A Midsummer Night’s Dream Day Three Slide Show ENGL 305 Dr. Fike
Outline • Business: Reminder that your paper proposal is due next time. • Return to the passages from day two • Bottom’s name • The play’s title: Whose dream is it? • Elizabeth • Theseus: • Background • Speech on the imagination • Pyramus and Thisbe (video)
Business • Your paper proposal is due next time, January 29th. • Next assignment (analysis paper, next slide). Have a look at it; we’ll discuss it later. • Unofficial quiz (do on your own if you wish): good review for part 1 of the midterm. • Skip to slide 6.
Next Assignment • This is an ANALYSIS paper; therefore, you will need something to analyze (not summarize or narrate). In this respect, a single passage can often serve as your focused topic. If you do not have such a passage, be sure that you have some kind of aggregate of quotations so that you can analyze as a focused topic. Also keep in mind the difference between explication and analysis. Explication offers a detailed explanation of what something says. It is the foundation for analysis, which involves using what something says to support a controversial thesis statement.
Unofficial Quiz • Can you identify the speaker of the following statements? • Note: Quizzes are posted on the Slide Show page on our course website.
Passages • What insights did you have about what they mean and how they fit together?
Notes on Each Quotation • “Help me, Lysander”: • Dream • Snake = phallus • Precognition (3.2.71-73) • “There sleeps Titania”: • Sleep • Snake = transformation • “You spotted snakes” • Snake = transformation (the fairies are trying to protect Titania from this) • Theseus: Imagination • Bottom: Dream (?) • Mystical synesthesia • Another example: Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a fly buzz—when I died”: “Blue—uncertain stumbling Buzz” • St. Paul: • Heaven transcends the senses’ ability to process experience. • His own OBE (?), the mystic’s dilemma (intrapsychic vs. extrapsychic)
The Passages • Types of psychological experience: • Dream • Sleep • Imagination • Vision • What is accessed: • The primitive world or instinct • The archetypes • The unconscious • The spirit world • How this is done: • Going inside the psyche • Going outside the body
Interpretation? • What alternative interpretations of Bottom’s experience can we advance?
Some Possible Answers • It literally happened. • Bottom really IS dreaming, as he himself suspects. • He had some kind of psychic experience, but dreaming is his only frame of reference, so that is what he thinks it is. • Intrapsychic: An experience of his own psyche (perhaps of the archetypes of the collective unconscious). • Extrapsychic: Awareness expanded beyond his own psyche (an out-of-body experience). • His imagination concocted his experience. • He is nuts.
Dr. Fike’s Position • “Bottom’s vision, of course, is squarely focused on the physical, but if it provides an allegory (if not an actual instance) of a spiritual event, then his befuddlement betokens the genuineness of such an event: visionary experience scrambles the earthly senses.”
Visionary Synesthesia • Synesthesia: “A phenomenon in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as the hearing of a sound resulting in the sensation of the visualization of a color.” --American Heritage Dictionary
Synesthesia (in psychology) • “Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people's names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception). Therefore, synesthesia literally means ‘joined perception.’” • Source: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/syne.html
More: Bottom’s Name Source: Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human • A “bottom” is the center of the skein upon which the weaver’s wool is wound. • “Bottom” also means the ground or the earth (people are both earthly and “puckish”; Puck is the antithesis of Bottom; Puck’s other name, Robin Goodfellow, was once a popular name for the Devil). • Montaigne: “On the loftiest of the world’s thrones we still are sitting on our own Bottom” (“Of Experience”). • I Corinthians 2:9-10: “The Spirit searches…the bottom of God’s secrets.” OED, ass: Hence transf. as a term of reproach: An ignorant fellow, a perverse fool, a conceited dolt. Now disused in polite literature and speech. 1602 Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor i. i. 157, I am not altogether an asse. [Earliest usage noted is 1578.]
Review • Make sure that you have a firm grasp of the following things from day two: • The business with Helena, love, and reason, deconstruction. • Links between 1.1 and 1.2. • Setting: Athens-woods-Athens illustrates a typical pattern in comedy in particular and literature in general. What is the point of the 3-column A Midsummer Night's Dream chart? What relationships emerge among the columns? • Quotations: The play enacts various types of psychological experiences; these include an encounter with the unconscious mind, the spirit world, the paranormal, etc. What else do the quotations suggest?
More Questions • What are the 4 groups of characters, and what is the point of having those groups? • Two courts (esp. 2.1.123ff.): What does the Indian boy tell us about the relationship between Oberon and Titania? How does their conflict relate to the action in Athens?
Bedford 226 • Re. 2.1.93-97: “As a possible source for this description, scholars look to the summer of 1593, a year or two before A Midsummer Night’s Dream was probably written, in which abnormal weather ruined crops and brought hardship to much of the English economy. But whether or not the lines refer to a particular summer, they speak to the direct connection between bad weather and economic disaster,” etc. • This detail is an example of the “historicity of texts” (Bedford 93).
“Dream” in the Title • Whose dream IS it? • Bottom’s? See 4.1.198-216. “Primal scene”? • The young lovers’? • Theseus’s? • The audience’s? See Epilogue.
What if Elizabeth was in the original audience? • “Some have theorized that the play might have been written for performance at the wedding of Sir Thomas Berkeley and Elizabeth Carey, in February, 1596.” Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night's_Dream#Date_and_sources. • “In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Shakespearean scholars have entertained the theory that A Midsummer Night's Dream was a play commissioned to be performed at a court wedding in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I.” Source: http://www.courttheatre.org/home/plays/9899/midsummer/PNmidsummer.shtml.
New Historicist Reading • Montrose in Bedford 27: “Whether or not Queen Elizabeth was present at the first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, her pervasive cultural presence was a condition of the play’s imaginative possibility.”
Theseus in the Renaissance Source for some of the following remarks: D’Orsay W. Pearson, “‘Unkinde’ Theseus: A Study in Renaissance Mythography.” English Literary Renaissance 4 (1974): 276-98.
Summary • Cut to summary on slide 32.
Positive View of Theseus • Theseus dealt with villains in ways that mimicked their own unjust treatment of others (e.g., the Procrustean bed, named after Procrustes, a mythical giant who shortened or stretched people to fit his bed).
More Positives • Theseus defeated the Minotaur (King Minos + taur or bull of Minos) in the Cretan labyrinth. • Minos, the King of Crete, exacted a toll of Athenian young people for the death of his son in Athens. • Labyrinth parallels the woods (in the Renaissance, the labyrinth related to sensuality). • Minotaur parallels Bottom-as-ass.
Still More Positives • Theseus was a great civic leader who established democracy in Athens and gave the city a name, a currency, and a class system. • He was a friend to Oedipus, Hercules, Jason, and Pirithous. • He was the husband of Hippolyta/Antiope (same person, different names).
The Point So Far • Theseus was an emblem of friendship, virtue, and reason’s triumph over sensuality.
Negative View of Theseus • Infidelity: He abandoned Ariadne on Naxos. Later he married her sister, Phaedra. • While Theseus was away, Phaedra hit on her stepson, Hippolytus, in a letter. He rejected her and destroyed her letter. She later told Theseus that the young man had tried to rape her. As a result, Theseus had Poseidon destroy his son (chariot accident on the beach). • Hippolytus is the “issue” of Theseus’s marriage to Hippolyta: MSND 5.1.400-01: “And the issue they create / Ever shall be fortunate.” Not so much! • Story is retold in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, I.v.36ff. (see your handout of passages).
Moreover… • Theseus was responsible for his father Aegeus’s suicide. • Also, he and his buddy, Pirithous, decided to find wives. Theseus wanted Helen, so they abducted her when she was 10 years old. Kidnapper and potential child molester. • Pirithous wanted Persephone, so while they were sojourning in hell, they left Helen with Theseus’s mother. Helen’s people rescued her and enslaved Theseus’s mother. Meanwhile, Hades trapped the two guys in chairs of forgetfulness (the model for C. S. Lewis’s silver chair in The Silver Chair, BTW). Hercules, while in hell to deal with Cerberus, rescued Theseus but not Pirithous.
And the point is… • Theseus is responsible for his father’s suicide, his mother’s abduction and slavery, and the loss of his friend Pirithous in hell. Theseus is a failed harrower of hell.
Virgil’s Theseus • Virgil places Theseus in the Aeneid, book 6, among the monstrous criminals in Hades—those characterized by unkind and unnatural behavior.
AND… • Theseus was an absent leader who lost the throne to a usurper named Menestheus. • Theseus was ultimately a murder victim—Lycomedes pushed him off a cliff.
Summary • On the one hand, Theseus is a crime fighter, monster slayer, civic leader, friend, and good husband. • On the other, he is a poor husband, an unfaithful lover, an abandoner of women, an unnatural father, a lousy son, an absent leader, and a sex offender.
What about Theseus in MSND? • Theseus’s opening speech—impatience for sex like a greedy son who wants the last third of his inheritance. • Emphasis on law over compassion. • The marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta will NOT live up to Oberon’s blessing.
Further Points • Tension between surface and depth. • Bedford 162: Re. the principle of “complementarity”: “Shakespeare seems to have been drawn to stories and persons that were susceptible to plural and even contradictory readings.” • Theseus is a good example of this principle.
Discussion • Let’s read together what Theseus says about the imagination. • Then, find a partner and answer some of the following questions (next slide). • Somebody stop us at 15 minutes before the end of the hour so that we can watch the video.
Theseus and Hippolyta Discuss the Imagination at 5.1.1-27. • What is Theseus’s basic point in response to Hippolyta’s statement? • Are there differences between the poet and the lunatic or the lover? • What does the poet DO? • How does Theseus contradict himself? • What is his attitude toward art, as manifested in his selection of playlet? • What is Hippolyta’s attitude toward art? Toward the story that the lovers have told about their night in the woods? • What is the role of imagination in viewing the playlet?
Video: Pyramus and Thisbe • How does the playlet comment on the story of the young lovers? • What does it teach us about romantic love? • How do we view the wedding party? • Is there a connection to Puck’s epilogue? END