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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Analysis
by

Thomas Elley

on 25 July 2011

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Transcript of A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream
By William Shakespeare

Context and characters
Plot and themes Why do we study Shakespeare? So there was this guy Shakespeare ... And he wrote this play called
'A Midsummer Night's Dream '... And there were these characters ... And the play was really about ... Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in all of English literature. We can learn to be better writers by studying the 'experts'.

You can think better about movies, books, and other art forms in the world when you have learned to analyse Shaespeare. Studying Shakespeare can be hard, so when you learn to do this well, imagine how good you will go when you have to study easy texts? Shakespeare wrote about broad and grand themes like romance, tragedy, truth, justice, and human nature. When you understand these themes, you will come to understand the millions of texts 'out there' as well as have an insight into the world itself. Shakespeare wrote about historical events, so studying Shakespeare is as much a history lesson as it is an English lesson. William Shakespeare Great writer ... ... bad hair cut. Shakespeare might have been born on the 23rd of April, 1564. Shakespeare might have been educated at the King's New School. Going to school meant that he learned about Latin grammar and the 'classics'. So what do we know about this dude they call 'the Bard'? Actually, not a lot ... He definitely married Anne Hathaway ... ... when he was 18 and she was 26, on the 27th of November, 1582. (Not this Anne Hathaway) He was probably part of the theatrical scene by 1592. He didn't just write, but he also acted. He wrote a bunch of plays before he died on the 23rd of April, 1616. One of these plays was 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. It was probably written between 1594 and 1596. It was performed at The Theatre and The Globe - THE place to put on a play. Since then, it's been performed regularly all the way to modern times. So there must be something good about it, right? Before we go through the play, we should put some faces to the characters that we're going to look at ... This is Theseus He is the Duke (like a king) of Athens He is about to marry Hippolyta This is Hippolyta She is the Queen of the Amazons She is about to marry Theseus This is Hermia She is in love with Lysander But she is meant to marry Demetrius Her father, Egeus, wants her to marry Demetrius This is Egeus He is Hermia's father He wants Hermia to marry Demetrius He doesn't like Lysander The guy on the left, he's Demetrius He starts the play in love with Hermia, and is to marry her But he ends up in love with Helena by the end of the play This is Helena She is in love with Demetrius But Demetrius rejected her for Hermia This is Lysander He is in love with Hermia But he's not allowed to marry her. It helps if we divide the characters into three groups ... Group one is the most complex, so follow closely ... Group two is easy to get. They are a group of tradesmen (workers) who travel around performing plays ... This is Bottom (Nick Bottom in the movie) He is a weaver (a guy who makes baskets) He plays Theseus in the play He thinks he is the greatest actor to ever exist This is Francis Flute He plays Thisby in the play (the guy who dresses up as a woman) And finally ... This is Philostrate He works for Theseus He organises the family's entertainment for the wedding Yes there are other people in the trademen's group But they aren't important yet You should think about them when you read the play though And the third and final group of characters are the magical ones ... This is Puck He works for Oberon He is crafty and mischievous sprite This is Oberon He is the King of the Fairies He is in love with Titania, the Fairy Queen But the Queen and King are fighting with each other because Titania and won't Oberon her 'Indian' child to be his knight This is Titania She is the Fairy Queen She won't give Oberon the 'Indian' child So Oberon is going to punish her So what is the play all about? We need to go through a summary FILL OUT YOUR SHEET AS WE GO Once upon a time, in ancient Athens ... There's only four days remain until the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. To prepare for the wedding, Theseus orders his master of revels,
Philostrate, to “Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments; / Awake the
pert and nimble spirit of mirth”. After Philostrate leaves to go about his task, one of the duke’s subjects, Egeus, arrives with a complaint about his headstrong daughter, Hermia. With him besides Hermia are two Athenian youths, Lysander and Demetrius. The duke then warns her that if she does not change her mind on this matter before the new moon, he will have no choice but to enforce the ancient law. Meanwhile ... When Bottom is told he will play Pyramus, a young man who kills himself after mistakenly thinking his beloved Thisby is dead, Bottom predicts he will be a hit who will win the audience’s sympathy. In the woods are fairies who have traveled from India to pronounce their blessing on the bed of Oberon and Titania. To avoid the scrutiny of curious eyes, the actors decide to rehearse in the woods on the morrow. Oberon and Titania argue violently over the boy, so violently that the forest elves take refuge in acorn cups. But Titania stands fast. In revenge, Oberon orders his fairy mischief-maker, Puck, to harvest a magical flower whose juice, when squeezed on the eyelids of Titania while she sleeps, will cause her to fall in love with the first creature she sees upon awakening, perhaps a monster. Puck says he will circle the earth and, within forty minutes, produce the flower. Puck zooms off and Oberon relishes in his dastardly scheme. After Lysander and Hermia escape, Demetrius wanders into fairy territory in search of Hermia, ignoring the lovestruck Helena who trails after him like a lapdog. Oberon, feeling sorry for Helena, orders Puck to squeeze the juice of the magic flower on the eyelids of Demetrius to make him fall in love with Helena. Oberon then ventures forth and squeezes flower juice on the eyelids of Titania, who is sleeping peacefully in a bed of violets and thyme. Puck, meanwhile, mistakenly squeezes flower juice on the eyelids of Lysander while he is sleeping with Hermia at his side. Upon awakening, Lysander’s gaze falls upon Helena, who is wandering in search of Demetrius. Lysander woos her. When she flees, he pursues her. After Hermia awakens and notices Lysander is gone, she wanders forth in search of him. As the tradesmen rehearse their play, they discuss having someone play
the moon in case it is overcast on the night of the play. And, because
the play calls for Pyramus and Thisby to talk through a chink in the
wall, Bottom suggests someone also be recruited to play the wall. When Puck happens by, he makes mischief by placing the head of an ass on Bottom’s shoulders. Upon seeing Bottom with his new top, the other actors flee in terror. Bewildered, Bottom thinks they are trying to scare him, so he strolls about singing a song to demonstrate his fearlessness. The song awakens Titania, and the flower juice makes her fall deeply in love with Bottom, whom she escorts away. Demetrius encounters Hermia, who accuses him of murdering Lysander. When she runs away, he lies down to sleep. Oberon, meanwhile, has discovered that Puck bewitched the eyes of the
wrong man, Lysander rather than Demetrius. So he puts flower juice on
the eyes of Demetrius while Puck fetches Helena. When she arrives,
pursued by Lysander, Demetrius falls in love with her. As both men compete for her attentions, she concludes that they are
only ridiculing her. Hermia, attracted to the scene by the noise,
blames Helena for stealing Lysander. The men go off to fight a duel. Helena, afraid of Hermia, flees;
Hermia pursues. Oberon assigns Puck to restore order. Using magic, he causes the four young people to fall asleep near one another, then applies the juice of another flower to Lysander’s eyes to undo the previous spell. Titania sleeps with Bottom. Oberon, having gained possession of the changeling boy, removes the enchantment from Titania’s eyes. At daybreak, Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and others enter the woods to hunt. Sounding horns, they awaken the four lovers. Egeus again demands that Hermia marry Demetrius. But Demetrius announces that he is interested only in Helena. Theseus, pleased with the outcome, sanctions the marriage of the two couples to coincide with his own marriage to Hippolyta. Theseus is amused by the activities of the lovers during their time in the forest. In the evening, during the wedding celebration, the craftsmen put on their play, with Snout playing Wall and Bottom playing Pyramus and enacting his grand suicide. Thisby (being played by Francis Flute), discovering Pyramus (Bottom) dead, then kills herself. Bottom gets back up and asks Theseus whether he would like hear an epilogue or see a dance. Theseus opts for a dance, then says it is time for bed. At midnight, the bridal couples retire to their chambers. Oberon and
Titania dance and sing as they bless the blissful sleepers while Puck
bids good night to the audience. ... which is in Greece Egeus has commanded his daughter to marry Demetrius But she has vowed instead to marry Lysander. Egeus now wants Hermia to swear before the duke that she will marry Demetrius or suffer the penalty of an ancient law decreeing that a disobedient daughter shall either be put to death or banished as a priestess (like a nun). After hearing the full complaint, Duke Theseus reminds Hermia of her duty to obey her father. Hermia and Lysander decide they will run away to the woods the following night, and Hermia confides the plan to her friend Helena. Bad move. Helena is a blabbermouth who loves the man Hermia rejected, Demetrius. To get in his good books, she informs him of Hermia’s plan. The tradesmen group, in Athens, plan to put on a play as part of the festivities celebrating the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Among them are Bottom, a weaver; Snout; a tinker; Snug, a joiner; Quince, a carpenter; and Flute, a bellows-mender. Their play is to be called 'The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisby'. The workmen know nothing of the theatre ... ... but they think they are great actors. Meanwhile ... But all is not well with the fairy people ... The queen of the fairies, Titania, will not give her husband, King Oberon, a changeling boy he wants as a page.
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