A Midsummer Night’s Dream An Introduction to Shakespeare Comedy
Background • A Midsummer Night’s Dream has long been one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. • It was probably first performed in 1595 or 1596 • May have been written for a special occasion (a wedding)
Background • Shakespeare used elements from earlier stories and folklore to write Midsummer. • He does not retell other people’s stories, but weaves these elements into a story of his own.
Theseus and Hippolyta • A famous story that is found is several different forms throughout Greek and English literature. • One example can be found in Chaucer’s A Knight’s Tale • According to the myth, Theseus conquers Hippolyta and then they get married.
Borrowing Characters and other elements • The characters of Egeus and Philostrate (from Midsummer) are also borrowed from Chaucer. • In Midsummer, one of the storylines involves a fighting King and Queen, this storyline is also borrowed from Chaucer.
Pyramus and Thisbe • In Midsummer, one of the storylines involves the retelling of a well known myth called “Pyramus and Thisbe”. • Pyramus and Thisbe involves two young lovers who are forbidden to be together. In the end, they commit suicide. • In Midsummer, this story turns from tragedy to comedy, due to the fact that the actors performing are really, really terrible.
Fun Facts • The traditional wedding march was originally composed for a version of Midsummer Night’s Dream
Fun Facts • Before Shakespeare and his contemporaries portrayed fairies as harmless sparkly flying creatures, fairies were associated with the devil. (It's a good thing Shakespeare came along and wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream – otherwise, we might not have characters like Tinker Bell.)
Fun Facts • In the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society, one of the film's central characters lands the role of Puck in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The play within the film adds layers of meaning to many of the themes from both works, including obedience to parents, poetry, the pastoral, and more.
Shakespeare Comedy • Comedy today differs from what was considered a “comedy” in Shakespeare’s time • Comedy is Shakespeare times didn’t always mean the play was going to make you laugh. • Comedy inShakespeare’s time could be funny, but Shakespeare offered more than a laugh.
Comedy Characteristics • In Shakespeare’s comedies, things always turn out for the better (meaning there is always a happy ending and no one dies) • Word Humor- Audiences in Shakespeare’s day loved Verbal Humor. Especially puns, the worse, the better.
Comedy Characteristics • Quibbles- Audiences loved word quibbling ( a form of verbal arm wrestling in which each opponent tries to squeeze as many meanings out of a word as possible) • Topical humor- Shakespeare, like comics today, used topical humor. There may be references that we do not understand today, but to the audiences that saw plays when they were first performed, they were very topical.
Comedy Characteristics • Running Gags- Audiences in Shakespeare’s time loved references to “cuckolds and cuckoldom” A Cuckold is a man whose wife is unfaithful, making him a sexual loser who can’t satisfy a woman. It comes from the cuckoo, a bird that lays egss in other’s nests. • According to legend, a cuckoo grew horns on their brows. Thus any reference to a horn or anything connected to a horn (a goat, deer, ram, etc) would make the audience roar with laughter.
Things You Will See • The main action is about love. • Mistaken identities – not always but usually. • The lovers or “would-be” lovers must overcome multiple obstacles and misunderstandings before being united in harmonious union. • Usually, not always, but usually it includes elements of the improbable, the fantastic, the supernatural, or the miraculous.
Things You Will See • Philosophical aspect involving weightier issues and themes; personal identities; the power of language; and appearance vs. reality. • Family tensions – resolved in the end. • Frequent use of puns – yup, it’s punny!
There are 4 stories in this play • 1. The main storyline involves 4 young lovers: Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander are in love. BUT Hermia’s dad wants her to marry Demetrius, even though Demetrius and Lysander are pretty much equal in status, wealth, and looks. Hermia loves Demetrius loves Demetrius, but he wants to marry Hermia, probably because Hermia is prettier.
Lysander • Citizen of some standing in Athens, listens more to his heart than to the law and customs, quick to act – even if somewhat impetuously) • Loves Hermia; Hermia loves him • But Egeus does NOT approve
Demetrius • Loves Hermia but she does not love him • Helena LOVES him • Of equal social standing as Lysander • Believes Hermia will learn to love him if the law (and Egeus) decrees Hermia his • DIFFERENT than Lysander – he listens to the law and customs – not heart.
Egeus Upstanding citizen on Athens, listens more to social and legal guidelines than to his own daughter’s heart.
Hermia • Daughter of Egeus • Believes that love is more important than anything else • Stubborn to the point of self-destruction
Helena • Acts as a victim of fate • Treated unfairly • Believes that intellect overpowers the emotions of love
There are 4 stories in this play • 2. Another plot in this story involves the King and Queen of fairies. • King Oberon and Queen Titania are fighting in the forest outside Athens. • There are 2 reasons for the fight. • 1.Each believes the other is cheating. • 2. Titania has custody of a changeling boy, and Oberon wants him.
Oberon • King of the fairies • Manipulator • Proud and strong
Titania • Queen of the fairies • Proud • More trusting and emotional than Oberon
Puck • Oberon’s jester • Trickster • Manipulator • Also referred to as – • Robin Goodfellow
There are 4 stories in this play • 3. All the action of the play takes place during the days leading up to a wedding. • The Duke of Athens (Theseus) is going to marry the Queen of the Amazons (Hippolyta) • Theseus and Hippolyta are anxious for the wedding to arrive. Do I need to explain why?
Theseus • Duke of Athens • Law-abiding citizen, dedicated ruler.
Hippolyta • Queen of the Amazons • About to marry Theseus
There are 4 stories in this play • 4. Finally, the comic relief. There is a group of Athenians who want to put on a play for the Duke’s wedding. … • The “mechanicals” as they are called are a group of men who have everyday jobs. They want to be the entertainment at the wedding. • They rehearse in the forest, where chaos ensues. • They perform at the wedding, they are really bad actors.
Nick Bottom • Weaver • Plays Pyramus in the play “Pyramus and Thisby” • Believes he is the BEST • Full of himself
Peter Quince • Carpenter • Director of play • Natural leader
Francis Flute • Bellows mender (pipes of an organ) • Plays Thisbe – think of flute (high voice) • Would rather play a knight or warrior than a woman
Tom Snout • Tinker (pan and kettle mender) • Plays The Wall • Ironic that he is the wall with holes, which is opposite to the holes he mends in the pots
Snug • Furniture maker • Plays the lion • He is given a part with NO lines because he admits to being “slow of study”
Robin Starveling • A tailor • Plays moonlight Tailors were known to be thin