A Mid Summer Nights Dream Study package: The play and its background A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play William Shakespeare never published any of his plays and therefore none of the original manuscripts have survived. Eighteen unauthorised versions of his plays were, however, published during his lifetime in quarto editions by unscrupulous publishers (there were no copyright laws protectingShakespeare and his works during the Elizabethan era). A collection of his works did not appear until 1623 ( a full seven years after Shakespeare's death on April 23, 1616) when two of his fellow actors, John Hemminges and Henry Condell, posthumously recorded his work and published 36 of William’s plays in the First Folio. Some dates are therefore approximate other dates are substantiated byhistorical events, records of performances and the dates plays appeared in print. History of A Midsummer Night's Dream Unlike many of his other plays it does not include any historical figures. The feast of John the Baptist was celebrated as an English festival on June 24 (Midsummer Day) It was believed that on Midsummer Night that the fairies and witches held their festival. To dream about MidsummerNight was to conjure up images of fairies and witches and other similar creatures and supernatural events. William Shakespeare's Main Source for A Midsummer Night's Dream All characters and plot are purely fictitious but Shakespeare may have based parts of the play on The Knight's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340 - 1400) Date first performed It is believed that A Midsummer Night's was first performedbetween 1595 and 1596. In the Elizabethan era there was a huge demand for new entertainment and A Midsummer Night's Dream would have been produced immediately following the completion of the play. Date first printed It is believed that the script was first printed in 1600. As William Shakespeare clearly did not want his work published details of the play would have therefore been noted, and oftenpirated without his consent, following a performance. The setting for A Midsummer Night's Dream The setting for the drama is Athens in Greece
Understanding A Midsummer Night’s Dream A Midsummer Night's Dream is the most original and varied of Shakespeare's early comedies. In structure it is rather like a layered cake, each layer seemingly separate, but all contributing to the overall flavour.The subjects covered in the following pages include:
• • • • •
The top layer: Oberon, Titania, and Puck The top human layer: Theseus and Hippolyta The middle layer: the lovers The Bottom layer: the "rude mechanicals" The play-within-the-play
I. Titania, Oberon and Puck
As supernatural beings, Oberon and Titania seem appropriately to be the top layer of the festival cake that is A MidsummerNight's Dream--but they spend most of their time wrangling in an alltoo-human way. They do seem, however, to have a profound influence over the human world, not only in the way that they intermingle with it through the magic juice, but in the way that their actions influence the very seasons of the year. Their argument, according to Titania, has frighteningly changed the world, in the way thatthe macrocosm of nature influences the human microcosm. Robin Goodfellow (Puck) Puck seems to have less power, and to be nothing more than a mischief-maker with a slightly bent sense of humour*. But this charming Shakespearean Puck, with broom*, hunting horn, and ears that look like the asses' ears he gave Bottom was actually more threatening as he was imagined by others in the period. RobinGoodfellow (Puck), as shown here with cloven hoof, prominent priapism, and a witches' coven, is not exactly the minor mischief-maker of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Folk festivals were frowned upon by the Church, as remnants of pagan ritual; thus Puck in this picture is given both positive and negative symbolism: fertility, and associations with witchcraft. It is a measure of Shakespeare's skill that...
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