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Group Readings > Midsummer Night Act 1, September 5-12

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2752 comments Mod
Discussion of Act 1 of Midsummer Night can begin here!

Yay!


message 2: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2752 comments Mod
THESEUS
Go, Philostrate,
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments;
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth;
Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
The pale companion is not for our pomp.
Exit PHILOSTRATE

Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,
And won thy love, doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph and with.....

“I woo’d thee with my sword and thy love doing thee injuries”

Well. That is interesting because it is that kind of subtext we think about in contemporary literary criticism.... an association of sexuality in fighting. An homoeroticism. Made me think of “fight club”


message 3: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2752 comments Mod
Feast of Saint John the Baptist, Summer Solstice, St. John's Feast Day, Jāņi, Enyovden, Liða / Litha, Midsommar, Ivan Kupala Day, Juhannus, Mittumaari, Alban Hefin, Gŵyl Ganol yr Haf, Sankthans, Joninės, Jaanipäev, Keskikesä


message 4: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Candy wrote: "“I woo’d thee with my sword and thy love doing thee injuries”

Well. That is interesting because it is that kind of subtext we think about in contemporary literary criticism.... an association of sexuality in fighting. An homoeroticism. Made me think of “fight club..."


Indeed! In one version of the myth of Hippolyta and Theseus, he kidnaps her from the island of Amazons, so he can marry her. He takes her back to Athens, but the Amazons come to rescue her, and the wedding never actually takes place.

The Amazons were quite interesting! This from prezi.com

"The Amazons are a nation of all female Greek warriors. They were one of the tribe like women who lived in Asia Minor. The Amazons had a matriarchal society, in which women fought and men did the house hold work. Each Amazon had to kill a man before she married someone and all male children were killed or maimed at birth. It was believed that each Amazon would cut off one breast to shoot their spears more efficiently."

Egads!


message 5: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2752 comments Mod
Ha! Good stuff!

I’m sitting on the back of a service station waiting for my car engine to cool down to add more coolant. Send prayers.

Other wise I would have written more. I hope to be back from Canada and in Chicago tonight pray!!!! Lol


message 6: by Janice (JG) (last edited Sep 05, 2018 01:21PM) (new)

Janice (JG) I'm an amateur when it comes to Shakespearean background or knowledge. This group has been such a boon to me with its focus on S and the fascinating discussions about the plays, and the history of the plays, and I am so grateful to Candy for keeping this group alive that I agreed to moderate this play, despite my basic ignorance of Shakespeare. Fortunately, a Midsummer Night's Dream has been and continues to be my favorite of the Shakespeare plays I've read (so far).

I think I like this play so much because even tho' it seems to be one of Shakespeare's simple comedies of twists and turns and romantic mixups, it is in fact a complex play with several psychological layers of meanings which I hope will become topics of discussion here. I realize that many members of our group also like to examine the underlying wordgames and codeification that are indicative of the historical provenance of Shakespeare's publications, which can lend even more layers to the writings and plays, and that's fine too. I, personally, am more interested in the impression and impact the play has on 21st century audiences and how they relate it to their own lives and/or the world as they know it.

I am relying on two published discussions about this play to help me moderate and look like I know what I'm doing. One is the Introduction and Performance History in the New York Shakespeare Festival Complete Works version of the play that I am reading now, and the other is Marjorie Garber's invaluable Shakespearean aid, Shakespeare After All. Between these two, there should be enough to inspire some excellent discussion.

One of the pieces of information I found particularly interesting in the Performance History essay was that while the play was mostly treated as a lighthearted comedy and musical comedy for the first 300 years, it was in the 20th century, around the time of World War I, that the directors began to explore the darker sides of the play -- among them sexual strife and patriarchal abuse. There are also the psychological aspects of the play: the role of the conscious and the subconscious.

As a play that revolves around themes of change and transformation, Midsummer Night's Dream becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy by itself transforming over time. Keep these two emphasis in mind while you are reading. Do you see the play as a light-hearted romp, or as a black comedy with underlying messages, or perhaps as both?


message 7: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Candy wrote: "Ha! Good stuff!

I’m sitting on the back of a service station waiting for my car engine to cool down to add more coolant. Send prayers.

Other wise I would have written more. I hope to be back from..."


Drive carefully and safe journey with a cool engine and great tires! : )


message 8: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2752 comments Mod
Janice great job!!! You’re going to be fine. We are all amateurs anyways. I don’t think it’s possible to be an expert because s is so vast and complex.

Thanks for your encouragement on this site.

I got back to Chicago safe and sound. Yay!


message 9: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) I was fortunate to be able to see Midsummer Night's Dream at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon several years ago. It was performed as a punk-ish musical that had probably been somewhat influenced by the Rocky Horror Picture show. It was darkly comedic, but the big surprise was just how good the music was. I really wish I could find some kind of reference to that particular production online, but so far, no luck. It was sometime around 2005-6 I think.


message 10: by Brittany (new)

Brittany Burchett | 2 comments I haven't started re-reading this yet, but I know it's going to make me emotional. I first read this in the 8th grade - my first exposure to Shakespeare! I tried to sell my copy to a used bookstore the other day (it's one of those "Made Easy" copies with the real text on one side and a "modern translation" on the other) and as soon as I saw my teenage handwriting on there I couldn't do it.

Janice, I have never heard of this as a dark comedy - in fact, I've always heard of it/seen it done as one of is lightest - so that kind of blows my mind. That's why, despite my sentimental love of it, it's not one of my favorites. I don't typically like silly, slapstick comedy. There are some dark parts to it - Oberon's manipulation of Titania is pretty gross - but they're usually overlooked. I'd be interested to see a production dig into those.


message 11: by David (new)

David | 3 comments 'So quick bright things come to confusion.' There is definitely the potential for tragedy here! But I'm obviously missing something-just what is homoerotic about Theseus falling for Hippolyta?


message 12: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) With authoritarian men trying to control women, this becomes much more a case of a battle of the sexes at its foundation than a comedic romantic mixed up romp. I love it that Shakespeare sees the power that exists in men's hands to threaten death or a nunnery for virgin daughters who refuse to be sold to the highest bidder. Garber points out that this emphasis is not accidental, since a Virgin Queen sat on the throne -- "a powerful female ruler who called herself prince in formal proclamations..."

This is so forward thinking on Shakespeare's part that it almost proves the point that S may have been a woman, because who would know and understand the plight of being female better than another female? If men are obtuse now (and these last couple years have proved that yes, so many of them are), imagine their blindness to the issue several hundred years ago.


message 13: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Janice (JG) wrote: "Do you see the play as a light-hearted romp, or as a black comedy with underlying messages, or perhaps as both? ..."

Thanks Janice, for moderating! I love this play, and I definitely see it as both light and dark.

Upon first examination it certainly appears light hearted, but with closer examination we can definitely see the menacing sides of it. As I pointed out, the relationship between Theseus and Hippolyta seems to have had dark beginnings, involving kidnapping and rebellion. When Egeus goes before Theseus. he is actually proposing that his daughter be killed if she will not consent to marry Demetrius! Or be sent to a nunnery. It is very extreme.


message 14: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments Very interesting posts on feminist issues above.

I think the father's threat of death against Hermia may have a number of functions in the play. Throughout Shakespeare, characters flee from city to country and are absorbed for a period in the magic of nature, and the fear of death is the driver: the characters in As You Like It, Cymbeline, Edgar in Lear, Prospero himself, Miranda and Perdita as babies ... So it is an important plot device. And there is also the idea of harsh laws in a Greek setting, so in The Comedy of Errors,

If any born at Ephesus be seen
At any Syracusian marts and fairs;
Again: if any Syracusian born
Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies.

And look at the theme of "The Old Law",

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old... ("synopsis")

(which coincidentally has a character called Hippolyta.) Athens before Solon had, or was supposed to to have had, harsh "Draconian" laws. Draco comes into Plutarch, who also wrote a life of Theseus, as well as lawgivers King Numa and Lykurgos. But is Draco after all a legend, like Numa, Lykurgos and Moses, lawgiver to the Israelites? Admittedly putting Draco before Theseus would be an anachronism, but Shakespeare gives us anachronisms soon enough, when Hermia swears,

by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen,
When the false Troyan under sail was seen

she swears by Queen Dido, who lived long after the time of Theseus.

I've noticed that in Hollywood warrior women usually do pretty well for themselves, but in classical literature they usually die on the battlefield as they fight on the losing side: Penthesilia at Troy, Virgil's Camilla, Tasso's Clorinda. Hippolyta has survived better than most.

My guess is that S took the Theseus/Hippolyta backdrop from Chaucer's Knight's Tale, and perhaps the theme of love rivalry too.


message 15: by Martin (last edited Sep 18, 2018 11:09PM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments The moon, constantly referenced, is clearly important, but I find the references to its light very puzzling. Let me explain:

Theseus is impatient to marry, presumably because he is living chastely until the wedding night. This is planned for the first day of the new moon, which makes sense because the ancient Greek calendar was moon based, and important festivals were connected with the dates of the successive new moons (as it still is for Easter and Ramadan),

...four happy days bring in
Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow
This old moon wanes!...

Hippolita explains the timetable very clearly,

Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.

So if today is Monday, Friday will bring in the new moon. This seems to establish a chronolgy for the play as well as the marriage preparations. Hermia and Lysander plan to meet and elope Tuesday night. Does the rest of play follow this chronology?

The moon is female, a goddess, and she is chaste. (Because her monthly cycle never ends, i.e. she never gets pregnant?) So Theseus' threat to force Hermia to become a nun is not to be a nun in the Christian sense, but to be a priestess of Diana, "chanting faint hymns to the cold, fruitless moon."

The problem is that just before the new moon the night sky is dark, but then come repeated references to the moonlight, the reflection of the moon in the still lakes and ponds on "Tuesday night",

Tomorrow night, when Phoebe doth behold
Her silver visage in the watery glass,

Quince's plan for the rehearsal of the play,

meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moonlight; there will we rehearse,

not to mention

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.

I think this must must be S's intended design, but what is going on here?

Incidentally, Amazons carried moon-shaped shields,

Penthisilea there, with haughty grace,
Leads to the wars an Amazonian race:
In their right hands a pointed dart they wield;
The left, for ward, sustains the lunar shield.

(Dryden translating Virgil.)


message 16: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "The moon, constantly referenced, is clearly important, but I find the references to its light very puzzling...."

The way I see it, the moon would be in a phase of wane to wax, taking four days. If today is Monday, and the New Moon will occur on Friday, there is still a sliver of moonlight on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. On Thursday the sky is completely black (Dark Moon) and on Friday, the "silver bow, new bent in heaven" would appear. It makes sense that the forest would have some moonlighting, but not a lot. This adds to the mystery and confusion. Titania could be "ill met by moonlight" because, at that waning stage of the moon, there just isn't very much moonlight at all (which adds to Oberon's insulting of her -- as women identify with the moon.)

How interesting about the Amazons and the moon shields! Hippolyta would then be a close follower of the moon's phases. It is believed the New Moon marks a new beginning and a good time to start projects and ventures, so it would be a lucky time for a wedding.


message 17: by Martin (last edited Sep 20, 2018 04:39AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Yes, but the new moon is a daytime phenomenon, Christine, because the moon goes into total shadow when it's near the sun in the sky. To get an idea, look at

https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/usa/...

(assuming you are somewhere near Candy's home town). The 9th was new moon: rose at 6am set at 7pm. Going back to the 6th, which would correspond to the day of the play rehearsal and the elopement, it rose at 2.30 am, set at 5.30 pm (roughly), so there would be some night-light, but 2.30 am is a bit late for either of these activities. In any case "moonlight" seems to suggest a bright moon in the night sky -- a beacon to work by.

We're not used to dependence on the moon these days, with all the neon blazing away, but of course it was different in S's time, when moonlight was important.

I wonder if S is trying to do time-scrambling for the different worlds of the play, fairyland, ancient Athens, rustic artisans in the 16th century.


message 18: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "Yes, but the new moon is a daytime phenomenon, Christine, because the moon goes into total shadow when it's near the sun in the sky. To get an idea, look at

https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/usa/ch..."


Oh, I am keeping it simple, haha! Folks (especially Shakespeare's audience) only ever see the moon at night, and observe her phases as they appear at night. The lovers are not exposed by the bright full moon, Puck makes a mistake... I get the idea that things in the woods must be obscured.

Or maybe Shakespeare is playing with the times of the various worlds... At any rate natural phenomenon is a big theme of this play.


message 19: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Guys, don't forget that Candy has created separate chats for us to discuss the Acts, so as not to reveal spoilers for those who may be reading the play for the first time. Here is Act 2:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 20: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments I've done a bit of research, and found that the puzzle over the new moon (and the Dido anachronism) were all pointed out in the 18th century. Scholars then were a bit more pedantic -- like me I guess!

This note was supplied to Steeven's 1781 edition by William Blackstone. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William...

"...tomorrow night would be within three nights of the new moon, when there is no moon-shine at all, much less at deep midnight. The same oversight occurs in Act III sc. i."

To the literal Blackstone this is an "oversight" of S's, but S sets the whole thing out so carefully, I can't believe it is not deliberate. In Act 3 scene 1 they actually consult an almanac, for which www.timeanddate.com is a modern online equivalent.


message 21: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments The name Lysander and Demetrius can be found in Plutarch’s Lives (translated 1579). Helena was common in Shakespeare’s time, but Hermia not.

Hermia and Lysander are from Hero and Leander (Her___ and L__ander). How do we know this was Shakespeare’s intention? By Helen and Limander.
BOTTOM. And like Limander am I trusty still.

FLUTE. And like Helen till the Fates me kill.
Helen-Limander works as a hint to check the naming here.

Hermia is a perfect anagram of (=) her-may.
Lysander = liar-ends.
Lysander-Hermia = Liar ends her may.
May has the definition of bloom, prime, heyday (OED).

Hermia contains Mary (i=y in Shakespeare’s time).
Lysander contains Sidney.
Hermia-Lysander can spell Mary Sidney.

—Liar ends Mary Sidney’s heyday.

***

This is similar to Miranda and Prospero. The name Prospero was common in Shakespeare’s time, but Miranda not.

Prospero = o-prosper.
Miranda = in-drama.
Prospero-Miranda = O! Prosper in drama.

Miranda contains Mary.
Miranda-Prospero can spell Mary Sidney.

—O! Prosper in drama, Mary Sidney.

***

Why Shakespeare selected Pyramus and Thisbe in a wedding day? They die at the end.
QUINCE.
Marry, our play is the most lamentable Comedy,
and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Pyramus contains the backward Mary (_yraM__).
“Pyramus and Thisbe” can spell Mary Sidney Herbert.

The play is a daughter’s night’s dream to marry her true love against the father’s wish, something Mary Sidney didn’t do when she married 39 years old Henry Herbert in 1577. She was 16 then.

Night’s Dream can spell Mary Sidney.


message 22: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "Going back to the 6th, which would correspond to the day of the play rehearsal and the elopement, it rose at 2.30 am, set at 5.30 pm (roughly), so there would be some night-light, but 2.30 am is a bit late for either of these activities. In any case "moonlight" seems to suggest a bright moon in the night sky -- a beacon to work by. ..."

I am still thinking about this question of the moonlight, and upon closer look at Shakespeare's timeline, it makes sense that the activities are going on at around 2AM. When Hermia and Lysander plan to meet in the woods, they plan to meet at midnight.

HERMIA:

Keep word, Lysander: we must starve our sight
From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight.

LYSANDER
I will, my Hermia.

So, they do not get to the woods till midnight. Then everything occurs at the wee hours of the morning, with only sparse moonlight.


message 23: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments Yes, but there is still the business with the almanac. But that is Act 3 so can't be discussed here. (sigh) I think S fans was so much easier when all the play read posts were crowded into one thread . . .


message 24: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "Yes, but there is still the business with the almanac. But that is Act 3 so can't be discussed here. (sigh) ..."

I think are officially in Act 3 now!


message 25: by JimF (last edited Oct 10, 2018 08:24PM) (new)

JimF | 219 comments Egeus

Egeus is Hermia’s father in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Ægeus (Aegeus) is Theseus’ father in Greek myth.
Theseus and Hermia are placed in the same level here;
why would Shakespeare do that?

Aethra is Theseus’ mother in Greek myth.
Aethra and Aegeus share the Ae-.
Aegeus and Theseus share the -eus.
Aethra-Aegeus can spell Theseus — the founder of Athens.

This coincidence is used as a hint, that
Hermia-Lysander can spell Mary Sidney — the founder of Shakespeare.

The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1593 by Philip and Mary Sidney) has something similar:
– son of Pyrocles and Philoclea is named Pyrophilus;
– daughter of Pamela and Musidorus is named Melidora.

Nedar

Nedar is Helena’s father or mother in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Leda is Helen’s mother in Greek myth.
Leda and Nedar share the -eda.
Many names may contain -eda, why Nedar?

Nedar is a perfect anagram of daern, a variant of dern; dern has the definition of kept concealed, private (OED).

Nedar is also a perfect anagram of Arden. The name Arden appears only in As You Like It as the Forest of Arden. Forest has the usage of a wild, uncultivated land. Shakespeare is a wild uncultivated private land in the literature world.

Rosalinde (in As You Like It) needs just letter M to spell Mary Sidney. Her alias Ganymede provides the missing M; besides that, Ganymede is a perfect anagram of game-deny, which is what she does in the play and real life.

These name-pairs can spell Mary Sidney:
Miranda-Prospero,
Hermia-Lysander,
Rosalinde-Ganymede. Three is a pattern.

Shakespeare is a tempest, a secret forest in the literature world, and a night’s dream of Mary Sidney.

Set the right authorship can reason difficult lines in Shakespeare, sonnets especially.


message 26: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments JimF wrote: "Nedar is also a perfect anagram of Arden. The name Arden appears only in As You Like It as the Forest of Arden. Forest has the usage of a wild, uncultivated land. Shakespeare is a wild uncultivated private land in the literature world...."

Arden is also the maiden name of Shakespeare's mother. Her family were wealthy landowners, and might have owned some forests.

The forest, or the "green world" does play a big part in many of Shakespeare's plays, as a wild, uncivilized place.


message 27: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments Christine wrote: "Arden is also the maiden name of Shakespeare's mother. Her family were wealthy landowners, and might have owned some forests. ..."

Shakespeare’s naming logic is consistent, supported by many samples.

Ercles and Titania
NICK BOTTOM.
I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a Cat in.
Ercles is a part of Hercules; “rarely” is a part of “play Ercles.”

Titania is Diana in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Titania (_i_an_a) and Diana (_iana) is like Ercles and Hercules.

Name plays are used to seal stories or rumors. Shakespeare’s works have more than one thousand anagrams (I’ve found). Solving hidden stories has more fun than finding who wrote them.


message 28: by Phil (new)

Phil J | 97 comments A few responses to the above ideas:

* I read somewhere- I think it was in The Greek Myths- that the idea of Amazons cutting off their breasts came from a questionable etymological leap by scholars, thinking that "a" meant not and "mazon" was kind of like a word for breast. Anyway, Amazons are mythological, so there's no harm in imagining them one-breasted if you like.

* Regarding the nunnery/Diana priestess conflict and the swearing on Dido conflict- I always had the feeling that MND was rooted in the English countryside with Greek names and references lightly pasted on for exoticism. I think they don't make total sense because that wasn't really a priority for S. He valued history, but he wouldn't let it get in the way of a good story.

* Is this a romp or a dark commentary? I think it's mostly a romp. The play is legitimately funny. Like a lot of jokes, especially Shakespeare's jokes, it seems cruel when you think about it too hard. That's not to say it lacks moments of pathos and thoughts about the nature of love and free will, but for me it's mostly fun.


message 29: by Tom (new)

Tom Lane | 84 comments Definitely agree "the play's the thing," that for Mr. Bill, fidelity to history or even to mythical sources is secondary to storytelling and audience-pleasing. Also well said about the seeming cruelty of the jokes.


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