EBOOK, 126 P. 1600 SOURCE: PUBLIC DOMAIN
Shakespeare’s intertwined love polygons begin to get complicated from the start–Demetrius and Lysander both want Hermia but she only has eyes for Lysander. Bad news is, Hermia’s father wants Demetrius for a son-in-law. On the outside is Helena, whose unreturned love burns hot for Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander plan to flee from the city under cover of darkness but are pursued by an enraged Demetrius (who is himself pursued by an enraptured Helena). In the forest, unbeknownst to the mortals, Oberon and Titania (King and Queen of the faeries) are having a spat over a servant boy. The plot twists up when Oberon’s head mischief-maker, Puck, runs loose with a flower which causes people to fall in love with the first thing they see upon waking. Throw in a group of labourers preparing a play for the Duke’s wedding (one of whom is given a donkey’s head and Titania for a lover by Puck) and the complications become fantastically funny.
I think I first saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage at the age of ten and ever since then it has been one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Over the years I’ve seen a few productions, but before this month, I’d never actually read the original play itself. After I finished reading the latest book in the Shakespeare’s Star Wars series earlier this month, I craved for more wit and wisdom from the Bard and thus decided to pick up this classic.
The story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set in Athens where a young couple, Hermia and Lysander, decides to run away because they are expected to marry other people. Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius instead of Lysander, and her friend Helena is madly in love with Lysander. Thus, when Helena finds out that the young lovers plan on fleeing, she allerts Demetrius and together they follow the couple into the mystical forest outside of the city. However, in the forest Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of fairies, are feuding. Oberon plans to win the argument with the help of a potion that will make the person fall madly in love with the first thing that they lay their eyes on. Puck, however, ends up mistaking two people together and love changes course as she who was once loved is now scorned and vice versa. At the same time a group of workers is rehearsing for a play to be performed in the Duke’s wedding, with little no knowledge of acting.
Reading Shakespeare can at the same time be very rewarding and very frustrating. At least for me, I almost never get the full gist of the play until after I’ve read it or upon re-reading. However, that also makes every reading experience fun, because there are always new things to discover and to focus your attention to. Although I remembered the plot of the play very clearly and knew some of the quotes by heart, the experience of reading the play still felt new and fresh to me. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s fantastical comedies, but more than just being a funny love polygon, it also deals with identity and the balance of rationality and irrationality. There are some laugh out loud moments but also moments that make you ponder on the modernity of the play in some ways.
As I mentioned earlier, I’d only seen the play performed before and thus reading the play revealed some things that I either hadn’t noticed or had been cut in the production. I also noticed that the final scene depicting the worker’s play, which was horrible and absolutely hilarious at the same time, was often either cut or shortened in productions that I’ve seen. In terms of a dramatic structure it is perhaps not what you want to end with, but in terms of hilarity, it is superb – a play within a play. I cannot review A Midsummer Night’s Dream objectively in any case, but if you haven’t yet read this Shakespearean comedy, I’d highly recommend that you do so immediately.
Through the forest have I gone.
But Athenian found I none,
On whose eyes I might approve
This flower’s force in stirring love.
Night and silence.