Friday, February 5, 2010

Midsummer for Dummies 101

I’m going to start this post off by sharing a little secret(Drum Roll) I didn’t pay any attention to Shakespeare whatsoever in high school.

If this sounds like you, definitely keep reading. We’re in the same boat.

If you were a teacher’s pet and absolutely adored Shakespeare then also keep reading to laugh at my expense and to give you a little refresher on the barebones of the story. (Although I’m sure you don’t need it…)

So back to me: My experience with Shakespeare went a little like this…

Interaction 1:
In middle school, theatre was what all the cool kids did and I wasn’t a “cool” kid (apparently). They did A Midsummer Night’s Dream and they were intolerably proud of themselves, so I went to the show with high expectations. It certainly was a comedy, but not in the way it was intended. Do I remember the funny story? No. Do I remember everyone in tights and fairy costumes blabbering in bad English accents? Yes. I wish I’d taken pictures so I could put them up on Facebook.

Interaction 2:
I didn’t come back in contact with Shakespeare until high school. By then, I’d realized that was my friend, so reading it really wasn’t a requirement, but more like a suggestion. My thoughts about Macbeth obviously had no impression on me whatsoever.

Interaction 3:
During the next year of high school I realized that sonnets are actually pretty cool. Even if half of the words are no longer or never were in the English language, I still appreciated it.

Interaction 4:
Now senior year is what really left a bad taste in my mouth with Shakespeare. My closest experience to Shakespeare was “acting out” Julius Caesar in my theatre class. Mind you, I didn’t sign up for this class and I was severely intimidated by my teacher. I got in trouble for stumbling over words. I got in trouble for pausing too long. I got in trouble for pretty much about everything in that class, especially being late, but that’s not really Shakespeare related. Anyway, one day, my character had to stab Caesar. I’m not a really “stab Caesar” kind of person and of course, I wasn’t doing it right. After failing to stab Caesar properly, I kind of gave up on Shakespeare.

BUT – I’m making an exception for Midsummer and if you’re not the biggest Shakespeare fan, so should you!

The Story:
Here’s a short intro to the story in 21st century layman’s terms.

The main plot follows two sets of couples (Hermia & Lysander and Helena & Demetrius), who have difficult love affairs. Their romances are further complicated after entering the enchanted forest where Oberon, King of the Fairies and his Queen, Titania live among the fairies. Oberon’s servant named Puck is an ornery kid playing tricks on everyone and he’s a main character in the story. Other visitors to the forest include Bottom and some of his friends who want to rehearse their play Pyramus and Thisbe.

It’s a complex story of love where reality crosses into the out-of-control world of fantasy. In the end, true love triumphs…

To learn more, you’ll have to come see the show. Now that you have this basis, you shouldn’t be too lost in following the story.

Midsummer Fun Facts:
-A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written and performed between the years 1595 and 1600.

-The setting for the comedy is in Athens, Greece.

-Midsummer in England was June 24, which was the feast of John the Baptist. It was alleged
that on Midsummer night all the fairies and witches held their festival.

-The number of spoken words in the play is 17,200. (Luckily, remember, this is a dance show, so we don’t have to hear all those!)

In Elizabethan times, boys and men played all the parts in Shakespeare’s plays.

Food for Thought:
(Or more like quotes for thought)

“The course of true love never did run smooth”
–Lysander tells Hermia that true love is never perfect and that all lovers have troubles.

“I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.”
-Puck tells how fast he went to fetch the magical flower.

“My heart is true as steel”
-Helena explains her feelings for Demetrious.

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
-Puck comments on the trials and tribulations of Helena, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius.

“My Oberon! What visions have I seen! Methought I was enamoured of an ass.”
-Titania’s first words after she awakes from her love-charm.

I'm seeing the show tonight! I hope to see you there.


  1. Midsummer was one of the first Shakespeare plays I ever read, and I love it. The film, with Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale, and Calista Flockhart, is great.
    Since I was an English major, with a BRitish Literature concentration, I did lots of Shakespeare! We acted out Julius Caesar in high school, too. Maybe it's part of the curriculum to make kids dress up in bed sheets and pretend they're togas?

  2. I haven't seen that movie, so I'll have to check it out! I think that teachers might just enjoy putting their students in togas. I suppose if I were an English teacher, I'd find that quite hilarious. :)