Risa is organizing A Shakespeare Play a Month event and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was elected for January. I’ve never read Shakespeare in school and apart from the usual spin-offs like 10 Things I Hate About You or West Side Story, I’ve only came across the canon by watching Romeo + Juliet at the movies and Macbeth at the theater, and although I got the gist of it, most of the language nuances were lost on me. But way back then I didn’t read much in English, and what I read was mostly modern novels, so clearly I wasn’t ready to face The Bard.
Some friends warned me that Shakespeare is better experienced by listening to it, but I found that reading the book and then watching the movie worked well. I was able to go back, re-read and look online for definitions. I was able to understand turns of phrase such as “a mile without the town” or “come, recreant; come thou child”. If I’d seen it without reading it first, I’d probably miss just how visual and evocative one of my favorite lines really is – Titania describing how she got the little Indian boy:
When we have laugh’d to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind
It also gave me the opportunity to witness what a marvelous “insulter” Shakespeare was. I had heard rumors, but now I’ve seen it for myself and am very much tempted to use it in my day-to-day (not that I often insult people, but you know, just in case): “You minimus, of hind’ring knot-grass made”, “O me, you juggler, you canker-blossom, you thief of love!”, “Farewell, thou lob of spirits”.
I haven’t said much about the plot because it became a bit secondary when compared to the words. That’s why you have re-reads, right? Next time around I’ll pay more attention to the comments on relationship’s balance of power or the loss of individual identity, but just this once, let me appreciate only the language.
Ay me, for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth.
Lysander says this to calm Hermia, after her father forbade them to marry and the King threatened her with death if she disobeyed. Lysander’s basically saying that for as long as there has been true love, there have been difficulties, and I found that strangely comforting.
Bottom & Co.’s play: loved it. How very meta-fictional of Shakespeare (or maybe it was a common gimmick at the time and I’m giving him more credit than he deserves), and how funny their keenness to make sure the audience was not scared by the lion (it’s just a man playing a lion!), or of the scene where Pyramus gets killed:
(…) and for the more better assurance, tell them that I Pyramus am not Pyramus but Bottom the weaver: this will put them out of fear.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)
Watching the movie adaptation after reading was a good idea. It not only made me better understand the comings and goings of the characters, but it was also fun seeing how often the actors used a tone different from the one I used when reading by myself.
My initial plan was to only join Risa for a couple of the plays, but this one was such a rewarding experience that I think I’ll try to do all 12.
This post is also my contribution for Allie’s Shakespeare Reading Month.
Other thoughts: tale of three cities, Becky’s Book Reviews, things mean a lot, Educating Petunia, All-Consuming Media, Bloggers [heart] Books, Back to Books, Once Upon A Bookshelf, Trish’s Reading Nook, An Armchair By The Sea (yours?)