Midsummer Night's Dream, A (Penguin) (Shakespeare, Penguin)

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9780140707021: Midsummer Night's Dream, A (Penguin) (Shakespeare, Penguin)

Change and transformation are central to the action, themes and language of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In this lucid study Helen Hackett shows how the play participates in a widespread 1590s concern with mutability; often, as here, expressed through moon-imagery, and associated with representations of the ageing Virgin Queen. However, it is also very much a play about procreative change, set at one of the 'green hinges' of the year, to use Angela Carter's phrase. The happy ending is marked by multiple marriages; and yet, these marriages have been achieved through conflict and force. Comedy veers close to tragedy, and vice versa in the inset Pyramus and Thisbe performance, illustrating Shakespeare's sense of the innate indeterminacy of genres. It is also Shakespeare's most Spenserian play in its depiction of a supernaturally animated natural world, providing the grounds for the characterization of Shakespeare as a poet of nature which was to prove so influential for Milton and the Romantics.

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Comedy in five acts by William Shakespeare, produced in 1595-96 and published in 1600 in a quarto edition from the author's fair copy. It has long been the most popular of Shakespeare's comedies. Theseus, Duke of Athens, is about to wed Hippolyta, the Amazon queen. Meanwhile, two lovers, Hermia and Lysander, hide in the woods when Hermia's father demands that she marry Demetrius. Hoping to win his favor, Helena tells Demetrius of their whereabouts, and the two go to the woods in search of the fugitives. The forest is also full of fairies who have come for the Duke's wedding. After their king, Oberon, argues with his queen, Titania, he tells his mischievous servant Puck to drop magic juice into her eyes as she sleeps. The magic juice will make her love the first person she sees when she awakes. He also tells Puck to drop the juice into Demetrius' eyes, but Puck confuses Lysander with Demetrius and as a result Lysander falls in love with Helena. So does Demetrius, when Oberon tries to correct Puck's mistake. In the same woods a group of artisans are rehearsing a play for the Duke's wedding. Ever playful, Puck gives one of the "mechanicals," Bottom, an ass's head; when Titania awakens, she falls in love with Bottom. Oberon's magic then restores Titania and the four lovers to their original states. The Duke invites the two couples to join him and Hippolyta in a triple wedding. The wedding celebration features Bottom's troupe in a comically inept performance of their play, The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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William Shakespeare, Stanley Wells (Editor)
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