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  • a group of youths sneak into the woods,

  • where they take mind-altering substances,

  • switch it up romantically,

  • and brush up against creatures from another dimension.

  • "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" sees Shakespeare get psychedelic

  • and the result is a treat in the theatre and on the page.

  • First performed in the 1590's,

  • this play is one of Shakespeare's friskiest works,

  • filled with trickery, madness and magic.

  • Set over the course of one night,

  • Midsummer progresses at a rollicking pace.

  • The plot is structured around patterns of collision and dissolution,

  • where characters from different worlds are thrown together and torn apart.

  • Shakespeare uses these patterns to mock the characters' self-obsession

  • and question authority with a comic twist.

  • The action is set in Ancient Greece,

  • but like many of Shakespeare's plays it reflects his contemporary concerns.

  • The magical setting of the woods at night

  • disrupts the boundaries between separate groups, with bizarre results.

  • Here, the bard plays with the rigid class system of his own time,

  • taking three distinct groups and turning their society upside-down

  • in a world where no mortal is in control.

  • The play opens with young Hermia

  • raging at her father Egeus and Theseus, the King of Athens,

  • who have forbidden her to marry her lover Lysander.

  • Hermia has no interest in her father's choice for her of Demetrius

  • but her best friend Helena definitely does.

  • Furious at their elders, Hermia and Lysander elope under cover of darkness,

  • with Demetrius in hot pursuit.

  • This is further complicated by Helena's decision

  • to follow them all into the woods, in the hope of winning Demetrius' heart.

  • At this point, the woods are getting crowded,

  • as the lovers are sharing the space with a group ofrude mechanicals”—

  • a troupe of workers drunkenly rehearsing a play, led by the jovial Nick Bottom.

  • Unbeknownst to them, the humans have entered into the world of the fairies.

  • Despite their magical splendor, Oberon and Titania,

  • the king and queen of the fairies, have their own romantic problems.

  • Furious at his inability to control Titania, the jealous Oberon

  • commands the trickster Puck to squeeze the juice of a magical flower over her eyes.

  • When she wakes up, she'll fall in love with the first thing she sees.

  • On his mission,

  • Puck gleefully sprinkles the juice over the eyes of the napping Demetrius

  • and Lysander, and transforms Bottom's head into that of a donkey for good measure.

  • As eyes flicker open,

  • a night of chaos commences that includes broken hearts, mistaken identity,

  • and transformations.

  • Out of all the characters, Bottom probably fares the best

  • when the bewitched Titania lays eyes on him,

  • she calls on her fairies to lavish him with wine and treasures

  • and sweeps the transfigured donkeyman off his feet:

  • pluck the wings from painted butterflies/

  • To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.

  • Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.”

  • While magic is the catalyst to the action,

  • the play reflects the real drama of the things we do for love

  • and the nonsensical behavior of the people under its spell.

  • The moon overlooks the actionlike a silver bow,”

  • signifying erratic behavior, the dark side of love,

  • and the bewitching allure of a world where the usual rules don't apply.

  • Although the characters eventually come to their senses,

  • "A Midsummer Night's Dream" raises the question

  • of how much agency we have over our own daily lives.

  • But it's not the more realistically rendered lovers, rulers or workers

  • who have the last word,

  • but the impish Puck who queries whether we can ever truly trust what we see:

  • If we shadows have offended,

  • Think but this and all is mended:

  • That you have but slumbered here

  • While these visions did appear.

  • And in so doing,

  • he evokes the effect of entering into the magical world of great theatre

  • that plays with the boundary between illusion and reality

  • and dramatizes the possibility that life is but a dream.

a group of youths sneak into the woods,

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B2 US TED-Ed demetrius shakespeare hermia lysander puck

Why should you read "A Midsummer Night's Dream"? - Iseult Gillespie

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    April Lu posted on 2018/12/06
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