A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

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Notes on A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. This set of Tower Notes is 29 pages long and is sold as a fully illustrated PDF file.

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Introduction : ‘the silliest stuff that ever I heard.'

It is easy to imagine Hippolyta’s reaction to Pyramus and Thisby applied by some of Shakespeare’s original audience to the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream itself. It would be surprising, however, if they had not been thoroughly entertained by, what is, for many, Shakespeare’s funniest comedy. This play still has the capacity to make audiences hoot with laughter, and that is an achievement in itself after so many centuries. Can the play, though, be said to hold its own when compared with acknowledged masterpieces such as Othello or The Tempest ?

In fact, A Midsummer Night’s Dream holds its own very well in such exalted company. Consider the presentation of Pyramus and Thisby in Act Five. It is easy enough to dismiss this interlude as pure farce – entertainment simply for its own sake (and nothing wrong with that, of course) – but such a judgement is, inevitably, to remove the mechanicals’ play from the context of the rest of the drama. Pyramus and Thisby is a great deal more than a final flourish – the dramatic equivalent in Shakespeare’s play of the Burgomaster’s Dance that ends Peter Quince’s – and this is essentially because this final phase of the drama is integrated so carefully with what has gone before.

Consider, for example, the way in which A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins and ends with the theme of dying for love . Admittedly, Hermia’s fate may be commuted to the emotional death of enforced celibacy (‘Chaunting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon’), but Pyramus and Thisby’s deaths have a fictional ‘reality’ that lies hidden behind the dramatic mockery of Bottom and Flute’s performance. Shakespeare makes us cry with laughter at two tragic deaths for good reason. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been a release of passion – the very extremes of love and hate – both of which could easily have led to real death in a different manner of drama. That is why the play is so full of references to dangerous wild animals (which traditionally represent the unrestrained human passions of love, lust, hate etc.).

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Purchase full notes for £4.95 (aprox $7.72)

William Shakespeare