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Transcript of A Midsummer
Comedy: "foolishness, the triumph of love and youth, magic, poetry, laughter...an ironic awareness that the joys attained are necessarily costly, anxiety about the evanescence of the theatrical fantasy, and recognition that the world to which we must return is not so pretty."
thematic subjects: the imagination, love, reason, the theater and performance more generally, reality, gender difference, oppositional difference and the mirror image
How might the playlet offer a comment on the relationships in the audience (I) and between the audience and players (II)?
What did you get out of Russ McDonald's Introduction?
literary influences: Chaucer, Ovid
literariness: allusion, range of text: blank verse, rhymed verse, meter, song, spell, prose, alliteration and assonance (aural effects)
I.1. Who's who and what happens?
Theseus and Hippolyta (lines 1-11): What's their story?
Hippolyta's silence: 12+
What similarities do you notice among the opening lines of Shakespeare's plays so far?
How might it inflect images of love and marriage that follow? What are Hermia's options? What were Hippolyta's?
I.2. Read: foolishness, laughter, gender difference, reflexivity
What notions of man and woman play out here?
What notions of theater and performance play out here?
What comments on I.1 might we get in I.2.?
II.1 Who's who and what happens?
The arguments: how might they
parallel and sharpen the
material of I.1.?
--Oberon & Titania 60-137
What do we learn about Theseus?
Why is Titania so attached to the boy?
How does this scene expand the concept of love?
Helena and Hermia I.2.214-220
--Back to Theseus and the queen of the Amazons
--Back to the question of the text's representation of love.
to Queen E. What do we do with it?
II.2 What happens?
Story of Philomela (lines 9-19): How does it inflect the action? With what tone? What concerns?
What does love look
like so far? lines 17, 59, 132-149
III.1 Bottom's character: What kind of bloke is he?
Consider Puck's "translation" of Bottom (72-123):
1) How might Bottom be a text that Puck has translated into another language?
2) View clip of George Balanchine's ballet and compare it with the original text. What's different?
2) How is the ballet true to the spirit of the text?
What do you make of Titania's final lines?
2) connect with larger thematic issues
Arguably, Bottom is not the only ass in the play.
* What human condition or propensities does the metaphor, "ass," convey?
Collaborative quiz: In groups of 4-6 students, craft one comprehension question and one instructive line question. When ready, put your questions on the board.
For the instructive line question, choose a short passage from Act IV in which you see the character's character exemplified.
The prompt for the instructive line question should read: Act __, scene __, lines __ exemplify what quality in the speaker? Where else do we see this character acting according to that quality?
Instability of self-knowledge
IV.1.22 ("I must to the barber's")
Who else besides Bottom might not know himself all that well? III.1.122
Questionable tactics by which power establishes itself IV.1.45-62 (Oberon takes the boy)
Who else besides Oberon uses manipulation and coercion to get his way?
What do Theseus and Hippolyta discuss at the opening of Act V.1? How does this late conversation compare with their earlier conversations? (IV.102-126; I.1)
How might the play within the play, "the very tragical mirth" of Pyramus and Thisby function to offer a critical reading of the relationships within the audience?
*What characters besides Pyramus and Thisby whisper through chinks in walls to one another?
*Of what do these walls consist?
*When we attempt to meet face-to-face, for real, from the platforms of who we really are, do we risk our lives? How?
Are we all players? Are we all fools? Are we all capable of greatness?
What is the textual evidence?
What textual evidence is there
for such a reading?
How might the play-within-
play offer a critique of relationships between the audience(s) and the players?
View clip of Hoffman's Midsummer.
How might Bottom's line, "I am a man as other men are" (40), inform Hoffman's treatment of his character?
Contestatory relations between man and woman IV.1.102-126
(Theseus and Hippolyta discuss hound dogs)
Titania's docile awakening
Demetrius's continued slumber
"How shall we find the concord of this discord?" (V.1.60).
Film clip: What thematic concerns does this film pluck from the play and emphasize?
1. List as many of the play's scenarios of discord as possible. Keep notes.
Workshop: Instructive line
2. How does the play translate (echoing Quince) its discord into concord? Choose two scenarios. Is the translation persuasive? Why or why not?
3. How might we revise the text and, refusing the conventions of genre, allow tragedy to infiltrate the comedy?
3a. Choose one scenario of discord.
3b. Letting the text set the terms of what's real and possible (fairies exist, pansy juice is a perfectly effective love spell), treat that discord realistically and let it develop.
3c. Sketch out a change of story.
Objective 1: to practice using a carefully selected line to instruct us in the questions, problems, or concerns that occupy a text.
Objective 2: to delineate the limits of comedy, to explore the comedy's tragic possibilities, and to scrutinize characterization in terms of what particular characters would "really" do.
Katherine Millersdaughter, PhD
What other thematic subjects present themselves?
What does love look like?
What does self-knowledge look like in the experience of love?
In groups of 5, find those moments in the play when another character behaves like an ass. Find at least two others.
Bottom's wish to be everyone
So Bottom becomes what? A metaphor? A foil? A scapegoat?
Is he at all redeemed or esteemed by the text?
Discord --> Concord
"tragical mirth": the tragedy lies in the story, the comedy in its performance
Choice of plays: the tragic storyline flouts the terms of nuptial celebration BUT mirrors Hippolyta's state of lost options and lost love ("Beshrew my heart ...), suggesting that what "ammends" a poor performance of a good story is not simply the imagination but empathy.
Tragic sketch: I can imagine an outcome in which Theseus does not compliment the players but derides them, shaming them off the stage.