Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Reflection Papers

Paper 1: drive, docs, pub

The subplot of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (if one can distinguish what is a subplot and what is a main plot), is of interest.  I am referring to Peter Quince, Nick Bottom, and company.  Certainly it is one of the funniest parts of the play, and although the whole play is humorous, I enjoyed the scenes that contained these six best.
Of course it is of additional interest because it is a play within a play.  Shakespeare, as a playwright, and sometimes actor (and director?) seems to be having a little fun with people he may know or have interacted with.
The question I wonder is: is Shakespeare engaging in some good natured, self-depreciating humor, or is he taking a shot at some other plays and playwright’s he considers inferior.  Obviously, a lot hinges on this question.  If Shakespeare is belittling his co-workers, he comes off as arrogant and conceited.  (Not a pleasant way to think of the man, although perhaps the terms are a bit harsh.  A lot of artists are very confident of their own work, and this comes of as arrogance).  If Shakespeare is making fun of himself, obviously the opposite is true.
Perhaps Shakespeare identifies with Peter Quince, who, although a bad playwright, must see his work wrangled by his co-workers.  Flute seems to be unable to learn the pronunciation of words, Bottom breaks character and talks to the audience, actors miss their cues, and egos interfere with the project.  (The most obvious example of this last one is Bottom wanting to play every role).  Perhaps these were things Shakespeare himself had to put up with as his play was performed.
The good natured, but cynical way in which the play was received perhaps also is reflective of Shakespeare’s problems with audiences.  Although this play certainly deserves to be made fun of, and not so Shakespeare’s works, so perhaps the parallel breaks down here.

Paper 2: drive, docs, pub

In the play, events are re-arranged by the intervention of the supernatural.  Perhaps this is an obvious statement, since that is the whole premise of the play, and what’s more the supernatural figures are also important characters who are themselves involved in what is going on.  Nevertheless, one should not get to caught up in the events to forget that: wait a minute- Demetrius did not like Helena.  Of course, Helena is oblivious to the fact that supernatural powers are at play. However, if she knew Demetrius loved her only because of the love potion, would she still want to marry him?  Given how in love she was with him, I would say yes she was.  However, should she want to marry him?  I do not think I would want to marry someone it took fairy interference in order for them to love me.
So what would have happened if the Fairies had never intervened.  Well, perhaps only Shakespeare knows, but here is a guess.
Hermia and Lysander are out in the woods, and Demetrius is looking for them, with Helena nipping at his heels.  It would be a rather boring play if Hermia and Lysander made it to Lysander’s aunt’s house unhassled.  However, since we are already messing with Shakespeare’s work, what is to stop us from giving this play a happy, but boring ending?  Well, since Helena found Lysander and Hermia once, let us assume she would do it again.  When Lysander wakes up this time, he is under no spell.
Naturally, the first thing Lysander wants to know is what Helena is doing in the woods.  Helena is, of course, reluctant, but eventually reveals she has disclosed their secret to Demetrius.  Lysander and Hermia are furious, and yell at poor Helena.  However, since the woods are a dangerous place for Helena to be on her own, they invite her to join them on their trip.  Helena does not really want to go so far from Athens, but agrees anyway.  Helena leaves little notes for Demetrius though, hoping he will find them.  Demetrius picks up on the notes and tracks down the traveling three.
When Demetrius finally catches up to them, harsh words are exchanged between him and Lysander, and he challenges Lysander to a duel.  Lysander is on the verge of killing Demetrius, when Helena’s pleas entice him to let Demetrius live.  For this kindness, Demetrius responds by stabbing Lysander in the back.  Demetrius then thinks he is free to marry Hermia, but the hapless bride only commits suicide.  Helena’s love is still unrequited, and once she realizes what she has done, she becomes deathly ill and dies.  Demetrius is executed by Theseus for the death of Lysander, the tragedy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream is complete.

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