Category Archives: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Kingsmen Shakespeare Company

OK, here’s the deal: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a summer staple. Almost any region that has more than one Shakespeare outlet will have at least one Midsummer to produce during any given year. There’s a reason for it: it’s popular. It’s light. It’s known.

And when we arrived last night at California Lutheran University for night one of the Kinsgmen Shakespeare Festival production, we saw the evidence. Nearly an hour and a half before the start of the play, the place was packed. I would say the crowd was almost twice as large as for Henry V a few weeks back. Remember, that was a very good production, well-reviewed with great word of mouth, a brilliant concept, and a matinee-handsome Henry. On the other hand, last night was opening night, with no raves to bring in a crowd. Midsummer is a popular play.

That, my friends, is a double-edged sword.

Sure, it’s popular. But it also means people have seen this play dozens of times before. The audience knows (or at least thinks they know) what to expect.

So how do you make the play your own? How do you make it fresh?

Continue reading Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Kingsmen Shakespeare Company

Podcast 43: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Wrap-Up, Romeo and Juliet Intro

This week’s podcast ends our discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a few final words and thoughts, and — more importantly — kicks off our month-long discussion of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.  Plus we’ll do our usual recap of this week’s blog entries.
Continue reading Podcast 43: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Wrap-Up, Romeo and Juliet Intro

A Midsummer, er, Late April Wrap Up

So the month comes to an end… Time to say goodbye to the fairies, the lovers (and the lunatics and poets).  And it’s a fond farewell.  I’m going to miss this play, especially since I find–at least through the Canon we’ve read thus far in the Project–Midsummer to have leapt to the top of my list of faves, both as a comedy AND overall.  It’s musical, lyrical, comical… it’s got woods and lovers and fairies… it’s got escapes, fools who speak wisdom, and a mixture of social strata.  And it has a man with an ass’s head.

c’mon… does it get any better than that?

Continue reading A Midsummer, er, Late April Wrap Up

Dream: numbers overall

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • 2122 total lines; the second shortest play in the Canon (only The Comedy of Errors is shorter at 1766 lines), much shorter than average play, shorter than average comedy (average play: 2777; average comedy: 2424)
  • At 463 lines, Act Three Scene Two is the longest of its kind in the Canon
  • At 259 lines, Act Four is the shortest of its kind in the Canon
  • Act One: 351 lines; shorter than average (average play: 590, average comedy: 488)
  • Act Two: 424 lines; shorter than average (average play: 568, average comedy: 495)
  • Act Three: 658 lines; longer than average (average play: 576, average comedy: 512)
  • Act Four: 259 lines; shorter than average (average play: 563, average comedy: 460)
  • Act Five: 430 lines; shorter than average (average play: 480, average comedy: 471)
  • 419 lines of prose (19.75% of total lines [as opposed to The Comedy of Errors: 13.31%, Titus Andronicus: 1.39%, The Taming of the Shrew: 20.82%, 1HenryVI: 0.37%, 2HenryVI: 16.64%, 3HenryVI: 0.14%, Richard III: 2.89%, Love’s Labor’s Lost: 35.08%, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona: 26.81%])
  • 923 rhyming lines, by percentage the most of any play thus far (43.5% of total lines [as opposed to Comedy: 20.10%, Titus: 2.42%, Taming: 3.93%, 1HenryVI: 9.79%, 2HenryVI: 3.16%, 3HenryVI: 5.37%, Richard III: 7.55%, LLL: 40.86%, and 2Gents: 35.08%])
  • 9 scenes; less than average (average play: 21; average comedy: 16); tied for fewest in the Canon with LLL and The Tempest
  • only 23 characters (less than average, about average for comedy [average play: 36, average comedy: 22])

Midsummer Numbers Midpoint: True or False Quiz

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory , let’s take a look at A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Now, when I first introduced this theory by Rodes, I summed it up as:

It was his contention that if you counted all the lines in the play, divided it by two, found the exact midpoint of the work, you could find (within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly summed up the major theme of the play.

And up until now, I’ve worked on that basis pretty exclusively.  This month, however, I’m going to take a little different approach.  This month, I want to explore the midpoint as a way to crack a major performance crux of the play.
Continue reading Midsummer Numbers Midpoint: True or False Quiz

Podcast 42: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Casts, Production Concepts, and Wrap-Up

This week’s podcast begins a wrap-up of our month-long discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including one last DVD review, a possible cast, a production concept, a quick debrief of this week’s video conference, and a recap of this week’s blog entries.

Errata:
5:42 — Text should be “Helena is referred to as old Nedar’s daughter” instead of “Helena is old Nedar’s daughter”
22:58 — Text should be “would be” instead of “should be”
Continue reading Podcast 42: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Casts, Production Concepts, and Wrap-Up

Demetrius: Tragic Hero or Misunderstood Jerk? Discuss.

Anyone tackling A Midsummer Night’s Dream has to, at some point, tackle the thorny issue of Demetrius.  At the beginning of the play, he is betrothed to Hermia, with her father’s approval, despite having “made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena” (I.i.107).  By the end of the play, however, he is married to Helena and vows that he “will for evermore true to” her” (IV.i.175).  We have three paired sets of newlyweds, but Demetrius is the only character with an object of desire that changes (and stays changed) over the course of the play, the only one who loves a different person at the end than he does at the beginning.

So the question is this: despite the happy (or at least joyous) ending of the play, is the fate of Demetrius one to merit pity or joy?
Continue reading Demetrius: Tragic Hero or Misunderstood Jerk? Discuss.

An Audience with an Ass

The performance of “Pyramus and Thisby” at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is met with some sarcastic commentary by the Duke and his wedding party.  I initially thought that their statements were not as cruel as those lobbed at the inept performance of the “Show of the Worthies” at the close of Love’s Labor’s Lost.

Now I’m not so sure.
Continue reading An Audience with an Ass

What the Puck Did He Say?

At the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we get the closest thing we’ve had thus far in the Canon to an Epilogue.  After the newlyweds have gone “to bed… (and their) nightly revels” (V.i.360 and 362), and after the fairies have come to “bless” (V.i.409) the beds, Puck is left alone on stage to deliver one final speech in “fairy verse” (catalectic trochaic tetrameter):
Continue reading What the Puck Did He Say?

The MacGuffin

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0), a MacGuffin (as supposedly appropriated by Alfred Hitchcock) is “In a film or work of fiction: a particular event, object, factor, etc., which assumes great significance to the characters and acts as the impetus for the sequence of events depicted, although often proving tangential to the plot as it develops.”

So how does this pertain to A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

What is the central action of the play?  The mistaken loves of the lovers (including Titania) in the forest.  What causes it?  The pansy potion.  How was it used?  On Lysander and then Demetrius, but only after it was initially used on Titania.  Why was it used on the queen of the fairies?  As punishment.  For?  Het taking of the Indian changeling boy.

The changeling is the MacGuffin.
Continue reading The MacGuffin