A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Drama Project

Posted on: January 17, 2012

On Wednesdays I usually go to the library and sit in the peace and quiet and write and prepare my puppet shows.  I have found it very useful to take up as much space on the table and give out a silent growl when anyone comes near to the table, thus preventing them from wanting to sit next to me.

The project I am working on during this time is an adaptation of a Midsummer Nights Dream by the Bard himself.  I am intending to set up a drama group next year for children between the ages of seven to twelve so that we can explore and stage different genres.  The aim is for the children to have a solid understanding of the story, characters and the text so that when they do act it out in front of family and close friends they can confidently put on a Shakespeare play in the traditional way.

Presently I am writing the play as a story using ‘Shakespeare Made Easy’ as a guide.  I initially intended to write these notes as a fairy story for much younger children but realise that Shakespeare’s use of language and action means that I have to make thorough notes to ensure that I capture the most important parts of the play in my own adaptation.  I have to admit that I had never studied Shakespeare so thoroughly in the past because it wasn’t as essentially to really understand the play in order to explain it to someone else.

I have visited the Globe Theatre in London (Well the rebuilt one) and it was apparent that the plays were performed for rich and poor people alike, your class was determined by your location in the theatre.  Plays were written for everyone to watch and enjoy, I would say in the same way a soap opera is watched today but that would not be a suitable comparison as there is a great difference in quality.

Bearing in mind that the plays were written for everyone to enjoy, it is interesting to see that the language has not been compromised by the need to accommodate everyone’s level of understanding.  Maybe this was because the spoken word was used more frequently to pass on information and ideas than the written word.  For someone who wasn’t highly educated Shakespeare’s ability to draw images with words and develop such poetic sentence structure is amazing.  We see that poetry is high up on his agenda when Bottom and Quince decide that they need to write a prologue for their play and were debating on the number of lines they were going to write it in , off the top of my head I recall that they settled for eight.

Shakespeare definitely had comic timing and thoroughly enjoyed playing with the concept of irony.  The play is actually really funny and farcical, I am really looking forward to writing the script with the misunderstandings and silliness.

The plot of the play is quite simple; it is based on four pairs of ‘lovers’ on their own romantic journeys that get entangled in a fairy glade.  The first couple is Theseus and Hippolyte, the Duke of Athens and the Queen of the Amazons who met while in battle and decided to make love and not war.  The play starts four days before their wedding and the are feeling very impatient.  The second couple we meet are Hermia and Lysander who are in love but her father disproves the match and threatens her with either becoming a nun or death if she doesn’t marry his chosen suitor.  Thirdly we meet Helena and Demetrius, she is in love with him but he is in love with Hermia, and the more she is rejected the more she loves him.  Finally we are introduced to Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies who are squabbling over a little human child they both want to play with.

It is the discord between Titania and Oberon that causes the who situation to become a farce because Oberon wants to get his own back by making Titania fall in love with the next awful creature she sees by means of the juice from a purple flower.  Oberon being an old romantic requested that his jester Puck put the same juice on Demetrius’ eyes so that he would fall in love with Helena.  Of course Puck put it on Lysander’s eyes, who was eloping with Hermia and sleeping.  The first person he saw was of course Helena and he fell deeply in love her and abandoned Hermia.  When Oberon realised what had happened he ordered Puck to put the juice in Demetrius’ eyes so when he woke up he would fall in love with Helena.  This mix up resulted in both men being in love with Helena, hating Hermia and Helena hating all three because she thought that they were playing a trick on her.  Let me catch my breath.

Puck took the opportunity to create a monster for Titania to fall in love with by changing Bottom’s head into an ass’s.  She fell head over heels in love with him even if he thought it very strange.  Let me just explain the role of the six tradesmen in the play.  They were to perform a play within the play, ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, which is about two lovers who were forbidden to meet by their families, this Greek play became the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet.  We can see that they would have fitted into today’s society quite well as they didn’t want to upset the ladies and decided to say a prologue at the beginning of the play to warn them that the sword fights were not real and that nobody would really get hurt and that the lion wasn’t a lion but a person.  This of course reveals the plot of the play and gives us a sense of how plays were put on in the sixteenth century.  There is an air of pantomime about the whole thing because women very rarely acted and their parts were played by men in masks.  I think that this element is Shakespeare’s way of letting people in the future understand how plays were staged and this will obviously determine how my play will be staged.

I think I still have half of the play to read before I can complete my research so will let you digest this post before I tell you more about this project.


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January 2012

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