Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 402. Tuesday, 22 December 1992.
From: Janet Wolf <WOLF@SNYCORVA>
Date: Tuesday, 22 Dec 92 10:30 EDT
Subject: MND subplots and a query
About the plots in MND (and I apologize for being three weeks behind every
one else, but I've been grading papers): here's how my former colleague,
Neil Novelli at Le Moyne College, explains it to his students and
explained it to me (thanks, Neil). The ACTION of the play, i.e., what
everyone in the play wants to accomplish, is to turn dream into reality.\
Theseus and Hippolyta want to be happily married, Hermia wants Lysander
and to be free of Athens' law, Helena wants to be with Demetrius even for
a couple of hours, etc. Bottom and the mechanicals want to put on a good
show for Theseus. The THEME of the play is the difficulty of telling
dream or illusion or fantasy from reality, and this comes up in every plot
in the play. If the characters don't have trouble with it, we do. Even
Theseus and Hippolyta, who seem so solid and practical, are characters from
Greek myth. The illusion-reality theme is more encompassing than the love
theme, because Lysander and Demetrius are convinced that their love, right
now, whomever it's for, is the real thing, when it's not necessarily.
At the end of the play, all the plots, even Pyramus and Thisbe, come
together. The court is laughing at the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe, and
it never occurs to any of them that Pyramus and Thisbe's story is really
Hermia, Demetrius, and Egeon's. Meanwhile, Puck and Oberon and Titania
are outside the palace, laughing at the mortals. Shakespeare's audience,
or we, are laughing at the whole thing. Which raises the interesting
question of whether we are real or just a dream, and who is out there
laughing at us. You can show this on the board with concentric circles.
Students love it.
Now for a question: does anyone know exactly why Theseus and Hippolyta
are waiting for the new moon to have their wedding? Has anyone ever
suggested why? Where would I start looking for what has been said about
the subject? I know everyone will be on break soon, and I'm in no hurry
for an answer.
Janet S. Wolf
SUNY College at Cortland