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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: MND for the Summer Solstice
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1044  Monday, 2 June 2003

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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 >
        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 02:05:50 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Put Together a Reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the
Summer

[2]     From:   John McLaughlin <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 07:42:52 -0400
        Subj:   An Instant Reading of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 02:05:50 +0100
Subject:        Re: Put Together a Reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream for
the Summer

>The Instant Shakespeare Company, which does annual readings of all of
>Shakespeare's plays, will celebrate the Summer Solstice with worldwide
>readings of Shakespeare's most popular comedy "A Midsummer Night's
>Dream" on June 21, 2003. In Shakespeare's time the Summer Solstice was
>more commonly known as Midsummer (since it is at the mid-point between
>the spring and autumn equinoxes) and was viewed as a time when
>imagination ran riot. This is an ideal time to show that Shakespeare is
>for everyone and his imagination is an inspiration for all of us.

I thought Midsummer's Day traditionally took place on 24th June.  I have
to announce an interest in this, as it happens to fall on my birthday
(30 this year - gah!) and I proudly consider this my closest
Shakespearean link.

A quick surf of the net seems to prove that this was the case even
before Shakespeare's time.  "In Medieval times, June 24th was considered
Midsummer, celebrated with somergames--sports, folk plays, drinking, and
dancing. The origins were agrarian; spring plowing and planting were
over, harvest was months away. The celebration is probably as old as
agriculture." - see
http://www.killerplants.com/herbal-folklore/20020624.asp.  Although
interestingly, from the same site, "Midsummer's Eve was said a night in
which witches, fairies, and mischievous spirits gained power.", which
suggests the thinking behind Shakespeare's title.  Since such forces -
fairies and witches - traditionally gained most power at midnight,
perhaps Shakespeare's "Midsummer's Night" was the one between 23rd and
24th June, so that it began on Midsummer's Eve, and turned into
Midsummer's Day at midnight - the height of the dream - and then
Shakespeare's lovers would awake into Midsummer's Day's dawn.  Of course
that wouldn't, strictly speaking, be "Midsummer's Night", but
"Midsummer's Eve's Night's Dream", but that is rather a mouthful.

Of course, it is quite possible that the Summer Solstice has moved with
all the fixing that has been done to the calendar since Shakespeare's
time, but if you want to perform on the modern Midsummer's Day, you
should strictly be performing on 24th June.

[In a less interesting coincidence, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford,
happens to have died on 24th June - but he clearly had nothing to do
with Shakespeare's plays.  Good job he wasn't *born* on 24th June,
however, or Oxfordians would say that MND was a celebration of the
Earl's own birthday - I expect the nuttier will suggest that it was
written as a true prophecy of his own death].

Thomas Larque.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John McLaughlin <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 07:42:52 -0400
Subject:        An Instant Reading of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

I hope this is not out of line, but having looked at the website, I'm
curious: why would one want to read as fast as possible, just to get
done in as short a time as possible? Or maybe I misunderstood. (I
greatly enjoyed Calista Flockheart as one more angel on a bicycle in the
recent movie of this play, except that like everyone else in the cast,
with the possible exception of the unflappable Kevin Kline as Bottom,
she gabbled her way trhro Shakespeare's poetry, which I thought rather a
loss, after all. I found myself going "Lentemente!" all thro the movie,
exhausting my Italian). Also - using First Folio editions of the play
for reading would seem to cut into the Shakespeare for Everyman theory,
perhaps slowing down the reading and thus being at cross purposes with
the other purpose of the exercise; my septugenerian class in The Older
Adult Learning Center - Elderhostel without a bus - in the Poconos would
have a hard time deciphering the First Folio text, I think.. In any
case, by June 24 we'll have gone on thro A Dream (indefinite article
insisted upon - this could be any crazy Midsummer Night in Shakespeare's
imagination) and past Twelfth Night's Saturnalia to the masque of The
Tempest, in the Signet Classic "Four Great Comedies" - cheap and
convenient for adult ed purposes, at least. This is such fun.

John McLaughlin

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www.thedigitalfolklife.org

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