Midsummer Night's Dream: Shakespeare vs. Michael Hoffman Essay
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Midsummer Night's Dream: Shakespeare vs. Michael Hoffman
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and frequently performed comical plays (Berardinelli). The play transformed into a cinematic production by Michael Hoffman has not changed in its basic plot and dialogue, but the setting and some character traits have. The play setting has been gracefully moved from 16th century Greece to 19th century Tuscany (Berardinelli). The addition of bicycles to the play affects the characters in that they no longer have to chase each other around the woods, but can take chase in a more efficient fashion. As far as characters are concerned, Demetrius is no longer the smug and somewhat rude character we find in act 1, scene 1…show more content…
I’ll be an auditor; an actor perhaps, if I see cause” (Shakespeare). He begins by asking himself why these common people are so near to Titania, when he sees that they are preparing a play, he decides to watch, and maybe cause some trouble too. Turns out he does cause some trouble, by turning the head of Bottom into the head of an ass, the interesting thing is that Bottom does not realize that he has changed. Puck does this to frighten the other players, and it conveniently turns out to be the object of Titania’s obsession. This could be by Puck’s design because he gets the pleasure of seeing the players frightened and accomplishes the task of awaking Titania when some beast is nearby.
In the movie version of A Midsummer Nights Dream, Puck has a more overt sense of humor. Although the dialogue is purely Shakespeare, the actions and direction of Puck’s character bring a new perspective to the story. When we are first introduced to Puck in the tree, he plays some jokes, such as vanishing, and turning up in a goblet of wine. He is speaking the same lines as in the play, but the addition of visual humor adds to the appeal of the original play. One is again exposed to this when Oberon and Puck discuss the flower while lying in the forest. Puck imitates Oberon’s position, adjusting himself in a friendly mocking manner towards his master. One also gets the impression from Puck’s body language that, although he
A Midsummer Night's Dream
One of Shakespeare's most popular plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream is believed to have been written in the early part of Shakespeare's career, sometime between 1594 and 1596. The title places the action of the play on the eve of the summer solstice, which folklore marks as the time of fairies—a time ripe for magic and adventure. The play traces the romantic escapades of four young Athenian lovers lost on a midsummer night in a forest ruled by fairies. The dreamlike events that occur in the enchanted wood are framed by court scenes dominated by Theseus, ruler of Athens. Another group of characters, designated as rustics, artisans, or mechanicals, led by Bottom the weaver, also inhabit the play and enhance its comedic effects. Although the plot seems whimsical and amusing and the play ends happily, many critics argue against examining the play on simply a comedic level, noting that the unnerving twists and turns of the plot often veer toward tragedy. Critical commentary on A Midsummer Night's Dream has tended to focus on Shakespeare's views on the nature of love, the meaning and purpose of art and imagination, the reconciliation of discordant dramatic elements, and the role of perception, illusion, and ambiguity in the play.
Character studies of A Midsummer Night's Dream have included analyses of both the human and non-human characters. Lou Agnes Reynolds and Paul Sawyer (1959) examine Titania's four fairy servants—Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, and Moth—and contend that they represent the healing properties of folk medicine and the importance of folklore practices in forging a connection between the natural and supernatural world. Urban Morén (2000) argues that the fairy Puck is a representative of sexuality in A Midsummer Night's Dream and points to the distinctive meanings of his name in the text of the play to support this analysis. Jeffrey D. Frame (1999) also explores the sexuality expressed in the play and focuses on the voyeurism of the characters. Frame suggests that the voyeuristic actions of the male and female characters in the play constitute maneuvers for power over one another. Diana Akers Rhoads (1985) examines the role of Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Rhoads maintains that Shakespeare portrayed Theseus as both an ideal ruler and a ruler who lacks the ability to understand love in order to highlight the incompatibility of “desire and politics.”
Although A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the most frequently performed of Shakespeare's works, staging the play presents a challenge to many directors as they attempt to meet its disparate demands: the play is filled with music and dance, peopled by fantastical creatures, and infused with a delicate balance of comic and tragic elements. Some directors view these varied elements as an invitation to experiment with the theatrical traditions of the play. Bruce Weber (2002), reviewing the 2002 Royal Shakespeare Company's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream directed by Richard Jones, praises Jones's unique and nightmarish take on the play, which was performed entirely in black and white and was “willfully unattractive, drained of color and demonic in spirit.” The critic notes that the director created a kind of “anti-Midsummer Night's Dream” that confounded expectations. By contrast, Douglas McQueen-Thomson (2000) gives a negative review of director Elke Neidhardt's dark interpretation of the play for the Bell Shakespeare Company's 2000 production. McQueen-Thomson argues that the production's “unrelieved austerity and frostiness” produced a “tired disjointedness rather than original coherence.” Heather Neill (2002) reviews another unique take on the play, Mike Alfreds's 2002 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream for Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, noting that the director highlighted the “dream” aspect of the play by dressing the cast in pyjamas and negligees. Kenneth S. Rothwell reviews Michael Hoffman's 1999 star-studded film adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he praises as a visual masterpiece. Rothwell points out that Hoffman focused his attention on the character of Nick Bottom, even providing him with a nagging wife, and lauds Kevin Kline's ability to turn the cartoonish character of Bottom into “a living, breathing, and very vulnerable, human being.”
Critics are also interested in A Midsummer Night's Dream's representation of Elizabethan England, especially the traditions of court marriage. Paul A. Olson (1957) suggests that the play was intended to serve as a guidebook for married aristocratic couples and, by extension, for a moral society. According to David Wiles (1988), the play was historically part of an “aristocratic carnival” used to celebrate weddings in upper-class society. In a 1993 essay, Wiles asserts that play is effectively an epithalamium, or poem in honor of marriage. Other scholars have examined such issues as the play's incorporation of imagination, social issues, and politics. For example, Anne Barton (1974) comments on A Midsummer Night's Dream's “preoccupation with the idea of imagination” and contends that the products of imagination, including “dreams, the illusions of love, poetry and plays,” are central to the play. Deborah Baker Wyrick (1982) explores the symbolism associated with the ass motif in A Midsummer Night's Dream and examines how the word “ass” is used to create a complex code that is the key to many of the play's themes. Theodore B. Leinwand (1986) studies the conflict between social classes in the play and notes how this conflict influences the actions of the characters. Lastly, Maurice Hunt (2000-01) alleges that A Midsummer Night's Dream functions as a cryptic allegory that criticizes Elizabeth I and calls attention to the problem of securing a successor to her throne.