Friday, September 19, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Who am I to criticize Shakespeare? All I know is that I like some of his plays and don't like others. Strangely, I'm inclined to enjoy his tragedies since they aren't quite as silly as the comedies. Midsummer Night's Dream may be the silliest of them all.

The most famous line from this play is "The course of true love never did run smooth," and Shakespeare sets out to prove just how foolish and fickle lovers can be. Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius. Both men love Hermia. But, of course, Hermia's father wants her to marry the one she doesn't love. Oberon and Titania (fairy king and queen) have a spat and he casts a spell that causes more romantic confusion.

I'm sure it would have been much more enjoyable (and much easier to keep everybody straight) if I'd watched the play. Maybe someday. For now I have to say the most delightful part of the whole experience was reading the Arthur Rackham version. Even on the Kindle Fire the pictures were large enough to admire. Rackham perfectly captured the ethereal quality of the fairies. The only fly in the ointment (apart from the silliness) was that I could not underline favorite passages. These beautifully illustrated books are like pdf files and cannot be highlighted.

I especially enjoyed Oberon and Titania's benediction at the end of the story: "Hand in hand, with fairy grace, will we sing, and bless this place."

I'm halfway through my goal to read  four Shakespeare plays this year!


Sherry said...

1913I tend to like the comedies (mostly) because they're much more hope-filled than the tragedies. Sin is mocked and put in its place, and there's a wedding in the end.

The tragedies, on the other hand, show the growth of unrepented sin into monstrous evil that brings forth death. It's a true message, but very sad and bitter.

Unknown said...

Ooooo...that Arthur Rackham illustrated one looks gorgeous! I'm just dabbling in Shakespeare myself...mainly reading retellings like Lamb's and Nesbit's with my children.

Rae said...

I agree that the plots of Shakespeare's comedies (at least) can sound ridiculous in a summary! Recently I purchased Nesbit's _Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare_ with the thought of using it as a gentle introduction for my little daughters-- and I was surprised to find how awkward many of the tales sounded, despite Nesbit's lovely language.

That said, I do love reading Shakespeare!! As Sherry observes-- there's so much hope, so much optimism, so much *Providence* in the comedies. They lead me to see my own life through new eyes.

Jessica Snell said...

I have to agree: I didn't really get this one till I saw it performed. But then I saw it performed and it was hilarious!