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Group Readings > Midsummer Night, Act 2, Sept 13-20

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2752 comments Mod
Discussion of Act 2 can begin here! We generally read one Act per week trying to avoid spoilers just in case someone hasn’t read it.... or it gives us a chance to look at the play in a new way by one Act at a time.

😀


message 2: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments I always love Act 2, as it introduces the forest and the fairies. Since we are delving into the "dark" side of the play this time, I wonder about the fight between Oberon and Titania.

Seems they are basically accusing each other of adultery, or at least of loving/ lusting after others.

TITANIA
Then I must be thy lady: but I know
When thou hast stolen away from fairy land,
And in the shape of Corin sat all day,
Playing on pipes of corn and versing love
To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here,
Come from the farthest Steppe of India?
But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,
Your buskin'd mistress and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded, and you come
To give their bed joy and prosperity.

OBERON
How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?
Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night
From Perigenia, whom he ravished?
And make him with fair Aegle break his faith,
With Ariadne and Antiopa?

Theseus is once again placed in a bad light. "Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night From Perigenia, whom he ravished?" According to some translations, ravished means raped...
Titania leads Theseus away from Peregenia, and others.

Titania of course denies it:

TITANIA
These are the forgeries of jealousy:

Nonetheless, they are pretty steep accusations.


message 3: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments And then there is the disturbing question of the Changeling.

OBERON
"Do you amend it then; it lies in you:
Why should Titania cross her Oberon?
I do but beg a little changeling boy,
To be my henchman."

Titania jealously guards the Changeling. Oberon plans to make him a "henchman". What kind of work would the henchman have to do, since Titania is so adamant upon keeping the boy out of it?

Oxford defines "henchman" as:
hench·man
/ˈhen(t)SHmən/
noun

1.
a faithful follower or political supporter, especially one prepared to engage in crime or dishonest practices by way of service:
"the dictator's henchman"

Hmmm...


message 4: by Martin (new)

Martin | 1203 comments I am amazed by the dense texture of the first scene here. So rich with allusions ...

And why India?


message 5: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments It is a good question, why India? I'll try to do some sleuthing on this.


message 6: by Martin (last edited Sep 21, 2018 07:54AM) (new)

Martin | 1203 comments Puck accuses Titania of stealing the Indian boy,

A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling.

But Titania makes it clear she is adopting an orphan as an act of charity,

But she, being mortal, of that boy did die,
And for her sake do I rear up her boy.

Titania is maligned by the male Puck, but in her exchanges with Oberon fights back and gives as good as she gets. She is much more feisty than the other females.

Examples of this "dense texture", Corin piping to Phyllida is pastoral (Virgil), but Oberon taking the form of Corin is metamorphic (Ovid). The moon quenching Cupid's arrow, and the creation of the love-flower is ancient myth, but the mis-application of the juice of the flower is medieval, and is like the love philtre intended for Iseult and Mark being drunk by Iseult and Tristan instead. Three worlds are mixed, S's contemporary world of Warwickshire, with its bellows-menders and tailors, fairyland, and legendary Athens, all constantly overlapping and splitting.

Does anyone know Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno? There is a similar division: 19th century society, fairies who move among them, and a kingdom, "Outland" (where outlandish things are liable to happen) where the fairies also live. I think Carroll must have taken the idea from S.


message 7: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "Does anyone know Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno? There is a similar division: 19th century society, fairies who move among them, and a kingdom, "Outland" (where outlandish things are liable to happen) where the fairies also live. I think Carroll must have taken the idea from S. ..."

I love Lewis Carroll! I've always felt like he was influenced by Shakespeare. His style involves a lot of word play, as well as the use of fairy and human worlds.


message 8: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Regarding India, it seems Elizabethan England had some ties and interests there. Perhaps Shakespeare was interested in its exotic culture. The East India Company, which established trade relations between England, China and India, was formed near the end of Elizabeth's reign in 1600.

According to Wiki: "The East India Company (EIC) was an English and later British joint-stock company, formed to trade with the East Indies (in present-day terms, Maritime Southeast Asia), but ended up trading mainly with Qing China and seizing control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Originally chartered as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies", the company rose to account for half of the world's trade, particularly in basic commodities including cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, spices, saltpetre, tea, and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India."

Furthermore, apparently East Indians living in England was a fairly common thing in Shakespeare's time. According to an online site called The Hindu: "Indians have lived and died in London since before the birth of Shakespeare. On March 22, 1550, Salamon Nurr — the Anglicised name of Suleman Noor — was buried at St. Margaret’s in Westminster. On December 28, 1613, another Indian, Samuel Munsur, married Jane Johnson at St. Nicholas Church in Deptford, about five miles from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in Southwark. More Indian betrothals, baptisms and burials followed.

‘Peter Pope,’ a lad from Bengal, was the first known Indian to be baptised in London, on December 22, 1616. He was brought to London in 1614 by Captain Best and handed over to Reverend Patrick Copland, the East India Company’s chaplain in Masulipatnam (now Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh). Copland instructed him in religion, so that Peter could administer the conversion of more Indians on his return.

The ‘Indian Caliban’

‘What have we here? A man or a fish?’ asks Trinculo, the Shakespearean fool in The Tempest (1610). ‘A strange fish! Were I in England now, as once I was, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver… When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.’

On Fenchurch Street where Peter — the Indian Caliban — was Anglicised, the entire political apparatus of England came to watch. Peter’s name was suggested by King James himself. The Archbishop of Canterbury blessed the baptism in the presence of the directors of the Companies and the members of the Privy Council.

Peter’s entry into the London scene was a manifestation of the ‘boy stolen from an Indian King,’ that Shakespeare wrote about in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595). Peter returned to India in 1617, soon to be a forgotten character from an unsung history."

Although these events were happening after MSND was written, I suppose they still reflect the zeitgeist of Shakespeare's England, and may explain why he chose India as the place where the changeling came from.


message 9: by Martin (last edited Sep 21, 2018 11:42PM) (new)

Martin | 1203 comments Christine, that is really interesting. The names East Indies and West Indies have carried on in Britain until the present day, and I remember as a child being confused by the distinction. Certainly "Indian" in MND refers to the East, as in

And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossiped by my side,

and we all know from Indian restaurants, their love of spices. But I've always understood that Trinculo's "dead Indian" refers to an American native, who, like Pocahontas, was liable to succumb to diseases when brought over to Britain. In any case, the two Indias were recognised then, as in Donne's "both the Indias of spice and mine", referring to the spice trade in the east, and gold mining in the west.

But you are left wondering to which of India's many religions Titania's "votress of my order" belonged -- a priestess of countryside fairies . . .


message 10: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments Changeling is the key of this play. It has the definition of “a person or thing surreptitiously put in exchange for another” (OED).

Why India?
TITANIA.
Then I must be thy Lady: but I know
When thou wast stolen away from Fairy Land,
And in the shape of Corin, sat all day,
Playing on pipes of Corn, and versing love
To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here
Come from the farthest steepe of India?
Corin-Corn is a hint on exchange. It’s about the shape, not meaning or sound. What about Phillida and India?

Corin-India can spell Arcadia (-dia). It’s the dreamland of Philip and Mary Sidney. She surreptitiously exchanged Philip to various roles in Shakespeare.

Steepe is a variant of steep (a precipitous place). The “farthest steep of India” alludes to Arcadia, which fits the name Corin and Phillida better than India.

Phillida can spell Philip; “steep of India” can spell Sidney.


message 11: by Christine (last edited Sep 22, 2018 07:38PM) (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "Christine, that is really interesting. The names East Indies and West Indies have carried on in Britain until the present day, and I remember as a child being confused by the distinction. Certainly"Indian" in MND refers to the East, ..."

Yes, it is confusing! I blame Columbus! He was originally trying to find a quicker trade route into India and ended up in the Americas, naming all the inhabitants "Indians". It is amazing that the name stuck. You would think someone would have corrected this within 500 years, haha! We still have to explain this to kids in school.

I too think of the Indian reference in The Tempest as a Native American. The text I copied is just a quote I used from the Hindu website, and an interesting perspective as well. No one really knows for sure, after all...

But I am curious about use of India in MND and now I believe it was because of the powerful trade opportunities India created for England which must have interested people at the time.

I did some more sleuthing and found an ancient texts website, regarding HInduism. It seems there is a Fairy Faith in India (just as there is in almost every culture.)

"The Gandharvas are renowned musicians and bards and singers. When they play on their divine instruments the fairy-like Apsaras, who are all females, dance merrily. In the various Aryan heavens these elves and fairies delight and allure with music and song and dance the gods, and the souls of those who have attained to a state of bliss. The Apsara dancing girls are "voluptuous and beautiful", and inspire love in Paradise as well as upon earth. Their lovers include gods, Gandharvas, and mortals. Arjuna, the human son of Indra, who was transported in a Celestial chariot to Swarga over Suravithi, "the Milky Way", was enchanted by the music and songs and dances of the Celestial elves and fairies." http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/iml/i...

Shakespeare is playing a lot with belief systems and mixing things up! It starts out in Greek mythology, with Theseus and Hippolyta. It switches over to Celtic folklore with Robin Goodfellow, then goes on to include India. The interesting thing is that so many mythologies have similar deities and magical beings.


message 12: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments JimF wrote: "Changeling is the key of this play. It has the definition of “a person or thing surreptitiously put in exchange for another” (OED)...."

And, in some ways, the entire play is really about one thing or person, being put in exchange for another. The lovers would trade one for the other, while under the spell of Oberon. Lysander and Demetrius would trade Helena for their true love, Hermia, Titania will trade Bottom for her true love, Oberon. Even Egeus will trade Demetrius for Hermia's true love, Lysander.

Some scholars claim that the use of similar names (Hermia and Helena) was to show the audience that the girls were very alike and almost interchangeable.


message 13: by Martin (last edited Sep 23, 2018 03:05AM) (new)

Martin | 1203 comments Christine, yes, I like your idea of the choice of India because of a fairy faith there. India is after all "the cradle of religions." Ancient Greece had its spirits of nature -- dryads, hamadryads, naiads and perhaps other -ads -- but they were hardly fairies, with their reputation as helpers and mischief makers, and servants to Nature: making the leaves go brown and putting ice on the lakes like the ones in Disney's Fantasia.

S cleverly shows us the fairy activities from the fairies' viewpoint. The countryfolks viewpoint is beautifully described by Milton, and compares neatly with MND:

Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How Faery Mab the junkets eat.
She was pinched and pulled, she said;
And he, by Friar's lantern led,
Tells how the drudging goblin sweat
To earn his cream-bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn
That ten day-labourers could not end;
Then lies him down, the lubber fiend,
And, stretched out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength,
And crop-full out of doors he flings,
Ere the first cock his matin rings.
Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering winds soon lulled asleep.

The gossip saying she was pinched and pulled is like Puck playing the trick with the crab apple or shifting the three-legged stool. The man led by "friar's lantern" (the will o the wisp) is the mesleading of the night-wanderer. The goblin I think is Puck again (Milton's "lubber" like S's "lob") but in a more genial mood, leaving the threshed corn to be found by the harvesters after accepting the bowl of cream.

Milton gives us the stories told by country people over their evening ale, and it is strange to think how widely all this must have been believed in the 16th and 17th centuries.


message 14: by Martin (new)

Martin | 1203 comments Please move the above to the self-promotion section.


message 15: by Christine (last edited Sep 23, 2018 05:40PM) (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "Christine, yes, I like your idea of the choice of India because of a fairy faith there. India is after all "the cradle of religions." Ancient Greece had its spirits of nature -- dryads, hamadryads,..."

Interesting link! Yes, India can indeed be called the Cradle of Religions.

I suppose people do not think of MSND as particularly religious, yet so many forms of faith are included. It is definitely important to note that Fairy Faith was a very real belief in the 15th - 17th centuries. It still is today in some parts of the world.

Fairy Faith would have been a very prominent belief in the Warwickshire countryside. For one thing, they had a deep fear of Changelings. With children being so sickly, and so many babies dying, it was often blamed on the Fairies. They were also blamed for missing objects, food going bad, etc. Shakespeare's audience must have played right into the Changeling angle of the story, as well as Puck's antics!

The Faery Mab was also mentioned in Romeo and Juliet. Remember Mercutio's somewhat disturbing monologue, which starts out light-hearted but turns dark:

MERCUTIO
O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;...

And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies ' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are...

This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she--"

Seems like some hefty accusations, and Mab is the culprit of hidden psychological urges!


message 16: by Martin (new)

Martin | 1203 comments Thank you for the "Queen Mab" speech, so well known, and yet I don't think I've ever read it properly before. For example I never saw that "women of good carriage" has a double meaning, both "elegant deportment" and "able to carry the weight of a man on top". And that Queen Mab is a midwife because she helps sleepers give birth to dreams,

Is Queen Mab the same person as Titania? Queen Mab is tiny, and of course in MND the fairies need to be played by actors the same size as everyone else, but they describe themelves as small, or have "small" names, like mustardseed.


message 17: by Janice (JG) (last edited Sep 25, 2018 04:46PM) (new)

Janice (JG) Mea culpa, mea culpa... I am such a sorry moderator, I got distracted and involved in family and abandoned my responsibilities abominably. I will try to catch up and hopefully add something to this discussion as soon as I do.

Martin!! I am so glad to see you, it's been a while and I for one have missed your presence here. You and Christine and JimF have created some fascinating threads and comments. All I will add right now is that Garber (my constant resource for these plays) states right off that "In a way we could say that Midsummer Night's Dream is Romeo and Juliet turned inside out."

S wrote both plays in the same years. Certainly fathers choosing for their daughters, and daughters rejecting their fathers' decisions, then choosing other lovers, then wanting to run away, all coincide. One very interesting observation by Garber:
Both plays strongly emphasize the difference between night, which transforms and changes, and day, which is rigid, inflexible, and associated with law
The moon is also constantly changing, which coincides nicely with your questions and discussions about the presence and phases of the moon.

I will return with more as soon as I catch up!


message 18: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments Christine wrote: "Some scholars claim that the use of similar names (Hermia and Helena) was to show the audience that the girls were very alike and almost interchangeable."

Nature of Helena in this play is to lean on a man; Hermia to marry a man.
Helena is a perfect anagram of lean-he; Hermia of mary-he.

In the First Folio, mary is a variant of marry, e.g. “let him mary a woman that cannot go.”

Naming follows the same logic in Shakespeare. I believe this was intelligently done to tell the true authorship.


message 19: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Martin wrote: "Is Queen Mab the same person as Titania? Queen Mab is tiny, and of course in MND the fairies need to be played by actors the same size as everyone else, but they describe themelves as small, or have "small" names, like mustardseed...."

Queen Mab and Titania are different people. Queen Mab is well known in Celtic mythology as the Fairy Midwife who indeed gives birth to people's dreams. Titania is mostly Shakespeare's invention, although he took the name from Ovid's Metamorphoses, where it was used to identify the daughters of Titan.

All fairies are shape-shifters, so they can make themselves small or large. There are a lot of references to their changing shapes, like Puck changing into a crab apple:

"And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob
And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale"

They can also make themselves large, which they do when encountering the humans.


message 20: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments Janice (JG) wrote: "All I will add right now is that Garber (my constant resource for these plays) states right off that "In a way we could say that Midsummer Night's Dream is Romeo and Juliet turned inside out...."

Janice, not only are there similarities in the father/daughter relationships, forbidden love, etc.. but also in the use of Pyramus and Thisbe as the "play within a play". Pyramus and Thisbe is an ancient Babylonian story which Shakespeare used as inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. The lovers run away to be together, and commit misdirected, or unintended suicides. (The joke of course is that the rude mechanicals are so bad at playacting that the show is funny, not tragic.)


message 21: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments JimF wrote: "Nature of Helena in this play is to lean on a man; Hermia to marry a man. Helena is a perfect anagram of lean-he; Hermia of mary-he...."

Very interesting! The beginning of the play is about Hermia's marriage possibilities, and Helena is 'leaning' upon Demetrius...


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