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Lecture 5 : "Midsummer Night's Dream" Part II

by: Miranda Browning

Lecture 5 : "Midsummer Night's Dream" Part II ENG 209

Marketplace > North Carolina State University > English > ENG 209 > Lecture 5 Midsummer Night s Dream Part II
Miranda Browning
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These notes will help in completing (1) Quiz: Midsummer Night's Dream, and (2) WSB#3
Intro to Shakespeare
William Shaw
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Miranda Browning on Thursday September 1, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ENG 209 at North Carolina State University taught by William Shaw in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 4 views. For similar materials see Intro to Shakespeare in English at North Carolina State University.


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Date Created: 09/01/16
Lecture 5: “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Part II Genre  The play is a romantic comedy, but it is often played in different ways, or tones: (1) The early way of performing MSND—which pointed to its enchantment and magic. All of it done in a very playful and lighthearted way. (2) Beginning in the late 60’s and especially with the production of Peter Brook, there is an examination of some of the darker elements. Such as the cruelty and treatment of women. Gave a different perspective, and forced us to look at the play as it exposed important themes that were not developed in the old tradition.  The tempo of the play is always quick- because the scenes are very short, with a constant turnover of characters and settings. Opening Lines- A Deeper Look into the Two Traditions  Dr. Shaw recites the first 19 or so lines of the play, in which three characters are on stage at this point.  Theseus and Hippolyta would come downstage speaking their lines and Philostrate would follow.  Notice frequent references to the moon—which point out this is an important image within the play.  Theseus is certainly excited and looking forward to the wedding. But, what about Hippolyta? Is she looking forward to it just as much as he is? If so, they would be reciting their excitement toward one another (often times how it is usually performed- in a happy manner).  Theseus: “I woo’d thee with my sword.” Is Hippolyta content with this statement, or resentful? She was a woman who was queen of the Amazon, with a strong will. So, is this now an instance where she is under control of Theseus and deemed his “prize.” If resentful, she could read this is a more resigned, deflated manner.  Staging: if you wanted to see this played out where Hippolyta is more resentful—there would be a visible distance between the two of them, showing they are not in the same line of through. If both were excited, they would instead be close to one another, Theseus with his arm around her. Women Within the Play  Hermia o Arrival of Egeus, “Full of vexation” over his child Hermia- who is under the will and power of her father. o And as she is his, he wants to dispose of her, by either marrying his choice of suitor or being sentenced to death. o Hermia is being therefore suppressed by her father’s will  Helena o Has been rejected by Demetrius- who made love to Helena and then abandoned her after his affections shifted to Hermia. o Another instance of women being treated badly by men  Titania o She will not surrender the Indian boy to Oberon and as a result he has decided to have his revenge on her. He puts the love potion in her eyes and makes her fall in love with the first thing she sees—which is Bottom, who has recently been transformed by Puck to a human being with as asses (donkey’s) head upon his shoulders.  Examples of three women who have been repressed/tormented within this patriarchal system. Good rationale for having Hippolyta seen as someone who is not entirely happy with her situation. Because each of these women have a serious grievance within the play, they are all happily reconciled with their men by the end of the play. Within the Text  Lysander and Demetrius are called forward by Egeus.  Lysander tells us that he is of the same class level, and of general appearance as Demetrius— and that Hermia loves him. So, why is Egeus loves and accepts Demetrius so much, that Demetrius go off and marry him.  However, the two have different attitudes towards the customs of the world they live in: o Demetrius is more conventional- such that he understands you have to seek the father’s blessing o Lysander is much more laid back and doesn’t necessarily see the importance of traditional conventions. He first woos the woman with love tokens (singing in moonlight, reading poetry, giving gifts).  Theseus is the Duke of Athens, who stands for law, order, and authority.  He tells us that your father should be looked at as a God—and to respect the wishes of Egeus.  We see Hermia arguing back and forth with Theseus over Lysander being an equally suitable suitor.  Theseus gives her the harsh reality of the law—to die, or go on living life as a nun (which he describes in an awful manner, perhaps even worse than death).  Lysander claims he is just as well derived and well possessed as Demetrius, and also brings up that point that Demetrius has once already abandoned a woman he swore his allegiance to (Helena).  Hippolyta is on stage while all of this takes place, but without any lines. If she is in fact happy with her relationship with Theseus, she would likely be agreeing and going along with what he has to say. On the other hand, if she is feeling oppressed by her own situation she may be identifying more with Hermia. Lysander, Hermia, Helena  The two are then left on stage alone.  Another instance of stichomythia- much like the “word game” between Petruchio & Kate in TOS. Conversation going back and forth where they are clearly responding to what the other said.  Recognizes that “the course of true never did run smooth.”  Lysander makes note of the age difference between the two, and the different classes each are from.  Many people believe that MSND was written in the same year as “Romeo and Juliet.” We see in this play a companion piece to R&J and that it is the comic counterpart to the tragic counterpart in R&J.  Love is irrational and possibly even lunacy—one of the ideas that Shakespeare picks up in this play.  The two make a plan to leave Athens—Hermia decides she will bolt out and head for the forest. In this way she asserts her own power and unwillingness to subscribe to this patriarchal system.  Then Helena arrives o She is unhappy as well—in a way different from Hermia; because she loves someone who loves someone else (Demetrius loves Hermia). So, she wishes she had the qualities of Hermia so that Demetrius would love her.  Hermia and Lysander say their goodbyes to Helena and head off into the forest  Helena delivers her soliloquy, which is important in a number of ways: o First, gives us a sense of her character. She is confused as to why she has been rejected by Demetrius and thus reflects on her own appearance. She recognizes that objectively she is the same as Hermia and there is nothing to distinguish between them. But the problem is, Demetrius thinks there is. o “Things base and vile, holding no quantity. Love can transpose to form and dignity. Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”  Love has a transposing effect—in other words, love, because it is irrational does not look at things rationally. So, the emotion and experience of love invests in a person and creates something that it objectively does not have.  If love looked with the eyes, it would be rational and see things as they are.  But since it looks with the mind, it invents the imagination, transforms, transfigures. It causes the change…and why? Because it wants to, it wants to be in love so it creates out of something base and vile something with form and dignity. o Helena is desperate to do anything to win over Demetrius’ love—with that, she prepares to go into the forest to follow Hermia and Lysander and tell Demetrius of Hermia’s flight.  Midsummer Night’s Dream is perhaps the most consciously poetic of all Shakespeare’s plays in which he experiences with a variety of poetic forms.  Dr. Shaw shows a scene from the play. From a Peter Hall production in 1968—the costumes are a little off-putting and distracting initially, but the acting is done so well and the lines are read in a proper manner. Within the Text  Becomes Puck’s task to organize everything within the chaos of the forest.  “All shall be well”—as they awaken, characters are now able to see things for that they are the illusions are dispelled.  Interesting, Demetrius is the only of the three men who had the potion placed in their eye. He is the only one whose life has been changed through the intervention of the fairies. His object of affection has been changed from Hermia to Helena, brought back to his original state before the play begins.  The four lovers express their feeling that they have just come back into a sense of reality, but mysteriously their lived have been transformed.  Interesting about Bottom: even though he is the least aware of any of them, he paradoxically seems the most aware. He seems to know that he’s had a dream but is willing to confess the transformative powers of dreams. Act 5  Bottom returns to Athens and meets up with his friends, and discovered that their play has been preferred. So, they are going to the palace to perform Pyramus & Fisbee before Theseus and Hippolyta.  Passage by Theseus points to some of the important polar distances of consciousness between Theseus and others, between the “world of reason” and the “world of imagination.” o He is a character portrayed to believe only in reason and common sense.  Talked about love in this play being irrational, something not guides by objective reality. So, it is the imagination that conjures up love. Thus, a way of illustrating the madness of love—and why? Because they have such “shaping fantasies.”  “The poet’s eye”—think about the way Theseus describes the poet’s imagination. The imagination perceives images that it absorbs, then begins the process of transforming these images/information, then the imagination takes the state from the outside world and filters into the mind of poet. o Shakespeare has bodied forth the forms of things unknown. His own imagination has brought forth the forms of the characters we see in MSND. Thus, he has given to these things that were airy nothings, a local habitation (through the text, the stage, the names/characters he has invented, etc.) all as a product of his own imagination. o So, we have a character, Theseus, who has been taken by the poet’s pen and is a product of Shakespeare’s imagination. Interestingly, he is talking about the fact that the imagination cannot be trusted. o Dreams affect our reality, because it gives our waking lives structure and meaning and filters out our deeper feelings, emotions, desires. o Hippolyta comes in and challenges Theseus. Such that, everything cannot be calculated and quantified and measured. So, there is an entire world of the unknown. As being somewhat suppressed in the beginning of the play, she explains now at the end of the play what reality really is—a much larger concept than Theseus’ limited view of the world, where reality incorporates our imagination and dreams. The Play Within the Play  Bottom, Peter Quince, and all the crew come out and perform their amateur production.  They are nonetheless being mocked by Theseus, Hippolyta, Lysander, & Demetrius.  Blocking on stage: o They are not going to be performing in the balcony or upstage, but more than likely they will be mounted on a platform on stage. o The other lovers (those mocking them) must be overheard by the audience. So, they would likely be right in front of the lifted platform watching the play within the play take place. But their comments and mocking’s still able to be heard by the larger audience. o While this theatrical performance is taking place, the lovers are laughing and mocking the performance. o But, looking at the larger plot—who has been laughing at the lovers? Oberon & Titania, the fairies: “Shall we their fond pageant see, lord what fools these mortals be.” o Dr. Shaw suggests having Oberon, Titania & Puck located in the balcony. So, you would have the analogy working of the lovers mocking Pyramus & Fisbee, the fairies at the same time mocking the lovers. o Shakespeare in his own way is blocking this final scene, so that all of us are included in this “human folly.” Such that even we as the audience, who are watching upon the cycle of mocking on stage, are thus being mocked as well.  Final notes: love has a sort of transformative power. But out of this chaos, “all shall be peace,” as Oberon would tell us.


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