A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Last night, I finished reading the third play in the Dramagoon Shakespeare Challenge, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This was the first of these plays where I had only limited knowledge of the play ahead of time. I was worried that without an awareness of the story-line, the language might be too difficult to follow. I was happy to find out that was not the case. In fact, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably one of the most complex plays ever written and I was able to keep it all straight. This gives me hope for the remainder of this challenge.

The Shakespeare scholars tell us that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play that confronts us with the mysteries of love and romantic desire. And the bard does this with no less than four or five overlapping story-lines. It is quite confusing to keep it all straight. It all works together in the end but as I was finishing reading the other night, I had another idea about how this convoluted play really came together.

With all of the various plots and story-lines, I imagined that this play was written by a committee. In my imagination, I see Shakespeare and a bunch of the actors of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men sitting around at a pub one night and Shakespeare is telling them about his new play about the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. He explains that he is having writers block about how the story should play out. Can’t you just see the interaction at the table? One actor says “I know, add a love triangle for Theseus to officiate over… with an overbearing dad that wants his daughter to marry this guy but she wants to marry this other guy.” And then another actor chimes in with “Oh, and give the girl a friend that is madly in love with that first guy. And then later on… have both guys fall in love with her due to some weird magic gone wrong.” Then someone chimes in “Speaking of magic, you should have this epic battle between the King and Queen of the fairies where some innocent humans get caught in the crossfire, maybe even some of some those lovers.” Another actor speaks up with “You know what would be really funny? You should have a play within the play. A really bad, tragic play… with really bad actors… no, not actors… laborers pretending to be actors… oh and they don’t know anything about theatre so they keep stepping out of character to explain what they are doing to the audience. That would be hilarious.”

I could go on with this dialogue to explain the whole play but I think that you get my drift. What do you think? Is it a plausible explanation? I could totally see it happening that way. It probably didn’t but you never know.

For each one of Shakespeare’s plays that I have read so far, I have had the opportunity to view it in some other form either while reading or shortly thereafter. With Much Ado About Nothing, I saw the Kenneth Branagh version of the movie and with The Comedy of Errors, I saw it performed live at Marquette University. For this play, I have chosen to view it in graphic novel form. Brooke McEldowney, the creator of the Pibgorn and 9 Chickweed Lane comic strips, has developed a graphic novel of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set like a 1930s Busby Berkeley gangster movie. He has cast the characters from his comic strips as the characters in the play and made some slight adjustments accordingly. The mechanicals are changed into group of chorus girls and Robin Goodfellow is a young woman that enjoys a “special” relationship with Oberon. It is quite an interesting interpretation of the play.

The Comedy of Errors
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