Friday, June 20, 2008

William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

I read the play online here.

Hermia is going to be forced to do her father's bidding OR else...that was Theseus speaking by the way. He was speaking to Egeus' daughter Hermia. She loves Lysander. Lysander loves Hermia. Demetrius loves Hermia. Hermia loves him not. Helena loves Demetrius. Demetrius loves her not. But he once did. Or led her to believe he did.

Lysander speaking. Theseus backs him up. Even if Demetrius isn't "perfect" in anyone eyes but the father's, Egeus, his choice is the one that will reign supreme unless Hermia defies him and chooses a virgin life in a convent.

Lysander's pretty little speech:


Lysander is not without a plan. He wants Hermia to run away with him. To elope.

Helena is something isn't she. To say she dotes is bit of an understatement. Helena says in part,


I know for plotting reasons why Helena broke the confidence Hermia and Lysander had placed on her. (Shakespeare needed all four in the woods so Puck could play with them all.) But I never quite could figure out why she thought telling Demetrius of Hermia and Lysander's plans to escape, to elope, would benefit her. What did she hope to gain by tattling? Wouldn't it have been a wiser choice for her to hope that their plan was successful and that Demetrius was left all lonely?

On to scene 2, I never noticed this oxymoron "most lamentable comedy" before, have you? Yet seeing these particular actors play these tragic characters, it is indeed a "lamentable comedy."

Oberon and Titania. Puck. I *love* Puck. And Oberon for all his big talk turns out to have a good side as well.

The chase begins.

Do I entice you? do I speak you fair?
Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth
Tell you, I do not, nor I cannot love you?

Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit;
For I am sick when I do look on thee.
And I am sick when I look not on you.
You do impeach your modesty too much,
To leave the city and commit yourself
Into the hands of one that loves you not;
To trust the opportunity of night
And the ill counsel of a desert place
With the rich worth of your virginity.


Oberon was an unobserved witness to the above scene. He takes pity on Helena. And though he had intended only to use Puck's magic love potion (for the eyes) on his own wife, his fairy Queen, Titania, he now wants to use it on Demetrius as well.

But since Puck doesn't know WHO Demetrius is...he accidentally doses Lysander. And of course Helena is the first person he sees when he wakes. Now Lysander loves Helena. Helena doesn't welcome this new attention. She still sees only Demetrius.



Act 3

Puck turns Bottom into an ass. Titania *falls* in love with him.
Puck discovers that he made a mistake before. He must dose Demetrius now to make him fall in love with Helena.

Flower of this purple dye,
Hit with Cupid's archery,
Sink in apple of his eye.
When his love he doth espy,
Let her shine as gloriously
As the Venus of the sky.
When thou wakest, if she be by,
Beg of her for remedy.

Re-enter PUCK

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!
Stand aside: the noise they make
Will cause Demetrius to awake.


Demetrius wakes up in love with Helena. But now that she has what she's wanted all along...she's not sure what to make of it.

Hermia discovers the scene...and everything turns into chaos. The men want to fight each other. The women want to fight each other. Nothing is as it should be. The men go off to fight one another. Puck leads them both on in order to fool them both. He will undo this love potion as soon as he can get Lysander to fall asleep.

Squeezing the juice on LYSANDER's eyes


Act Four

Oberon releases Titania from her love potion.

My Oberon! what visions have I seen!
Methought I was enamour'd of an ass.
There lies your love.



The four lovers are discovered, woken, and questioned.

My lord, I shall reply amazedly,
Half sleep, half waking: but as yet, I swear,
I cannot truly say how I came here;
But, as I think,--for truly would I speak,
And now do I bethink me, so it is,--
I came with Hermia hither: our intent
Was to be gone from Athens, where we might,
Without the peril of the Athenian law.
Enough, enough, my lord; you have enough:
I beg the law, the law, upon his head.
They would have stolen away; they would, Demetrius,
Thereby to have defeated you and me,
You of your wife and me of my consent,
Of my consent that she should be your wife.


Theseus says that Helena and Demetrius and Lysander and Hermia will all be married alongside him and his bride.

Act Five

I like this speech from Theseus:



All the couples are together celebrating and looking for entertainment. They're stuck with the awful Pyramus and Thisbe play.

Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?
What masque? what music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?
There is a brief how many sports are ripe:
Make choice of which your highness will see first.

Giving a paper

[Reads] 'The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.'
We'll none of that: that have I told my love,
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.

Reads

'The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.'
That is an old device; and it was play'd
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.

Reads

'The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.'
That is some satire, keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.

Reads

'A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.'
Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is, hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?
A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
Which is as brief as I have known a play;
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
Which makes it tedious; for in all the play
There is not one word apt, one player fitted:
And tragical, my noble lord, it is;
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
Which, when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed.
What are they that do play it?
Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never labour'd in their minds till now,
And now have toil'd their unbreathed memories
With this same play, against your nuptial.
And we will hear it.
No, my noble lord;
It is not for you: I have heard it over,
And it is nothing, nothing in the world;
Unless you can find sport in their intents,
Extremely stretch'd and conn'd with cruel pain,
To do you service.
I will hear that play;
For never anything can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go, bring them in: and take your places, ladies.

Exit PHILOSTRATE

I love not to see wretchedness o'er charged
And duty in his service perishing.
Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such thing.
He says they can do nothing in this kind.


I just love Theseus. "No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no excuse. Never excuse; for when the players are all dead, there needs none to be blamed."

And the lovers, the happy newlyweds all retire for the night.

And thus ends Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It is a play that I really love. It is fun. It is easy to follow. And it is funny. And joyful. It's the anti-Romeo-and-Juliet play.


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