"The course of true love never did run smooth." Performed for
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Performed for the first time in 1598 (at the latest), with multiple revivals in his own lifetime, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays. It lives on in the 21st Century as an example of both Shakespeare’s lyric mastery and his capacity to engage diverse audiences across time and space.
It has often been said that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was specifically created for an aristocratic wedding. Although there is no evidence to support such a claim, it is wonderful to think it might be true. An enchanted forest is the perfect backdrop for lovers to take their vows. But not all is well in this play’s magical wood. The Fairy Kingdom is in conflict, the ecosystem is in upheaval, and at least one jilted lover has her eye on a dangerous mate. Meanwhile, a human is transformed into an ass, and a troupe of ‘rude mechanicals’ nearly sabotage their own play.
In equal parts wholly improbable and fully plausible, this beloved comedy holds a funhouse mirror up to nature, one in which we may see distorted reflections of ourselves. Love-struck and desperate for freedom, the characters flee to the forest to escape the city’s restrictive laws. But the woods have a law of their own. The monarchs of the Fairy Kingdom and their subordinates fling the lovers into unanticipated bedlam. Believing they still have some control, the protagonists strive heroically – and hilariously – to win the hearts of their beloveds.
For centuries it was believed that on no other night than Midsummer was magic so alive. During the Midsummer festival, witches and spirits reached the height of their powers. This sinister aspect of the holiday hovers in the wings of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From the moment this play opens, with Duke Theseus’s confession of violent wooing and Egeus’s threat to kill his rebellious, besotted daughter, we feel this comedy could take a tragic turn. Can love truly conquer all?
THIS STUDY IS NOW FULL– If you are interested in a future study, please email the organizer
- Facilitated by Jane Wymark and Julie Sutherland
- Mondays, 18:00 – 20:00 BST, 10 May to 21 June
- £175 for seven-week study
- Meetings online (via Zoom)
- Recommended edition: Folger Shakespeare Library (editors Barbara A Mowat and Paul Werstine), ISBN 978-1-5011-46213
- To join email the organizer (here) for details