Midsummer Night’S Dream
Theseus, Duke of Athens is anxious to marry his bride-to-be, Hippolyta. A prominent citizen, Egeus, comes to the palace demanding enforcement of a harsh law. His daughter, Hermia, refuses to marry Demetrius, wishing instead to marry her beloved Lysander. Theseus gives Hermia four days to decide: marry her father's choice, become a nun, or be put to death-as prescribed by Athenian law. Lysander and Hermia resolve to elope, sharing their secret with Hermia's best friend, Helena. Recently spurned by Demetrius, Helena decides to tell him, hoping to somehow recapture his love. In another part of the city, some Athenian artisans prepare a play for the royal nuptials. In the nearby Athenian woods Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, are locked in a bitter quarrel. Oberon enlists his servant Puck to exact revenge, sending him to find a magical flower. The juice of this flower is a powerful love potion; when applied during sleep it will make a person fall passionately in love with the first living thing seen upon waking. While Puck runs his errand, Oberon witnesses the devoted Helena chasing a contemptuous Demetrius. When Puck returns with the flower, Oberon orders him to find the Athenian lovers, and use the flower's magic to remedy the situation. Oberon then charms Titania's eyes as she sleeps in her bower, hoping she'll "wake when some vile thing is near." Lysander and Hermia, having lost their way, decide to rest for the night. Puck mistakes them for Oberon's quarrelling couple and anoints Lysander's eyes. Helena stumbles upon the sleeping Lysander. She runs from his advances, and he gives chase, abandoning the sleeping Hermia. Puck then encounters the artisans rehearsing their play very near Titania's bower. He gives the coarsest performer, Bottom the Weaver, the head of an ass. His terrified companions run away. A perplexed Bottom sings to encourage himself, disturbing the fairy queen; then "Titania wak'd, and straightway lov'd an ass." Puck and Oberon chance upon Demetrius and Hermia arguing; it is clear that Puck has made a mistake. After Oberon applies the love-juice to Demetrius' eyes, Helena arrives with Lysander in hot pursuit. Soon Hermia turns up and havoc ensues, much to the delight of the mischief-loving Puck. Oberon orders him to disentangle the lovers and leaves to rescue Titania from her hairy lover. His revenge complete, Oberon removes the spell from his queen's eyes. Puck restores Bottom to his original self and sends him into a deep sleep. The next morning, Theseus, Hippolyta, and Egeus discover the four lovers sleeping on the ground. Upon hearing of the couples' mutual accord, Theseus overrules Egeus and orders a triple wedding ceremony. Alone in the woods, Bottom awakens from a spectacular "dream." He rushes back to Athens where the artisans perform an unintentionally hilarious "Pyramus and Thisbe" for the newlyweds. The couples retire and the palace is blessed by Oberon and Titania and their entourage. -Jason Bisping, Dramaturg -Ms. Melinda J. Scott, Editor
The reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) saw England's population double as it evolved from agrarian society to industrialized empire. It was period of expansion, with significant developments in all aspects of the culture: science, art, economics and society. From this era emerged such icons as Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale and Jack the Ripper. More importantly for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2007 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Victorian period gave us Peter Pan and Sigmund Freud. This summer at CSF, the Victorian whimsy of "Never Land" and Freudian dream theory enhance the inherent theatricality of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Just as Freud's Oedipal theories forever altered the modern view of Hamlet, use of his dream theories exerts a dark influence on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Originally devised as a method of personality analysis, Freud formulated that dreams were a manifestation of forbidden thoughts and unconscious desires. J. M. Barrie's protagonist, Peter Pan, was introduced to the world in 1902 via the novel, The Little White Bird. Two years later, "the boy who wouldn't grow up" appeared on the stage and took London by storm. Peter Pan had captured the public's imagination with a carefree, youthful exuberance, and an enchanted island full of danger and excitement. As Barrie noted in his novel, "Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by them." In the treatment of Dream, the psychological depth of Freud serves as a compelling contrast to Peter Pan-like flights of fancy. In many stage productions of Peter Pan, one actor often doubles as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. Similarly, in our production, actors play double roles: Theseus and Oberon, Hippolyta and Titania, Philostrate and Puck. Just as in Peter Pan, these characters share similar roles in both worlds, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. Real onstage magic and the zany conventions of Victorian pantomime contribute to the theatricality, making this production vivid, boisterous, and outrageously fun. -Jason Bisping, Dramaturg -Melinda J. Scott, Editor
The Play's Origins and the Poet's Eye While Shakespeare borrowed many of the plots for his plays-most notably from Plutarch and Holinshed-his plays transcend their source material. Through his deviations from the source material, we get a glimpse of what he purposed for the plays. By adding characters, changing endings, and telescoping time, Shakespeare shifted the emphasis of the original, providing perspectives that are uniquely his. A Midsummer Night's Dream, though rife with references to classical literature, is one of the few plays in the canon that has no primary source with which to compare Shakespeare's choices. Instead, scholars look to the play itself to glean Shakespeare's intentions. The first printing of Dream in 1600 for bookseller Thomas Fisher is considered highly authentic, with ample evidence that this First Quarto was based on Shakespeare's own "foul papers"-a term referring to his handwritten drafts. In this earliest printed edition of Dream, we observe the lines for the character Puck, which are sometimes preceded by the designator "Puck," and sometimes "Robin" or "Rob." Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that Shakespeare thought of the fairy as "Robin," when he was being mischievous and as "Puck," when he was acting as servant to Oberon. We may infer that the playwright intended Puck to have both obedient and mischievous characteristics, as he shifted between these two monikers depending on the character's dominant behavior. Many scholars posit that Queen Elizabeth was at the first performance, citing two references to her in the text: "imperial votress" in "maiden meditation" and "fair vestal throned by the west." Given that Dream ends with a ruler attending a wedding and watching a play, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the first performance was staged in honor of a wedding with Queen Elizabeth in attendance. (Several noble marriages occurred in the same period in which it is thought that the play was initially staged.) This is a highly romantic notion, and the metatheatrical implications are staggering; the play reverberates with contemporary allusions, no doubt to the delight of its audience. Likewise, through this lens, a modern audience may find a deeper enjoyment of the text. Nevertheless, Shakespeare's impetus for penning Dream remains conjecture, however tantalizing the theories. The First Quarto of Dream was printed, "As it hath beene sundry times publickely acted" by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Although we can't prove why it was originally written, other than to be performed "sundry times" in public, it continues to enjoy a rich stage life today. It seems-with only the play to guide us-we have plenty. -Jason Bisping, Dramaturg -Melinda J. Scott, Editor Brooks, Harold F., Ed. "Introduction". A Midsummer Night's Dream. By William Shakespeare. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2001 (1979).