For the last part of Carl V’s Once Upon a Time challenge, I read Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I was enchanted. Not at first, though… It’s difficult for me to sit down and just READ a Shakespeare play. I don’t understand all the nuances if I just read it, at least not until later after I’ve also seen it performed or listened to it read aloud. I’ve been told that Shakespeare embedded all his acting directions into his plays, so that when the actors were given their parts only (a way to protect the play from being stolen in those days), they would know how to interpret their lines because all the cues and acting clues were to be found in HOW it was written. I’d like to learn more about that! Perhaps it would help me as I read his plays.
So to tackle this project, I decided to use my teaching experiences with Macbeth to take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream–I immersed myself in the play. To become familiar with the story, I read two different retellings for young people: Bernard Miles’s version in Favourite Tales of Shakespeare, and Leon Garfield’s version in Shakepeare Stories. Then I read the play itself. My copy was an annotated version to help me better understand some of the language.
Next, I ordered several different DVD versions of the play, including the 1981 film with a lovely young Helen Mirren as Titania, (she also plays Hermia in a 1968 version, but that one hasn’t arrived yet), and the beautifully filmed 1999 version with the gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania. I watched the first one with script in hand, noticing what they left out, but enjoying hearing the lines interpreted by such wonderful actors. I reread the play over the next few days, then watched the Michelle Pfeiffer/Kevin Kline film, and that’s when it all fell into place. That film, in particular, brought out the magic! The visual effects were so wonderful, the costuming and sets so beautiful, that I was under a spell all the way through it! By then I knew the play and thoroughly enjoyed the complete experience. I loved the fairy lights and magical effects of the film. The soundtrack was wonderful, as well. So this week, I’ve also been listening to the soundtrack and to the Boston Symphony’s CD of Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The one thing missing for my immersion, is the opportunity to see a live performance of the play. I’ve checked the playbills for all the nearby Shakespeare festivals, but this seems to be the summer for his other plays.
Immersing myself in this play was fun and refreshing. What an enchanting way to finish up my Once Upon a Time reading challenge! Thanks, Carl, for hosting a delightful reading experience!
Here are a few of my favorite passages and lines:
These antique fables nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are all imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
This is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and give to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.