A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Throughout Time and Shakespeare in September: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
How Obtained: free kindle version, also available online

I discovered through this project that I have a few friends who are keen to watch Shakespeare movies with me. One I already knew often reads Shakespeare. So imagine my surprise that my friends had neither read nor seen A Midsummer Night’s dream! I haven’t yet read/seen all of Shakespeare’s plays, but I have seen several versions of this- a friend’s highschool play, a Korean physical theatre version, and two movie versions at least. I would have thought it one of the top 5 most well known plays…

It was fun though to see them discover and delight in the characters, twists and turns and craziness. Who doesn’t like elves and fairies, love triangles, magical pranksters, and a happy ending for all?

 The course of true love never did run smooth.

 

There are many couple in this play:
-Theseus the duke of Athens is about to marry his fiance Hippolyta, which is the catalyst for the bumbling Bottom and other local townsfolk to try their hand at acting
-Oberon and Titania, the fairy King and Queen who are at odds with each other over a young Indian boy the queen is looking after, that the king  is jealous of and wants to take.
-Hermia and Lysander, true loves who are forbidden to marry because Helena’s father wants her to marry Demetrius, and chooses to exact an ancient Athenian law- her death if she doesn’t marry the man she chooses
-Helena however is still in love with Demetrius, who used to love her before he met Hermia

When we discover the obstacle in the way of Hermia and Lysander- the threat of death or life in a nunnery if she doesn’t marry a man she doesn’t love and forsake her true love- it seems that they are to be the main characters. But I find that Helena steals the show. She is endearing and pitiful in her unrequited love, and at times I seriously question her sanity- she is literally crazy in love! But at the same time I just love her- her steely heart (unchanging love), her description of what it is like to be in love, of how she sees Demetrius and of that intense place of both pleasure and pain when she is with him. Although she doesn’t have a way of expressing it in the patriarchal system she lives in, she has a strength- she would happily duel  and fight for her love.

My Quote of the week is the entire conversation between Demetrius and Helena, when she follows him into the forest, which shows all of those things:

DEMETRIUS
Do I entice you? do I speak you fair?
Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth
Tell you, I do not, nor I cannot love you?

HELENA
And even for that do I love you the more.
I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you:
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
What worser place can I beg in your love,–
And yet a place of high respect with me,–
Than to be used as you use your dog?

DEMETRIUS
Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit;
For I am sick when I do look on thee.

HELENA
And I am sick when I look not on you.

DEMETRIUS
You do impeach your modesty too much,
To leave the city and commit yourself
Into the hands of one that loves you not;
To trust the opportunity of night
And the ill counsel of a desert place
With the rich worth of your virginity.

HELENA
Your virtue is my privilege: for that
It is not night when I do see your face,
Therefore I think I am not in the night;
Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company,
For you in my respect are all the world:
Then how can it be said I am alone,
When all the world is here to look on me?

DEMETRIUS
I’ll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,
And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.

HELENA
The wildest hath not such a heart as you.
Run when you will, the story shall be changed:
Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase;
The dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind
Makes speed to catch the tiger; bootless speed,
When cowardice pursues and valour flies.

DEMETRIUS
I will not stay thy questions; let me go:
Or, if thou follow me, do not believe
But I shall do thee mischief in the wood.

HELENA
Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field,
You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius!
Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex:
We cannot fight for love, as men may do;
We should be wood and were not made to woo.

Exit DEMETRIUS
I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of hell,
To die upon the hand I love so well.

 

And then with the help of Puck, things get even more complicated, and she believes all her friends are playing a cruel trick on her. And she has had enough. The next scene of her yelling and fighting solidifies her as one of my favourite characters. She is just so fun to watch.

And that probably is a summary of the whole play- it is just good plan fun. Puck may feel the need to apologise for any offence that may have been caused, but in my mind there is nothing to apologise for.

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