"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Friday, June 14, 2019

A Midsummer Night's Dream

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, A Midsummer Night's Dream

"‘Is it true that he’s writing Romeo and Juliet at the same time?’...

‘They kind of go together. You know, I think of them as companion plays or sister plays because there are lots of crossovers between the two plots’...

‘Running away to the woods, running away together’

‘Yeah, the lovers who are blocked by parental opposition. That's there in the story, not just of Hermia and Lysander, but also of Thermis [sp?] and Thisby [sp?]. So there's lots of crossover with Romeo and Juliet. The fairies as well. The Queen Mab speech in Romeo and Juliet corresponds with the fairy themes in this play.’

‘We've all got used to the idea that Shakespeare nicked, stole, took whatever he could, wherever he could’...

‘This is actually really unusual play for Shakespeare. It’s one of the very few where there's no obvious principal source, so we can think of it as springing from his imagination. At the same time, he's creating this fresh new thing from lots of pre existent materials. And the striking thing about that is how diverse they are.

It's very much a play about mixing high and low. So on the high side, we've got Ovid’s metamorphosis, the great classical epic of change and transformation, allusions to that running all the way through - Ovid is very, very present in this play. Pluto's Life of Theseus is there. There's lots of allusion to court drama, court poetry. At the same time, on the low side, we've got folklore, particularly around the fairies, particularly around Puck. We've got folk festivals like Midsummer's Eve, and Mayday. And we've also got chucked into the mix all sorts of other things like-’...

‘Theseus tries to disparage imagination, but Hippolyta talking about the strange experiences of the lovers in the wood. She says, with all our minds transfigured so together, grows to something of great constancy but howsoever strange and admirable. Now she's talking about the strange experiences of the lovers, but it could stand for our experience of the play. Something strange and admirable, something to be wondered at. And I think she has the deepest access to that profound sense of wonder which the play as a whole agenders in us.’

‘She quite often is doubled, isn't she, with Titania as well, so we get a sense of her, Hippolyta’s sympathy for ottom the actor is also linked into the love relationship between Titania and Bottom earlier on in the play, and that sometimes you get a moment of her just remembering that or glimpsing that’

‘Yeah, in production that's often inserted. And it's very fascinating to think of Titania as a kind of dream persona of Hippolyta who's working out the kind of tensions and frustrations in her forthcoming marriage… the whole of the middle act, the space in the woods is like the kind of dream space of the play where characters work out their hostilities and their desires and their frustrations and in that space Titania seems to be the kind of alter ego of Hippolyta’

‘Somebody said they thought that it was like the unconscious working there.’

‘Yeah, I think that works very well. I think we can think of the outer acts of the play, acts one and five in Athens as the rational world or the waking world of the play, and the middle acts in the wood. Demetrius says here am I and wood within this wood. Now wood is an archaic word for mad. It’s a place of madness, of what Puck calls preposterousness where everything goes crazy, so everything can get all kind of mixed up and worked out in the world like a crazy dream. And then we come back to the rational world of Athens at the end.’...

‘I think the greatest thing ever said about imagination. Not the lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact. Not that, the next bit, a few lines down… And as imagination bodies forth, The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen, Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothings (sic), A local habitation and a name.’...

‘It's one of the most wonderful things about imagination ever written. What we have to understand is that in Shakespeare's own time, this is a deeply radical statement, because the Elizabethans actually had a very negative view of the imagination. They saw it as dark and dangerous. The Bible told them that the hearts of men are full of wicked imaginations, so the imagination is sinful. The law defined treason as the compass or imagine the death of the monarchs, so the imagination is treacherous. Medical books of the time are full of people having all sorts of dark, disturbing delusions because of disordered imagination.

So the imagination is unruly, it's dangerous, it should be governed by reason. And Theseus in the speech that you've just quoted, he's just heard about the adventures of the lovers in the wood. And he's trying to dismiss them as shaping fantasies. He's trying to dismiss the imagination. But like everything in this play, it turns preposterous, preposterous literally means back to front, and it sort of turns into the opposite of itself, becomes a celebration of the free creative powers of the artistic imagination.

Now to us that can seem quite normal and familiar. But that's because our ideas about the imagination derive from the Romantic poets, who in turn derive their great philosophy of the imagination from Shakespeare. But in Shakespeare's own time, this is very much at odds with the way that people were thinking about the imagination. It's really fresh and new’...

‘The ass that [Bottom] gets changed into has the longest and hardest phallus of any animal on earth and so therefore, Titania the gossamer like Queen being attracted by this very bestial desire-’

‘There isn’t any mention of the phallus in the text though is there?’

‘No, but the Elizabetheans would have known that that was so’...

‘[A production] might have also easily played up the sexual elements that go on with that. I mean, it's not entirely clear what Bottom and Titania get up to and of course, most modern productions and certainly productions for school children suggest that she just weaves flowers in his hair. But the play does suggest I think… when Puck tells and Oberon are discussing how they're now going to actually release her, they’ve suggested they've left her at one stage you know, with him… the suggestion is, that Bottom and Titania have gone off into a private space. And I think the Elizabethans were very, very conscious about this nature of private spaces. So earlier in the play’s, for instance, Lysander and Hermia. Hermia won't let Lysander even lie next door, because this would potentially bring her into jeopardy.’

‘Infringe her virginity’...

‘In fact, when Titania embraces Bottom, she says, so the ivy enrings the barky fingers of the elm, you know, it's very erotic imagery’...

‘Bottom, who wants to play all the parts can be anything, and he does have the most lines in the play… so you have these high status characters, like Theseus, Hippolyta, but it's actually Bottom who has the most lines in the text’"
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes