I love Shakespeare’s comedies. The witty dialogues, the general air of light heartedness and above all the wickedly funny plots suit my taste quite well. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is so far my favourite among these.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare was written sometime between 1590 and 1596. This is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. I myself have watched its many incarnations from the traditional to the modern, including at least two different modern versions and one animated version.
Four young lovers, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander and Helena, venture into the woods due to complicated matters of the heart. A group of amateur actors choose the same secluded woods to rehearse their upcoming play Pyramus and Thisbe. As the hapless mortals wander in the woods, the fairies that dwell in the forest play havoc with their feelings and manipulate them. The wedding of Theseus & Hippolyta and the conflict between Oberon & Titania serve as a background to all of this.
Most actions of the play take place in the in woods, in the realm of the fairies. This supernatural setting leads people to behave in extraordinary ways and leads to events that otherwise may not have been possible. The dreamlike atmosphere is what makes this play unique.
The way Shakespeare portrayed the mortals is interesting. They come across as confused and at times naive but never needlessly foolish.
The characters although fictional always feel real to me. The young couple’s convoluted love life and the discord between Oberon & Titania serve as an image of the complicated lives that all of us lead. Love and marriage are, as always, thorny issues.
Among the supernatural characters Puck is one of my favourites. Much of the commotion of the play stems from his mischievous nature. In a way he is like the soul of the play. I don’t much care for Oberon and Titania. Among the mortals I liked the amateur acting troupe. The way they butcher Pyramus and Thisbe is priceless!
What lies behind the enduring appeal of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is hard to tell. Maybe it is the dreamlike world that the fairies inhabit that draws us to it. Maybe it is the comforting notion that no matter what problems the mortals face a magical solution to it all may be right around the corner. Maybe it is the characters that reflect our own inadequacies and fears. I think it is a combination of all of these that make A Midsummer Night’s Dream a timeless classic.
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