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A Midsummer Night's Dream is an exploration of thematic opposites such as day/night, love/freedom and so on. What potential is there in this to examine the darker undertones of the comedy?

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Introduction

A Midsummer Night's Dream is an exploration of thematic opposites such as day/night, love/freedom and so on. What potential is there in this to examine the darker undertones of the comedy? Refer to imagery, language, character and plot as well as a range of productions and critics. Although there is a sinister, tragic potential it is important to remember that Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream as a comedy. If the darker themes gain emphasis, a production could be a successful black comedy. 1 A good example of this is the stage design of Michael Pavelka. Reviewer, Alan Bird describes Pavelka's work: 'Empty white chairs are suspended around the stage creating a multi-layered universe. Titania and Oberon are seated on high thrones, veiled from view until they choose to intervene, instantly telling you that it is they who ultimately govern the proceedings' The symbolism of this blurs what is real or not real, natural or supernatural. This consequently blurs the thematic opposites of the forest and Athens. Alan Bird observes that Oberon and Titania 'ultimately govern the proceedings'. Theseus and Hippolyta are the most evident figures of authority, but their influence in the forest is minimal. Oberon and Titania are the most powerful characters and often Oberon (also Puck) abuses their power for 'their own' amusement (more realistically for ours). The most obvious example of this is Oberon manipulating Titania through 'magic' to "hand over the changeling boy". Oberon and Titania rule the forest, which has many parallels, as well as contrasts to the city. ...read more.

Middle

His head could be utterly grotesque and the idea that bottom has been 'transformed' could re-interpret to give the impression he has been 'mutated', which has a darker connotation. "O monstrous. O strange. We are haunted; Pray masters, fly, masters, help" Puck's character has been interpreted very differently. A 'puck' is a changeling so his character is totally versatile, and has lots of dark potential. We do not really know what Puck is supposed to be, however the word 'puck' is another name for a demon. In some seventeenth century ballads, Puck is the son of Oberon and a mortal woman (which in the context of A Midsummer Night's Dream highlights the promiscuity of the fairy folk). He has had many different images on stage. "When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile, Neighing in likeness of a filly foal; And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl, In very likeness of a roasted crab" Pucks character could raise issues regarding Satan and hell. He is a supernatural anarchist. Langland once called Hell "Pouk's Pinfold". Puck has actually appeared in a 'dark fantasy [comic] series, The Sandman' in which 'he and the other real faeries are invited to attend the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. With a hedgehog-like appearance', 'this Puck has some of the darker elements of the legend'. In Act Two, the fairies sing Titania to sleep with a mystical charm, warding off dangerous creatures. One of the creatures mentioned is "Philomel", a nightingale whose story from mythology involves mutilation, cannibalism and rape (also, the changeling boys mother, a "votaress of [Titania's] order was evidently celibate and forced upon by a warlord). ...read more.

Conclusion

'A Midsummer Nights Dream' is a play about the theatre and the way in which 'illusions' and 'visions' are cast before audience's eyes. In Puck's epilogue he says, "If we shadows hath offended" suggesting the whole cast are 'shadows'. Oberon may well be a metaphor of Shakespeare himself. He wrote the play and hence 'ultimately governs the proceedings' like Pavelka suggested about Oberon. The mechanicals are a parallel within the play to actors (who are the autocrats to the audience). Shakespeare's subversive ability in 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' is immense, he has raised issues of love and reason, law and anarchy, fantasy and reality, rich and poor, the role of men and women and so on. This is what made Shakespeare stand out compared to previous playwrights. Audiences recognise character traits on stage that they themselves have. Audience members may even realise later that they were laughing at characters not dissimilar from themselves. Footnotes 1. In modern adaptations, the staging often uses symbols and motifs to extract the darker undertones. 2. Many modern productions depict the people of the woods as overly erotic as well as both savage and intimidating. 3. One present-day production had the cast wearing latex, giving the play a bondage theme 4. Also as in original Greek. Idios - common people 5. Similarly, Sigmund Freud said: "You are always insane when you are in love." 6. Carol Ann Duffy has quite an appropriate description of love in one of her poems, 'onion' in which an onion is an extended metaphor for love. 'Here. It will blind you with tears Like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief. ...read more.

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