Theatre: A Midsummer Night's Dream
This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
A comedy in ancient Athens about a Love Dodecahedron
gone out of control thanks to the meddling of fairies with a Love Potion
. By William Shakespeare
Two young Athenians, Hermia and Lysander, are in love. Unfortunately, Hermia's father Egeus has just betrothed
her to another man named Demetrius. Demetrius' former girl was Helena, who just happens to be Hermia's best friend and is now angry that Demetrius has chosen the wealthy Hermia over the woman he used to love. They go to court, where Duke Theseus (who has his own impending marriage to Hippolyta, an Amazon queen, on his mind), rules in Egeus' favor. He gives Hermia the choice to accept the marriage, be executed, or become a nun.
So Hermia and Lysander run away by night. Before they leave, Hermia confides in Helena and asks her not to tell anyone; so naturally, Helena tells Demetrius in a last ditch attempt to get back into his good graces. Demetrius follows the lovers, with Helena following after him, and all of them end up lost in the same forest.
Meanwhile, Oberon, King of the Fairies, has concocted a plan to get revenge on his bickering wife Titania, involving a certain flower whose nectar will, after being dropped into someone's eyes, cause them to fall in love with the first person they see. After eavesdropping on Helena and Demetrius and seeing how he spurns her, Oberon decides to have a bit more fun. He sends his servant Puck to give the potion to "a youth in Athenian garb," traveling in the woods with a woman, in such a set-up so that the first person he sees will be the woman. Oberon then finds Titania while asleep and applies the juice to her eyes.
Obediently, Puck uses the potion on a young man in Athenian garb asleep in the woods near a young woman. Unluckily, the guy is Lysander, not Demetrius, and the woman who wakes him is Helena. Hermia wakes to find that her beau is madly in love with her best friend instead of her! Unaware of his error, Puck proceeds to the Alpha plot regarding Titania and finds an unwitting actor in the play to be performed at Theseus' wedding, turns his head into a donkey's, scares off the rest of the performers, and then arranges for Titania to see him upon waking.
Upon discovering that the wrong Athenian was hexed, Oberon tries to mend matters by giving the potion to the intended victim, Demetrius. This backfires too, and now both
of Hermia's former suitors are fighting over Helena, who thinks that the other three are mocking her. Meanwhile, Titania is in love with the guy with a donkey's head (although the victim, Mr. Nick Bottom, doesn't seem too distressed), Oberon is frustrated at the failure of his plans, and it's going to take some serious Deus ex Machina
to repair all this chaos.
Of course, it all gets straightened out in the end, everyone is paired off in a triple wedding, and the local tradesmen get to perform their hilariously awful
play for the Duke and entourage.
This is the play that that kid killed himself over in Dead Poets Society
. Like most of Shakespeare's famous plays, it's been adapted to film several times, most recently a 1999 Hollywood production set in 19th Century Italy: despite a star-studded cast (including Calista Flockhart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale and several others) and high production values, it met with mixed reviews at best. There's also a version from the '30s in which James Cagney plays Bottom and a fourteen-year-old Mickey Rooney plays Puck, as well as a British production from 1968 that's notable mostly for dressing the fairies in its cast in vines and green body paint
. The fairies feature largely in Poul Anderson
's A Midsummer Tempest
wrote incidental music for the play, including setting the fairies' song to music. And the Wedding March
In 1993, Baz Luhrmann (known for Moulin Rouge!
and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
) produced a critically acclaimed opera based on the play, set in colonial India. His version of the fairies' dance (Now Until the Break of Day)
was featured in his album "Something For Everybody". Woody Allen
's version, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
was less successful during its release but gained its own following
This play includes examples of: