MAJOR IDEAS IN MND--APPEARANCE VS. REALITY
Note that the play may have a frame story technique in which what happens in Act I and Act V constitutes the frame, and the central acts fill in the "pictures." In this kind of literature, the relationship between the frame and the picture allows for the development of various kinds of irony. Works you may know that use the frame are:
1. The Book of Job
2. Chaucer's General Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales"
3. Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner
As you examine the passages below, note their "location" relative to the frame/picture technique, and note too the following themes that demonstrate Bloom's hypothesis that Shakespeare "invented personality":
The following themes are important in the play:
1. relationship between the world of the city and the world of the forest-FRAME
2. the function of Bottom and his players--note an important Biblical allusion
3. the role of imagination in human affairs, especially of the heart
4. the importance of mistaken identity
5. the role of pain and misfortune in the play--relate to paradox and irony
6. different kinds of characters: mortal and immortal--how does one know the other
7. Shakespeare's use of " sleep," "dream" and "dreaming" in other plays. Note what play links the words:
HAMLET: (the famous "To be..." soliloquy)
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 't is nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 't is a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action...
II HENRY IV: (One of Henry's sons talks while observing his father on his deathbed)
My gracious lord! My father!
This sleep is sound indeed, this is a sleep,
That from this golden crown hath divorced
So many English kings.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE: (The duke comforts Claudio who is to die)
Reason thus with life:
If I do love thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep...thou art death's fool
The best of rest is sleep...
And that thou oft provest, yet grossly fear'st
Thy death, which is no more.
MACBETH: (Macduff announces the murder of King Duncan)
Malcolm. Banquo. Awake!
Shake off this downy sleep, death's counterfeit,
And look on death itself.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM : (Demetrius states one of the major themes)
Are you sure
That we are awake? It seems to me
That yet we sleep, we dream?
RICHARD III: (Clarence has a horrible dream, which is a foreshadowing of his death)
Oh I have passed a miserable night
So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams,
That, as I am a faithful Christian man...
ROMEO AND JULIET: (Romeo tells Juliet)
Oh blessed night! I am afraid
Being in night, all this is but a dream
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.
A COMPARATIVE APPROACH:
In addition to these, note that one way to approach the study of a Shakespeare play is to compare it to other works by Shakespeare to look for common themes. For our play, the following might be useful:
1. the sonnets--are there any that reflect themes in MND
2. Romeo and Juliet--find a passage that links supernatural elements to MND
3. Hamlet--find a passage that links supernatural elements to MND.
i, ll. 1ff.-----idea of dreaming bewitched fantasy
i, ll. 130 ff.-----commentary on love's difficulty, by Hermia and Lysander
i, ll. 235ff.-----power of love, Helena's soliloquy--transposing power of love
Conclusion--we are about to be in contact with a higher reality:
1. Plato called them forms
2. Shakespeare called them fairies
3. At Roswell, they were aliens
4. Christians called them God
The contrast apparently happens when we move from the dream into the center of the picture: metaphorically the woods:
The forest is the sacred grove
Forest means mystery and transformation
Enchanters live there
They represent the uncouscious mind
In The Republic, Plato notes regarding the soul and the state:
What is the relationship between the diagram and the frame narrative? Where would you assign the various characters places on the diagram?
i,ll. 40---what Puck can do to confuse the locals --("Imaginative" figments explain accidents, but of what kind?
1.one of the themes is that the line between comedy and tragedy becomes quite blurred: violation of classical protocols becomes the norm for Shakespeare:
2. King Lear as the greatest example--the bitter Fool.
i,ll. 85ff---Titania and Oberon's dialogue on "disturbing the macrocosm"-- Compare Romeo and Juliet: I,iv:
Rom. I dream'd a dream to-night.
Mer. And so did I.
Rom. Well, what was yours?
Mer. That dreamers often lie.
Rom. In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.
Mer. O! then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomics
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep:
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs;
The cover, of the wings grasshoppers;
The traces, of the smallest spider's web;
The collars, of the moonshine's watery beams;
Her whip, of cricket's bone; the lash, of film;
Her waggoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies coach-makers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight:
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees:
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream;
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig's tail,
Tickling a person's nose as a'lios asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice;
Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes;
And, being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two,
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night;
And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she -
Rom. Peace, peace! Mercutio, peace!
Thou talk'st of nothing.
Mer. True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy;
Which is as thin as substance as the air,
And more inconstant than the wind, who woos
Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being anger'd puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.
Ben. This wind you talk of blows us from our selves:
Supper is done, and we shall come too late.
Rom. I fear, too early; for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night's revels, and expire the term
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.
But He, that hath the steerage of my course,
Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen.
However, there can be opposites at work as in III,ii,395 to which we can compare HAMLET...
i,ll. 240 ff.---relationship of the lovers / Heaven and hell/ Demetrius and Helena
ii,ll. 65---the "misannointing" of Lysander by Puck--the pain of mocked: line 123
i,ll. 30 ff.-----Bottom's problem with the rehearsal and the ASS-HEAD REGARDING THE PLAY WITHIN THE PLAY:--
One of the important 'sources' for MND is from the Fourth Book of Ovid's Metamorphoses concerning the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. Note the genre and form of the tale; then determine why Shakespeare chose it for the "play within the play." What changes did he make and why:
The Story of Pyramus and Thisbe
In Babylon, where first her queen, for state
Rais'd walls of brick magnificently great,
Liv'd Pyramus, and Thisbe, lovely pair!
He found no eastern youth his equal there,
And she beyond the fairest nymph was fair.
A closer neighbourhood was never known,
Tho' two the houses, yet the roof was one.
Acquaintance grew, th' acquaintance they improve
To friendship, friendship ripen'd into love:
Love had been crown'd, but impotently mad,
What parents could not hinder, they forbad.
For with fierce flames young Pyramus still burn'd,
And grateful Thisbe flames as fierce return'd.
Aloud in words their thoughts they dare not break,
But silent stand; and silent looks can speak.
The fire of love the more it is supprest,
The more it glows, and rages in the breast.
When the division-wall was built, a chink
Was left, the cement unobserv'd to shrink.
So slight the cranny, that it still had been
For centuries unclos'd, because unseen.
But oh! what thing so small, so secret lies,
Which scapes, if form'd for love, a lover's eyes?
Ev'n in this narrow chink they quickly found
A friendly passage for a trackless sound.
Safely they told their sorrows, and their joys,
In whisper'd murmurs, and a dying noise,
By turns to catch each other's breath they strove,
And suck'd in all the balmy breeze of love.
Oft as on diff'rent sides they stood, they cry'd,
Malicious wall, thus lovers to divide!
Suppose, thou should'st a-while to us give place
To lock, and fasten in a close embrace:
But if too much to grant so sweet a bliss,
Indulge at least the pleasure of a kiss.
We scorn ingratitude: to thee, we know,
This safe conveyance of our minds we owe.
Thus they their vain petition did renew
'Till night, and then they softly sigh'd adieu.
But first they strove to kiss, and that was all;
Their kisses dy'd untasted on the wall.
Soon as the morn had o'er the stars prevail'd,
nd warm'd by Phoebus, flow'rs their dews exhal'd,
The lovers to their well-known place return,
Alike they suffer, and alike they mourn.
At last their parents they resolve to cheat
(If to deceive in love be call'd deceit),
To steal by night from home, and thence unknown
To seek the fields, and quit th' unfaithful town.
But, to prevent their wand'ring in the dark,
They both agree to fix upon a mark;
A mark, that could not their designs expose:
The tomb of Ninus was the mark they chose.
There they might rest secure beneath the shade,
Which boughs, with snowy fruit encumber'd, made:
A wide-spread mulberry its rise had took
Just on the margin of a gurgling brook.
mpatient for the friendly dusk they stay;
And chide the slowness of departing day;
In western seas down sunk at last the light,
From western seas up-rose the shades of night.
The loving Thisbe ev'n prevents the hour,
With cautious silence she unlocks the door,
And veils her face, and marching thro' the gloom
Swiftly arrives at th' assignation-tomb.
For still the fearful sex can fearless prove;
Boldly they act, if spirited by love.
When lo! a lioness rush'd o'er the plain,
Grimly besmear'd with blood of oxen slain:
And what to the dire sight new horrors brought,
To slake her thirst the neighb'ring spring she sought.
Which, by the moon, when trembling Thisbe spies,
Wing'd with her fear, swift, as the wind, she flies;
And in a cave recovers from her fright,
But drop'd her veil, confounded in her flight.
When sated with repeated draughts, again
The queen of beasts scour'd back along the plain,
She found the veil, and mouthing it all o'er,
With bloody jaws the lifeless prey she tore.
The youth, who could not cheat his guards so soon,
Late came, and noted by the glimm'ring moon
Some savage feet, new printed on the ground,
His cheeks turn'd pale, his limbs no vigour found;
But when, advancing on, the veil he spied
Distain'd with blood, and ghastly torn, he cried,
One night shall death to two young lovers give,
But she deserv'd unnumber'd years to live!
'Tis I am guilty, I have thee betray'd,
Who came not early, as my charming maid.
Whatever slew thee, I the cause remain,
I nam'd, and fix'd the place where thou wast slain.
Ye lions from your neighb'ring dens repair,
Pity the wretch, this impious body tear!
But cowards thus for death can idly cry;
The brave still have it in their pow'r to die.
Then to th' appointed tree he hastes away,
The veil first gather'd, tho' all rent it lay:
The veil all rent yet still it self endears,
He kist, and kissing, wash'd it with his tears.
Tho' rich (he cry'd) with many a precious stain,
Still from my blood a deeper tincture gain.
Then in his breast his shining sword he drown'd,
And fell supine, extended on the ground.
As out again the blade lie dying drew,
Out spun the blood, and streaming upwards flew.
So if a conduit-pipe e'er burst you saw,
Swift spring the gushing waters thro' the flaw:
Then spouting in a bow, they rise on high,
And a new fountain plays amid the sky.
The berries, stain'd with blood, began to show
A dark complexion, and forgot their snow;
While fatten'd with the flowing gore, the root
Was doom'd for ever to a purple fruit.
Mean-time poor Thisbe fear'd, so long she stay'd,
Her lover might suspect a perjur'd maid.
Her fright scarce o'er, she strove the youth to find
With ardent eyes, which spoke an ardent mind.
lready in his arms, she hears him sigh
At her destruction, which was once so nigh.
The tomb, the tree, but not the fruit she knew,
The fruit she doubted for its alter'd hue.
Still as she doubts, her eyes a body found
Quiv'ring in death, and gasping on the ground.
She started back, the red her cheeks forsook,
And ev'ry nerve with thrilling horrors shook.
So trembles the smooth surface of the seas,
If brush'd o'er gently with a rising breeze.
But when her view her bleeding love confest,
She shriek'd, she tore her hair, she beat her breast.
She rais'd the body, and embrac'd it round,
And bath'd with tears unfeign'd the gaping wound.
Then her warm lips to the cold face apply'd,
And is it thus, ah! thus we meet, she cry'd!
My Pyramus! whence sprung thy cruel fate?
My Pyramus!- ah! speak, ere 'tis too late.
I, thy own Thisbe, but one word implore,
One word thy Thisbe never ask'd before.
At Thisbe's name, awak'd, he open'd wide
His dying eyes; with dying eyes he try'd
On her to dwell, but clos'd them slow, and dy'd.
The fatal cause was now at last explor'd,
Her veil she knew, and saw his sheathless sword:
From thy own hand thy ruin thou hast found,
She said, but love first taught that hand to wound,
Ev'n I for thee as bold a hand can show,
And love, which shall as true direct the blow.
I will against the woman's weakness strive,
And never thee, lamented youth, survive.
The world may say, I caus'd, alas! thy death,
But saw thee breathless, and resign'd my breath.
Fate, tho' it conquers, shall no triumph gain,
Fate, that divides us, still divides in vain.
Now, both our cruel parents, hear my pray'r;
My pray'r to offer for us both I dare;
Oh! see our ashes in one urn confin'd,
Whom love at first, and fate at last has join'd.
The bliss, you envy'd, is not our request;
Lovers, when dead, may sure together rest.
Thou, tree, where now one lifeless lump is laid,
Ere-long o'er two shalt cast a friendly shade.
Still let our loves from thee be understood,
Still witness in thy purple fruit our blood.
She spoke, and in her bosom plung'd the sword,
All warm and reeking from its slaughter'd lord.
The pray'r, which dying Thisbe had preferr'd,
Both Gods, and parents, with compassion heard.
The whiteness of the mulberry soon fled,
And rip'ning, sadden'd in a dusky red:
While both their parents their lost children mourn,
And mix their ashes in one golden urn.
Thus did the melancholy tale conclude,
And a short, silent interval ensu'd.
1. What is the reality behind the appearance?
2. Who is the only character in the play who sees the other reality, the Betty and Barney Hillin the play?
i,ll. 135 ff.---Titania and Bottom in love--"Wisdom and Beauty"--What is the wisdom of Bottom?
ii,ll. 115---What is the wisdom of Puck?
ii,ll. 125ff.----painful results of the "misannointing" Helena is mocked: ll. 146, 170, 285
ii,ll. 375--415:----symbol of Athens and the forest and dreams -what is an indication that the world of the forst is coming to an end?
ii,ll. 400----nature of the spirit world and compare Hamlet: (II,ii)
The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil; and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
SO COMEDY AND TRAGEDY ARE A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: ARISTOTLE:
ARISTOTLE on the nature of tragedy:
Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and possessing magnitude...in the mode of action; not narrated; and effecting pity and fear [what we call catharsis] of such emotions.
reversal: change from one state of affairs to its exact opposite.
recognition: change from ignorance to knowledge...on the partof those who are marked for good fortune or bad
(On tragic character...)
Good men ought not to be shown passing from prosperity to misfortune, for this does not inspire either pity or fear, but only revulsion; nor evil men rising from ill fortune to prosperity...neither should a wicked man be seen falling from prosperity into misfortune...We are left with the man whose place is between these extremes. Such is the man who on the one hand does not fall into misfortune through vice or depravity. He falls because of some mistake ...[This is often mistranslated as the tragic flaw.]
ARISTOTLE on the nature of comedy:
As for Comedy, it is (as has been observed) an imitation of men worse than the average; worse, however, not as regards any and every sort of fault, but only as regards one particular kind, the Ridiculous, which is a species of the Ugly. The Ridiculous may be defined as a mistake or deformity not productive of pain or harm to others; the mask, for instance, that excites laughter, is something ugly and distorted without causing pain. Though the successive changes in Tragedy and their authors are not unknown, we cannot say the same of Comedy; its early stages passed unnoticed, because it was not as yet taken up in a serious way.
SUMMARY OF ACTS ONE T0 THREE:
1--LOVE CAN TRANSPOSE PAIN TO PLEASURE TO PAIN TO ........?........
2--HOW CAN WE RECOGNIZE THAT ANOTHER REALITY EXISTS?
3--THE LINE BETWEEN COMEDY AND TRAGEDY IS THIN
4--BOTTOM IS THE KEY CHARACTER--HIS LITERALISM MAKES THE
SUPERNATURAL WORLD CREDIBLE
5--THE IMAGINATION IS NECESSARY FOR HUMANITY
6--REASON AND PASSION ARE BOTH NEEDED FOR HUMANITY
The process of restoration to normality begins:
i, ll. 45---misannointing is corrected , and the characters respond....
1. LYSANDER---IV,i, 150
2. DEMETRIUS---IV, i, 163
3. THESEUS---IV,i, 185
4. BOTTOM--IV,I, 205 ff--and this is the heart of the matter: ( on appearance vs. reality). Note the major allusion in the play:
That we speak of, is wisdom among them that are perfect: not the wisdom of this world neither of the rulers of this world (which go to nought) but we speak the wisdom of (God, which is in secret and lieth hidden, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which wisdom none of the rulers of the WORLD knew. For had they known it. they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: the eye hath not seen, and the ear hath not heard, nether have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath opened them unto us by his spirit. For the spirit searches all things, yes the bottom of God's secrete. (I Corinthians ii. )
Act V takes us to the play within the play, (Pyramus and Thisby) and the city:
1, Why is the play a microcosm of the whole?
2. What does Theseus believe about the play: V,i,95 ff?
3. Puck's words conclude the play--what have we seen that Coleridge noted in the Biographia?
i, ll. 90---the play within the play and the relationship between comedy and tragedy
i, ll. 390--the problem of the two endings?
How has the frame narrative enhanced our understanding of Shakespeare's intentions?