Friday, April 9, 2010

Shakesblogging: A Midsummer Night's Dream

What I love about this play: Two things, in about equal measure. First, the fairy world, which is one part lyricism to one part menace. One of my favorite bits is Titania’s “These are the forgeries of jealousy” speech, which is easily the most gorgeous thing anybody has ever said about climate change:

The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change,
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which.

Titania is aware of the suffering she and Oberon are causing in the human world – the ploughman who sweats in vain, the rotting corn, the crows fattened with diseased livestock – but she’s prepared to prolong it; the mortals are vague, distant figures, and bigger games are being played. Ultimately, of course, harmony is restored, and the fairies cross the bridge into the mortal world to bless the lovers: “So shall all the couples three / Ever true in loving be; / And the blots of Nature’s hand / Shall not in their issue stand...” This sounds reassuring, until you stop to consider the implications: doesn’t the power to bless also imply the power to blight?

Second, the artisans. Have I mentioned yet how much I adore metatheater? And the whole “Pyramus and Thisbe” subplot (quite apart from being hilarious in performance no matter how many times I’ve seen it before) is all about the power and dangers of the stage. I mean yeah, the whole “dramatic illusion is scary and we’d much better not have any of it” attitude of Bottom and his comrades is exaggerated to the point of absurdity, but they have got accurate instincts; in this world it is terribly easy to lose yourself in illusion, and there are also real risks to displeasing one’s aristocratic patrons. I also like Bottom misquoting Corinthians as he gropes his way, clumsily, toward trying to express what he’s just seen and experienced: “The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was...”

Favorite memory: Our recent campus production. This was the first time I’d actually sat in on a rehearsal and watched a play come together, and it was cool. I liked a lot of the things about the final result, but I’ll confine myself to mentioning one: this adorable moment when Snug, who was played by a young woman in this production, stood there tongue-tied for a long moment and then suddenly found her inner lion. RAWWWRRR!!!


Bardiac said...

I like your final image; I can just imagine a student finding her inner Snug finding his inner lion. :)

Susan said...

My last major theatrical part, at the age of 10, was Titania. I always have a soft spot for this one.

And I love the image of the Snug taking time to find hir inner Lion...