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The importance of staging
I feel like in A Midsummer Night's Dream Shakespeare investigates the same line between emotion and reason that Euripides studies in his play The Bacchae. The enchanted forest scenes and the magical characters who live there represent one end of the spectrum, the end that is ultimately more innocent: emotion. The strict rigidity and mechanisms of the Athens scenes and its characters come to represent the other end of the spectrum, of pure reason and logic. Shakespeare seems to suggest behind the farce of the story that one must find a balance between the two or else fall into the darkness of one or the other.

In this scene, one of the funniest moments of the play unfolds as Titania has fallen in love with Bottom whose head has been transformed into that of an ass. Though despite the obvious hilarity of the situation, it seems to me that there is a darker understanding lurking behind the laughter.

And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing, while thou on press├ęd flowers dost sleep:
And I will purge thy mortal grossness so,
That thou shalt like an airy spirit go.

I feel like these are the most important lines of her short speech. Continuing on the themes of magic surrealism, Titania paints this beautiful picture of enchantment by using very majestic imagery like jewels from the deep and flowers dost sleep. However, it seems like the promises she makes to Bottom will cost him something greater. Those last two lines are the most revealing; it seems like airy is a synonym for empty which suggests that living in the forest with Titania and the fairies will cause someone to lose touch with their own humanity and subsequently everyone else's. While it seems to be alright for immortal beings to live fully in their emotions, humans need to offset it with reason in order to stay human.

I also find this scene as a wonderful representation of how important staging is. The tools of theater allow the director to point the reader/audience member towards his specific interpretation. My reading of the Queen's lines is unique to me, and every vision of a play is unique to the director's reading. It is the responsibility of the stager to make the lines into something Shakespeare possibly never intended. When I first read this I imagined Bottom hoisted above the stage by some sort of device, perhaps dangling over a pool of sorts, signifying the risk of a plunge into another sphere.That is how I would stage it, and perhaps I'm the only one on the planet who sees it that way. But there is no wrong reading of a play, and the magic of the stage is that it is a moldable universe. Shakespeare merely provided the dough.

Adaptation is something that can't be removed from theater while most other artforms can ignore it. The actual writing of the play is only half of the art, the other half comes from a different source, a different mind, different eyes. And maybe the distinctions between the two are even represented in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Maybe the rigidity and formulaic rules of Athens is the text, and the forest is the interpretation on stage.

Maybe my staging of the play would draw heavy attention to the art of theater itself: Half the stage should be empty, the other half forest...

What would yours look like?
Books Discussed
A Midsummer Night's Dream (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)
by William Shakespeare

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Latest Post: August 20, 2009 at 10:14 PM
Number of posts: 1
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