A Midsummer Night`s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
SHAKESPEARE: Script, Stage, Screen
Bevington, Welsh and Greenwald
Chapter Seven
 Shakespeare writes Romeo and Juliet and A
Midsummer Night’s Dream
 Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy about love in a
domestic setting
 The Dream frames the theme with mystery and the
 There is a happy ending that celebrates many
weddings. This is in stark contrast to the closing
moments of Romeo and Juliet.
The courtship and marriage of the NOBLE
LOVERS (Theseus and Hippolyta)
The tribulations of the YOUNG LOVERS
(Hermia and Lysander; Helena and Demetrius)
The custody battle of the FAIRY REGENTS
(Oberon and Titania over a child from India)
The hilarious attempts of THE WORKINGMEN to
present a play about Pyramus and Thisbe at the Duke’s
Play moves from apparently civilized world of the
court to the natural world of the Athens Wood
 Four lovers are stock amorati of Italian comedy
 Egeus is grumpy old man of Roman comedy (Senex)
 Theseus-Hippolyta are from mythology
 Oberon-Titania-Puck from fairy world
 Bottom, the weaver, an amalgam of stock characters
such as the braggart or the ancient fool
Character Map
for the play
 The Elizabethan and Spirit World...Many English
believed in fairies
 In their tales, fairies were source of practical jokes
 A Courtly wedding...the
play was likely written
for a royal wedding
attended by the queen
at Whitehall in 1595
Literary Sources
 Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale
 Theseus-Hippolyta from
Plutarch’s Lives
 Oberon is a figure from
Germany (Teutonic myth)
 Titania is Spenser’s Faerie
 There are elements from
Ovid (Pyramus and Thisby)
The New Testament
Bottom bastardizes a verse from 1 Corinthians 2:9
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which
God hath prepared for them that love him.”
(King James Bible, Cambridge Edition)
“The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive,
nor his heart to report, what my dream was.” (4.1.209-212)
Singsong Rhyme
The fairies, especially Puck, speak in exaggerated verse
to denote that they are not human
(Act TWO, Scene 1)
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone:
Our queen and all our elves come here anon.
The king doth keep his revels here to-night:
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling;
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;
But she perforce withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers and makes him all her
And now they never meet in grove or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen,
But, they do square, that all their elves for fear
Creep into acorn-cups and hide them there.
The play-within-a-play uses rhymed doggerel
Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams;
I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright;
For, by thy gracious, golden, glittering gleams,
I trust to take of truest Thisby sight.
But stay, O spite!
But mark, poor knight,
What dreadful dole is here!
Eyes, do you see?
How can it be?
O dainty duck! O dear! (V.1, 267-276)
The Four Lovers often speak
in rhymed couplets
What's this to my Lysander? where is he?
Ah, good Demetrius, wilt thou give him me?
I had rather give his carcass to my hounds.
Out, dog! out, cur! thou drivest me past the bounds
The prose is typial of most of Shakespeare’s plays, the
“rude mechanical’s” employ the language of everyday
Is all our company here?
You were best to call them generally, man by man,
according to the scrip.
Here is the scroll of every man's name, which is
thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our
interlude before the duke and the duchess, on his
wedding-day at night.
(Act One, Scene 2)
The royals, the courtiers, Theseus and Hippolyta speak
in blank verse
Now, Fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon: but, o methinks, how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires,
Like to a stepdame or a dowager
Long withering out a young man’s revenue (I,1, 1-6)
Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
What, jealous Oberon! Fairies, skip hence:
I have forsworn his bed and company.
Tarry, rash wanton: am not I thy lord?
Then I must be thy lady: but I know
When thou hast stolen away from fairy land,
(Act Two, Scene One, 60-65)
Music, song and dance permeate the play
Felix Mendelssohn wrote his famous overture in 1826.
He completed the incidental music in 1842 for a
production of the play. THE WEDDING MARCH is
used in weddings to this day.
 Lunatics, lovers and poets (lots of moon imagery)
 Imagination and mind games--a celebration of the
imagination, weaving together three distinct groups
of people
 THE look of the Fairies
 The transformation of Bottom
 The Play-within-the-play
THE DREAM on stage
Elizabethan era
The public stage...records
show it was staged many
times...The posts of the Globe
provided hiding places...
Titania’s bower could be
staged in the discovery
space...Quince’s actors
rehearsed DS...Musicians
played in the gallery...Fairies
were likely played by young
boys...Scene changes were
suggested by dialogue
17th -19th centuries
Samuel Pepys wrote about THE
DREAM in his diary and
described the adaptations as
insipid and ridiculous.
In 1692, Henry Purcell wrote
music for an operatic version
called The Fairy Queen
Frederick Reynolds (1764-1841)
adapted many of the comedies for
extravagant spectacles at Covent
Garden from 1816-1828
David Garrick and George Colman, respected actormanagers, produced memorable productions in the
late 18th century, deleting the final scene.
The Germans
 In 1826, Mendelssohn (at age 17)
composed an overture for a
German production...He completed
a score including overture and
incidental music in 1843
 Ludwig Tieck, a scholar turned
theatre artist, used Mendelssohn’s
score in a famour 1843 production
which was so popular with
German audiences that it was
repeated 40 times its first season
From 1840 to World War II
Madame Vestris and Charles Matthews took over
Covent Garden in 1839. They restored the text and
began the Victorian vogue of having women play the
roles of Oberon and Puck
Princess Theatre - 1855
Charles Kean produced a memorable production at the
Princess Theatre in 1855 in response to a memorable
production by Samuel Phelps at Sadler’s Wells
New York - 1854
Two simultaneous productions were staged in NYC in
1854 that featured spectacle
In 1914, Harley Granville-Barker
staged a simplified production and
abandoned the practice of crossgender casting for Oberon and Puck
George Devine
staged a futuristic
“sci-fi” version at
Stratford-on-Avon in
Peter Hall - 1961
In 1961, Peter Hall set
the play in a Tudor
garden as it might have
been staged for a
wedding. It was the
basis for his film in
1968. The picture
shows the company for
the RSC assembled for
its first season in 1961.
Peter Brook
 Peter Brook’s Dream became the most influential
production of Shakespeare in the 20th century...it
remained in the RSC rep for 5 years.
Peter Brook
The production was
was lusty...it has been
described as equal parts
street carnival, Dionysian
rite and avant-garde
theatre...He double-cast the
roles of Theseus-Oberon;
Hippolyta-Titania; and
Guthrie Theatre - 1985
Famous 1985 production at the Guthrie Theatre
directed by Romanian Liviu Cilulei which emphasized
the brutal treatment of the women
Gorky Theatre - 1980
A 1980 production at the Gorky Theatre in East Berlin
showed Theseus, Oberon and Puck manipulating the
other characters as puppets suspended by enormous
National Theatre - 1992
A 1992 production at the National Theatre
was directed by Canadian Robert Lepage
which featured artists from Cirque du Soliel
Classic Stage Company, 2012
Shakespeare’s Globe 2013
Shakespeare’s Globe 2013
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The play is film friendly
Among the most filmed
of Shakespeare’s works...
several animated films and
a 1959 puppet version from
First live action film appeared in 1908 (above)
1925, the German director Hans Neumann
produced a 58 minute version
Film by Max Reinhart featuring a
Hollywood cast. It holds the
distinction of being the first fulllength commercially successful
production of the play on film.
Peter Hall directed a
film version of his
1961 RSCproduction
featuring a young
(and naked) Judi
Dench as Titania.
Judi Dench
In a celebrated production in
London’s Regent Park in the
summer of 2010, Judi Dench
played both Titania and Elizabeth I.
The 1968 Peter Hall film 
Director Elijah Moshinsky for BBC-TV series produced by
Jonathan Miller was darker than some and is a “mannered
reconstruction of famous paintings by European masters”
It featured RSC actors. Helen Mirren appeared as Titania, Nigel
Davenport was featured as Bottom. Robert Lindsay played
 American director James Lapine recorded a
production of the play in New York’s Central Park.
The cast included William Hurt and Jeffrey
DeMunn (Bottom)
Director Adrian
Noble, Guild Films
with RSC featuring
Alex Jennings,
Lindsay Duncan and
Desmond Barrit. It
was inspired by the
Brook version
Director Michael Hoffman set the play in Tuscany in
the late 19th century and featured bicycles and a
phonograph. The cast was largely American with
Kevin Kline as Bottom, Calista Flockhart as Helena,
Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania and Stanley Tucci as Puck.
Spin-offs and adaptations
The 1950 Broadway Musical BABES IN ARMS
A 1960 Benjamin Britten Opera
A 1966 Ballet by George Balanchine
Woody Allen film “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy”
Featured sub-plot in Robin Williams film vehicle
DEAD POET’S SOCIETY. Robert Sean Leonard
(below) plays a student
at a private school who
goes against his father’s
wishes to play PUCK
in a school production
of the play.
A DVD featuring the Beatles doing the
play-within-the-play as part of London’s
celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th
Lindsay Kemp Dance
A recent dance version of the play, directed by
Celestino Coronado has been filmed by the Lindsay
Kemp Company.
Kansas City Ballet - 2013

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