A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Theatre Companies in the 17th century each company had a patron, all actors were men, typically 12-14
Lord Chamberlain’s Men 1594 – Shakespeare became a full time member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men
17th century audience 2500-3000 people
Written 1595-1596
Published in Folio 1623
AMND described as a play without a source
Sources of AMND North’s translation of Plutarch’s life of Theseus, Theseus and the Minotaur myth, Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Pyramus and Thisbe, King Midas
Sources Reference Theseus’ Shadows in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Peter Holland
Quote Peter Holland – forest Implication that the forest…is a world freed from conventional social patterns of sexual and gender restraint in contrast to the forest’s normal identification with the chaste world of Diana and hunting
Quote Peter Holland – maze The journey through the wood in AMND leads the lovers through a maze and then out again…they are made to take false paths…until the true pattern can be found and reinforced…gives the audience a superior and secure perspective
Quote Peter Holland – theseus and the minotaur the only half man half animal the play can offer at the centre of the maze is half-ass, not half-bull: Bottom
Ovid’s Metamorphoses magical transformations
King Midas grows ears of a donkey
Apuleis – The Golden Ass accidentally transformed into an ass while trying to perfect a spell
Minotaur symbolism repeatedly defined as an emblem of lust
Carnivalesque examples in AMND athenian tradesmen, grotesque union of titania and bottom and concluding performance of pyramus and thisbe
carnivalesque in AMND temporary inversion of social, gendered, bodily, sexual and even generic norms = both liberate and yolk together unlikely pairs in this play but the effect is fleeting and all work to a more socially acceptable normative conclusion in the form of heterosexual comic union and marriage
traditional comic pattern movement of conflict into harmony
May time time of sexual liberation
C.L. Barber – holiday The holiday occasion was a time to abandon the control of the city and civil order and enter the realm of nature.
C.L. Barber – woods The woods are a place of change, fluidity, misrule and power of a different order entirely
Puck main instrument of sexual union between lovers, only character not to be paired off – does not change himself but is the agent of all sexual change and energy
Shakespeare’s combo of folk and fairytale appropriated the cult of Queen Elizabeth 1st
Queen Elizabeth 1st – reign 1558-1603
Queen Elizabeth 1st famous for her chastity = virgin queen, suggested to have been present at one of first performances of amnd
Queen Elizabeth 1st – iconography Astrea – virgin goddess, virgin Mary, Cynthia/phoebe – moon goddess, Diana – hunting/chastity goddess
Macrobius – 5th century – book about interpretation of dreams predictive dreams, non-predictive dreams and enigmatic dreams
Predictive dreams prophetic = visio or revelatory = oraculum
Non-predictive dreams apparitions = visum and nightmares = insomnium
Enigmatic dreams somnium – ‘conceals with strange shapes and veils with ambiguity the true meaning of the information being offered’
Fairy verse structure catalectic trochaic tetrameter – suggestive of their diminutive size
Most of play verse structure blank verse = regular iambic pentameter – humans, usually reserved for higher characters
Lovers speaking passionately about love – verse structure = rhymed verse and couplets
Mechanicals/athenian tradesman verse structure prose
Bottom as Pyramus verse structure adopts idiom and style of higher characters = iambic pentameter, but turns it into ballad meter – shakespeare mocking translations of the period
Doubling – Shakespeare often had an actor playing more than one role to enables him to intensify the atmosphere of his plays and make connections/contrasts between scenes/storylines
Doubling – AMND Athenian court of Theseus and Hippolyta doubled as Oberon and Titania, Philostrate doubled with Puck, faires doubled with tradesmen
doubling = modern ideas about dreams fairy world = unconscious of athens where the repressed anger of theseus’ domination over Hippolyta breaks out into a quarrel between Oberon and Titania and where stifling patriarchy (Egeus) swept aside for sexual freedom
doubling = dark side of romantic desire dark side of romantic desire is revealed to be disturbingly carnal = dream scape of woods, lovers swapping, coupling of titania and bottom
Jan Knott – marriages The tragic outcome of these performed lovers hint at the darker associations of sex and death, the unacknowledged or suppressed dream unconscious of romantic comedy
locus back of stage where higher characters are
platea part of the stage close to audience – power struggle
Jacques Derrida theory of deconstruction – western philosophers have thought in oppositional pairs (binary opposites) e.g. positive vs negative, mind vs body, masculine vs feminine
Theory of Deconstruction 1. identify hierarchical ranking of binary opp 2. reverse 3. destabilise and displace e.g. man women = gender itself = deconstructed – 1st element already contains qualities associated with 2nd/neither has a fixed meaning
AMND – binary opps/theory of deconstruction trying to force hermia into marrying demetrius in city, faries have similar way of executing these ideas by forcing demetrius to fall in love with helena and bottom blurs lines