William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream

2833 words - 11 pages

William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The focus of this discussion will be upon the language and performance
possibilities of this extract from the Dream[1], following brief
consideration of the manner in which the extract relates to the rest
of the play in terms of plot development and the reflection of certain
of the play’s themes. Performance aspects are considered alongside
the distinctive features of the language, as it is suggested that the
nature of the language employed governs performance. Broadly
speaking, it is argued that while the language of the extract lends
itself to a humorous performance on more than one level, in certain
respects the humour seeks to convey a serious message and the
extract’s comedy should not mask unexpected instances of sincerity.

As suggested above, this extract relates to the Dream as a whole
through simple plot development and the illustration of some of the
play’s recurring themes. The extract progresses two of the play’s
four principal plot lines. As it structurally occupies a central point
in the play, it also represents a mid-point in the development of
these plot lines. The discord, which exists between Titania and Oberon
and is initially revealed in Act 2 Scene 1, is played out, as the
juice, which Oberon has dropped on Titania’s eyelids causes her to
wake and fall in love with Bottom. This plot proceeds to its
denouement with the restoration of harmony between the fairy King and
Queen in Act 4 Scene 1. The clowns[2], meanwhile, having met in Act 1
Scene 2 to allot parts for the play, which they are later to perform
before Theseus and Hippolyta, are now in the forest rehearsing. In
both respects, the scene also serves as a humorous interlude between
the wranglings of the courtiers.

Of the play’s themes reflected within this extract, it is suggested
here that the most significant is the parody of the language and
behaviour of the courtiers and that of the hierarchical social
structures, which exist in both Athens and the fairy world. This
theme provides a broad framework, within which language and
performance possibilities are discussed below. The relationship
between reality and the imagination is a second theme reflected in the
extract. The action takes place in the forest, which may be considered
the world of the imagination in opposition to the ‘real’ world of
Athens. If sleep and waking can be argued to represent the passage
between reality and imagination in the Dream, there is some irony in
Titania, a resident of the imaginary world of the fairies, awaking and
stepping out of her own reality into an imaginary love for Bottom.
Finally, the extract elaborates on the idea of Metatheatre,
superficially through the rehearsal of a play by...

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