“Shakespeare may have died over 400 years ago, but he is still very much alive today”

I continue my online learning journey with Bard101x, Shakespeare Matters by University of Adelaide. During the online course I learnt about the following plays:

Let’s jump into A Midsummer Night’s Dream!

If you’re interested to join the online course, here’s the link: “Bard101x, Shakespeare Matters“.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In a tiny nutshell, the play is a comedy about love and getting married. It is “like the other side of the Romeo and Juliet coin”. The action happens in 2 contrasting worlds – Athens (the place of reason) and the Magical Forests (the place of irrationality). Spoiler: there are fairies involved!

fairy a midsummer nights dream shakespeares globe readers high tea
Performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Image from facebook.com/ShakespearesGlobe

Shakespeare offers a modern view on marriage – most of his characters marry because of love, not because of the families’ decision. This was something unusual in Shakespeare’s times.

midsummer nights dream shakespeare comics

Shakespeare’s comedies

There are common aspects of Shakespeare’s comedies, according to Emma Smith (who wrote The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare). Some examples are:

  • funny dialogue
  • puns about fertility
  • marriage and social harmonies
  • female characters are prominent and active, and have large speaking parts
  • titles often refer to a time (eg. Twelfth Night) or to something playful (As You Like It)

Literary insights

I found out about literary concepts such as rhyming couplets (Shakespeare’s language of love) and dramatic irony (when the audience of a play is aware of something that the characters of the play are not).

Another interesting concept is the self-reflexive play (it talks about itself as a play in the play) – this can be found both in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and in Hamlet.

a midsummer nights dream shakespeares globe readers high tea
Performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Image from facebook.com/ShakespearesGlobe

Speak the Speech activities

  • “I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again” – depicted how Shakespeare used language to suggest the different social classes (Queen Titania speaks in lyrical form, while Bottom speaks in “earthy prose”)
  • “Lovers and madmen have such seething brains” – discussed the connections between lunatics, lovers and poets, all connected by strong imagination
  • ‘These are the forgeries of jealousy’ – depicted the cosmic quarrel between the King and Queen of the Fairies
midsummer nights dream shakespeare bard101x
Titania and Bottom. Image from the online course Bard101x, Shakespeare Matters by University of Adelaide

Shakespeare played tricks with the audience – used the same actors to play the two characters (know as doubling), the ending had an obvious happy ending, but also left many open questions … after all, it was all a dream 🙂 According to scholar Indira Ghose, “All of Shakespeare’s plays lack moral closure”.

Wrap-up

As you also noticed from the length of this post, I found fascinating the module about A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I loved the abundance of literary insights provided by the leaders of the course.

I am so much looking forward to the third module, where I will learn about Othello!

‘Till next time … happy reading Shakespeare!

Georgiana


PS: I am writing about this course at my own will. I was not paid to promote the course nor have I received any other compensation.

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