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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 5 May 2018

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare

I have seen this as an amateur production in The Place Theatre in Bedford; I also saw it performed at Greenwich Theatre by the Lazarus Company (who have also performed for me Tamburlaine and Edward II, both by Christopher Marlowe). The Lazarus Dream included outstanding performances by Eli Caldwell (@EelsCaldwell) as Flute in drag as Thisbe and Tessa Carmody (@Tessa_Carmody) as Puck. In the original play the four-crossed-lovers problem is solved at the end of Act Four leaving Act Five for the knockabout humour of the dreadful Mechanicals play. This is a slightly damp squib ending. This production solved this by moving Bottom's play (minus the audience comments) to before the four lovers woke up in the forest, their differences resolved. Very clever!

The plot of the Dream revolves around Oberon, king of the fairies, using a love potion to make his wife Titania fall in love with the first thing she sees on waking, which Oberon's servant, the mischievous Robin Goodfellow, a puck, ensures is a weaver called Bottom whom Puck has given the head of an ass.

At the same time in the magical wood are a foursome of mismatched lovers. Tall blonde Helena (it would seem that Shakespeare wrote these parts for the characteristics of the two boys who played women in his theatrical company) is in love with Demetrius who doesn't love her but wants to marry short dark Hermia who doesn't want him but Lysander who loves her. So Oberon commands Puck to enchant Demetrius to love Helena but Puck gets it wrong and enchants Lysander instead. So now no one wants Hermia and both men want Helena who now thinks they are teasing her. And of course the men want to fight. The scene in the centre of the play (A3S2) is a brilliant fourway dialogue (tetralogue?)

The other plot is that of the rustics who are to perform a play in front of Duke Theseus for his wedding feast. Their rehearsals in the wood are interrupted when Nick Bottom, the weaver, is given the ass's head. This play ends with their play which, with Bottom overacting, the Wall talking and the Lion reassuring the ladies that he is not really a lion in case they are afraid, is as dreadful as it promised to be.

Classic error-strewn, knockabout Shakespearean comedy with the added bonus that one can really feel the characterisations (there is a wonderful moment right at the start when Lysander, angered that Hermia's father wants Hermia to marry Demetrius, says “You have her father's love, Demetrius;/ Let me have Hermia’s. Do you marry him.” Snarky!).

And, of course, there is the poetry:

... how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires
Like to a stepdame or a dowager
Long withering out a young man's revenue

Who'd be a nun?
To live a barren sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.

The world is out of sorts:
The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock.

Helena tells them not to take the piss:
O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent
To set against me for your merriment.

Why should he stay whom love doth press to go?

You thief of love - what, have you come by night
And stol’n my love’s heart from him?

My fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger,
At whose approach ghosts, wand’ring here and there,
Troop home to churchyards; damned spirits all
That in cross-ways and floods have burial
Already to their wormy beds are gon

Cupid is a knavish lad
Thus to make poor females mad.

These things seem small and undistinguishable,
Like far off mountains turned into clouds

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold:
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

May 2018

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