Lisa Walters writes, "...In Elizabethan times there was a powerful folklore which saw fairies as active, large, and frequently mischievous and sometimes malevolent beings...Alchemists, astrologers and magicians, who enjoyed a curious immunity in this time of witchcraft persecution, relied on the general toleration of the fairies and were ready to claim acquaintance with them." This quote references common superstitions of the Elizabethan time, which are also apparent in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" from the same time period. The presence of fairies and magic in the play demonstrates Shakespeare's awareness of the superstitions of his audience. These magical elements such as the use of the pansy flower potion and the fairies' mischievous behavior are present in the play. By playing into his audience's curiosity of fairies and magic, Shakespeare's play attracted a large audience and it gained a great deal of popularity in Elizabethan England.
Walters, Lisa. "'[N]Ot Subject To Our Sense' : Margaret Cavendish's Fusion Of Renaissance Science, Magic And Fairy Lore." Women's Writing 17.3 (2010): 413-431. Literary Reference Center. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.
Shakespeare's inspiration for Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, can be connected to the history of the name from medieval times. Throughout English folklore, the names “Puck” and “Robin” meant faerie, goblin, or devil. The creatures with those names would often act as shape shifters causing mischief to travellers. One expression for being lost was "Robin Goodfellow has been with you tonight,” which also represents Puck's sinister side because he led travellers astray. The expression can be traced back to as early as 1531, which is close to the time when Shakespeare wrote Midsummer Night's Dream. It is clear that Shakespeare knew about the history of the name, since he assigned his mischievous fairy character in his play the same name. Shakespeare's Puck is closely tied to English tradition with his reputation of doing mischievous acts and being a shape shifter. In history, the “Phouka”, or devil, was also occasionally depicted as a frightening creature with the head of an ass, eagle or horse. Shakespeare drew from stories of the “Phouka” and the stories of Puck changing into the head of an ass to inspire Bottom's transformation.
Wright, Allen W. "Puck Through The Ages." Puck Through The Ages. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
In Chesterton’s review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he describes the play as a commentary on the “mysticism of happiness” and the meaning of happiness within the secrecy and difficulties of the play. The mysticism of happiness is the idea that a man may find himself in a supernatural world by being either extremely happy or extremely sad, which are both expressed in Shakespeare’s play. Chesterton writes, “…In spite of this fact the supreme literary merit of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a merit of design. The amazing symmetry, the amazing artistic and moral beauty of that design, can be stated very briefly.” Chesterton clearly values the creativity of Shakespeare since he wrote a story built within two different worlds. In the beginning, the play took place in the rational world, but as the characters progressed into the fairies’ forest and encountered Puck, they entered the mystical domain. When the play ended and the characters woke up from their supernatural trance, they re-entered the real world. Theseus tried to explain that everything that happened in the woods, with the spells and magical experiences, were simply unconscious creations of man himself. “But of this comedy, as I have said, the mark is that genius goes beyond itself,” Chesterton writes. In the final moments of the play, the elves ask what reality really is and they say, “Suppose we are the realities and they the shadows.” This comment asks if perhaps the fairies’ world and magic are the true reality while the humans’ world is the mystical one. However, Chesterton’s criticism is almost entirely biased, providing little to no credibility. If searching for an opinionated criticism, this article is faultless, however when looking for a piece that is supported with facts, this is not something that should be used.
Chesterton, G. K. "Shakespeare's Mysticism of Happiness." Bloom's Literary Reference Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.
Levis' 2006 campaign features the characters Bottom and Titania from the Shakespearian play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. In the video, the scene changes from a magical woodland to a downtown Los Angeles setting where Titania is a waitress and Bottom, the man wearing Levi’s new jeans, roams the streets. He passes by a gang that mocks him for wearing something different from what they normally wear. Using dialogue from act three, scene one, the gang describes how the man has changed. The Bottom character explains to them that he knows what they are up to. He is not afraid and will do whatever he can to make sure they know he is not scared of them. The scene then changes to the waitress in the diner, where she is mysteriously drawn to the man walking down the street. Just like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania is awoken by Bottom and declares her love to him while under the spell of cupid’s flower, even though she has never seen him before. In the video, the jeans are the equivalent to the cupid’s flower. The use of a modern scene helps aid in understanding the play, while still being relevant to modern times. When the gang mocks the man for changing, it is the same as Quince and Snout making fun of Bottom for changing into the head of an ass. Then, the man’s confidence in himself gives him to courage to forge ahead, just like Bottom does in the play. This video reenacts the scene of the enchantment of Titania in modern terms and, by doing so, the viewers are able to understand it better and visualize the interaction.
"Levis 501 - Midsummer Nights Dream Ad." YouTube. YouTube, 14 June 2006. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.
Through the use of modern technology, the above image was created as an interpretation of the love conflict within “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Lysander, in love with Hermia, is on his knees, demonstrating his love and faithfulness to her. Meanwhile, Helena lurks among the trees in envy. Helena is deeply in love with Demetrius, however, Demetrius loves Hermia, who claims she does nothing to make him feel that way. Out of jealousy, Helena tells Demetrius that Hermia and Lysander plan to escape to the woods, leading to Demetrius’ decision to follow them. The picture undoubtedly shows the jealous look on Helena’s face, while Hermia and Lysander are both infatuated with each other. The darkness and use of shadows further depict Helena’s feeling of jealousy toward Hermia.
"Lysander and Hermia by ~designdiva3 on DeviantART." Lysander and Hermia by ~designdiva3 on DeviantART. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.
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