A Midsummer Night's Dream

Content Group

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mrs. Barsanti as Helena

This play is considered one of Shakespeare's most flawless achievements, unique in being almost without precedent. The blending of the different plots and groups is masterful: the tension between the supernatural icons of male and female, Oberon and Titania, matches the premarital strains hinted between Theseus and his battlefield captive Hippolyta, partly resulting from her negative reaction to the analogous tension between Hermia and her father over his patriarchal choice of her spouse, which is in conflict with her own preference. The intervention of Puck as a kind of cosmic agent of confusion merely objectifies the volatility of the lovers, whose ominous behavior is parodied in the climactic performance of Pyramus and Thisbe staged by the amateurish workmen to celebrate the final happy weddings. The vagaries of human aspiration are epitomized by the bizarre experiences of the egotistical Bottom, transformed to an ass during his attempt at enacting romantic love, yet briefly becoming the paramour of a fairy queen. The lightness and charm of the piece have made it a favorite introduction to Shakespeare, as in our modernized version, but it has been visualized in a wide variety of ways, sometimes quite traditionally (see RSC 1962), sometimes extravagantly (see RSC 1970), but recently often with quite provocative sexual explicitness, as Jan Kott has proposed (see Romantic-influenced imaginings of the play of Henry Fuseli and Joseph Noel Paton). However, it is almost impossible not to captivate audiences by the happy incompetence of the workmen's staging of Pyramus and Thisbe.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Bruns Theatre: California Shakespeare Theatre. 2002.
A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Bruns Theatre: California Shakespeare Theatre. 2002.
A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Bruns Theatre: California Shakespeare Theatre. 2002.
A Dream's End [Plus a Complete Production History of the California Shakespeare Theatre, 1974-2009.]



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