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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: MND for the Summer Solstice
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1117  Friday, 6 June 2003

From:           Paul Sugarman <
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Date:           Friday, 06 Jun 2003 02:14:35 -0500
Subject:        Re: MND for the Summer Solstice

My thanks to Thomas Larque and Al Margary for pointing out that in
Shakespeare's time Midsummer was celebrated as the feast day of John the
Baptist on June 24th and the informative links that they provided. This
appears to be another example of the Christian church taking a
pre-Christian pagan celebration and remaking it into a Christian
holiday. I still think that the solstice is the better day to celebrate
Midsummer because it seems that was the original date for the
celebration. I had gotten information on the solstice as Midsummer at
http://www.religioustolerance.org/summer_solstice.htm

I think the fact that the play is set in the pre-Christian Greece of
Theseus and that the play is called "A Midsommer Night's Dreame" and not
a "A St.  John's Eve Night Dream" makes the Summer Solstice a more
appropriate date for doing readings of the play. Also it appears to me
there are now more celebrations and observances for the Solstice than
for St. John's Day.

I have been unable to find information on companies performing Dream in
relation to either the Solstice or Midsummer day even though it does
seem to be a natural connection.

I also thank John McLaughlin for checking out the Instant Shakespeare
website. The reason I emphasize speaking Shakespeare quickly is that I
feel that most of us as speakers today have a disadvantage in that we
are not as verbally adept as people were in Shakespeare's time. In those
days speaking was the primary mode of communication whereas today we
receive so much information visually and communicate via the written
word. Shakespeare's use of metaphor, classical allusions and other
rhetorical devices can cause the listener to lose the thread of what is
being spoken about if it is spoken too slowly. Also I find that actors
who have been trained to act in the pauses of contemporary writers such
as Pinter and Mamet will try the same approach to Shakespeare with
disastrous results.

While the First Folio may be difficult to read easily from in facsimile
because of the Elizabethan typographical conventions there are now folio
editions set in modern type which retain the original spelling,
capitalization and punctuation. Neil Freeman has prepared the Applause
First Folio of Shakespeare in Modern Type which is available in a single
volume edition and in individual playscript editions. The First Folio
offers many clues for readers and actors which are edited out of most
modern editions.  Although the irregular spelling can be initially
confusing we have found that the Folio capitalization and punctuation is
a great assistance in cold readings. Two excellent books that describe
the benefits of working from the First Folio editions are "Secrets of
Acting Shakespeare" by Patrick Tucker, Routledge, 2001 and
"Shakespeare's First Texts" by Neil Freeman, Folio Scripts 1994.

There are an increasing number of Shakespeare companies that use the
First Folio as the basis of their work including the Actors Shakespeare
Company of Hoboken, NJ and the York Shakespeare Company in New York, NY.

Shakespeare for Everyone!

Best Wishes,
Paul Sugarman
Founder, Instant Shakespeare Company

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