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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: April ::
Re: RSC MND
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0261.  Thursday, 4 April 1996.

(1)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Apr 1996 08:25:27 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0255  Re: RSC MND

(2)     From:   Russell A Pitts <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Apr 1996 12:46:48 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0255  Re: RSC MND


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Apr 1996 08:25:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0255  Re: RSC MND
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0255  Re: RSC MND

Michael Sharpston;

In recent years I have seen way too much nonessential sexual business in
productions of Shakespeare and other early plays, way too much goosing, crotch
grabbing, pelvis waggling, and suggestions that characters are about to go
backstage and pounce on each other, business that isn't required by the story,
and is added probably only to relieve the company of the panic induced by the
need to make antique language come to life, a cheap and easy way (they hope) to
get laughs, if not comprehension. In a recent production of A Chaste Maid in
Cheapside put on by a local university company there were two totally
unnecessary incidents involving the zippers on male characters' trousers (never
mind that zippers didn't exist in the seventeenth century). Although grateful
for a chance to see an old play brought to life, I wished that the director had
exerted a rather firmer control on the over-the-top characterizations of his
actors, none of which meshed with each other, and which turned the play into
one long incomprehensible Three Stooges routine.

As for Oberon, I believe Shakespeare's portrayal derived from the romance Huon
of Burdeux, translated from the French by Lord Berners in 1535. Oberon's
nature, his manipulation of those mortals he takes an interest in, his kinglike
nobility coupled with pride and jealousy, are the same as in Huon. Oberon puts
in an earlier STAGE appearance in James IV, published as the work of Robert
Greene, in which he plays much the same role as he does in MSND, observing the
depressing behavior of mortals from his elfin vantage point, in this case with
a surly hermit (an early Jacques, as one commentator pointed out) rather than a
Puck-like figure. Although there is much same-sex innuendo in early Shakespeare
(the pirate Anthony and Sebastian in TN, the merchant Anthony and Bassiano in
MOV) and in numerous other plays of the period, there is none given by the
author between Oberon and Puck, nor between Oberon and Bohan in James IV, nor
between Oberon and any character in Huon of Burdeux (though one may wonder why
Oberon loves Huon so desperately; but then, everybody loved Huon).

The test is always, does the business forward the action and the sense of the
play for the majority of the audience? (Certainly one would leave out all
sexual innuendo when staging Shakespeare for grammar schools.) Anything that
causes the audience to pull back from the trance of "disbelief suspension" that
makes an event of a play, is out of place and should be trashed.

Stephanie Hughes

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Russell A Pitts <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 03 Apr 1996 12:46:48 EST
Subject: 7.0255  Re: RSC MND
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0255  Re: RSC MND

M. Sharpston comments that this production of MND raises the issue of the
sexual realtionship between Oberon and Puck.  He also asks if there is any
basis for the relationship.  In my current research on the origins of MND I
have concluded there is the possibility of a relationship, but it is not a
sexual one---it is a familial one.

There is no textual basis or literary antecedent for anysexual relationship
relationship between Oberon and Puck.  However, there are fairy tale and folk
tale origins that suggest Puck is Oberon's son.

For example in Robin Goodfellow Oberon calls Puck from his bed . . .

                Robin, my sonne, come quickly rise:
                First stretch, then yawne, and rub your eyes;
                For thou must go with me tonight,
                To see, and taste of my delight.
                Quickly come, my wanton sonne,
                'Twere time our sports were now begunne.

In the Ballad of Robin Goodfellow Puck's origin is further explained . . .

                And sundry houses they did use,
                        but one above the rest,
                Wherein a comely lass did dwell,
                        that pleas'd King Oberon the best.
                This lovely damsel, neat and faire,
                        so courteous, meek, and mild,
                As sayes my booke, by Oberon
                        she was begot with child.

Both can be found in Halliwell's Illustrations of the Fairy Mythology of A
Midsummer Night's Dream, AMS Press, 1970.
 

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