I am glad I own a copy of Shakespeare’s works in which I don’t mind penciling in thoughts and opinions in the column! I find it easy to refer back to these notes.
A quick summary of the latter three acts reminds us of the pompous Bottom’s head being turned into the head of an ass; of Titania’s succumbing to the power of the cupid-struck flower and falling in love with Bottom; of the confusion brought about by Puck’s mistake where the young pairs of lovers are concerned, and the eventual righting up of all mistakes/wrongs by Oberon, the fairy king, once he gets his Indian boy.
I would like to begin with my thoughts on the whole Oberon-Titania affair. In his dealings with the young lovers, Oberon comes across as a compassionate fairy. But what he does to Titania is quite miserable. The fact that he pities Titania towards the end of his prank is quite completely cancelled out, in my opinion, by his having acquired her Indian boy anyway. I find the dynamics between them rather off; even as I do the dynamics between Theseus and Hyppolyta. If I hadn’t known that Hyppolyta was an Amazon princess, I would never have realised that she was a warrior from all that takes place in the play. She could so easily have been an older version of a very complying Helena. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because she really never seems to posses an opinion save for some quite useless remark on our giftless actors in the play at the end of this play. Titania too, seems to submit quite tamely to Oberon’s ‘conquest’. I’m not sure that this really says anything about Shakespeare’s opinion about women. I have heard/read that Shakespeare was a writer who knew how to portray his women as the real thing(s). Having read The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth I suspect that ‘perhaps’ it is true. But, I’m beginning to wonder if I should reserve that opinion until I re-read these plays, for in A Midsummer Night’s Dream the women come out as being completely tame and submissive toward their men, and quite catty towards their own sex.
Consider Hermia. She seems quite the fire-cat when Lysander starts abusing her and proclaiming that he is in love with Helena. She is all geared to tear Helena’s eyes out. But come morning, everything is as a dream, and all is forgotten quite easily by these two women toward their swain. And talking of the swain, does it disturb any of you that Demetrius is still in love with Helena only because of the love dew? It makes me feel quite uneasy, and sorry for Helena. It’s disturbing, isn’t it, when love is forced and not a choice?
At this point someone could stop me and tell me that I was quite missing the point with Shakespeare, and did I enjoy his poetry? Hmmm… I can’t say I enjoyed it all of the time. In fact, I found a few parts just a bit tedious to read…especially the quarrel between the young men over Helena. However, it struck me how the ‘speech’ of the fairies were so different from that of the nobility, not to mention the rather obvious difference between these two sets and the poor actors’ guild. There is something so light and tripping about Puck’s speeches, don’t you think?
And what did you guys think of the last scene in the play? I felt quite sorry for Quince & Co. …but it was also so very amusing. I think it was the place where I chuckled the most. I have to admit that the remarks by Theseus, Demetrius and Lysander annoyed me. But I had to try and imagine the scene as it would be played and couldn’t help thinking of a bunch of friends and me going to the cinema and having fun critiquing what we would consider a silly movie; and at the end of it all coming out having had more fun at the movie’s expense because of the opportunity to make fun of something ridiculous. Still, I liked their (Quince & Co’s) play… especially the part of Wall! Lol! I can imagine the Elizabethan spectators rolling off their chairs or on the ground, clutching their sides and laughing hysterically at this comedy (tragedy!) of Pyramus and Thisby.
In these final acts I recognised only one other sentence that is quite well-known today –
Lord, what fools these mortals be! (Act III, Sc II)
Did any of you recognise any other phrase/sentence that is commonly known today, though might not be understood to be from Shakespeare?
I also spotted a verse that seemed to describe the title of this play so aptly!
And think no more of this night’s accidentsBut as the fierce vexation of a dream. (Act IV Sc I lines 68-70)
And just another quote that struck me…I believe it is quite a famous/oft quoted Shakespearean passage:
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,Such shaping fantasies, that apprehendMore than cool reason ever comprehends.The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,Are of imagination all compact:One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;That is the madman: the lover, all as frantic,Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt;The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;And, as imagination bodies forthThe forms of things unknown, the poet’s penTurns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothingA local habitation and a name.Such tricks hath strong imaginationThat, if it would but apprenhend some joy,It comprehends some bringer of that joy:Or in the night, imagining some fear,How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear?
So now, I open the floor to you guys.
- What is your opinion of Oberon’s prank and that of Puck’s?
- Do you think Demetrius is still under the influence of the love dew when he wakes up in the morning and is still in love with Helena? What is your opinion about this?
- What do you think of the portrayal of the women characters in general?
- Do you have a favourite character in this play? If so, who and why?
- Which is your favourite part of this play? Why?
- Do you have any favourite quotes you’d like to share?
- Anything else that the above questions and my post have not considered?