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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Midsummer Night's Dream
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1189  Wednesday, 23 May 2001

[1]     From:   Al Cacicedo <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 May 2001 14:11:07 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream

[2]     From:   Susan St. John <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 May 2001 19:51:19 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream

[3]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 23 May 2001 08:52:16 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Cacicedo <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 May 2001 14:11:07 -0400
Subject: 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream

> Watching a production of MND at my local theatre I once again realized
> what a cruel and depressing piece this "comedy" is. The same guy who
> presented us in Romeo and Juliet two lovers who are absolutely sure of
> their love for each other he shows us in MND that every object of love
> is exchangable. The lovers are treated like guinea pigs in a cold
> professor's lab. How can Hermia and Lysander and Helena and Demetrius
> ever be happy and trusting again after all the things that happened in
> the forest?
>
> Robert Peters
> 
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Maybe there's a difference in Romeo and Juliet, but I find it hard to
justify saying so.  After all, Romeo exchanges one lady for another at
first sight, and when Laurence asks why, he says that it's because
Juliet loves him back whereas Rosaline does not.  The same sort of male
changeableness occurs in MND.  The constancy, in both plays, is, to
begin with, in the women.  Eventually the men may become constant in
their affection, but both plays come to an end before one can put that
to the test.

One more thing:  my sense is that comedy is almost always, maybe
inevitably cruel.

Al Cacicedo

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 May 2001 19:51:19 -0700
Subject: Midsummer Night's Dream
Comment:        SHK 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream

Robert Peters asked "How can Hermia and Lysander and Helena and
Demetrius ever be happy and trusting again after all the things that
happened in the forest?"

Having recently produced MND in my high school I grappled with this
issue with my students.  We concluded that Hermia and Lysander's love is
real and the fairy spells overcame it just for the night, but after it
was truly restored they had only their *true* love and happiness to look
forward to.  As for Helena...I personally have a very difficult time
with her acceptance of Demetrius' love for her, after she so adamantly
declared him to be making fun of her...and of course, his love is not
true, but still fairy-enhanced...my students however, romantics that
they are, agreed that Demetrius really had loved Helena all along but
was temporarily swayed by Egeus' money and support.  So when he wakes
from the "dream" he awakens completely and truly does love Helena again,
and she can tell that it's now honest and honorable and she responds in
kind.

Now, what really had us puzzled was why Titania accepts Oberon again so
easily after he's totally humiliated her AND stolen the boy she
professed to care so much about...women, sheesh!

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 23 May 2001 08:52:16 -0500
Subject: 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1176 Midsummer Night's Dream

 Robert Peters writes,

>Watching a production of MND at my local theatre I once again realized
>what a cruel and depressing piece this "comedy" is. The same guy who
>presented us in Romeo and Juliet two lovers who are absolutely sure of
>their love for each other he shows us in MND that every object of love
>is exchangable. The lovers are treated like guinea pigs in a cold
>professor's lab. How can Hermia and Lysander and Helena and Demetrius
>ever be happy and trusting again after all the things that happened in
>the forest?

I would guess you saw a bad production -- in the sense that the director
never understood the play to begin with and is under the influence of
one of those people who always want to make everything in Shakespeare
ugly, dark, sinister and depressing.

MND is supposed to be funny, and much of it is absolutely hilarious when
done right. The mechanicals should always be funny, of course, whether
they're fussing at each other, or running around the stage shrieking and
bellowing, or presenting their "very tragical mirth" before the Duke.
The love-in-the-woods business is great knock-about farce, and I have
seen several productions (including the one currently running at the
Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery) that had me laughing until
my sides ached. The relationship of Oberon and Puck is very like that of
Antipholus and Dromio (both sets) in "Comedy of Errors." Customs have
changed, and we no longer find beating servants quite so risible a
matter, but if you do it right you can get a lot of physical comedy from
it without putting off the audience with excessive violence. Even the
squabbling of Oberon and Titania can be funny if the actors avoid
pontificating and do the lines more on the order of Ralph and Alice
Cramden.

There are, of course, dark elements to the play, the more so, I suppose,
because of the perfervid imagination of WS. But once again the director
(like the critic) has to make choices: what is most important, what
less, what least. A reading / production of MND as you describe it is to
me "bad" or "wrong" because I think the choice has been made to
emphasize elements of lesser importance at the expense of those of much
greater importance.  Presenting "Dream" as tragedy is exactly equivalent
to presenting "Lear" as farce. It can be done, but why bother?

regards,
don

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