A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakespeare "If we shadows have offended,/Thing but this--and all is mended--/That you have but slumber'd here/While these visions did appear./And this weak and idle theme,/No more yielding but a dream,/Gentles, do not reprehend;/If you pardon, we will mend./And, as I'm an honest Puck,/If we have unearned luck/Now to' scape the serpent's tongue,/We will make amends ere long;/Else the Puck a liar call:/So, good night unto you all./Give me your hands, if we be friends,?/And Robin shall restore Amends"

By ending the play with this quote, Shakespeare seems to leave it for us to decide whether the events that occurred in the woods, or if they were dreams. Perhaps this play is what inspired Louis Carroll and Frank L. Baum to do the same in their famous stories.

Everything that happens in the woods is somewhat confusing--for the characters at least. We know more-or-less what is going on, being party to Puck and Oberon's doings, but, as will sometimes happen in a dream, the characters are buffeted by abrupt changes to themselves, and those they care about. One moment Demetrius is cruel to Helena, the next he loves her. At one time Lysander loves Hermia, then claims to despise her, then back again. No wonder the characters were confused. These kind of character changes only happen in dreams, or if a person is crazy.

Every character in the play is victim to Oberon's whims, including Puck, and every character is the subject of Puck's gaffe or impishness. Oberon wants Titania's changeling. A child to whom she is attached because she was friends with his mother, and so Oberon devises a cruel game to trick Titania into giving the child to him. Along the way he decides to help Helena, but tells Puck only to find a man in Athenian clothing to enchant into love with Helena, so Puck finds Lysander, who then upsets Helena by claiming to love her, and breaks Hermia's heart. Demetrius and Lysander could have hurt one another--therefore further breaking their lady's hearts--in the turmoil that followed.

Bottom is the subject of Titania's manipulated love and Puck's parody on the two of them. Through that the rest of Bottom's troupe is also victim, being frightened, and having their practice interrupted (maybe their play wouldn't have been so painful to read if they had been able to practice more).

A Midsummer Night's Dream has got to be the most popular Shakespearean play there is. It's one of the one's that I became familiar with through Jim Weiss (though this is my first time reading the actual play) and it has been brought into books and movies, it has been adapted into movies. It has become a ballet via Felix Mendelssohn (part of which is a violinist's nightmare,) an opera by Benjamin Britten, and has shorter pieces written for it by Henry Purcell and Ralph Vaughn-Williams.

(Please note that this review was written as a discussion post in an online Shakespeare class.)