On June 29, I gave a dramaturgical talk before our invited dress rehearsal. The relationship of Hermia and Lysander is similarly complex. The love-tragedy performed at the end of the play for the marriage Demetrius has turned from Helena to Hermia back to Helena again. It is central to start with both Baptista's and Egeus's initial actions in order to see it sets up Theseus's relationship with Hermia, whereas Egeus's is absent. like Baptista, changing his mind, in order to suit his daughter best.
When this fails, she asks Theseus what the worst-case legal scenario is for her so she can make an informed decision. Theseus explains that if she won't marry Demetrius, her options are to be executed by court order or become a nun. The two men give Hermia until the next morning to choose her fate. Egeus bringing Hermia before Theseus in court As if this weren't bad enough, Egeus treats Hermia like a helpless doll with no critical or independent thinking skills.
He claims that Lysander ''bewitch'd her and 'filch'd stole her heart'', as if she's unable to form an opinion of him for herself.
Egeus & Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Gender Roles in the Elizabethan Era The nature of this conflict is certainly outrageous by today's standards. To understand it, we'll need to look at gender roles in the Elizabethan era, when Shakespeare was writing. During this time, women were universally considered inferior to men and were expected to be subservient to them.
I decided at that moment that I did not like Shakespeare. The play opens with the entrance of Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons and eventual Duchess of Athens. She is, in every sense of the phrase, a stranger in a strange land. She barely speaks the language. She has no companions. It is a striking image that echoes our modern day debate over American immigration. What does it mean for her to enter a space completely unfamiliar to her?
And more importantly, how does she operate; where does she go from there? What is remarkable, for me, about the character of Hippolyta is that despite her circumstances as a stranger in a strange land and furthermore as a woman in a patriarchal society, she claims her rightful place and title as an equal to Duke Theseus.
Despite the initial tension, we do receive more tender moments between Hippolyta and Theseus later in the show. Theseus grows to value her opinion. The relationship of Hermia and Lysander is similarly complex. In other words, they do not identify as either a man or a woman. The places where pronouns were changed were done so with extreme thought.
Back in Shakespearean England, the women in plays were usually played by young boys who had not yet undergone puberty. Thus, plays in that time were queer simply by the nature of who played the characters. InLucia Vestris, an opera singer, decided to stage the play exactly as Shakespeare had written it. She herself actually played Oberon. She started the trend of female actresses playing Oberon and Robin. Again, the manipulation of gender is seen in the history of the play.
They make costumes out of the sky. Also, the forest comes alive. Now, does it come alive with every single plant and green leaf?
Egeus costume | Midsummer Night's Dream | Pinterest | Midsummer nights dream, Costumes and Night
No, of course not. The rest is constantly moving canopies that become wedding tents, that become tablecloths. The tablecloth in the Passover ceremony just spread out and became the Red Sea. Or The Tempest where the sail was the shadow screen at the same time.
Midsummer is on a bigger scale. The theater is very exposed.
We are doing our best, but it is humans, and ropes, and wind, and air. And so it has a kind of changeable, quixotic quality. That does seem to fit the sense of the play itself: This day of midsummer madness that Shakespeare was riffing off of, is like any of those things in topsy-turvy. In most cultures there is at least one day where everything turns upside down.
Egeus & Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream | cypenv.info
What he did with this night is to put everybody into an unsafe place where anything can happen. The drug melts away societal notions of money and beauty, the notion that Hermia is the more appropriate mate. And even Bottom talks about that. Yes, there are 20 prepubescent kids.
They not only play the Fairies, as written, but also play the forest. They are the elements. Were you jumping off of the scholarly conjecture that historically, in the original production, the Fairies were indeed played by children?
I think it works better with children, just the idea of it, the energy. So I wanted that feeling. What has been amazing in the rehearsals with these kids is the sheer joy they get out of a trap opening, or a line coming down. I mean, seriously, the unfettered, sheer, pure, direct, emotion. It goes to a DNA part of us that relates to the first shadows on the wall that were made into foxes and rabbits.
Where we suspended our disbelief and we said: Oberon is the King of Shadows. How are you pulling up the shadow element and physicalizing that? But there are deliberate shadows, as well. I never see any evidence that Oberon is called the King of the Fairies.
The actors in Shakespeare are shadowing our lives. And you can like it, or you might not like it. And you might find it fearful. Shakespeare was bringing up the magical world of fairies and elves, which in that time, probably would have been considered dangerous and, like you said, sinister, and anti-Christianity.
This is a world of animism and of old fairytales and ancient beliefs that would come from the country. He was treading on dangerous ground.