viewed Oberon as angry with the "caprices"  of his queen, but unable to anticipate that her charmed affections would be reserved for a weaver with a donkey's head. In , the philosopher Hermann Ulrici wrote that the play and its depiction of human life reflected the views of Platonism. 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 existence.
Ulrici noted the way Theseus and Hippolyta behave here, like ordinary people. 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. James Halliwell-Phillipps , writing in the s, found that there were many inconsistencies in the play, but considered it the most beautiful poetical drama ever written. In , Charles Knight also wrote about the play and its apparent lack of proper social stratification. He thought that this play indicated Shakespeare's maturity as a playwright, and that its "Thesean harmony"  reflects proper decorum of character.
He also viewed Bottom as the best-drawn character, with his self-confidence, authority, and self-love. He argued that Bottom stands as a representative of the whole human race. Like Hazlitt he felt that the work is best appreciated when read as a text, rather than acted on stage. He found the writing to be "subtle and ethereal", and standing above literary criticism and its reductive reasoning. Also in , Georg Gottfried Gervinus wrote extensively about the play. He denied the theory that this play should be seen as a dream.
He argued that it should be seen as an ethical construct and an allegory. He thought that it was an allegorical depiction of the errors of sensual love, which is likened to a dream. In his view, Hermia lacks in filial obedience and acts as if devoid of conscience when she runs away with Lysander. Lysander is also guilty for disobeying and mocking his prospective father-in-law. Pyramus and Thisbe also lack in filial obedience, since they "woo by moonlight"  behind their parents' backs.
The fairies, in his view, should be seen as "personified dream gods". Gervinus also wrote on where the fairyland of the play is located. Not in Attica , but in the Indies. His views on the Indies seem to Kehler to be influenced by Orientalism. He speaks of the Indies as scented with the aroma of flowers and as the place where mortals live in the state of a half-dream. Gervinus denies and devalues the loyalty of Titania to her friend. He views this supposed friendship as not grounded in spiritual association. Titania merely "delight in her beauty, her 'swimming gait,' and her powers of imitation". In her resentment, Titania seeks separation from him, which Gervinus blames her for. Gervinus wrote with elitist disdain about the mechanicals of the play and their acting aspirations.
He described them as homely creatures with "hard hands and thick heads". They are not real artists. Gervinus reserves his praise and respect only for Theseus, who he thinks represents the intellectual man. Like several of his predecessors, Gervinus thought that this work should be read as a text and not acted on stage. In , Charles Cowden Clarke also wrote on this play. Kehler notes he was the husband of famous Shakespearean scholar Mary Cowden Clarke. Charles was more appreciative of the lower-class mechanicals of the play. He commented favourably on their individualisation and their collective richness of character. He thought that Bottom was conceited but good natured, and shows a considerable store of imagination in his interaction with the representatives of the fairy world.
He also argued that Bottom's conceit was a quality inseparable from his secondary profession, that of an actor. In , Henry N. Hudson, an American clergyman and editor of Shakespeare, also wrote comments on this play. Kehler pays little attention to his writings, as they were largely derivative of previous works. She notes, however, that Hudson too believed that the play should be viewed as a dream.
He cited the lightness of the characterisation as supporting of his view. He also argued that Theseus was one of the "heroic men of action"  so central to Shakespeare's theatrical works. Both Horace Howard Furness and Henry Austin Clapp were more concerned with the problem of the play's duration, though they held opposing views. In , Denton Jacques Snider argued that the play should be read as a dialectic , either between understanding and imagination or between prose and poetry. He also viewed the play as representing three phases or movements. The first is the Real World of the play, which represents reason. The second is the Fairy World, an ideal world which represents imagination and the supernatural.
The third is their representation in art, where the action is self-reflective. Snider viewed Titania and her caprice as solely to blame for her marital strife with Oberon. She therefore deserves punishment, and Oberon is a dutiful husband who provides her with one. For failing to live in peace with Oberon and her kind, Titania is sentenced to fall in love with a human. And this human, unlike Oberon is a "horrid brute".
Towards the end of the 19th century, Georg Brandes —6 and Frederick S. Boas were the last major additions to A Midsummer Night's Dream criticism. To Boas the play is, despite its fantastical and exotic trappings, "essentially English and Elizabethan". Summing up their contributions, Kehler writes: "This is recognizably modern criticism. The 20th century brought new insights into the play. In , Elizabeth Sewell argued that Shakespeare aligns himself not with the aristocrats of the play, but with Bottom and the artisans. It is their task to produce a wedding entertainment, precisely the purpose of the writer on working in this play. He counted among them fantasy, blind love, and divine love. He traced these themes to the works of Macrobius , Apuleius , and Giordano Bruno.
Bottom also briefly alludes to a passage from the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Paul the Apostle , dealing with divine love. In , R. Dent argued against theories that the exemplary model of love in the play is the rational love of Theseus and Hippolyta. He argued that in this work, love is inexplicable. It is the offspring of imagination, not reason. However the exemplary love of the play is one of an imagination controlled and restrained, and avoids the excesses of "dotage". Dent also denied the rationality and wisdom typically attributed to Theseus. He reminded his readers that this is the character of Theseus from Greek mythology , a creation himself of "antique fable". He can't tell the difference between an actual play and its interlude.
The interlude of the play's acting troop is less about the art and more of an expression of the mechanicals' distrust of their own audience. They fear the audience reactions will be either excessive or inadequate, and say so on stage. Theseus fails to get the message. Also in , Jan Kott offered his own views on the play. He viewed as main themes of the play violence and "unrepressed animalistic sexuality". The changeling that Oberon desires is his new "sexual toy". As for the Athenian lovers following their night in the forest, they are ashamed to talk about it because that night liberated them from themselves and social norms, and allowed them to reveal their real selves. In , John A.
Allen theorised that Bottom is a symbol of the animalistic aspect of humanity. He also thought Bottom was redeemed through the maternal tenderness of Titania, which allowed him to understand the love and self-sacrifice of Pyramus and Thisbe. He emphasised the "terrifying power"  of the fairies and argued that they control the play's events. They are the most powerful figures featured, not Theseus as often thought. He also emphasised the ethically ambivalent characters of the play. Finally, Fender noted a layer of complexity in the play.
Theseus, Hippolyta, and Bottom have contradictory reactions to the events of the night, and each has partly valid reasons for their reactions, implying that the puzzles offered to the play's audience can have no singular answer or meaning. In , Michael Taylor argued that previous critics offered a too cheerful view of what the play depicts.