How do Elizabethan celebration activities for Midsummer Night (also called Midsummer Eve), June 23rd, relate to what happens in A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Midsummer Eve refers to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. This was celebrated by pagan cultures before the advent of Christianity in England, but then Christianized as St. John's Day, honoring John the Baptist in the liturgical calendar. Although the festival celebrates the longest day of the year, this means that it also responds to the waning of the sun, the realization that the days are starting to shorten. One of the main elements of the celebration was lighting bonfires, a form of sympathetic magic meant to influence to sun to remain strong until the harvest. The celebration was also connected to marriage and fertility. A child conceived in the summer would be born in Spring, a time when food would be plentiful. Another feature of the celebration was warding off evil spirits held to roam the woods at this time.
Several elements of the play reflect this festival tradition. First, we have the spirits, in the form of fairies. Second, we have several elements of...
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