36. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. 309 p. Published by Arden Shakespeare in 1979.
I am reading this as part of A Midsummer Night’s Challenge.
I will admit, I skipped the majority of this book in an effort to read only A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first half was an in depth analysis of the classic work and a latter part focuses on the sources Shakespeare may have used to compose the play.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play set in ancient Athens. The plot involves three separate batches of characters whose circumstances bring them together.
The initial scene involves Theseus, Duke of Athens, as he prepares for his marriage to Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. While holding court, Theseus is approached by Egeus, the father of Hermia. Egeus has promised his daughter to Demetrius, but Hermia protests, claiming she loves Lysander. Lysander argues on his behalf that marriage to him would be just as beneficial, and that Demetrius is stringing along Helena, Hermia’s lifelong friend. Theseus holds by Athenian law, ruling that Hermia, as property of Egeus, must either marry Demetrius, swear herself to a nunnery, or die. Lysander and Hermia, unable to accept this ruling, conspire to run away together, swearing to meet in a glade outside Athens.
In the second scene, we meet a troupe of part-time actors. These men, tradesmen of Athens, seek to conduct a play in celebration of Thesues’s wedding. They decide to act out a tragic romance, and each person takes their part to study, agreeing to meet later on.
Out third scene unveils Oberon, King of the Fairies. He is attended by his jester and lieutenant Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow. Oberon is angry with Titiana, his wife, for she has denied him one of her attendants, a young changeling boy from India. Seeking to teach Titiana a lesson, Oberon sends Puck to collect a rare flower touched by Cupid’s arrow. When this flower’s juice is placed on the eyes, that person falls madly in love with the first person they see.
While Puck is away, Oberon spies upon Demetrius and Helena. Helena, in a desperate attempt to gain his favor, has told Demetrius of Hermia and Lysander’s plan. Demetrius and Helena go traipsing through the woods, and Oberon is swayed by Helena’s plight in this one-sided romance. Upon Puck’s return, Oberon charges him with taking some of the flower’s dew and placing it on Demetrius, so that he may love Helena. Oberon himself then enchants Titiana’s eyes as she sleeps. Puck, however, mistakenly enchants Lysander, turning his heart from Hermia to Helena.
Thinking his job well done, Puck finds the troupe of actors, and selects Nick Bottom, a weaver, to fulfill Oberon’s plan. He turns the actor into a beast, giving Bottom the head of a donkey. As Titiana awakens, she falls in love with the transfigured man, much to the glee of Oberon and Puck.
The remainder of the play focuses on the ensuing drama and how each situation is resolved. While not Shakespeare’s greatest work, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is memorable for his depiction of faerie and humorous reflection, via Bottom, on the nature of man. But more than anything, rereading this Shakespearean classic reminded me just how much his plays work one’s vocabulary.
Rating: 4 out of 5