Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Midsummer night's dream, Un sogno di una notte di mezza estate

At this time of year I feel particularly grateful to William Shakespeare for having written  'A Midsummer night's dream'. Just the title alone brings wonderful visions of balmy, moonlit nights and heady scents. We can't burn the candle at both ends and it is difficult to choose between savouring the sunrise and  gazing enraptured at the stars. Once I had the good fortune to see the play performed at an open air theatre on a warm summer evening which enhanced  even more the magic and the poetry of this wonderful play.
In case you can't quite remember the plot, it is like three plays charmingly entwined together with great skill. It is full of warmth and humour and humanity. The three lots of characters are The Athenians, mainly Helena and Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander, the fairies, mainly the king Oberon and the queen Titania and then the wandering actors Bottom the weaver and his friends.
One of my favourite passages is the one about the king of the fairies, Oberon talking about the love potion which when placed on the victim's eyelids will make them fall in love with the first person they see,

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over - canopied with luscious woodbine.
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania  sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.
And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes
And make her full of hateful fantasies
Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove;
A sweet Athenian lady is in love
With a disdainful youth, anoint his eyes,
But do it when the next thing he espies
May be the lady. thou shalt know the man
By the Athenian garments he hath on.
Effect it with some care, that he may prove
More fond on her than she upon her love:
And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.

Of course lots of things go wrong. Tatiana falls in love with Bottom. Lysander and Demetrius both fall in love with Helena, but everything turns out right in the end. Exactly what we would hope to happen on a midsummer night.

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