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Midsummer Night’s Dream 2 “Ear hath not seen, eye hath not heard”

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Presentation on theme: "Midsummer Night’s Dream 2 “Ear hath not seen, eye hath not heard”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Midsummer Night’s Dream 2 “Ear hath not seen, eye hath not heard”

2 Bottom’s dream Clip from video

3 Bottom’s dream “ The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, not his heart to report, what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballet [ballad] of this dream. It shall be called “Bottom’s dream” because it hath no bottom.”

4 Bottom as hero of the imagination His enthusiasm (clip from Peter Hall film) His enthusiasm (clip from Peter Hall film) He’d play all parts He’d play all parts His acceptance of fairy world, including Titania’s love. His acceptance of fairy world, including Titania’s love. “He hath simply the best wit of any handicraft man in Athens.” “He hath simply the best wit of any handicraft man in Athens.”

5 B’s Solutions to all the dramatic problems, III, 1: Prologue to explain Pyramus’ suicide. Prologue to explain Pyramus’ suicide. “I’m not who I say I am,” “I’m not who I say I am,” The lion problem. The lion problem. Moonlight in the chamber. Moonlight in the chamber. Wall Wall Bottom’s “synaesthesia”: V, 1, 192ff. A mistake of course, but one that gets to the heart of theater?

6 Context for Bottom’s synaesthesia In 1580s a pamphlet war over theater In 1580s a pamphlet war over theater Puritans attack theater as “idolatrous”: Puritans attack theater as “idolatrous”: “Theater is sucked out the devils tits to nourish us in heathenry, idolatry and sin” (Philip Stubbes, 1583). “Theater is sucked out the devils tits to nourish us in heathenry, idolatry and sin” (Philip Stubbes, 1583). Why “idolatrous”? Why “idolatrous”? Second commandment: make no graven image. Second commandment: make no graven image. Theater as “graven image.” Theater as “graven image.” Iconoclasm – literal – of the Reformation Iconoclasm – literal – of the Reformation

7 Culture war against theater Biblical theater of Shakespeare’s boyhood ended in 1570s – 1579 last performance of Coventry Corpus Christi play. Biblical theater of Shakespeare’s boyhood ended in 1570s – 1579 last performance of Coventry Corpus Christi play. But even non-religious theater attacked as idolatrous. But even non-religious theater attacked as idolatrous. Prynne’s Histriomastix of 1633: Prynne’s Histriomastix of 1633: “the scourge of the actors” 1642: all theaters closed for 18 years of Puritan regime. 1642: all theaters closed for 18 years of Puritan regime.

8 Theater’s appeal to eye, all the senses “For the eye, besides the beauty of the [play]houses and the stages, [the playwright] sendeth in garish apparel, masks, vaulting, tumbling, dancing of jigs, galiards, morrises, hobbyhorses, showing of juggling [tricks], nothing forgot that might serve to set out the matter with pomp, or rather the beholders with variety of pleasure.” Stephen Gosson

9 A backhanded compliment to theater: “There commeth much evil in at the ears, but more at the eyes; by these two open windows, death breaketh into the soul. Nothing entereth into the memory more effectually than that which commeth by seeing. Things heard do lightly pass away, but the tokens of that which we have seen... stick fast in us whether we will or no.” Anthony Munday, 1580.

10 The phenomenology of theater “seeing” voices, “hearing” faces. “seeing” voices, “hearing” faces. “The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd.” Presence: theater “bodies forth” its fictions. Theater “colonizes” reality. Falstaff’s cushion.

11 Bottom’s dream and “vision” of theater St. Paul: “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Shakespeare teasing the Puritans? Shakespeare teasing the Puritans? Or expressing a comic, quasi-religious faith in theater? Or expressing a comic, quasi-religious faith in theater?

12 Pyramus and Thisbe and the invention of theater Yes, a “bad play,” but a really good bad play? Yes, a “bad play,” but a really good bad play? A play that’s actually inventing theater, as children do when they decide to put on a play. A play that’s actually inventing theater, as children do when they decide to put on a play. Contrast the comments of the court party: V, 237ff, 305ff. Contrast the comments of the court party: V, 237ff, 305ff. Recall Theseus: “The best in this kind are but shadows, And the worst no worse if imagination mend them. Hippolyta’s answer is the real point: well duh! Recall Theseus: “The best in this kind are but shadows, And the worst no worse if imagination mend them. Hippolyta’s answer is the real point: well duh!

13 The irony of the lovers’ irony? We watch “Pyramis and Thisbe” through the lovers, mediated by their “witty” commentary... We watch “Pyramis and Thisbe” through the lovers, mediated by their “witty” commentary After we’ve watched their comedy in the forest, Puck their unseen director, playwright.... After we’ve watched their comedy in the forest, Puck their unseen director, playwright. Their dream – or nightmare – had them move through the various permutations, the “geometry,” of love relationships. Their dream – or nightmare – had them move through the various permutations, the “geometry,” of love relationships. From our perspective, were they any less comic than Quince’s company? From our perspective, were they any less comic than Quince’s company?

14 Helena’s fantasy She imagines that she’s caught in a play: III, 2, 145ff. She imagines that she’s caught in a play: III, 2, 145ff. Hermia too part of this conspiracy: ll. 192ff. Hermia too part of this conspiracy: ll. 192ff. Interrupted sisterhood – interrupted childhood – now plunges her into an unwilling role. Interrupted sisterhood – interrupted childhood – now plunges her into an unwilling role. “Persevere, counterfeit sad looks,/ Make mouths when I turn my back,/ Wink at each other, hold the sweet jest up.” “Persevere, counterfeit sad looks,/ Make mouths when I turn my back,/ Wink at each other, hold the sweet jest up.” A general fantasy of adolescence? A general fantasy of adolescence?

15 Bottom seems the only one who manages a transition from reality into the dream world of fairies, then emerging back to “reality”. Bottom seems the only one who manages a transition from reality into the dream world of fairies, then emerging back to “reality”. He also manages the various incongruities, a “classical” tragedy that concludes with a Bergomask dance, a love affair with the queen of the fairies and memories of a donkey’s head. He also manages the various incongruities, a “classical” tragedy that concludes with a Bergomask dance, a love affair with the queen of the fairies and memories of a donkey’s head. Bottom “the weaver.” After all this, can he go back to mere weaving? Bottom “the weaver.” After all this, can he go back to mere weaving?

16 The audience’s complicity In the epilogue, Puck makes the play our dream. It’s evanescent, inconsequential, but ours. In the epilogue, Puck makes the play our dream. It’s evanescent, inconsequential, but ours. “If you pardon” this strange, weird play, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men “will mend.” “If you pardon” this strange, weird play, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men “will mend.” So our applause makes us complicit with Puck, friends with his mischievous, mildly malicious power. So our applause makes us complicit with Puck, friends with his mischievous, mildly malicious power.


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