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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: MND for the Summer Solstice
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1056  Tuesday, 3 June 2003

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 15:53:48 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1044 Re: MND for the Summer Solstice

[2]     From:   Al Magary <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Jun 2003 01:33:57 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1044 Re: MND for the Summer Solstice


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 15:53:48 +0100
Subject: 14.1044 Re: MND for the Summer Solstice
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1044 Re: MND for the Summer Solstice

>A Dream (indefinite article
>insisted upon - this could be any crazy Midsummer Night in Shakespeare's
>imagination)

I'm not sure that I would agree with that completely.  My own reading of
the title is that it is "A Dream that happened on THE Night of
Midsummer's Day" rather than "THE Dream that happened on A[random] night
in Midsummer".  It is only "A ... Dream" not "The ... Dream" because
lots of people have had and will have dreams on Midsummer's Night, of
which this is only one, but the "A" refers to the dream, not to the
date.

In the same way, if we say "A Halloween Party" then strictly speaking,
we mean "A ... Party" (not THE Party, because there are many such
parties) to celebrate Halloween (not just any day nearby).  OK, my
parallel doesn't quite work because in the modern day we often have
parties on the wrong date, so we go to a Christmas party on December
4th, or a Halloween party on the nearest Saturday, but as I understand
it the Elizabethans were much more careful about celebrating their
festivals on the right days.  If Shakespeare said "Midsummer's Night"
then he probably meant the night of the festival of Midsummer's Day.

Of course if anybody can find other Elizabethan sources which refer to
"A Midsummer's Night [or Day]" and mean some day other than 24th June,
then I will admit that my confidence in my interpretation is weakened.

The title of "Twelfth Night", however, refers to a specific day, so I
don't see why "A Midsummer Night's Dream" shouldn't be doing the same.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"
http://shakespearean.org.uk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Magary <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 3 Jun 2003 01:33:57 -0700
Subject: 14.1044 Re: MND for the Summer Solstice
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1044 Re: MND for the Summer Solstice

Thomas Larque is quite correct that Midsummer Day is June 24.  That's
not necessarily the day of the solstice; it's the traditional day of
frolic because it became tied to the feast on June 24 of St. John the
Baptist (Midsummer Eve or "Midsummer Night" being on the 23rd).  Because
people likewise lost their heads that day?  No, simply the early
church's pragmatic appropriation and consecration of pagan festivals.

Although the solstice can occur, technically, day or night between June
20 and 26, the feast day was fixed at June 24, astronomical truth
notwithstanding.  (It will be on June 21 this year, at 19:10 GMT, also
June 21, 2004, at 00:56 GMT.)

Hall's Chronicle (1550) makes mention of a couple of notable events on
Midsummer Day, June 24.  The first event was in 1509, after the death of
Henry VII on April 21:  "When the funeralles of this late kyng, wer thus
honorably finished, greate preparacion was made, for the coronacio of
this newe kynge, whiche was appoynted on Midsomer daye next
ensuyng..."--that day being June 24, 1509.  (Henry VIII, folio 2r)

A few years later, in 1520, at the famous diplomatic spectacle of the
Field of the Cloth of Gold, "The Frenche kynge gaue to the Kynge of
Englande a Bracelet of precyouse stones, riche Iewels and fayre, and so
departed thesayde two noble Kynges, the sayd .xxiiij. day of Iune, which
was sonday and Midsomer day." (Henry VIII, folio 83v)

See the very extensive history of Midsummer at
http://www.canadafirst.net/our_heritage/solstice/  It serves up all
kinds of tidbits, including the association of St. John's Wort and
Midsummer.

Al Magary

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