January 24, 2022

#08-181: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Titania, Bottom, and Puck

Note: A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's "funnest" plays, set on the summer solstice.

Get Ready: Do you believe certain days in the year, such as solstices and equinoxes, cause different behavior in humans (or animals)?

Theseus, Duke of Athens, will marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, in just four days.

Before that happens. Egeus and his daughter Hermia come to Theseus: Egeus wants the girl to marry Demetrius, but she is in love with Lysander. Egeus invokes an ancient Athenian law that says if a girl refuses to follow her father's wishes in marriage, he can ask the Duke to execute her! Theseus instead offers her the choice of becoming a nun in service to the goddess Diana.

Defying her father, Hermia plans to run away with Lysander. But when she tells her best friend Helena, Helena informs Demetrius--her former lover (who has been chosen by Egeus, and who rejects Helena because he now loves Hermia)--and Demetrius follows Hermia and Lysander into the woods.

Meanwhile, in a subplot, a group of tradesmen is also in the woods, where they are planning a comic performance of the ancient play Pyramus and Thisbe, about lovers forbidden to be together (it was one of the sources of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet). They plan to perform this at Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding.

Also in the neighborhood, to attend the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, are Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the fairies. But they have been quarreling. To punish Titania, Oberon tells his servant, a "bad boy" fairy named Puck, to cause Titania to fall in love with the first person she sees. He also tells Puck to use the potion on an Athenian man--meaning Demetrius--to make him fall in love with Helena.

That second plan goes astray. Puck uses the potion on the wrong Athenian man--Lysander--who, though meant to marry Hermia, falls in love with Helena!

Puck, meanwhile, gives one of the tradesmen, named Bottom, the head of a donkey, and Titania the Fairy Queen falls in love with him!

Much of the remainder of the play involves people running around in the forest, arguing and mistaking one for another, until in the end Puck uses his magic to set everything right: Lysander is with Hermia, and Demetrius with Helena. Oberon and Titania are reconciled, and Theseus orders a mass wedding: when he marries Hippolyta, the two other human couples will wed as well.

Bottom gets his own head back in time for the tradesmen to perform at the wedding, to the amusement of all.

In the end, the two young couples believe that they dreamed the events of the night. And Puck for his part suggests that the audience may have dreamed the whole play, too!

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream...


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night%27s_Dream

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. amusement
  2. astray
  3. funnest
  4. potion
  5. quarreling
  6. reconciled
  7. remainder
  8. subplot
  9. summer solstice
  10. tradesmen

  1. the longest day (and shortest night) of the year
  2. brought back together
  3. fighting; arguing
  4. bad English for "most fun"
  5. enjoyment; fun
  6. what's left of something
  7. a secondary story
  8. off the point
  9. a drink with magic power
  10. people who work with their hands--carpenters, weavers, tailors, etc.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 24, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. h; 3. d; 4. i; 5. c; 6. b; 7. f; 8. g; 9. a; 10. j