A Midsummer Night?s Dream: Complete & Unabridged

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9780001042155: A Midsummer Night?s Dream: Complete & Unabridged

Probably written to celebrate a wedding at court, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a "play of the courtly loves of Theseus and his followers, of the squabbles in fairyland, and of the ham-handed theatricals of the Athenian Working Men's Amateur Dramatic Society. From the first appearance of the fairies to the general awakening the play is a dream and therefore full of puckish misunderstanding and incongruity. After the return to daylight, we hear the very tragical mirth of the one and only performance of "The Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe". But when the players have withdrawn! the fairies come tripping back, and we are left wondering and rubbing our eyes, uncertain where reality ends and fancy begins". - G.B. Harrison, Editor of texts for the Shakespeare Recording Society. Paul Scofield as Oberon, King of the Fairies at whose bidding the mirth and misunderstandings are released, gives a masterful performance.

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Review:

Traditionally seen as one of Shakespeare's more romantic and enchanting plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream has more recently been seen as a darker and more sinister play than generations of schoolchildren have ever imagined. The play has usually been seen as a comical tale with confused identities and the fickleness of youthful love, as the young lovers, Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena escape parental control and the "sharp Athenian law" of their elders by eloping into the forest outside the city. Unfortunately, they stumble into civil war in fairyland, where King Oberon and Queen Titania fight over possession of a beautiful young Indian "changeling" boy. The appearance of the "rude mechanicals", a group of Athenian workers, including the weaver Nick Bottom, compounds the confusion. Chaos, confusion and "shaping fantasies" reign before the final settlement of the play, but underneath all the hilarity many critics have discerned more ambivalent attitudes towards coercive parental control, bestial sexuality and the destructive power of desire. These approaches in no way detract from the exquisite lyricism of many sections of the play, but make it a more complex and effective comedy than has often been appreciated. --Jerry Brotton

About the Author:

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest playwright the world has seen. He produced an astonishing amount of work; 37 plays, 154 sonnets, and 5 poems. He died on 23rd April 1616, aged 52, and was buried in the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford.

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