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A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream “Man is an ass if he go about to expound my dream” Bottom, IV, i, 207.

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Presentation on theme: "A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream “Man is an ass if he go about to expound my dream” Bottom, IV, i, 207."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream “Man is an ass if he go about to expound my dream” Bottom, IV, i, 207

2 Is this the most popular, most performed of Shakespeare’s plays? Straightforward characters – few psychological complexities Lyrical – “poetic” – language “Classic” comic structure. Upbeat ending: “Jack shall have Jill/ Nought shall go ill.” The “rude mechanicals”

3 But what’s the real reason??? The “tick” of Shakespeare’s imagination: self reflexiveness. The roots of the imagination, the sources of theater. No narrative source for the play -- he made it up “all by himself, with nobody helping him.”

4 Playing roles, making theater Meg O’C, skeptical five-year-old drama critic at production of MND in Regent’s Park, 1978: “Daddy, are they who they say they are, or are they just actors?” Act III, scene i: Bottom’s concerns: “And for the more better assurance, tell them that I am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver. This will put them out of fear.”

5 The imaginative materials of MND “Athens” – how real? The lovers: what sort of lovers, how imagined? The fairies: what are they? The “mechanicals”: where from?

6 Theseus and Athens Law ‘n order. Plotlessness of Theseus/Hippolyta – just hanging out, waiting for nuptial day. The wonderfully rational “law of Athens.” Gender order in Athens. “What cheer, my love” His rationality on “The lover, the lunatic, and the poet”: Act V, scene 1.

7 But Theseus’ view of drama “I will hear that play.” -- V, 1, 81ff What the audience must supply: “The kinder we, to give them thanks for nothing.” Hippolyta: “This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.” Theseus: “The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst no worse if imagination amend them.”

8 The fairies Reversal of world of Athens? – “What cheer, my love?” Gendering of rule What are fairies? Their role in natural phenomena, etc. Puck as mad, possibly malevolent playwright? Oberon’s role.

9 The lovers – “quick bright things” coming to confusion I, 1, 130 to 149: the generic possibilities What other play was Shakespeare writing – or had just written – in 1595? How are the lovers imagined? Their “geometry”: 1)Lysander> Hermia,and Hermia> Lysander. But Demetrius > Hermia and Hermia Demetrius, but Demetrius < Helena. 2)Lysander > Helena, Lysander. Demetrius > Hermia. Helena > Demetrius. 3)Lysander > Hermia, Hermia > Lysander. Demetrius > Helena, Helena > Demetrius. “Jack shall have Jill, Nought shall go ill.”

10 The Mechanicals Philostrate describes them as “Hard-handed men, that work in Athens here Which never labored in their minds till now; And now have toiled their unbreathed memories With this same play, against your nuptial. “ Their names suggest their trades: Peter Quince is a carpenter (quines are blocks used in building); Bottom the weaver: bottom is a sort of bobbin for winding yarn; Snug the joiner; Flute for fluted bellows in an organ; Snout suggests the spout of a kettle, which a tinker would mend; and tailors were notoriously skinny, so Starveling.

11 Obviously a group of English workingmen, not real of course but comically imagined. Inexperienced but enthusiastic amateur actors. Are they in fact inventing theater for themselves, the way children would? They may be as unsophisticated about theater as Theseus is sophisticated. But are their concerns in fact the basic problems of putting on a play, funny mainly because we have already solved them?

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