A Midsummer Night’s Dream

William Shakespeare 1593(?)-1595, possibly wrote AMND for a private performance at a wedding in the same decade he wrote Romeo and Juliet
Athens Greek city where the conflict is introduced, ruled by Theseus, everything is fixed, associated with daylight and sanity
the woods outside of Athens, ruled by Oberon, flexible (not bound by law and order), nature, associated with nighttime and dreams
Theseus law and order, justice (can’t change the law for anyone), doesn’t trust imagination (fitting for his position but still restricting), realist, snobby (wants to see the play because he doesn’t like the other options and is intrigued – willing to let the artisans make fools of themselves)
Oberon fairy, whimsical rule (does what he wants when he wants), rash and impulsive
fairies never meant to be safe, mean, meddle in human matters, have human problems but believe themselves to be superior
Midsummer’s Day June 24th, holiday traditionally celebrated with pagan fertility rites, Christianized in Great Britain (associated with John the Baptist)
Midsummer’s Eve June 23rd, pagan fertility rites
“midsummer madness” temporary insanity associated with Midsummer’s Eve/Day, possibly due to heat stroke or dehydration
May Day May 1st, associated with pagan rites, Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding day
Hippolyta Theseus’ fiancee, warrior queen of the Amazons, fell in love with Theseus while he was at war with her people, compassionate (didn’t want to watch the artisans make fools of themselves, sympathizes with Hermia), intelligent/ imaginative (thought the four young Athenians’ stories were to similar to just be dreams)
Titania queen of the fairies, wife of Oberon, refused to give Oberon the Indian changeling child (mother worshiped her but died in childbirth), enchanted by Oberon with the love-in-idleness flower, falls in “love” with Bottom
Egeus Hermia’s father, wants Hermia to marry Demetrius even though she is in love with Lysander, goes to Theseus to ask to kill Hermia for going against his will
Hermia dark haired, in love with Lysander, best friends with Helena, Athens: reasonable and level headed, woods: takes on qualities of Helena (spurned lover, seeks physical fight, angry)
Lysander in love with Hermia, suggests running away to his widowed aunt to marry, enchanted by Puck with the love-in-idleness flower by mistake, Athens: faithful, woods: takes on qualities of Demetrius (hateful toward past lover Hermia, seeks physical fight, cheating)
Helena light haired, daughter of Nedar, in unrequited love with Demetrius (spiteful and cruel toward her), put self-image in Demetrius’ opinion of her (no self-confidence or respect – wants to be treated like he treats his dog/die by his hand), pitied by Oberon (leads him to interfere), thinks the other three Athenians are playing a cruel joke on her in the woods
Demetrius fickle lover, seeks marriage to Hermia after breaking off recent engagement to Helena, blunt, rude, threatening (threatens he may rape Helena in the woods should she not leave him), enchanted by Oberon with the love-in-idleness flower so that he may fall in love with Helena (Oberon’s original goal)
Puck Oberon’s right-hand-man (Robin Goodfellow), mischievous, shape shifter, enjoys meddling with humans, accidentally enchants Lysander instead of Demetrius (amused by the situation), enchants Bottom to have the head of a donkey, successfully breaks the fourth wall in his closing speech (“If we shadows have offended/ Think but this, and all is mended/ That you have but slumbered here…”)
Bottom weaver, arrogant/prideful, dim-witted, cast as Pyramus in the artisans’ play, enchanted by Puck to have the head of a donkey (oblivious to physical change), subject of Titania’s “love” after she is enchanted, isn’t used to being served (class difference) but feels he deserves it (doesn’t want to question it)
title of artisans’ play “the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe”
artisans Peter Quince (carpenter/leader), Nick Bottom (weaver/Pyramus), Francis Flute (bellows-mender/Thisby), Robin Starveling (tailor/moon), Tom Snout (tinker/wall), and Sung (joiner/lion)
Oberon and Titania’s argument began over the changeling child, real issue is Titania’s defiance of Oberon’s power/control (to have his wife defy him is humiliating)
effects of Oberon and Titania’s argument floods, contagion, crops rot, altered seasons (strong influence over the natural world)
couples Oberon/Titania: married and testedTheseus/Hippolyta: unmarried but testedLysander/Hermia: unmarried and untested
love-in-idleness created when Cupid’s arrow hit a flower, causes infatuation (temporary “love” without reason) with the next living thing seen by one whose eyes have been enchanted
blurring of personality Lysander: faithful in Athens, unfaithful in the woodsDemetrius: unfaithful in Athens, faithful in the woodsHermia: loved in Athens, spurned in the woodsHelena: spurned in Athens, loved in the woods
Hermia’s dream a serpent was eating her heart and Lysander was standing there laughing (symbolic of Lysander causing her heartbreak)
Helena and Hermia’s argument Helena: thinks Hermia is in on the jokeHermia: thinks Helena has won over Lysander to show her how she felt in Athens
Titania’s fairies Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed
Philostrate master of the revels, warns Theseus that the artisans’ play is terrible
“Am I not Hermia? Are you not Lysander?” Who are you?, questioning blurred identities
process of love-in-idleness Oberon sends Puck for the flower, Oberon sends Puck to enchant Demetrius while he enchants Titania, Puck enchants Bottom to have a donkey’s head, Titania becomes infatuated with Bottom, Lysander becomes infatuated with Helena, Oberon discovers Puck’s mistake, Oberon sends Puck to get Helena while he enchants Demetrius, Demetrius becomes infatuated with Hermia, Oberon orders Puck to keep Lysander and Demetrius apart while he gets the antidote, Oberon un-enchants Lysander but not Demetrius, orders Puck to un-enchant Bottom, Oberon un-enchants Titania after getting the changeling child from her
Oberon leaving Demetrius enchanted unfair to Demetrius (taking away his free will), intends to make Helena happy, lessens quality of love (not true/real)
theme theater: an illusion the audience willingly participates indream: and illusion the dreamer participates in unintentionallyimagination is as necessary for the theater as it is for a dream
Bottom’s ideas prologue explaining no one is actually killed in the play, leave a window open to simulate moonlight and have a man simulate moonshine, have a man with loam/plaster/roughcast simulate the wall and hold his fingers for a chink in the wall, speech for the lion to comfort the women
artisans’ mistake destroy the illusion of the play, break the fourth wall unsuccessfully
Oberon as a winner gracious, doesn’t brag, stops when he has gotten what he desires, pities her (reduced to a fool), really loves her
Titania’s reaction thinks it was a dream (may not even remember giving Oberon the child – painless), may have accepted Oberon’s superiority
Theseus and Hippolyta’s trip to the woods hunting trip, listen to Theseus’ hounds (Spartan)
Hermia and Lysander’s reaction to the play within the play Act I: story is to similar to their ownAct V: happy ending for them
time between supper and bedtime according to Theseus fairy time (described as menacing by Puck – dead rising)
fairy blessing healthy children (fertility rites of Midsummer’s Day)
nobles disrespectful/arrogant behavior for a theater, used to the best, snobbery
ending Shakespeare asserts the fairies existence/power, Puck: the play is over and if you didn’t like it then dismiss it as a dream
shadows can refer to actors, have no substance/reality/identity, characters in the play aren’t real and have no substance, play is about theater not the characters