Posts Tagged ‘Titania’

This review relates specifically to the Penguin Shakespeare edition (the cover of which is shown above).  I mention this, because of the excellent introductions in this book, which really enhanced my enjoyment when reading the play.

The book starts with a brief introduction by Stanley Wells, of Shakespeare’s life and times, followed by a list of Shakespeare’s plays, dated as far as can be accurately determined.  There then follows a lengthier introduction by Helen Hackett, to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This introduction is wonderful, providing analysis and different interpretations of the play.  She takes many of the main characters and looks at how they have been portrayed differently in various performances, as well as discussing the symbolism within the play and the context in which the play was written, and breaking down the language of some of the scenes.  I found this introduction to be both entertaining and enlightening (speaking as someone who very rarely reads the introductions in books).  One of the most interesting parts was where she discusses the play-within-the-play, which is performed by the mechanicals at the wedding party towards the end of the play.  While the mechanicals might initially seem like a bunch of incredibly amateur actors, who don’t understand the idea of trying to convince an audience, it could also be seen as they are far more aware of the ‘falseness’ of their profession, and don’t seek to hide the fact that they are merely actors speaking lines.

The play itself is, of course, fantastic.  It is packed with humour, wit and sensuality, but  most of all it has the most beautiful, lyrical language.  I particularly liked how the young lovers and the fairies spoke in different types of rhyme, while the ‘mechanicals’ spoke mainly in prose.  The story revolves around four youngsters – two women who love two men – but due to the love potions of the fairies of the forest, their affections become transferred and all sorts of confusion reigns.  Simultaneously, Fairy King Oberon and his Fairy Queen Titania have fallen out, and he casts a spell which causes her to fall in love with Bottom the Weaver – who is temporarily sporting a donkey’s head!  (A lengthier synopsis of the story can be found in my review of the 1999 film adaptation, to which there is a link at the end of this review.) 

It took me a long time to read Shakespeare – while I have often enjoyed adaptations of his work, I have never liked the idea of sitting down and reading his plays (and after all, plays are written to be seen, not read).  However, I very much liked reading this play.  Shakespeare’s wit and intelligence is clear to see, and almost 500 years after he was born, his work is still relevant and enjoyable.  I will certainly be reading more of his work.  The introductions in this particular edition contributed in no small way to my pleasure in reading and understanding the story. 

If like me, you always thought that you would never enjoy Shakespeare, I would recommend trying one of the books from the Penguin Shakespeare series – you might just be pleasantly surprised!


Click here for my review of the 1999 film adaptation.


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