Kaley's Midsummer Night's Dream
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Lit Crit: Social Classes in MSND

Lit Crit: Social Classes in MSND | Kaley's Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it

A literary criticism on the impact and structure of social classes throughout A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Kaley O'Connor's insight:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a complex play with many different characters, two separate worlds and several smaller plots within the entire main story. On top of all that, literary analysts have concluded that Shakespeare creates a carefully structured social pyramid that is the foundation of the play. In the article “Social Class in A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Ellen Rosenberg makes a thought-provoking argument that there is a rigid class system within the play, but her thesis lacks support and evidence. Rosenberg explains the social status of every main character and the way Shakespeare uses them to build the story. Also, it becomes evident that Shakespeare applies Athenian expectations to the social classes to make the setting of the play more historically accurate. For example, Theseus, the Duke of Athens, represents high order and nobility of the real world. However, his wife, Hippolyta, “is an aristocratic Amazon, so she is of the same class as Theseus, though she will never have power or authority […] in a male-dominated Athens” (Rosenberg, 1). This is an interesting point that goes beyond social status and includes gender roles, but it is only supported with the fact that Hippolyta is not very present in the play and does not have a lot of responsibility. The argument could have been made much stronger with direct evidence that she is being forced to marry Theseus against her will, which shows that he has more power over her as a man. Rosenberg makes a strong connection between the social structure of the real world and the fairy world. She states that in certain productions of the play, roles are often double cast, meaning that the same person will play Theseus and Oberon or Philostrate and Puck. This is because “these pairs are often viewed as representing parallel worlds and issues” (1). Basically, Shakespeare accentuates the social classes within the play by mirroring them in both the real world and the fairy world. Though the article does not give direct examples, this symmetry can be seen with similar noble characters (Theseus and Oberon or Hippolyta and Titania) as well as the main servants (Puck in the fairy world is parallel to Philostrate). The last main point that Rosenberg makes is that Shakespeare also uses social classes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to reflect and connect with the prospective audience at the Globe Theater. The tradesmen represent the working class, but their main role in the play is to perform at the Duke’s wedding with the hopes of being able to be a part, or even catch a glimpse, of the noble class. Rosenberg states that this is Shakespeare’s connection to “much of the audience who would have been viewing A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and like the tradesmen, “long for a transcendent experience to lift them from their mundane lives for a brief time” (2). This is a valid point and it is true that Shakespeare makes many efforts to connect his plays to all members of the audience. Perhaps this could have been further supported with the idea that the tradesmen normally speak in prose (a commonplace language) but during their performance they attempt to speak in a sophisticated verse (for the upper class), which may allow the working-class audience members to truly relate to these characters. Overall, Rosenberg’s claim is valid that Shakespeare incorporates the social classes of the characters to develop the plot and reflect the audience of the Globe Theater. She could, however, have strengthened her thesis with direct quotes and more specific textual evidence.

 

Rosenberg, Ellen. "Social Class in A Midsummer Night's Dream." Infobase Learning - Bloom's Literary Reference Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.

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Video: Beatles Midsummer Night's Dream Spoof

Video: Beatles Midsummer Night's Dream Spoof | Kaley's Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it

In April of 1964, The Beatles perform a parody of A Midsummer Night's Dream on a television special in honor of Shakespeare's 400th birthday. The "play within a play", Pyramus and Thisbe, is the focus, with Paul McCartney as Pyramus, John Lennon as Thisbe, George Harrison as Moonshine and Ringo Starr as Lion.

Kaley O'Connor's insight:

Though The Beatles put on a silly spoof act of Pyramus and Thisbe to entertain the public and celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, their performance actually has many similaritites and connections to the real version of the "play within a play" and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The video begins with an introduction of the characters and who will be playing them, just as the tradesmen include a prologue to ensure that the women at the Duke's wedding will not be frightened by the violence. The tradesmen in A Midsummer Night's Dream are humorous characters, often lacking common sense and struggling to correctly recite their lines. The Beatles accentuate this by stumbling as they speak and making exaggerated gestures to reflect how the tradesmen viewed themselves as excelllent actors. The audience watching the spoof not only roars with laughter, but also becomes very rowdy at times and yells comments out to the actors. This behavior is very similar to that of the groundlings who would have attended the Globe Theater to see A Midsummer Night's Dream. The comedic elements of A Midsummer Night's Dream are emphasized in the parody to make it even more funny, which could not be easily done with one of Shakespeare's tragedies. The Beatles have a hilarious performance that actually displays the comedy and draws connections to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

 

"Beatles Midsummer Night's Dream Spoof (in Colour!)." YouTube. YouTube, 05 July 2010. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

 

"TubeChop - Beatles Midsummer Night's Dream Spoof (in Colour!) (01:47)." TubeChop. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

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Brian Rowe's comment, February 12, 2013 9:29 AM
Oh my God. This is gold.
Kaley O'Connor's comment, February 12, 2013 6:16 PM
:)
Meghan Gould's comment, March 4, 2013 8:32 PM
I loved how you connected the rowdy crowd to the groundlings and how they would act at the Globe Theatre! -Meghan :)
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Historical Article: Understanding Comedy

Historical Article: Understanding Comedy | Kaley's Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it

A document describing the common expectations of Shakespearean comedies and where they are found in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

(125-6, 137-42)

Kaley O'Connor's insight:

Shakespeare was not only known for his tragic tales but also for several comedies. A Midsummer Night's Dream is classified as a comedy even though it may not necessarily make a modern-day reader laugh out loud. As described in chapter 6 of the book, Shakespeare: The Basics, comedies are distinguished by a set of common traits, or expectations. Many aspects of A Midsummer Night's Dream may have been humorous to the audience of the Globe Theater, but it is also a comedy for its focus on a rebellious daughter willing to break convention for love. This is a common idea seen throughout many other comedies. Other similiar aspects of comedies are happy endings in favor of the protagonists and dialogue filled with puns and cliches. For example, when Demetrius wakes up and falls in love with Helena, he professes this to her using flowery love poetry full of "clichés, not sincere words. That’s why they often get a laugh in the theatre" (141). All of these ideas are seen some way in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it is clear that even without modern-day humor, it is a true comedy.

 

McEvoy, Sean. "Chapter 6: Understanding Comedy." Shakespeare: The Basics. 125-149. n.p.: Taylor & Francis Ltd / Books, 2000. Literary Reference Center. Web. 3 Feb. 2013.

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Image: Athenian Bride

Image: Athenian Bride | Kaley's Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it
Louis Dupre (1798-1837): Athenian Bride. Lithograph from the folio Voyage a Athenes et Constantinople, Paris 1825, showing the preparations for an Athenian wedding. The bride is waiting while the groom is ritually shaved.
Kaley O'Connor's insight:

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hermia runs away into the forest with Lysander to avoid marrying Demetrius, contrary to her father's wishes. Louis Dupre's painting, Athenian Bride, depicts the scene that most likely would have occurred if Hermia had obeyed her father and married Demetrius.The image shows a tradtional Athenian custom of the bride awaiting her groom, which is relevant because A Midsummer Night's Dream is set in Athens. Everyone surrounding the bride has a slight smirk on their face, seeming pleased with the marriage, and the groom in the background appears to be captivated by the bride's beauty. However, the bride has a solemn face and does not seem excited, just as Hermia would be if she were to marry Demetrius, whom she does not love. Like the groom in the painting, Demetrius is enthralled with Hermia and clearly expresses his love for her despite her negative feelings toward him. Lastly, there is a woman on the far right side of the painting and is the only one with her face covered. It appears that she is trying to avoid being seen and is spying on the event. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Helena would have this role at Demetrius and Hermia's wedding because she is madly in love with Demetrius. Helena is extremely jealous because Demetrius loves Hermia and she would be overwhelmed with sadness to see them get married. Similarly, the woman in the image has dull, saddened eyes that are not focused on the bride but rather gazing off into the distance, just as Helena may appear when she is jealous and heartbroken. Though Hermia does not obey her father by marrying Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the scene would be full of different emotions and would resemble the Athenian Bride painting by Louis Dupre.

 

Dupre, Louis. "Athenian Bride 1825." Googleartproject.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.

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Lana Delasanta's comment, March 11, 2013 12:12 AM
How did you go about finding this picture? I think it's really interesting that you thought outside the box and didn't stick to an image about the fairies or the renaissance! -Lana
Kaley O'Connor's comment, March 11, 2013 6:08 PM
After I found my source about Hermia's name and Greek mythology I wanted to stay with theme of Athens. To find this I actually just searched "Athens" in Google Art Project and eventually came across it. I'm glad you found it to be interesting!
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Source: Hermia

Source: Hermia | Kaley's Midsummer Night's Dream | Scoop.it

This encyclopedia entry for "Hermia" describes the origin of her name as well as her role and personality in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Kaley O'Connor's insight:

Shakespeare drew upon many Greek gods and goddesses for the names of the characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream, most likely to accent the Athenian setting of the play. The character that most of the plot is centered around, Hermia, is named after the Greek God of thieves and travelers, Hermes. As this encyclopedia entry states, Hermes is associated with trickery and speed. One theory states that Hermia's ability to make both Lysander and Demetrius fall in love with her makes her "the most fylthy whore," and this reputation is a reflection of Hermes' tricks and link to the underworld. Hermia's relation to Hermes puts a negative light on the name, but Shakespeare's interpretation greatly contrasts. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hermia runs away from the law and her father (as Hermes might) but does it out of love and passion for Lysander. She is a sweet character rather than the "whore" that she had previously been described as and does not necessarily reflect Hermes' characteristics. She does, however, have physical similarities and there are several references made to the Greek god. Hermia is often insulted for her short height and "in her diminutive stature as a ‘puppet’, ‘dwarf’ or ‘minimus’ (3.2.288 and 327–8), she physically echoes the youthful god Hermes" (185). Also, Hermia wakes up from a terrible dream about being attacked by a serpent, which is very similar to the snake-like creature wrapped around the wand that Hermes carries. Though Hermia shares both similarities and differences with the Hermes, Shakespeare thought it would be appropriate to base her name off this Greek god.

 

FINDLAY, ALISON. "Hermia." Women In Shakespeare (2010): 185-186. Literary Reference Center. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

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