Sunday, September 2, 2012

Berowne's 133

(Also for Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "H" is for "Happy.")
I’d be surprised if I was the only blogger who was inspired by the above prompt to think of Will Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
But there’s a problem.
The play is so well known it’s hard to say something about it that hasn’t been said before - and maybe too often. So I thought I’d just mention a few of the lesser-known facts about this delightful work. Let’s start with this:
In the play it’s a night like a dream and everything’s a bit crazy. Large numbers of fairies come out and do their fairy thing.
(Does that happen rarely? No, fairy often.)
It's my duty to point out that Will Shakespeare’s fairyland isn’t like any other. In his plays the gossamer types can be evil.
Will was influenced by the prevailing belief of the English peasants. When something bad happened, you had something, or someone, to blame it on.
If you have a perfectly healthy baby and the next morning it’s sickly, one of them dam’ fairies had come and switched them, took the healthy kid and left a “changeling.”
In addition, the King and the Queen of the fairies – Oberon and Titania – are awesomely powerful. When they’re squabbling, bad weather hits the entire land. Imagine fairies, especially the King and Queen of ‘em, each accusing the other of having had carnival knowledge of other beings.
I don’t know how closely Shakespeare studied his Freud, but there’s no denying that an important element of the play, the wood outside Athens, is the land of the id, the home of the unconscious and uncontrollable impulse.
I think it’s safe to say Will’s Boss, Queen Liz the One, was in attendance at the play’s first performance. Why? Because he goes out of his way to pay her a soothing compliment in the lines he wrote for the occasion.
You see, Oberon mentions that there is one individual who is above all the erotic banter and hanky-panky that goes on: without naming her, he is referring to Queen Elizabeth herself.
It seems Cupid took a shot at her, but to no avail.
Oberon: “A certain aim he took at a fair vestal, throned by the west, and loos’d his love shaft smartly from his bow, as it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts. But the imperial votr’ess passed on, in maiden meditation, fancy-free.”
In other words, Elizabeth is above such stuff; she’s busy creating the British Empire.
Perhaps the most famous single scene from this play has the beauteous Queen Titania falling madly in love with humble Nick Bottom, a weaver.

Nick isn’t much to look at in the best of times. But as I’m sure you know, he has been cursed (as who among us has not?) In his case, the curse is that he has been turned into a jassack.
Doesn’t matter; she still is enraptured by him:
Titania: “Come sit thee down upon this flow’ry bed While I thy amiable cheeks do coy, And stick musk-roses in thy sleek, smooth head And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.”
Too bad, like so many summer romances, l’affaire Titania-Bottom doesn’t last long.
Well, actually, since it’s now the beginning of September, it may be a bit late for a play about mid-summer. (The actual time in the play seems to be some time in May.) But for Will S, time didn't seem to matter.
Basically, it's a happy play. As a producer you can put it on these days as a work of exotic moonshine, a theatrical trifle. Or you can study it seriously – as I have certainly not done in this post - and come to realize that it is a complex and exacting work of art.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

41 comments:

Lyn said...

Amused and educated as usual..pun's the word I see, and always lay blame...or whatever appeals.

Grace said...

This play is actually complicated, a dream within a dream. I do like your thoughts about Queen Liz, the One in attendance of his plays ~ Exotic moonshine, hey....

Tess Kincaid said...

I was hoping for a Midsummer Night's Dream post...and I was not disappointed...

junkthief said...

Yes, I have always wondered exactly what part of the summer really is the middle, and it is so different in so many places, especially here in San Francisco when it is usually cool and foggy then, making it feel all the more dream like than the muggy summer nights of my youth in the Midwest.

Roger Owen Green said...

"Does that happen rarely? No, fairy often."
"I don’t know how closely Shakespeare studied his Freud..."

Funny stuff!

Actually Billy Shakes was a Yungian - all that "extroverted and the introverted personality, archetypes, and the collective unconscious."

Berowne said...

Some good comments, Roger - thanks.

Ritva said...

Intelligent and amusing!

Wayne Pitchko said...

as usual.....nicely done

Helen said...

I saw this performed outdoors in Bend last summer ... lucky me.

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays, who could resist the lovers and their adventures with the fairies of the forest!!

Ginny Brannan said...

Our three trips to Ireland have been filled with much Celtic lore--stories of mischievous fairies rearranging furniture in homes mistakingly built on the paths that the faeries frequent. Even roads built around "faerie trees" because it is bad and cursed luck to cut one down! Even my Magpie made subtle reference to these mythical beings. I imagine Shakespeare's England was filled with such Celtic lore, and love that his "Midsummer Night's Dream" expounded upon them. Thank you for sharing the lesser known facts behind the writing. I love learning something new!

Rene Foran said...

fairy often? You kill me :)

Berowne said...

Rene, your homicidal offer was greatly appreciated. :-)

manicddaily said...

A favorite play - the rude mechanicals are just so funny and I always find their play within a play incredibly moving. (Pyramus and Thisbe, I guess it is.)

Have you read Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies - he does a wonderful take-off of sorts - K.

manicddaily said...

ps - enjoyed your post!

Kathe W. said...

oh so punny and educational! I love puns- no matter what anyone else says!

Linda said...

Good Queen Bess does have her honorable reputation that certain members of the English Royal Family today, would do well to emulate. She would have NEVER been caught naked in Vegas! I love a Midsummers' Night Dream. Thank you for sharing this, Berowne. =D

Little Nell said...

A funny and knowledgeable piece about one of my favourite plays by WS. have you heard the recording of Mendelssohn's 'Midsummer Night's Dream' with Judi Dench?

Karen S. said...

Oh I'm still laughing, delightfully and almost fairy like! This was a wonderful take on our lovely photo for this week!

Lydia said...

I'm so glad you wrote about a Midsummer Night's Dream, as no one could do it better and, of course, I learned something. Did not know that "Queen Liz the One" (how funny!) was in attendance at the first performance. Fascinating post.

jabblog said...

I like the word play. Thank you for the smiles:-)

Carver said...

Fantastic fun post for the prompt and for H day. Carver, ABC Wed. Team

AmyBird said...

I really don't understand. Will was Enlglish and over here if we have summer it lasts for a few hours at most :D I don't know what midsummer he was talking about XD Great post! :D

Roy Schulze said...

I am lucky enough to live near High Park in Toronto, where they've been mounting a Shakepeare production for the last 30 years.They've tried other plays, but it's A Midsummer Night's Dream they keep falling back on. It's one of the few of his plays I can fully enjoy, and—trust me—it's something special to see outdoors.

Rinkly Rimes said...

You added your own brand of comedy to Shakespeare's.

Sheilagh Lee said...

I love A midsummer's dream it is a fun play to read and view.I didn't know he was speaking of Queen Elizabeth thank you for enlightening us.

~T~ said...

Oh, those crazy fairies!

Berowne said...

Rinkly R: "You added your own brand of comedy to Shakespeare's."
Never thought I'd be mentioned in the same sentence with the big fella. :-)

Berowne said...

Little N: "Have you heard the recording of Mendelssohn's 'Midsummer Night's Dream' with Judi Dench?"
Yes; as you know, she appeared in numerous versions of "Dream." In my course "Shakespeare on the Screen," I used the '68 film in which she shocked the Bardist community by playing Titania slmost totally nude.

Merlyn Fuller said...

Who among us hasn't fallen in love with someone delicious to wake up with a jackass after the fairy dust has worn off?

Nicely done!

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

ha ha - our present prince Harry knows all about the bawdy faeries of Shakespeare

dandeliongirl01 said...

I do like how you see the world, I see things I know and love through fresh eyes. Loved the pictures as well.

Berowne said...

ddgirl01: "I do like how you see the world, I see things I know and love through fresh eyes."
What a wonderful, pleasing comment - thanks.

Berowne said...

Merlyn F: "...someone delicious to wake up with a jackass after the fairy dust has worn off?"
Yes, you gotta keep that fairy dust on. :-)

oldegg said...

The beauty of Shakespeare's work is its timeless quality and messages so the "Id" reference and others are quite acceptable. However all your work it is so entertaining that all of your posts are a pleasure to visit.

Belva Rae Staples said...

This was so much fun to read and very well written!

kj said...

as a fan of mr. will, thank you much for this review.

as for elizabeth:

"there is one individual who is above all the erotic banter and hanky-panky"

i am most glad this is not me!

thank you also for visiting my blog and leaving a most kind comment.


kj

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, you always amaze me with the depth of your knowledge. I loved the "fairy" comment (groan!). A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favorite of Shakespeare's lighter fare, a good intro for students as well. Peace, Amy

Berowne said...

I always know I'll make it through the week if I get one of Sharp Little Pencil's terrific comments. Thanks, Amy.

Tigerbrite said...

Wonderful work and I love all the pictures too :)

Tigerbrite said...

Wonderful work and I love all the pictures too :)

RMP said...

I've always like A Midsummer Night's Dream. I can appreciate the insight that you have presented.

"(Does that happen rarely? No, fairy often)" cute line.

 
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