…If you only ever see/read/listen to one work by Shakespeare, Make it Midsummer Night’s Dream. it has been my favorite Shakespearean work since I saw it preformed in 1988 at Hafer Park in Edmond Oklahoma’s Shakespeare in the Park. This performance poured the foundation for a life long love of England’s National Poet, and especially this play. There is very little guess work as to what goes down, despite the numerous sub plots. It is all set in the town of Athens and the woods nearby. The days are leading up in preparation to the marrige of the King- Thesus, to – Hippolyta – Queen of the Amazons (yes, that’s right, Wonder Woman’s mom. In a parallel universe… what goes around.)- they have an interesting, al be it less, fun time line such that, you kinda forget about them for a long while through the story. Meanwhile, there is a girl – Hermia, who loves guy – Lysander; and when they ask her dad Egeus, if they can get married he says: “No way!” He wants Hermia to marry Demitirus, who is totally keen on the idea. On the sidelines in Helena, Demitrius’ ex-, and a good friend of Hermia. Long story short, Lysander and Hermia decide to run away, so they plan to meet in the woods at night, during all the partying, and run off to Lysander’s aunt, where “cruel Athenian law” has no bite. Helena, decides she can get back with Demetirus if she tells him of their plan, and he will love her for it. (Sidenote: Ladies, if you feel like you have to “do” something to “Make him love you.” Run away, run away.)
There are also fairies! And the king of them is Oberon. His queen, Titania, and he are at
odds, because she won’t give in to him. About this time, Oberon overhears a scuffle between Demetrius and Helena, who are trying to catch Lysander and Hermia… and
Oberon, tells SO he asks his buddy, Puck, to find a special flower
the essence of which, when placed on sleeping eyelids can make someone fall in love with the first thing they see upon waking. Oberon bades Puck to also enchant Titania, hoping she will fall in love with some hideous forest creature, thus removing her from messing in his plans. Oberon further asks Puck to plunk some of the oil into grumpy-Demetrius’s eyes so he will fall back in love with Helena. Meanwhile…
…nearby, a group of players come into the woods to begin rehearsing Pyramus and Thisbe, a play they plan to perform at Royal Wedding. In the troop is Nick Bottom a weaver. He is a most arrogant ass. Puck, really hits this point home when he enchants Bottom’s head into that of a donkey. This scares off all the other actors and he stumbles his way into the sleeping (enchanted!) Titania’s fairy-bed-bower, and she wakes? Shed falls like only a fairy queen can.
I won’t divulge anymore. It is such a brilliantly entertaining (and bawdy) story. It was my favorite to teach, and I even did so a few times when I wasn’t “supposed” to. (Teehee!)
Most people push through whatever minimal exposure they might get to The Bard in high school and/or college, without really knowing what the big deal is. I believe, this comedy, is the easiest of his play to “fall into*” and, more importantly, it is fucking hilarious.
I saw The 1999 version with Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania; Rupert Everett as Oberon; Stanley Tucci – Puck; and Kevin Kline playing Bottom- with my Mom. She “didn’t like Shakespeare. I don’t understand it.” I asked her to please just go and let herself listen; and of course Gave her the high points of the story.
She was in tears by the end. “I didnt know it would be so funy, or so naughty!”
This evening, as I’m day four into bed ridden recovery from some sorta knee-bone-connected-to-the- butt-bone injury, I wanted something a little more lighthearted. I took the computer up on it’s “7 days free” subscription to BritBix and I came across he BBC’s 2016 release of the very same!
Yeah! Creepy Gil from Bridesmaids,
Matt Lucas! who put on one of the most adorably irksome Bottom the Weaver, that I have seen. Out-assing, even Kevin Kline. I mean, he was great in Bridesmaids, and it’s hard not to imagine that he and Rebel Wilson, aren’t actually those odd- siblings. So clearly the guys has chops, but Shakespeare, I didn’t imagine.
The beauty of Shakespeare is that the stories are adaptable to any time frame. The art is in that message, that the human condition, is, as it always has been. And that, my friends, is beautiful.
*By “fall into” it takes some time for your brain to adjust to the language and the cadence of Shakespeare. It’s about following context, more than word by word. It’s harder than just allowing your brain to shut off, in a movie. It requires more “backstage” brain action. But it is worth the effort.