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.

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”
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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?
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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.
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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):
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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.
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No Rhyme, But a Reason

Act Three, Scene Two of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, begins with Oberon’s entrance and pondering of whether Titania has yet awaked (and found an object for her potion-ed dotage).  Within five lines, Puck arrives, and with him a sequence of rhymed couplets.

From line 5, and through the next (nearly) two hundred lines, the verse remains composed of rhyming iambic pentameter couplets (with a side trip into “fairy verse”: catalectic* trochaic tetrameter).  Even with changes of speakers (Oberon and Puck, Hermia and Demetrius, Oberon and Puck again, Helena and Lysander… joined by Demetrius and then Hermia), the rhyme continues.

Around line 194, the rhyme comes to a grinding halt:
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Podcast 41: A Midsummer Night’s Dream DVD Reviews

This week’s podcast continues our month-long discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with reviews of five productions available on DVD: the 1935 Max Reinhardt Warner Brothers version, the 1968 Peter Hall Royal Shakespeare Company version, the 1994 Adrian Noble production (also from the RSC), and the 1999 Michael Hoffman film with Kevin Kline.  We make a pretty big announcement about our first interactive Project event: video office hours.  And we finish off with our usual recap of this week’s blog entries.

14:20 — Text should be “late 80s” instead of “late 70s”
22:58 — Text should be “debrief about it on next week’s” instead of “debrief on next week’s”
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Well, This is Another Fine Patriarchal Mess You’ve Gotten Us Into

When we enter the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we enter a clear patriarchy, a place where men (seemingly) rule, where the word of the father is law.
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What the Puck?

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Robin Goodfellow, aka the Hobgoblin, aka Puck:

A “shrewd and knavish sprite … that frights the maidens of the villagery” (II.i.33 and 35)


“that merry wanderer of the night” (II.i.43)?