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Literary Criticism: Parental Roles in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Literary Criticism: Parental Roles in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" | Diane's A Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it
Diane Newberry's insight:

In this analysis of "A Midsummer Night's Dream",  the author focuses on the diminished parental roles of the play. Hermia and Lysander deny the authority of Egeus, Hermia's father, and Theseus, the "father of Athens", by running away to get married. In the forest, they "experience a freedom that they would ordinarily be denied." Even Lysander's trusted aunt, who is a parental figure in his life, never appears in the play. The article also analyzes how the production of the play within a play, Pyramus and Thisbe, parallels this theme. The actors, "for the sake of dramatic naturalism and clarity", decide that they need to replace some of the roles in the play with other jobs. Snout, who originally played Pyramus's father, becomes the Wall, literally standing in the way of Pyramus and Thisbe's love. Starveling, who had been slated for Thisbe's mother, is assigned to represent Moonshine, and Quince, who was going to play Thisbe's father, now has to read an explanatory prologue. All of the parental roles in the play are discarded, much as the young lovers have discarded the authority of their parents. A Midsummer Night's Dream incorporates many worlds: the realm of fairies, the uppercrust tragedy, and the common folk attempting to put on a play. These worlds are intertwined by the analogous themes, and the elimination of parental roles is only one way in which they are tied together.

 

Petronella, Vincent F. "Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM." Explicator 37.1 (1978): 5. Literary Reference Center. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.

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Source: The Book of Theseus

Source: The Book of Theseus | Diane's A Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it
Diane Newberry's insight:

In this age of prequels, sequels, and spin-offs, people often bemoan Hollywood's lack of creativity and long for the "old days" where, apparently, every story was completely original and self-contained. The problem is, these "old days" only exist in our imaginations. Recycling of characters and the worlds created for them has been going on for, literally, centuries. This article is an analysis of the characters of The Book of Theseus, wirtten in Italy during the medieveil period. Although Shakespeare could not have been directly inspired by this paticular work, as it was not translated into English until 1974, it is clear that the Theseus and Hippolyta of The Book of Theseus and A Midsummer Night's Dream are one and the same. The Book of Theseus chronciles the meeting of the two characters, consistent with their Shakespearean backstory, and their wedding.

Hollywood is a money-driven place, and this is the reason for its constant stream of reboots. Audiences will reliably buy tickets to see their favorite characters in the their latest incarnation. Theseus and Hippolyta's appearence in the Book of Theseus proves that they were not only Greek mythological figures, but characters ripe for incorpoarting into other stories, even before Shakespeare's time. The appearence of Theseus and Hippolyta, a familiar couple, would appeal to audiences, and their presence in A Midsummer Night's Dream was probably no accident. As an Elizabethan playwright, Shakespeare had a responsibility to not only create art, but to create art that appealed to paying customers. It is valid to wonder how many of Shakespeare's decisions in his writing were driven by the desire to have a commercial hit. No playwright as successful as Shakespeare is above the influence of the public.

 

Cottrell, Alan. "The Book Of Theseus." Cyclopedia Of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition (1998): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 12 Feb. 2013

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Historical Article: A Guide to Presenting Shakespeare

Historical Article: A Guide to Presenting Shakespeare | Diane's A Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it
Diane Newberry's insight:

This is an instruction manual for actors on how to approach presenting Shakespeare. The most important part of being a Shakespearan actor is understanding all of one's lines. If the actor saying the words has a full grasp of them, it will be easier to pull the audience along for the ride. People are often intimidated by Shakespeare's language. Although some phrases may be familiar, the seemingly ancient poetry can be difficult to synthesize. This article chronicles a five-step process to finding the meaning of Shakespeare's dialogue. Steps 1, 2, and 3 are necessary to grasping the literal meaning of the text, but it is Steps 4 and 5 that truly begin to dive into the complex characters. In Step 4, the actor is instructed to "divide the lines into sections, and analyze each section in terms of objective and obstacle." This zeroes in on what a character is trying to achieve and what, exactly, is standing in their way. It gives a deeper understanding of their motives both in the present, and later on in the play. Step 5 asks more of the actor: to connect the character's experiences and emotions to ones' own. It asks them to "fill the personal cource column with anything (lyrics, poetry, a name, a single word, a quote, a photograph, a picture from a magazine, a doodle) that will help [them] make [their] own connection to the words. As [they] read aloud, the image [they] have chosen and its corresponding feeling will inform [them] how to say the line, and instead of simply reciting words written by someone else, [they] will be expressing a thought that has become [theirs]."

It is difficult, sometimes, to analyze Shakespeare as one would analyze more modern texts. Characters' thoughts and feelings can get lost in puzzling verse. Because it is primarily meant to help actors, the method of reading described in this article brings these things into the spotlight, making the reader see these characters as whole people. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, there is an abundance of uncharismatic individuals populating the stage. Still, all characters, even Helena, Demetrius, Egeus, or Puck, have a story hidden between their lines, and it is always worth reading.

 

"The Actor's Notebook." Literary Cavalcade 53.6 (2001): 24. Literary Reference Center. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.

 

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Image: One Far Out Dream

Image: One Far Out Dream | Diane's A Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it
Diane Newberry's insight:

Searching around the Internet for A Midsummer Night's Dream related things, I've noticed a growing trend in productions of the play. Many colleges and local theater groups are setting it in the 1960's. Although the above image is not from a  paticular production, it is a "spoof of an original poster for the original opening of Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," done in 60's rock concert style." I was intrigued as to why this play is so easily reimagined in a 60's setting, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When people think about the 60's, their imaginations tend to take them to a very far away place- a place of vivid pyschedelia, faded photographs, and endless, bluesy guitar solos. The 60's has become a sort of modern mythological realm. Woodstock might as well have happened on the peak of Olympus.

Of all of Shakespeare's plays, I would classify A Midsummer Night's Dream as the "grooviest". Something about the mysterious wooded setting, populated by  fairies and elves, seems so far removed from others, such as Romeo and Juliet's stern households or Macbeth's witches' terrifying lair. The play's very name evokes a hazy, faraway feeeling. A Midsummer Night's Dream casts a unique spell, and it only makes sense that in modern times, we have fused Shakespeare's mythology with our own.

 

Midsummer of Love Posters. Digital image. Zazzle. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.

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Allison Mosichuk's comment, March 12, 2013 8:16 PM
I really like this picture! It is very different from everyone elses picture and tat makes it even better!
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Video: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in "Dead Poets Society"

Dead poets society...
Diane Newberry's insight:

The movie "Dead Poets Society" is set at a strict, all-boys boarding school in 1959. The overarching theme is the struggle to be an indivdual in a conformist society. This ideal puts one character, Neil, at odds with his harsh, conservative father. This video shows Neil's acting debut as Puck in the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. His father has not given permission to Neil to act in the play, and is not-so-pleasantly surprised to find him on the stage. As Puck, Neil preforms the final monologue of the play. This monologue is usually very humorous, because it is Puck basically telling the audience: if the play has offended you, pretend it was all a dream and we will make it up to you. In the movie's context, there is some underlying tension in the performance of the monologue. As Neil says these lines to his father, he is honestly asking him for forgiveness and acceptance. It is a testament to Shakespeare's place in modern culture that his words can be used so subtly to convey a seperate theme to an audience.

 

Dead Poets Society. Dir. Martin Brest. Perf. Robert Sean Leonard. YouTube. YouTube, 17 July 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.

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Abby Boisvert's comment, March 6, 2013 7:31 PM
I LOOOOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cassaundra Trudel's comment, March 7, 2013 12:50 PM
Abby, I have not watched the movie yet, but after hearing and watching this I want too. I really like how the play was incorporated into the movie.
Abby Boisvert's comment, March 7, 2013 7:35 PM
You should definitely watch it! Ms. Egan made us watch it in class, if it wasn't for that, I would never have heard of it. Sorry Diane :/