Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 16600
See also A Midsummer Night's Dream Criticism (Volume 29), and Volumes 45, 58, 82.
Irene Dash, Hunter College of the City University of New York
And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.
Whether in the fantasy world of the forest or the equally fantastic world of Athens on a midsummer night, this play reveals how power, particularly political power, impinges on and shapes women's lives. Ranging from queens—Hippolyta, a character taken from mythology, and Titania, belonging to the fairy world—to youthful Athenian maidens in love, to a parodic heroine in an entertainment for the Duke's guests, these characters illustrate women's varied reactions to the imposition of power. One seems to adjust; one discovers new facts about herself; one serves as a lens for looking at the larger world; and one significantly reveals the tragic dimensions of the loss of power. Least mortal and yet seeming in her speeches and attitudes to mimic the mortal world, the fairy queen illustrates most clearly the loss of self—the abdication of autonomy—that may follow a woman's being victimized, even by fairy power.
In developing the early emotional relationship between her and Oberon, the fairy king, Shakespeare seems to have drawn on the world around him for models. Thus when Titania refuses to comply to Oberon's demands, he vows in pique and jealousy to "streak her eyes" with magic juice "and make her full of hateful fantasies" (II.i.257-58). Moreover, moments before he carries out his threat, he becomes more explicit:
Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristled hair,
In the eye that shall appear
When thou wak'st, it is thy dear:
Wake when some vile thing is near.
In fact, she does wake and call some "vile thing" her "dear." How then do we interpret this? Is it the act of magic that forces her to "fall in love" with an ass, or at least with a character who has been temporarily transformed into an ass? Or are we to accept much of the criticism that suggests her erotic desire for the ass reflects her true nature—the nature of woman? Does Titania at this moment "awaken from her dream," look at the monster, and desire him, as Jan Kott (228) suggests? Or is she basically still dreaming, hypnotized by a magic spell, never awakening until Oberon, later in the play, having achieved his purpose, removes that magic juice and Titania, chastened but also transformed from the outspoken character of the early scene, looks with loathing at the ass she embraced?
Although her disagreement with Oberon lies at the heart of the play, Titania does not enter until the beginning of the second act. Instead, Shakespeare first introduces other women more clearly caught in situations of political or social subordination than the fairy queen: specifically Hippolyta, the captive Amazonian queen; Hermia, the rebellious Athenian daughter; and Helena who, in her complete self-denigration, illustrates more indirectly the impact of patriarchal power on women. Interweaving a third plot strand culminating in the performance of "Pyramus and Thisbe," the comedy also provides a dual vision of women in patriarchy near the play's close. Parodying the tragic results of arbitrary parental power, this play-within-a-play in its metadramatic dimension offers insights into the mainly silent women, now married, in the audience.
Artistically, the dramatist weaves a complex multifaceted plot that exposes the political and domestic challenges confronting women while creating situations that throw us into the world of comedy. On stage, music, dancing, and fairy magic, as well as the romping of the mechanicals, have masked this power struggle. In criticism, the lure of the poetry, the concept of "topsy turvy," the illusion of dreams, and theories of mythology have often tended to blur any interest in the domination of women. Some critics have even proposed that the play was written specifically for a wedding although none has yet been found.
In fact, A Midsummer Night's Dream opens with anticipation of a wedding although it hardly reveals clearcut delight by both participants, Hippolyta and Theseus, the Duke of Athens, her captor but also her bridegroom:
Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon; but 0, methinks, how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires,
Like to a step-dame, or a dowager,
Long withering out a young man's revenue.
His reference to "happy days" and the final fulfilling of his desire meets a noncommittal response from the bride. Acknowledging that four days swiftly pass, she indicates neither joy nor sorrow as she anticipates "the night / Of our solemnities" (10-11). Her ambiguous answer leads Theseus to search further. Still the host, if also the victor, he sends his master of the revels on an errand to:
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments,
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth.
He would have his bride be merry. Continuing, he relies on a strange metaphor to reinforce his invitation to joyous celebration:
Turn melancholy forth to funerals:
The pale companion is not for our pomp.
Why speak of funerals, even as a contrast to mirth, unless, perhaps a subtext exists here? Although "pale companion" defines the personified "melancholy," contextually the words seem linked to Hippolyta, addressed in the very next word:
Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key.
Is he apologizing for his earlier role? She fails to reply. His speeches suggest a shift in perception of woman from enemy to lover to wife, with the implication of woman's submission to man. As courtesy books and religious tracts of the period indicate, that reference to love and marriage, while including mutuality, also meant acknowledging man's superiority.1
This first scene, particularly the opening entrance and the elliptical conversation between Theseus and his bride, have allowed for a range of interpretations on stage because of Hippolyta's silence. Directors and actor-managers have long manipulated both the action and audience attitude toward a character or a situation during such silences. Writing of this phenomenon recently, particularly as it affects productions, one critic observed:
Hippolyta's silence is open not because Shakespeare
lacked the skill to give her words but because he
did not exercise that skill, did not employ the power
of his "poet's pen" to give her silence precisely
fixed meanings and effects. (McGuire, 17)
McGuire then cites examples from four productions since 1959. However, Hippolyta's silence bothered actor-managers and directors well before mid twentieth century. Because her role is so brief (she does not appear again until act 4) some, like David Garrick in The Fairies (1755), have cut her lines although she is physically present and combined Theseus's two speeches into a single long address.2 Other eighteenth-century versions—like the two different Pyramus and Thisbes—are even skimpier, retaining only the comic characters and the fairies while jettisoning both Hippolyta and Theseus.3 Earlier, during the Restoration, comic interludes, separated from the larger overall scheme, and abbreviated versions held the stage, culminating in the opera The Fairy Queen (1692), from which Hippolyta disappeared.4
But even when a fuller text appeared, as it did in Frederick Reynolds's 1816 production (MND Prompt, 18), often called an "opera," alterations were made that softened the opening. Some occurred in the text itself, as, for example, when Reynolds not only retained the conversation between the victor and his bride, but elaborated on it. In this version, Theseus's fourth act directive to a forester to provide "the music" of the "hounds," as entertainment for Hippolyta (IV.i.110), is attached to that opening promise to wed her in "another key" (I.i.18), an attempt to strengthen the attractiveness of the bridegroom.5
A far more recent example of Hippolyta's silence disappearing after Theseus's lines "I woo'd thee with my sword, /.. . But I will wed thee in another key" occurs in the 1935 Max Reinhardt film where he transposes the sequence of speeches. In the film, Theseus's lines precede, rather than follow, Hippolyta's single speech and therefore evoke her immediate and soothing comment "Four days will quickly steep themselves in night; / Four nights will quickly dream away the time" (7-8). Nor can Reinhardt's film be looked upon as a single aberration. Rather, the German director provides an important link between stage and screen, having produced the play eleven times (beginning in 1905) prior to making the film in 1934.
Free of the confining limits of the stage, he could, as film director, waft his viewers from one location to another, jumping from a distant scene to a close-up of a particular character. In a section of the film script later discarded, Reinhardt not only appears to have been testing the breadth of this comparatively new medium but also offers insights into the finished film. The script also reflects the director's penchant for interpretation. In quick succession, it carries us aboard Theseus's ship, drops us in the land of the Amazons, and involves us in the battle between Theseus and Hippolyta through visuals that act as prologue to the text. Broad shots of the sea and the distant castle of the Amazons are interwoven with close-ups of the two major figures. We read of Theseus standing on the prow of the ship, "a glamorous figure in shining armor, against the dark background of the sail" and of Hippolyta standing with a large wild dog at her side as she "sternly watch[es] the approaching ship" (MND Warners, 1934).6 Stern Hippolyta is contrasted with glamourous Theseus. Finally, when he appears on land followed by his staff, she takes up armor and weapons and shoots at him. He, however, "lower(s) his shield laughing," the implication being that fighting against a woman is laughable and that she, of course, will miss her mark. Eventually, they end up in hand to hand battle, "shield against shield," his shield flat upon hers, pressing it backward. The sequence continues:
- H[ippolyta].'s knee bending, interlocking with Theseus' leg
- Th[eseus].'s shoulder pressing H[ippolyta].'s shoulder downward. . . .
- H[ippolyta].'s head and shoulders going backward.
- Th[eseus].'s arm across H[ippolyta].'s shoulder, knocks the helmet from her head. H[ippolyta].'s long hair falls about her shoulders.
- H[ippolyta].'s head bends backward. Th[eseus].'s head comes into picture triumphantly.7
There we have the classic picture of the implied rape-seduction scene although as the opening of A Midsummer Night 's Dream clearly indicates, Theseus waits to wed Hippolyta.8 What remains of this sequence is a clue to a point of view and to the play's early moments.
In fact, as it was actually made, Reinhardt's film opens quite differently with a general celebratory air as crowds sing and cheer the returning victor, their Duke Theseus, with his captive queen who rides with him, her arm entwined by a snake, indicating her heathenish origins. . . . Later that snake will merely be a pattern on a "civilized" dress she wears. The strange look on her face during that opening entrance as well as her action in a subsequent scene probably owe their origins to this discarded "script." In the later scene, dressed like a lady, Hippolyta sits alone in a large open colosseumlike semicircular area surrounded by large columns (a Hollywood approximation of Athens) and looks wistfully across the water. Is she recollecting her former glory and envisioning again the burning towers she left behind? Moments later, Theseus enters and kisses her hand. . . . Her reaction seems to suggest that she feels a thrill at his kiss. The rape-seduction undercurrent first suggested by their hand-to-hand battle when her helmet fell off is sustained here.
In contrast, Liviu Ciulei's stage production, fifty years later, dramatically emphasized Hippolyta's role as a captive in that opening scene. Brought on stage where everyone is wearing white, Hippolyta enters in dark army garb. Moments later, screened from audience view by her captors, she is basically stripped, her clothes thrown into the fire—all except her boots, which she confines to wear—perhaps symbolically suggesting that some remnant of her former self remains—a remnant that allows her to express her hostility, by stamping her heels as an accompaniment to her sardonic laughter. Otherwise, she is redressed in a white gown. Someone holds a mirror to her. She turns away. When Theseus enters, there is laughter at his lines, as he says, "But I will wed thee in another key." She simply turns around, and sits, her physical stance exuding hostility.
Many versions simply eliminated this character, thus excising the frame and problems of interpretation, but also insights into how one queen eventually handles the humiliation of defeat. In her next appearance she has adopted an attitude of congeniality, quipping with Theseus about his knowledge of hounds. Moreover, in her final scene she takes on an even more complicated role as the only speaking woman in a world of men.
Out of the theater, the Hippolyta and Theseus relationship evoked still another reaction. Margaret Fuller, the midnineteenth-century American feminist essayist, in her outspoken work Woman in the Nineteenth Century, wrote: "Only a Theseus could conquer before he wed the Amazonian queen." Fuller compared Theseus to Hercules, who "wished rather to rest with Dejanira, and received the poisoned robe as a fit guerdon."9 Whether or not Fuller had the historical story in mind, or Shakespeare's play, she nevertheless does offer an alternative perspective on the play's first nineteen lines.
Hippolyta then fades into the background as another woman enters who must wrestle with her fate. Hermia is dragged in by her angry father, Egeus, who would have the laws of Athens enforced against her because she wishes to marry Lysander, the man of her choice, rather than Demetrius, her father's choice, although, as most critics agree, little difference exists between the suitors. As Muriel Bradbrook has observed, Shakespeare contributed to the development of comedy by breathing life into his characters through language. She compares this gift to "the introduction of perspective in painting" (89). Accepting her analysis, we realize that the similarity between the young men is intentional and meant to highlight Egeus's unreasonableness. "I am ... as well deriv'd as he," protests Lysander, the suitor who is "belov'd of beauteous Hermia":
As well possess'd; my love is more than his;
My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd.
But the father refuses to listen, insisting that he "may dispose of his daughter as he wishes, "either to this gentleman [Demetrius] / Or to her death" (42-44). Nor does Theseus, who only moments earlier had pledged to wed Hippolyta "in another key" from that of conqueror, offer much hope to the young woman. Supporting her father, the ruler warns of the price of disobedience: "Either to die the death, or to abjure / For ever the society of men" (65-66).
Life in a nunnery, a retreat for Isabella in Measure for Measure, has little appeal for Hermia. It denies her normal sexuality. Moreover, she is a young woman in love. However, Theseus, the voice of political power, continues, unconcerned about her reactions. Spelling out the meaning of the law, he details the young woman's choices:
Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires,
Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
Whether (if you yield not to your father's choice)
You can endure the livery of a nun,
For aye to be in shady cloister mew'd,
To live a barren sister all your life,
Chaunting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
"Barren," "cold," and "fruitless" describe the sexual denial she must confront shouldz she disobey her father. Theseus presents a frightening alternative for her. Taking the father from Roman comedy, Shakespeare creates a comic scene with undercurrents of possibly tragic dimension.
But sections of this speech as well as of Egeus's complaints against Lysander disappeared from the stage. Gone are such accusations against Lysander as "thou has given her rhymes, / And interchanged love tokens"; sung at her window "verses of feigning love"; seduced her "With bracelets of thy hair, rings, gauds, conceits"; and, finally, "Turned her obedience, which is due to me, / To stubborn harshness."10 Only Egeus's demand for the privilege of the father remained—the right to "dispose of her" as he saw fit or to call for the death penalty. Although retaining this harsh sentence, those who excised lines had effectively diminished the speech's intensity through abbreviation.
Gone too from the stage are the closing lines of Theseus's admonition to Hermia defining the obligations of a daughter:
To you your father should be as a god
One that composed your beauties; yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it.
The image here, specifically the threat to "disfigure," disturbed critics and editors as early as the eighteenth century. William Warburton, for example, sought to change the last line, finding Theseus's statement inappropriate for comedy. In contrast, Samuel Johnson, always one to favor the text over any change of language, defended the word although still bothered by the meaning:
I know not why so harsh a word should be admitted with so little need, a word that, spoken, could not be understood, and of which no example can be shown. The sense is plain, "you owe to your father a being which he may at pleasure continue or destroy." (Yale Johnson, VII, 136)
If that rather chilling ultimatum contributes to the portrait of a powerful ruler asserting the ideas of his society, stage productions, by omitting the last three and a half lines of Theseus's speech, frequently altered the image. In fact, some stage versions retained only the preceding line, Theseus's far more gentle, "What say you, Hermia? Be advis'd, fair maid" (46).11 Because the interaction of characters helps define them, a weakened portrait of Hermia results from the combination of excisions in Theseus's and Egeus's speeches. Facing less opposition, she need be less defiant. Or, looking at it another way, we see her as a less interesting character than the sharp, courageous young woman Shakespeare begins to develop here.
Illustrating just how complex this text is and how it may be read and reread for the stage, some twentieth-century directors have translated the relationship between the two women at this moment on the stage as one of bonding: Hermia, who faces an anguished choice, and Hippolyta, who stands on the sidelines, listening. And here too promptbooks offer evidence. Beerbohm Tree's, for example, indicates the Amazonian queen's sympathy for the younger woman by directing: "Hyp[polyta] leads Herm[ia] to seat" (MND 7, interleaf facing p. 4). In Liviu Ciulei's production, the bonding takes another form. Since Hippolyta's strong personality had been developed at the play's opening, here she sneeringly laughs at Theseus's ultimatum, a clear comment on his actions and on the irony of his earlier words to her, "But I will wed thee in another key" (I.i.18). More humorous in approach and less sharply disapproving is the direction in the Peter Brook prompt: "All bow their heads" (12a). Brook dramatizes the rift between Theseus and Hippolyta by having them exit to opposite sides of the stage, "pausing at doors to look at each other." These twentieth-century directors found their cues in the text and responded, not with excision but with a new awareness of the play's subtlety and of the possibilities that staging might permit.
If Hermia's tragic fate is briefly understood by Hippolyta, the play quickly moves back to the world of comedy as the two lovers left alone on stage not only bemoan their fate but also engage in a conversation in which neither is hearing what the other says. Comforting his love, Lysander cites historical parallels of similarly fated lovers; Hermia, not listening, overflows with anger and frustration:
Lys The course of true love never did run smooth;
But either it was different in blood—
He begins, but she interrupts:
Her O cross! Too high to be enthralled to low!
Alternating lines, they continue:
Lys Or else misgraffed in respect of years—
Her O spite! Too old to be engaged to young!
Lys Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—
Her O hell! To choose love by another's eyes!
The stichomythic pattern of the duet captures the intensity of the lovers' feelings, but also the humor of their reactions as each finds solace from a different verbal outpouring.
Nevertheless, the exchange disappeared from acting texts for over a hundred years.12 Although the excision at first seems inexplicable, George Bernard Shaw's comments on an Augustin Daly production offer a partial answer. Unaware of how much Daly's version owed to his predecessors, and indignant over his mauling of the text, Shaw attributes the excision to Daly's uncomfortableness with Hermia's "Oh hell," then notes the impact of the cuts. Humorously he writes:
Mr. Daly, shocked, as an American and an Irishman, at a young lady using such an expression as "Oh hell!" cuts out the whole antiphony, and leaves Lysander to deliver a long lecture without interruption from the lady. (Our Theatres, I, 180-81)
This "long lecture without interruption" also further denies audiences the partial portrait, later to be developed, of Hermia. Unsurprisingly, the lines disappeared from the Garrick-Colman and Reynolds operatic versions since these works concentrated on songs loosely connected with one another by speeches, rather than on short exchanges. But the absence of Hermia's frustrated expression from the later stage versions is surprising.13
Was her "Oh hell" too forthright for the sensibilities of all those audiences, as Shaw implied in blaming Daly? A glance at the Variorum, strong in nineteenth-century criticism, suggests other, literary reasons, as well. Coleridge, for example writes:
There is no authority for any alteration,—but I never can help feeling how great an improvement it would be, if the two former of Hermia's exclamations were omitted—the third and only appropriate one would then become a beauty, and most natural. (Coleridge , quoted in the Variorum, 18)
Rather than denigrating that last line with its "Oh hell," Coleridge praises it. Obviously, Hermia's annoyed exclamations bothered him more than the simple comment on the unfairness of choosing love "by another's eyes." Less generously, Halliwell, another critic of the time, believed Lysander's speech "would be improved by the omission of all of Hermia's interpolations" (18). Moreover, to support his opinion, he cited the editions of Dodd and Planché which actually deleted Hermia's lines.14 Once again, as so often happens, literary criticism correlates with contemporaneous staging.
Why did her short speeches offend so? Was Lysander's single uninterrupted speech more appropriate? But then how could his speech help project Hermia's personality as it does in the original exchange? Stylistically, those clipped single lines suggest the exasperation and intensity of the young woman we are to meet later on in the forest. Moreover, the patter, or duet, of these two lovers complements the long heavy speeches of Egeus and Theseus, taking us back into the comic, romantic world of the play.
As critics have often noted, conflict between father and daughter arises here as it does in so many other of Shakespeare's plays, and here too the strength of the daughter is created by showing her resistence to her father's pressure; her lines in this duet are important. Shaw's review of Daly's production suggests a further effect of the "alternating lines" spoken by the "two star-crossed lovers"; he believes the alternating pattern sets "the whole scene throbbing with their absorption in one another" (133). It also explodes with their differing responses to the same situation.
Although a strong, self-confident, if frustrated, young woman emerges through the language here, not all of her lines reinforce this portrait. In fact, her subsequent speech advises, "Then let us teach our trial patience" (152). Between her two speeches, she has listened to Lysander's litany of lovers who, throughout history, have faced problems. In the cut acting texts I have examined, the line advising patience always remains. What a different Hermia we experience. The language has been modulated, the humor of the exchange lost, and the outspoken young woman tempered.
Artistically, too, a change occurs. No verbal echoes will sound for the audience when, a few lines later, Hermia and her best friend, Helena, indulge in a similar pattern of alternating lines. Nor will the audience hear how their conversation mimics and yet differs from that of the lovers. The repetition of the pattern, comic in its shift of topic, also defines and contrasts the young women. Helena pines for Demetrius. Hermia would most willingly relinquish him. Unlike the earlier duet, this one concentrates on each young woman's attitude towards Demetrius. Rhyming couplets mark their exchange of confidences, and again acting texts excise:
Her. I frown upon him; yet he loves me still.
Hel. O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!
Her. I give him curses; yet he gives me love.
Hel. O that my prayers could such affection move!
Her. The more I hate, the more he follows me.
Hel. The more I love, the more he hateth me.
Differing in their appeal to Demetrius, the women differ in their sense of self, Hermia confident with two adoring males, Helena disconsolate that the youth she loves has eyes only for her friend. Physically they differ too: Hermia being small and dark, at one point called "puppet" (III.ii.286), "dwarfish" (295), and an "Ethiop" (257); Helena being tall and lanky—"a painted may-pole" (296). She is also probably fair.
Throughout this scene, Hermia exhibits a sardonic sense of humor, not only in her exclamations after her father leaves with Theseus, but even in her exchanges with her less confident friend. And once again, some texts delete Hermia's attempt to console her friend:
Before the time I did Lysander see,
Seem'd Athens as a Paradise to me;
O then, what graces in my love do dwell,
That he hath turn'd a heaven unto a hell!
Although meant to emphasize the problems Hermia faces, the lines referring to "Lysander's graces" making Athens a hell also have a built-in irony. Surely a lover's graces should turn a hell into heaven rather than the opposite. Although differing from Theseus's comment to Hippolyta on altering their relationship from excombatants to lovers, Hermia's words here suggest a similarly thin and tenuous line between heaven and hell, springing from love.
Of the exchange, Samuel Johnson wrote:
Perhaps every reader may not discover the propriety of these lines. Hermia is willing to comfort Helena, and to avoid all appearance of triumph over her. She therefore bids her not to consider the power of pleasing, as an advantage to be much envied or much desired, since Hermia, whom she considers as possessing it in the supreme degree, has found no other effect of it than the loss of happiness.
(Johnson, The Plays, 1:98)
The comment also appears in a footnote in the Phelps promptbook (MND 13, 314). Since this was an 1805 printed text used for an 1861 production, it suggests that the lines were not only challenging in the eighteenth century but continued to be relevant in the nineteenth. When they disappear, as often occurs, they erase a problem for interpreters, but also an insight into Hermia's capacity for humor and sympathy.
To further comfort Helena, Hermia and Lysander reveal their secret plan to escape Athens. In soliloquy at the scene's close, Helena confesses her response. She will divulge the news of their flight to Demetrius, hoping to win his favor. Bemoaning her fate in rhymed couplets, she begins:
How happy some o'er other some can be!
Through Athens I am thought as fair as she,
But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;
Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.
But Helena does not think herself as fair as Hermia. Thus this reference to Cupid suggests a rather confused young woman. Continuing for twenty-six lines, the soliloquy ranges from analyses of love to a discussion of Hermia's strengths to a lament for the speaker's own plight:
For ere Demetrius look'd on Hermia's eyne,
He hail'd down oaths that he was only mine;
She therefore resolves, "I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight" (246), expecting a kind response. Here too excisions mar the portrait. Sometimes the lines are absent from printed acting versions; sometimes sections are crossed out or blocked for cutting.16 As a result only the bare plot outline of this section remains, subtleties in characterization being lost.
Later, in the forest, the dramatist further develops the young women's personalities. There the popular Hermia, speaking with confidence, gently reprimands her lover, while the rejected Helena subjects herself to further humiliation, frustratingly following the man she loves. Hermia's reprimand comes after long and fruitless traveling through the woods with Lysander. Escaping Theseus's ultimatum, they seek refuge with the young man's aunt, beyond the range of Athens' law. Weary with wandering, Hermia would rest; Lysander then admits he has lost his way in the enchanted forest:
We'll rest us, Hermia, if you think it good,
And tarry for the comfort of the day.
Appreciating the idea, she then counters:
Be't so, Lysander. Find you out a bed;
For I upon this bank will rest my head.
But he would have it otherwise. In fact, the lines indicate the action that has just occurred on stage as she chooses her sleeping site. A minidebate then ensues:
Lys. One turf shall serve as pillow for us both,
One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth.
Her. Nay, good Lysander; for my sake, my dear,
Lie further off yet; do not lie so near.
The adapters once again cut. Garrick's abbreviated musical version provides a record of the cuts in this speech, and, to some extent, sets the pattern for what subsequently occurred. The first eight lines of the exchange between the couple are retained (lines 35-42), followed by a duet (25). Then come lines not Shakespeare's, but believed to be composed by Garrick, which appear in a handwritten insert (MND 6).17 In that version Hermia exhibits proper womanly fear:
Now my Lysander, on that bank repose,
That if perchance my woman's fears shou'd seek
Protection in thy love and brav'ry,
I may not call on love and thee in vain.
(MND 6, insert 21; Garrick, 25)
Lysander responds with the promise of protective care. The Garrick lines also appear in the Reynolds printed text (MND 8, 18). Later the pattern of excision continues although without the new, added material. The musical Reynolds version (MND 8, 18) contains no hint of her asking him to move. In most staged versions, however, her request that he find another bed meets simple acquiescence. Usually gone are his lines "One turf shall serve as pillow for us both / One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth" (41-42) along with his attempt to convince her of the reasonableness of his proposal. Gone too is Hermia's perceptive "Lysander riddles very prettily. . . . / But, gentle friend, for love and courtesy, / Lie further off, in humane modesty" (53, 56-57).18 Amusing, her response in Shakespeare's play highlights her realistic awareness of the physical attraction between lovers. Their debate is reminiscent of Juliet's "What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?" (Romeo and Juliet, II.ii.126) when Romeo protests, "O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied" (125). In both cases, the dramatist suggests that confidence in the loyalty of her lover does not blur each young woman's recognition of the reality of the sexual drive.
Unlike Hermia, her friend Helena nurtures no such fear. Groveling for some affection, she trails Demetrius. "I love thee not; therefore pursue me not" (188), he dictates. But Helena, like Emilia in Othello so many plays later, has divulged the secret of Hermia and Lysander's flight in order to win a boon:
I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.
Use me but as your spaniel; spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
Nor do Demetrius's threats to her virginity (217-19) bother her. Rather they allow her to assert her confidence in his character. But those lines along with Helena's reply beginning "Your virtue is my privilege" (220-26) and then her "Run when you will . . ." (230-34) disappear from the stage in many promptbooks.19
By cutting Helena's lines here and elsewhere, those versions tended to obscure the perceptiveness of Shakespeare's sketch of a young woman who is filled with self-doubt and self-hatred.20 In fact, Shakespeare's insight here, although theatrically developed and placed in a comedic setting, has a contemporary counterpart in Kate Millett's more serious analysis of the lack of self-love that flourishes in women and minorities. She describes this as
group self-hatred and self-rejection, a contempt both for herself and for her fellows—the result of that continual, however subtle, reiteration of her inferiority which she eventually accepts as a fact. (56)
Helena appears to have internalized this attitude. In an excellent essay on the play, David Marshall asks a relevant question concerning Helena. "Are we to be pleased by the success of Helena's subjection of herself?" (548), he wonders, challenging the idea that this is "one of Shakespeare's happiest comedies."21 Actually, by the time we reach this section of the play we become aware of the various ways in which the women have been dominated by men—bridegroom, father, ruler, and rejecting suitor.
However, we have not yet met the strongest and seemingly freest woman character in A Midsummer Night's Dream: Titania, the fairy queen, who so delights us at her first entrance and later raises questions about women's roles. Is she the victim of male power, male irrationality, trickery, or jealousy? Is she merely a fairy? Or does she illuminate the feelings and attitudes of women reacting to dominating male behavior?
At its opening, act 2 stresses the conflict between her and Oberon, the fairy king. Quickly we learn the source of their dissension: control over an "Indian boy" at the time in her possession but desperately desired by Oberon. Representatives of king and queen, Puck and a fairy quickly sketch in the conflict, each hoping the other party will relinquish the field. "But room, fairy! here comes Oberon" (II.i.58), announces Puck. "And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!" (59) retorts the fairy. And then, king and queen enter. Do they make a grand entry from either side of the stage, magically from the air, with a train of followers, or simply alone?
The scene has allowed for a tremendous range of interpretations, some concentrating on the two principals, some surrounding them with troops of followers, many including the Indian Prince. Nonexistent in the play and seeming to symbolize Oberon's drive for dominance over Titania—or perhaps his jealousy of her—the prince materializes into an actual character. Not listed in the dramatis personae, he takes on a life of his own in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century productions, including the Reinhardt film. Although mystery surrounds him in the text—we don't know his age, his size, or his exact identity, except as he is described variously by Puck, Titania, and Oberon—he acquires theatrical substance on stage, frequently wearing a turban or carried in on a golden cushion.22
Suggesting the importance of this character to the relationship between the fairy king and queen are the stage directions written in pencil on the interleave to Kean's prompt:
Fairies enter dancing round Titania. 2 Bodies of Oberon's Train,—enter separately, . . . then 2 parties of Titania 's—chorus first, who make an avenue of boughs, then a second troop of smaller fairies trip down through them,—on tiptoes—and run back thro avenue,—down L[eft] then round avenue and follow Titania with Indian Boy tripping down through avenue,—Oberon entering same time down slote, R[ight] (MND 9, interleaf facing p. 21).
In another production, a dance of twelve fairies precedes Titania's entry "in a car drawn by swans" and accompanied by the Indian Prince. Paralleling their entry, Oberon descends to meet them (MND 20, verso of interleaf facing p. 12). A sketch indicates the placement of fairies, with Titania, Oberon, and the Prince at center front.
The presence of an actual prince also allows the director editorial commentary as he emphasizes the different functions of men and women, father and mother. Thus Titania is usually portrayed in a maternal relationship with that young child whereas Oberon is presented as giving the youth space and training for manhood. Consider, for example, the Reinhardt film where the young prince is practically smothered by attention from Titania's fairies and elves whereas later he is free to accompany Oberon. Even in criticism, this reference to the prince colors the perspective. C.L. Barber, for example, writing of Titania's later development, considers her giving up of the child as a maturing process. But one may question whether or not it is the child, as an actual person, or the symbolic importance of the debate between Titania and Oberon and its later outcome that is really at issue in the play especially since the prince's exclusion from the text helps stress the equality between king and queen.
Before turning to their actual verbal sparring, I want to cite other theatrical factors that further vitiated the strength of the debate, attracting eyes to the stage and ears to the music rather than attention to the words. I refer to the persistence of lavish musical accompaniments to productions. In fact, whether it was coincidence or not, the mid-nineteenth-century productions—beginning with that of Elizabeth Vestris and Charles Mathews in 1840, which included Mendelssohn's music—were highly successful and included more of the text than had previously appeared on stage. Discussing that production, one commentator suggested, "It would be an unpardonable mistake to any future performances .. . to omit . . . Mendelssohn's music" (MND. *NCP 18—, p. 6).23 In Reinhardt's film, fairies, accompanied by the orchestral sounds of Mendelssohn's music, dance in on a cloud that spirals around a tree. Later productions, like that of the famous Old Vic Company in 1954 that featured Robert Helpmann and Moira Shearer, both professional dancers, as Oberon and Titania, also testify to the pervasiveness of a musical tradition and the emphasis on dance for the two principal fairies. . . .
Finally, along with the music and the young prince, one stage property worked its magic on the audience: the mushroom from which Puck eventually emerged. The young Ellen Terry as Puck, for example, lay hidden in such a mushroom in Kean's production, springing into view as the mushroom rose. Following Kean's lead, Daly's Puck, hidden by a mushroom, was discovered when a fairy's wand brushed a plant (1888, MND 5, p. 32). Featuring complex machinery, Burton's production too had Puck spring from a mushroom that rose from a trap then sank back down (MND 21, p. 15 and facing interleaf).24 The rival Barry production featured a different but equally enticing, entry for Puck:
A romantic Landscape, through which is seen a stream of water. (By moonlight.) A bush in the c[enter]. MUSIC—A troop of Fairies are discovered grouped. A Fairy touches the bush with her wand, it opens and Puck comes out; the bush disappears through the stage.
(MND 20, Act 2, p. 11)
Supplementing this text, the directions on the interleaf specifically place Puck inside the flower piece which then changes to a peacock. Accompanied by music, "the first fairy trips on from [the side entrance] . . . round the flower" waving the wand. "The flower opens and discovers Puck in a Peacock Car (with wand)." More music sounds as Puck descends from the car. Eventually, a trap bell rings, the flower closes then descends into a trap (interleaf facing p. 11).
I cite these extensive productions because they characterize what occurred on stage once the fuller text was presented. Whether this was because of the accompaniment of Mendelssohn's music or because the combination of the text with that music appealed so strongly to Victorians we do not know. Clearly, however, language and the verbal conflicts between men and women characters, whether fairy or not, were overshadowed by productions. Nor do the many references to a full text, as in the case of Phelps's production, which boasted of having omitted only three hundred lines, alter the general impression of the acted play. If these varied staged versions seemed to promise new perspectives, they failed to deliver; they still concentrated on the magic and wistfulness of the dream. Moreover, extant promptbooks testify to a disproportionate number of excisions of lines that blur Shakespeare's portrayal of the inequities that women faced whether in the real or unreal fairy world.
For it is in the unreal world of the fairies that the dramatist most clearly questions the patriarchal structure. Despite the extravagance of their entrances in different productions, Oberon's and Titania's opening lines sound more like those of humans than of fairies or otherworldly beings: "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania" (60), asserts proud Oberon. We then encounter the queen of the fairies whom Shakespeare has endowed with dramatic and evocative poetry. Unlike the other women thus far presented, Titania has a sure sense of self-worth and an independence of spirit. Hippolyta was presented as defeated but enigmatic, Hermia as a challenge to the rules of her society, and Helena as a self-doubting person, questioning her own worth. But in Titania Shakespeare offers a portrait of a queen, someone reliant on no one but herself for her power. Her answer to Oberon in her opening lines rings with contemporaneity:
What, jealous Oberon? Fairies, skip hence—
I have forsworn his bed and company.
Why need a fairy assert she has "forsworn" another fairy's bed? Since when do fairies discuss such mundane matters? Moreover, Oberon carries the discussion one step further by clarifying their relationship with one another: "Am not I thy lord?" (63) he asks. "Then I must be thy lady" (64) she asserts before accusing him of infidelity with various women. In his recent book Road to Divorce: England 1530-1987, Lawrence Stone notes that until recently—but particularly in the early period covered by this book—"all women of childbearing age" were in a state of "constant anxiety about their bodies. They worried about whether they were pregnant" (8) and about such things as the possibility of dying in childbirth, of coming to term, and of having a well child. Titania, being a fairy, has no such worry although her conflict with Oberon has to do with the child of a mortal who died in childbirth. "His mother was a vot'ress of my order" (123), explains Titania. "For her sake do I rear up the boy; / And for her sake I will not part with him" (136-37). Moreover, in recent studies of women's writings of the period, we become aware not only of women's quest for divorce and of the problems they faced in confronting their husbands but also of the real fears attending childbirth (Otten).
Titania's opening lines to Oberon may well have had specific resonances for Shakespeare's audience. The phrase "separation from bed and board" was applied at the time to a legitimate form of divorce, whether "as'de facto' grants of permission to remarry" or merely following church ordinance that allowed a form of divorce but forbade remarriages (Stone, L., 304). Although Titania, of course, had no particular plans to "remarry," her language mimics that of the time, with, however, a twist—an assertion of her rights vis-à-vis an adulterous husband. Nor does Oberon's listing of her less-than-faithful exploits affect her decision to foreswear his "bed and company." According to Stone, the pattern changed in the 1640s and 50s, which may explain an altered reaction to this section of text. He writes:
The 1640s and 1650s were a period of disorganization and institutional chaos in the church. The ecclesiastical courts ceased to function in the early 1640s and in 1646 church control over marriage was abolished, authority being shifted in theory to secular authorities. But the bulk of the population seems either to have found ways to be married clandestinely by the old rituals of the Church of England, or were married by non-conformist clergy of their own religious persuasion, or reverted to marriages by verbal contract. As a result of this confusion, when the ecclesiastical courts were restored in 1660 they found themselves faced with an unprecedented torrent of petitions for separation which had been pent up for over a decade. (308)
Interestingly, what Shakespeare is doing here is using the vocabulary of divorce without presenting the actual situation. Moreover, unlike the usual separation between husband and wife of the time, this separation is instituted by the wife. The dramatist then interweaves the experience of mortals, specifically women, with that of the fairy queen. During the nineteenth century, the line referring to "bed and company" was often deleted. It disappeared from the Charles Kean printed text (MND 9) and was crossed through in the Beerbohm Tree prompt (MND 7). On the other hand, Garrick and Colman retained this line (MND 19) although slashing so much material on either side to make room for musical airs that the line's implications probably had little effect on the audience. In that text, the accusations by fairy king and queen refer merely to their specific favorites within the context of this play—Titania's preference for Theseus and Oberon's for the "bouncing Amazon" (70).
However, Titania's full speeches, although couched in "fairy terms," offer insights into the imperfect relationship between men and women. Describing the conflict between her and Oberon, she begins by mentioning jealousy:
These are the forgeries of jealousy;
And never, since the middle summer's spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain or by rushy brook
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
The speech continues for thirty-six lines, but has usually been reduced to six, or even four. The remnant simply accuses Oberon of disturbing the gatherings of the fairies with his "brawls" whenever the two have met (87). As critics have frequently noted, the speech gives us a sense of Titania's breadth and sensitivity, connecting her with an Eden or a classical world of the gods, or even with nature deities of rustic sixteenth-century England. She refers to the effect of the dissension between her and Oberon on the elements, "The ox hath . . . stretched his yoke in vain, / The plowman lost his sweat . . . / The fold stands empty in the drowned field / And crows are fatted with the murrion flock" (93-97). Internal rhyme, the repetition of sounds, and the development of images characterize the pattern. Her concern for the maintenance of the rhythms in the animal world extends to the human world as well. She decries the effect of their arguments on the normal flow of the seasons and on human life.
The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest.
... . The spring, the summer
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world
By their increase, now knows not which is which.
Images of nature's gifts and blights vie with one another, investing her speech with cosmic concerns beyond merely trading accusations with Oberon. When, later, she explains why she will not relinquish the child, she describes his mother, with whom she laughed and "gossip'd."25 Titania's lines—"we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive / And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind" (128-29)—suggestively describe the pregnant woman herself. They too disappear, the verbal inferences coming too close to nature, pregnancy, and women's physical appearance.26 Whittling down the lines narrows this portrait of Titania; she then more closely parallels Oberon who in this section has only brief comments.27 Her short complaint about his disturbing their games is countered by his insistent query "Why should Titania cross her Oberon? / I do but beg a little changeling boy, / To be my henchman" (119-21). Reinhardt's film cuts even further. None of Titania's lines remain except her response to Oberon's request for the changeling boy: "Set your heart at rest; / The fairy land buys not the child of me" (121-22). The scene's focus changes to the Indian boy.
Even when they retain practically all of the text, however, productions may alter the power of Titania's lines by stage directions, as did Peter Brook's in the wonderfully unisex-looking work. The performance had an exuberance and originality that captivated audiences. It also captured some of the attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s, as a glance at the "Authorized Acting Edition" testifies, raising questions about the Oberon-Titania relationship that one might even have missed in watching the play. Here, for example, is a detailed description of what went on during this scene of their first meeting which begins with Titania's crossing down stage center and kneeling (23a) before Oberon when she refers to their brawls. Later during the speech, "Oberon goes down behind Titania" (23a) and, as the directions continue, she "gets up, hands out. Oberon puts hands around her waist with wand" (24a). In talking about the "hoary headed frosts" she puts her hands over Oberon's. And at the lines "and the mazed world / by their increase now know not which is which" (24b) the stage direction reads, "Oberon's hands on Titania's breasts, with wand. Titania's arms out" (24a). As the scene continues, one sees more of physical sexual interaction between them until finally at her decision not to give him the boy, she pushes Oberon away. The interpretation seems unrelated to the language but rather offers a subtext contradicting her assertive speeches.
The comments accompanying the promptbook offer a partial explanation of this treatment of Titania. Brook had chosen to double the roles of Titania/Hippolyta and Oberon/Theseus. Alan Howard, who played Oberon/Theseus, discusses the point of view towards the relationship between his roles and the joint Titania/Hippolyta role:
At the beginning of the play, Theseus/Oberon is worried about the moon being gone and that his desires are, in consequence, bottled up. And Hippolyta/Titania says: "Don't worry. Another moon will come in. Wait, and it will all be fine again." Her kind of intensity is toward her knowledge of herself as a woman . . . in terms of whatever it is that women do that men don't. Theseus/Oberon has somehow got to explain his case. (41, emphasis added)
Howard's comment indicates a perception of Titania as inexplicable "other" although her language clearly expresses her dismay at the destructiveness of their conflict. Oberon simply isn't listening. What is exciting about the play, however, is the way Shakespeare seems to be applying what he has been hearing, or observing, in the real world to this fantasy couple, embedding a contemporaneity within an otherworldly framework.28
After her departure, Oberon vows, "Thou shalt not from this grove / Till I torment thee for this injury" (146-47), indicating a vindictiveness as well as a desire to exert power over her. And here, perhaps because of the implication of equality suggested first by the conversation between the fairy and Puck and later by the confrontation between Oberon and Titania, we are unprepared for the trick he plays on her. Shakespeare's audience, however, may well have expected it, since Titania was behaving like the rebellious, dominant, independent wife who, according to Stone, might be breaking the code of the social group "concerning sexual or power relations within the family" (3). "Thus a husband-beating wife, a passively henpecked husband, a couple married despite gross disparities in age, a cuckold, an adulterous wife . . . were all liable to be treated to . . . humiliating demonstrations of public disapproval" (3). Titania suffers just such a "humiliating demonstration" later on when she falls in love with the first thing that she sees upon awakening, a mortal with an ass's head—the "translated" Bottom.
By endowing the situation with such human qualities and giving Titania wonderful lines, however, the dramatist may also be questioning the justice of Oberon's action especially where he seems to be motivated by revenge. When he directs Puck to fetch the magic herb called "love-in-idleness" (II.i.168), the fairy king explains:
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
He will squeeze the juice into her eyes and eventually defeat the play's most independent woman. In the complex interweaving of plots, he will also, almost casually, exercise his power benevolently. Although some critics have perceived Oberon as an even-handed ruler who insists on establishing a certain kind of obedience to his rule, his actions here seem arbitrary and tinged with jealousy. When later on he acts more generously towards Helena, attempting to change her fate from that of cast-off woman to desired one, Oberon's actions seem to come almost as an afterthought to his more driven desire for revenge on Titania.
Having sent Puck on his way, Oberon, alone in the forest, sees Demetrius and Helena approaching. "1 am invisible," he announces to his audience, as Hamlet's and Banquo's ghosts do not; rather on-stage characters provide the clues to the emptiness of the space even while the invisible character appears on stage. Alan Dessen discusses the implications of this "not seeing" or blindness of characters on stage as often metaphoric for the blindness or inability of the characters on stage to see and understand (130-55). Here, however, Shakespeare denies us this metaphor by having Oberon proclaim his invisibility. The dramatist, skilled in embedding stage directions in his text, chooses, instead, to characterize Oberon through this more direct statement, possibly with the aim of literalizing him, just as the mechanicals, later on, so carefully literalize their actions.
Observing Helena trailing Demetrius, the fairy king reacts with sympathy to her plight; he would have Demetrius sue for her love. The magic herb holds the key. What are we to make of Oberon's reaction here? If Titania is aggressive in rejecting him, Helena is aggressive in pursuing Demetrius. Ironically, Oberon, who would have the fairy queen exhibit the kind of self-abasement practiced by Helena, expresses great sympathy for the mortal woman and later sends Puck to find the Athenians while the fairy king himself will anoint Titania's eyes. In one of the four calls for music in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play usually drenched in music on stage, she has just been lulled to sleep by her fairy troop. "Come, now a roundel and a fairy song. . . . sing me now asleep" (II.ii.1,7), Titania directs, becoming vulnerable to Oberon's scheme. Meanwhile, Puck, having sought Athenians in the forest and found only the sleeping Hermia and Lysander, squeezes the magic juice into the eyes of the wrong man.
Now Helena, the rejected Helena, is forced to face a new role—that of the chosen one, the pursued one, when Lysander, upon being awakened, expresses his undying love for her. This is difficult for a woman whose self-image has already been shaped. Speaking in soliloquy moments before his sudden and inexplicable pursuit, she weighs her virtues and strengths and finds them nonexistent. She compares herself first with Hermia then indulges in close self-analysis:
How came her eyes so bright? Not with salt tears;
If so, my eyes are oft'ner wash'd than hers.
No, no; I am as ugly as a bear;
> For beasts that meet me run away for fear.
Therefore no marvel though Demetrius
Do, as a monster, fly my presence thus.
Helena doesn't like what she sees. Although the speech continues developing her profile, it too, like so many earlier speeches by the women, frequently loses its subtlety and color through excision.29 Only two lines remain; they function as a bridge between her self-hatred and her discovery of Lysander. The full speech, however, explains her astonishment at his actions, and her inability to find any excuse for them. Lacking any sense of self-worth, she is bewildered. The play, however, provides a rationale. According to Lysander, one needs maturity to appreciate Helena's worth. "Reason" must be the guide:
The will of man is by his reason sway'd;
And reason says you are the worthier maid.
He then expands on this, explaining, "Things growing are not ripe until their season, / so I, being young, till now ripe not to reason" (117-18). The scene also permits the dramatist to differentiate further between the two young women because even in these mere sketches, he assigns specific qualities to each. But once again major chunks of text are cut for the stage, eliminating all but the most obvious differences—the women's varying appeals to men.30
Illustrating the effectiveness of the magic juice, the brief scene between Helena and Lysander in its complete form anticipates the sharp reaction Titania will experience. Because so much criticism has interpreted the fairy queen's later actions when under the juice's spell as truly representative of her underlying feelings, one could test the validity of such a theory by applying it to Lysander, the first to be transformed. Does he really mean it when, responding to Helena's reminder of his love for Hermia, he refers to his former love scornfully as "the surfeit of the sweetest things" (137) and undesirable? Since he later returns to her, one must believe that this is merely his manner of coping, under the spell's influence.
Although some critics consider Oberon's potion a symbol of love, as it applies to Titania it appears to be more a symbol of power, or at least of revenge for her failure to release the child. In direct response to her unwillingness to acquiesce to his demand, Oberon induces the spell:
The next thing then she waking looks upon
(Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,
On meddling monkey, or on busy ape),
She shall pursue it with the soul of love.
No handsome youth or prince charming but rather a list of animals is intended as her fate. In fact some promptbooks—for the 1856 [MND 9] and Tree 1900 [MND 7] productions—excise these references to animals. In Garrick's production, she is never seen "enamor'd of an ass" (IV.i.77). Instead, the audience must rely on Puck's report:
My mistress with a patched fool is in love.
Near to her close and consecrated bower
This clown with others had rehearsed a play
Intended for great Theseus' nuptial day.
When, starting from her bank of mossy down,
Titania waked, and straightway loved the clown.
(III.i.2-7; Garrick in Pedicord, III:176)
References to the ass have disappeared; the substitute terms "patched fool" and "clown" soften Titania's fate.
Through the complex interweaving of plot strands in which fairies, tradesmen, and high-born characters from the world of Athens intermingle, Shakespeare can raise questions about women's roles. The dramatist draws on the third group, the mechanicals, for the "ass" who will humiliate, humble, and subdue the fairy queen. Entering the enchanted forest to rehearse their play, "Pyramus and Thisbe," these comic characters, hoping to perform before the Duke on his wedding day, inadvertently participate in Oberon's trickery. Reacting variously to the idea of performing—some with trepidation about learning the words, others protesting assignment of their roles—one in the group plunges into the adventure. He would play every role. Quickly we become acquainted with Nick Bottom, the weaver, who would shout like a bear and weep like a woman. He will, eventually, bray like an ass, a role not in their skit, but one he will take on in his unexpected adventure with the fairy queen.
Doomed to awaken "when some vile thing is near" whom she will take for her love, Titania hears the braying Bottom—anointed with an ass's head by Puck—and marvels at his musicality. She finds his music beautiful and his person appealing. But then she has been blinded by Oberon's magic spell. In the Ciulei production, she reacts to that juice by screaming as if hit by lightning. Few productions, however, dramatize the evil inherent in this type of magic. Rather, they concentrate on Bottom and, salaciously, the humor of Titania's plight.
More than anywhere else, it is in the effect of Oberon's trick on Titania, however, that one feels the tragedy for the women and the insights the dramatist gives us into the ways in which patriarchy manipulates women's options. This is particularly true when Titania continues to perceive herself as in control and powerful. During her first meeting with Bottom, the enchanted Titania praises his wisdom as well as beauty and musical skill, declaring that she loves him. When he wants only to leave the wood, she warns:
Out of this wood do not desire to go;
Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no.
I am a spirit of no common rate;
The summer still doth tend upon my state.
The lines underscore the ironic contrast between her perception of herself and her actual situation. Like Lysander, she is trying to cope. Some versions eliminate her reference to power: "whether thou wilt or no." In many texts, her whole last speech, beginning "Come wait upon him; lead him to my bower," is excised. Thus audiences do not know that she entertains him in her bower, or that the moon, "when she weeps, weeps every little flower, / Lamenting some enforced chastity" (199-200). As a result, the full implication of Oberon's trick on Titania is lost to the audience.31
Sometimes a critic will overlook Oberon's role, concentrating instead on the effect of the magic potion on Titania. Jan Kott, for example, not only stresses the eroticism and harshness embedded in the text but also translates this eroticism in terms of the fairy queen. To him, her invitation to Bottom exemplifies woman's passion and hidden desire, rather than illustrating the male (Oberon's) exercise of power. Analyzing the staging of those scenes between Titania and Bottom, Kott also decries the tendency to play them for laughs rather than present them as black humor, an "English kind of humour, 'humeur noir', cruel and scatological, as it often is in Swift" (228). Most revealing, however, is Kott's final comment about the scene, as he describes Titania:
The slender, tender and lyrical Titania longs for animal love. Puck and Oberon call the transformed Bottom a monster. The frail and sweet Titania drags the monster to bed, almost by force. (228)
This is the effect of the magic juice. Kott continues his male fantasy—the fantasy of women "never wanting to admit" to themselves that they really like being raped. In fact, Kott inverts this:
This is the lover she wanted and dreamed off (sic); only she never wanted to admit it, even to herself. Sleep frees her from inhibitions. The monstrous ass is being raped by the poetic Titania, while she still keeps on chattering about flowers. .. . Of all the characters in the play Titania enters to the fullest extent the dark sphere of sex where there is no more beauty and ugliness; there is only infatuation and liberation. (228)
Obviously to Kott, beauty and ugliness vanish before infatuation and liberation.
Fuseli's eighteenth-century illustration captures much of the implied eroticism in this scene although it differs in point of view from Kott's. .. . In the painting, dominated by the two major characters, a large nude male figure, topped by a donkey head with large ears and sitting crossed legged with his arms clasping his knees, is being caressed by Titania, her nude breast amply visible beneath the outstretched arm around his head. Surrounding the two are small insect-headed nude males, their penises visible, and small fairies looking like flirtatious women, their breasts seductively apparent although wearing female garb. While Fuseli indicates the eroticism in the scene, bringing in the whole forest and suggesting, too, the male appetite, Kott concentrates only on Titania, perceiving her as a voracious female. Neither acknowledges the idea of her being tricked.
C. L. Barber provides a totally different perspective. To him, the Titania scenes with Bottom reveal a "growing up," as I mentioned earlier:
It is when the flower magic leads Titania to find a new object that she gives up the child (who goes now from her bower to the man's world of Oberon). So here is another sort of change of heart that contributes to the expression of what is consummated in marriage, this one a part of the rhythm of adult life, as opposed to the change in the young lovers that goes with growing up. (FC 137)
Again the question arises of whether Titania experiences a "change of heart" or is victimized by Oberon and therefore no natural growth occurs, merely a change depriving her of her former sense of self.
Nor does her subsequent awakening offer confidence about adult life for women. Deluded, she courts the ass-headed Bottom, taking him to her bower. Meanwhile Oberon plans his next move:
I'll to my queen and beg her Indian boy;
And then I will her charmed eye release
From monster's view, and all things shall be peace.
But shall they be at peace? Or worse, shall Titania's spirit have been broken? In The Taming of the Shrew, Kate says, "My tongue will tell the anger of my heart / Or else my heart concealing it will break" (IV.iii.77-78). Shakespeare recognizes the effect on the human heart of bottling up resentment.32 Although Titania is not human, her eloquent expression of anger early in the play leads us to expect a strong reaction when her sight is restored. But no such response occurs. Instead, she cares neither about the Indian boy, nor the trick that has been played on her, but only about the humiliation of having been in love with an ass. Are we to think of her as resembling the nonhuman witches in Macbeth whose deeds do not upset them? Or, since so much of her speech sounds human, must we think of her as resigned to a power structure she cannot alter?
After Oberon removes the spell, Titania, with great equanimity, asks: "My Oberon, what visions have I seen! / Methought I was enamor'd of an ass" (IV.i.76-77). Nor does Oberon try to soften the answer. "There lies your love" (78), he asserts, pointing to the transformed Bottom. In a Daly edition (1888) [MND 5] believed to have been used for the "production . . . tour of 1895-96," Oberon's "There lies your love" (77) is accompanied by the stage direction "sneering" "Puck titters" (61), reinforcing a sense of Oberon's power, his delight in having played this trick on her, but more importantly, of a director's point of view. Undoubtedly he reflected the attitudes of his time. Unfortunately, as we keep discovering, this delight in seeing a strong woman bested is not confined to a bygone age.
Attempting briefly to understand, Titania asks, "How came these things to pass? / O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!" (78-79). But Oberon offers no direct answer. Instead, he orders Puck to "take off this head" [the ass's head] (80). Then, continuing to exert his power over Titania, the fairy king directs:
Titania, music call, and strike more dead
Than common sleep of all these five the sense.
She complies: "Music, ho, music, such as charmeth sleep!" (86). Finally, as they fly off together, she once more returns to the subject of Bottom:
Come, my lord, and in our flight,
Tell me how it came this night
That I sleeping here was found,
With these mortals on the ground.
But we never know if she receives an answer.
Although little has been written about Titania's character disintegration from a fiery, concerned fairy to a compliant partner, her change and lack of any clearly defined personality in the last scenes illustrate, on the one hand, the destructiveness of Oberon's action and, on the other, an inconsistency in characterization. Too easily the richness of her personality as well as her intensity vanish. Writing of the "linguistic and dramatic complexities and contradictions" in the play, Jay Halio observes that
[they] keep us from simplistic reductions of experienced situations, specifically the play's mirrored experiences of reality . . . and force us out of... an artificial prison that R. P. Blackmur has ... described as a tendency to set artistic unity as a chief criterion of excellence. (145)
Borrowing from Halio but concentrating on how language defines and sometimes creates ambiguities concerning characters, particularly the female characters, I find in Titania either an inconsistency or a tragic transformation. Since this is a comedy one must consider the former as more likely. Examining an early nineteenth-century musical version of the play that attempts to inject sentimental logic to the Oberon-Titania relationship, reconciling the behavior of Oberon through some staging and language, one realizes that Shakespeare probably intentionally allowed the ambiguity in characterization to stand. Reynolds's 1816 version provides an easy alternative. Oberon speaks:
I'll to my Queen, and beg her Indian boy!
Not, not so much from love of him, as her,
I court this contest,—I'd put her to the trial—
If she refuse, I know her love is on the wane;—
But, if she yield! Ah! that she may! and still—
(Prompt MND 18, 8 p. 40)
Music then is played. "(Clouds descend and open.—A Fairy is discovered, who chaunts the following lines)"
Fairy. Oberon! no more despair!
Titania wafts him to your care!
Borne by each propitious gale,
From India's shores her gallies sail.
Nor storms, nor quicksands can they meet,
For Zephyrs fan the Fairy fleet!
And silv'ry seas the treasure bear,—
The Boy!—The Indian Boy is near!
(Clouds begin to ascend again.)
This finale of act 2 in the Reynolds play confirms the portrait of an Oberon driven by love rather than jealousy and of a Titania who, on her own initiative, relinquishes the boy.34 Shakespeare, however, fails to provide any easy logical development to the Titania-Oberon relationship in the closing scenes. In fact, the difference between this version and Shakespeare's play reminds one of the difference between Gibber's Richard III and Shakespeare's, between simple blacks and whites as compared with an extraordinary range of greys, between directness and ambiguity.
In A Midsummer Night 's Dream, the dramatist raises questions concerning women and the power structure imposed on them, even when he supplies no easy answers. Having showed us Titania in her strength, he seems to turn to other concerns, returning her to her fairy role. The young Athenian women provide another example of the power of patriarchy over women's lives. Never confused in their affections for the two young men, Hermia and Helena gain insights into themselves and into the unpredictability of male behavior as a result of their experiences in the forest. Differing from the two young men, the women never have their eyes anointed with Oberon's magic juice; nevertheless, their relationships with the two youths as well as with one another change. Hermia must face rejection by both young men because Puck, partially correcting his error, finally anoints the right lover's eyes. Suddenly both Demetrius and Lysander are amorously pursuing Helena. Desired by both youths, she believes neither. Nor does her earlier passion for Demetrius convince her of his sincerity at this moment. She accuses them of mocking her. Disbelief, anger, and hurt mark her words: "Can you not hate me, as I know you do, / But you must join in souls to mock me too?" (III.ii.149-50).
Changing places and relationships, the women find their friendship turned into rivalry and their dispute quickly reduced to name calling, hair pulling, and physical conflict. Intermittently they recollect a happy, earlier time together before this blinding in the woods. Much cutting of lines, however, reduces this section to the outline of the contest between the men, diminishing any sharp character definition of the women. Large sections of Hermia's reprimand to Demetrius disappear. Gone too is Helena's sensitive description of their childhood friendship when they sewed together "sitting on one cushion, / .. . As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds / Had been incorporate. So we grew together, / Like to a double cherry, seeming parted" (205-9). Much later Shakespeare would develop this recollection of an early innocent friendship ruined by sexual jealousy, transmuting it into a description of the friendship between two men, Leontes and Polixenes in The Winter's Tale. Seldom heard on the stage, Helena's lines again individualize her, as she accuses her friend of conspiring with the men. Characteristically, Hermia counters with anger and frustration.
Because both suitors are fiercely pursuing Helena, Puck must lead them "Up and down, up and down," (396) to keep them apart, and because the role has its own magic, the scenes in the forest with the blinded lovers allow for farce, action, and humor. The two men pursue one another in the wood while Puck blankets it with fog and mimics each man's voice to mislead and confuse his opponent. Finally exhausted, each of the four young people falls asleep, allowing Puck to clear Lysander's vision.
The dramatist then switches focus from the youths to their elders. Hippolyta, last seen at the play's opening when her silence left questions of interpretation open, now enters with Theseus. Discord seems to have vanished. But here, unlike the Titania-Oberon exit when the fairy queen seemed so muted and transformed, the Amazon queen exhibits sparks of individuality as she jokingly debates the relative merits of Theseus's hounds. Stumbling on the sleeping young lovers, the older couple, upon awakening the youths, discovers two matched pairs. Oberon had never removed the magic juice from Demetrius's eyes; he will no longer pursue Hermia. Theseus's perspective alters. Rather than being the rigid, unbending Duke of Athens, he overrules Egeus's sentence on Hermia. Confused and uncertain, the couples leave the forest.
Bottom then awakens, the ass's head removed, and the spell lifted. In a soliloquy emphasizing the contrast between his and Titania's responses to their strange interlude, he marvels: "I have had a most rare vision, I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was" (IV.i.204-6). His speech, as we know, parodies St. Paul's I Corinthians ii.9 ff. If Bottom's vision has been expanded, Titania's has been destroyed. Looking at him, she had reacted with revulsion. Thus, again, the victimization of a woman is implied.
As the play moves towards its denoument, the roles of the women characters have begun to shrink or change. Hippolyta opens the fifth act with the conciliatory "'Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of (V.i.I, emphasis added). Her term of address, like Titania's lines when she flies away with Oberon, reveals acceptance of her position although as the scene develops she is the one woman who constantly speaks out. Hermia and Helena, so vocal earlier, are strangely silent during the bridal entertainment hosted by Theseus. In contrast, the young bridegrooms, Lysander and Demetrius, along with Theseus speak a good deal, deriding the entertainment by Bottom and his friends. Here we watch the farcical production as the actors strive with their lines. The prologue begins the performance:
If we offend, it is with our good will.
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will.
But he is soon interrupted by Theseus, followed by Lysander: "He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he knows not the stop" (119-20). Hippolyta too contributes: "Indeed he hath play'd on this prologue like a child on a recorder—a sound, but not in government" (122-24). Trying to outdo one another, the commentators keep interrupting the action as Pyramus exclaims against his fate:
O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black!
O night, which ever art when day is not!
O night, O night! alack, alack, alack
As the play-within-a-play progresses and both Pyramus and Thisby commit suicide in a case of mistaken supposition, much like the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, the interruptions come more often and are more incisive. Whether it is Hippolyta protesting, "I am a-weary of this moon. Would he would change!" (251-52) of a character portraying moon, or Theseus's response, "It appears . . .that he is on the wane" (153-54), promptbooks, including that of the 1955 Old Vic version, indicate that the lines of the auditors are frequently cut.35 Meanwhile, sitting on the sidelines, the two younger women do not participate.
Is it an accident that for so long, in the early years, it was Pyramus and Thisbe or other abbreviated versions that were produced?36 Abstracted from its place in the context of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Pyramus and Thisbe was merely a farcical commentary on lovers who die for love, having been hindered by their parents from uniting. But as part of the larger whole, the play-withina-play not only mocks the intensity of the Athenian lovers and the price of love, but also highlights, through this distancing lens of metadrama, the submissiveness (or at least silence) expected of women in marriage.
Perhaps aware of the implication of the young women's silence, Augustin Daly, having given the role of Helena to his favorite actress, Ada Rehan, reassigned many of the interrupting lines to the women. Altering the text and countering its implication of the silent women, Daly gave several of the lines of the commentators to Helena and Hermia, but primarily to Helena, creating in her an assertive personality. Specifically, the exchange on the moon is assigned to Helena and Hermia, as is another exchange between Hippolyta and Theseus. In fact, Daly's reassignment of lines spotlights the freedom of speech that Hippolyta, of all the women in the play, has gained. Did Shakespeare give her these lines because she was, even if won in battle, a former queen and Amazon? Or was the assignment based on her role as Theseus's wife? Hermia and Helena's last speeches occur in the fourth act when, delighted to have been united with the men of their choice, each marvels at the outcome, Helena still treasuring Demetrius, whom she has "found . . . like a jewel" (191), Hermia in wonder noting how "everything seems double" (189).
Of all the women characters, Titania has changed the most, accepting her role as Oberon's handmaid. Returning with the fairies, she sings and blesses the newly married couples' beds. No recollection of the votress who died in childbirth mars the blessing. Nor is the Indian boy ever mentioned again. As Stevie Davis observes:
When Oberon reclaims his rule, and Theseus leads the characters into the reasserted status quo of the final Act, the issue of the changeling child is laid aside, the mother forgotten, as the play closes around the artisans' comedy it contains. But a reader may not forget nor really forgive the misappropriation of the boy-child by the law of the fathers, nor is the haunting music of Titania's elegy contradicted by a preferable ethic or emotion. (127-28)
Shakespeare's portraits of women here raise questions about the validity of the political and social structures that limit women's actions. At other times the dramatist challenges accepted notions by creating women characters, such as those in All's Well That Ends Well, who are more capable, clever, and intelligent than their male counterparts. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, he invents basically parallel male and female characters of equivalent ability, then weights the scales in favor of the men, illuminating the obstacles women face. Having presented the issues lightly, he then moves on to conventional theatrical treatment in the ending.
Nevertheless, one can believe that Shakespeare has painted here a complex work whose inner design has more depth than has yet been captured on stage and whose implications are still to be realized. Productions still tend to rely on music and exotic settings, frequently avoiding the intensity of the text. As John Simon wrote of a production in 1988 at the Public Theatre in New York, decrying its lack of lyricism, "What has been added is a lot of samba, bossanova, and Brazilian ambiance that often clashes with what is spoken." In that late twentieth-century production by A. J. Antoon, an important contemporary director, the text still seems to have been secondary to music and setting.
Perhaps an argument for the play's still untapped potential lies in the example of the recent revival of Carousel of which one critic wrote: "Carousel will be 50 next year, but as of this morning it is the freshest, most innovative musical on Broadway" (Richards). Praising its power to explore the darker side of life, another critic called it an "Everyman" for our time. Whatever A Midsummer Night's Dream might have been planned for in its own time—whether a wedding; a simple entertainment, a vibrant piece of stagecraft to amuse even those who were being examined—in its language, in its questioning of societal values, and in its brief portraits of several women suffering at the whim of a power structure they did not devise, the play holds the potential for being an "Everywoman" for our time, briefly exploring the "darker side of life." On the other hand, it remains for a work like Hamlet to focus more closely on that darkness—on the confusions that face women as well as men in their search for a clearer path in a patriarchal world.
1 Such popular works as Vives's Instructions of a Christian Woman and Whately's A Bride-bush, although slightly later in time (1617), address the obligations of the bride. Love appears on this list. In speaking of marriage and its obligations, he speaks of mutuality, at least obliquely:
6. The mutuali therefore (that wee may speake of them in order) are requyred both of man and wife, though not in an equall measure of both. For in all these common duties, the husband should bee most abundant, knowing that more of every grace is looked for from him, then from the weaker vessell. Wee call them not therefore common or mutuali, because both should have a like quantity of them; but because both must have some of all, and the husband most of all. And for these common duties, you must know in generali, that whatsoever is requyred of all men and women, generally towards other, by the Law of Christianity and Charity, as they bee men and neighbors; the same is in an higher degree and larger measure requyred from the husband toward the wife, and from her to him. (6)
Unfortunately he then writes of persuasion of a wife to yield to the husband's authority, although earlier he wrote of love being a very important ingredient in the relationship.
Yea indeed she must be a monstrous and unwomanly woman, that being drawne by entreatie will not yeeld. Authority is like the arts of Logick and Rhetoricke, that must in speaking be used, and yet concealed: and then they most prevaile when being used, they are least seene. .. . Men that ride horses have a wand and a spurre, both; they will rather set forward their horses with the whisk & sound, or perhaps little touch of the smal stick, then with the sharpnesse of their iron spurre. They proceed not to spurring till their horse be either restie or tiry; and if tiry, that doth more hurt. So the husband should governe his wife, & provoke her to accomplish his will with quiet, pleasing and insinuating termes, rather than open and expresse, much lesse violent commandings, unlesse shee bee more then ordinarily unruly. Christ beseecheth his Church most an end, which hee might with most right command. (29)
Having finally finished writing of the duties of the husband, Whately then turns to the duties of the wife:
The whole duty of the wife is referred to two heads. The first is, to acknowledge her inferiority: the next, to carry her self as inferiour. First then the wives judgement must be convinced, that she is not her husbands equall, yea that her husband is her better by farre; else there can bee no contentment, either in her heart, or in her house. If shee stand upon termes of equality, much more of being better than he is, the very root of good carriage is withered, and the fountaine thereof dryed up. (36)
2The Fairies (1755) was billed as an opera. It "is made up from the first four acts only, of Shakespeare's play" and does not include references to Bottom and his troop. It also includes twenty-eight songs added to the text. Some are from the play, some from other plays or other sources, such as Milton's "L'Allegro." It was a success (Stone, MND, 469-72). In 1763 a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, attributed variously to Garrick and Colman but which Stone faults Colman for, appeared for one night and failed. It was subsequently followed by A Fairy Tale, which consists of two short acts, "centering about the Oberon-Titania dispute and includes Bottom and his fellows" (Stone, MND, 480-81). For a complete discussion of the adaptations variously attributed to David Garrick and George Colman, see Stone, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; and Pedicord and Bergmann, eds. The Plays of David Garrick, vol. 4, 420-31. Depending upon which version I am discussing, I refer either to Garrick or Garrick-Colman as the adaptors.
3 The first Pyramus and Thisbe, adapted by Richard Leveridge, 1716, contained their early scenes of planning as well as the actual play-within-a-play; the second, adapted by John Frederick Lampe, 1745, retained only the fifth-act production but omitted the court personnel (Hogan, I.339). Departing further from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but adopting its adventures of the workmen, Charles Johnson, in 1723, inserted a "Pyramus and Thisbe" comic segment into his version of As You Like It calling his work Love in a Forest (Hogan, I.339). We are not here dealing with Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, merely with bits and pieces.
4 Generally, but inconclusively, attributed to Elkanah Settle, its music definitely written by Henry Purcell, The Fairy Queen was a lavish production costing £3000 (LS, l:Iv). Its closing was capped by a dance with "twenty-four Chineses" (Odell, 1:194).
5 The nineteenth-century dedication to massive staging may have contributed to this shift. According to Gary Jay Williams the transposition of text and the scenic effects may also reflect the general celebration of empire at the time, with Theseus as the triumphant victor.
6 Reinhardt here drew on his 1927 stage production at the Century theater, in New York, in which Hippolyta appears with a group of large dogs.
7 These are some of the numbered "shots" in the script.
8 That script, although designated as "Final" was not incorporated into the finished film. Nor has any copy of this visual sequence of film—a first reel—been found. Robert H. Ball, in seeking to document this same information, found, in 1971 that "no indication of reels until 15 reel version" existed. This comment appears on a chart he made of the different versions, identifying them as "R=Reinhardt; K=Kenyon + McCall; 15=15 reel dial; 12=12 reel dial." In addition, his K list has "(marked 'Final')" and corresponds exactly with the material I found in the Warner Brothers archives at Princeton. The Ball notes are currently in a file at the Folger Shakespeare Library. It also contains an earlier correspondence between Ball and Joel Swensen at Warner Brothers in 1947. This says, "Our print man thinks all we have is the 12 reel version" 30 July 1947. An earlier letter from Henry Blanke, at Warner Brothers in California, to Joel Swensen, states, "As far as I can recall, the 15 reel version of A Midsummer Night's Dream ran all over the country, except that very much later on a certain re-issue it was cut down to 12 reels. However, neither the 15 nor the 12 reel version will completely correspond with the script as many sequences contained in the script were eliminated—as is usually the case in motion pictures—before their release. So the closest thing to go by or to get a comparison to the script would be the dialogue sheets that were put out with the original 15 reel version." The letter is dated 14 July 1947.
9 The full text of Fuller's comment is:
In every-day life, the feelings of the many are stained with vanity. Each wishes to be lord in a little world, to be superior at least over one; and he does not feel strong enough to retain a life-long ascendency over a strong nature. Only a Theseus could conquer before he wed the Amazonian queen. Hercules wished rather to rest with Dejanira, and received the poisoned robe as a fit guerdon. The tale should be interpreted to all those who seek repose with the weak. (43)
10 Aside from having been eliminated from the Garrick-Colman and Reynolds versions, the references also disappeared in whole or part from the printed acting texts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries such as French's (MND 20), Charles Kean's edition (MND 9), Augustin Daly's (MND 5), and from the type-script of Henry Jewett's for a 1915 production (MND 12). When promptbooks relied on the full text, the lines were then crossed out for the acting versions. Among the latter were the recording of the Burton performance of 1854 (MND 21), the Beerbohm Tree production of 1900 (MND 7), and the Samuel Phelps production of 1861 (MND 13). The Reinhardt film retains only a small section of the speech.
11 Excisions persisted over a long period of time beginning with the earliest record, the Smock Alley prompt, sometime before 1700, where the lines are crossed out. Garrick eliminated them from his preparation copy of 1763. They do not appear in Reynolds's 1816 version, are crossed out in Charles Kean's (MND 9) and eliminated by Daly in 1888 as well as by Herbert Beerbohm Tree for the 1900 production (MND 7), to name just a few characteristic productions.
12 Literally, the lines (136-49) were not printed in the French acting texts (MND 15, MND 20) and Charles Kean's text of 1869 (MND 9). In the Burton text of 1854 (MND 21), the lines appear but are then crossed through.
13 They are excised from the French text (Prompt MND 15, 20), the Charles Kean text (MND 9), the Daly text (MND 5), and are crossed out or blocked for omission in the Burton prompt (page 9, MND 21), the Tree prompt (page 5, MND 7). In the Phelps prompt (page 311, MND 13), it is more difficult to be certain of whether or not the section was excised since there are two different sets of markings here—some in brown ink, others in pencil. This section has a penciled bracket on the left. Since another passage immediately above it on the page has been crossed through, the question remains of whether this passage was in fact excised.
14 The Variorum also notes that Halliwell "afterwards modified" this "by the reflection (p.36, folio ed.) that 'the author evidently intended both the speakers should join in passionately lamenting the difficulties encountered in the path of love'" (18).
15 Having removed this section from the printed text, the Kean book (prompt MND 9) indicates even further excision, penciling out still more of the beginning of this exchange between the two women. It is also excised from the Phelps promptbook (MND 13). Earlier, Garrick, who had cut the lines of the speech, nevertheless retained the character of Helena here whereas Reynolds, despite his promise to restore more of the play in 1816, eliminated her completely from the scene.
16 The excisions occur in the following prompts: MND 9, MND 20, MND 21, MND 15, and others.
17 The handwriting has been identified as Garrick's. See also Stone article on A Midsummer Night's Dream, discussed in note 2.
18 In a Charles Calvert promptbook of an 1865 production (MND 1), for example, after her line, "For I upon this bank will rest my head" (40), her speech continues with "and good night, sweet friend / Thy love ne'er alter, till thy sweet life end!" (60-61). Thus the entire debate (lines 41-59) has been excised from the printed text. Kean too (MND 9) follows this format. Tree (MND 7) crosses out text, retaining only one line of Lysander's—'One turf shall serve as pillow for us both," (41)—and then, once again, Hermia's "Nay good Lysander; for my sake" (43) precedes the jump to the conclusion "so far be distant, and good night, sweet friend: / Thy love ne'er alter till thy sweet life end!" (60-61). Lysander's innocuous "Amen" and the few brief lines of good night precede their finally falling off to sleep, which closes this section of the scene. Phelps's book, too (MND 13), cuts the debate. Gone is Lysander's sophisticated argument in favor of one bed, along with her "Lysander riddles very prettily . . ." (42, 43b-56a). Daly, too (MND 5), includes Lysander's "One turf . . ." (41-42) and Hermia's brief response "Nay good Lysander . . ." (43-44) then jumps to line 60, "So far be distant; and good night sweet friend. / Thy love ne'er alter, till thy sweet life end!" (60-61).
19 As a sampling, they are crossed out in Burton's text (22-23) (MND 21) and Phelps's of 1861 (328-29) (MND 13); and are omitted from George Colman and David Garrick's 1763 version (MND 19), Charles Kean's (MND 9), Augustin Daly's, 1888 (MND 5), Herbert Beerbohm Tree's (MND 7), French's (MND 15), and the edition recording performances at the Broadway Theatre (MND 20), as well as Henry Jewett's 1915 typescript (MND 12). Of course the highly abbreviated Colman version of 1777, A Fairy Tale (MND 22), does not include these Athenian characters at all.
20 Seldom the subject for criticism, Helena has the largest percentage of lines (10.4) and words (11.2) of any woman character in the play although Hermia has more speeches (9.5 percent to Helena's 7.14). Hermia's fewer lines (7.5 percent) and words (7.9 percent) suggest the difference in the pattern of the women's speeches. Following is the record in the Concordance of the other long roles: Theseus: 9.5 percent speeches, 10.9 percent lines, 10.7 percent words; Bottom 9.9 percent speeches, 9.7 percent lines, 10.3 percent words; Oberon 5.7 percent speeches, 10.2 percent lines, 9.9 percent words. Spevack, Concordance 1:666-713.
21 Many fine references appear in this article, including one to Gayle Rubin's "The Traffic in Women." Marshall asks questions: "How are we to take Demetrius' recovery from the 'sickness' of abandoning Helena and loving Hermia since it is just as much the product of enchantment as Lysander's abandonment of Hermia and love for Helena? Are we to be pleased by the success of Helena's subjection of herself to Demetrius or Titania's sudden and manipulated surrender to Oberon? What about Hippolyta's marriage to the soldier who vanquished her? . . . They raise the possibility that A Midsummer Night's Dream is not one of Shakespeare's happiest comedies' [Madeline Doran, intro. in Penguin Complete Works] but rather a 'most lamentable comedy' (I.ii.11-12) and 'very tragical mirth' (V.i.57)" (548).
Marshall also takes exception to C. L. Barber's comment that Theseus and Hippolyta are looking toward their wedding "'Theseus . . . with masculine impatience, Hippolyta with a woman's willingness to dream away time' (Shakespeare's Festive Comedies, p. 128)" (548). Marshall asks how Barber knows this since the language doesn't say it. "I don't know how Barber manages to assign genders to these feelings" (548).
Of David P. Young's comment (Something of Great Constancy: the Art of "A Midsummer Night's Dream ", New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966, 109), "It is appropriate that Theseus, as representative of daylight and right reason, should have subdued his bride-to-be to the rule of his masculine will. That is the natural order of things (p. 99)," Marshall comments, "This may have been the ruling ideology in the sixteenth century or in 1966—I don't see that it has ever been the natural order of things—but it is not necessarily the ideology of A Midsummer Night's Dream" (550).
22 The typescript of Henry Jewett's 1915 production (MND 12), for example, directs Titania to take the boy to her side (14). In the elegant Daly version, when Titania enters, her "attendant fairies .. . carry a canopy covering the Indian child, reclining on a silver couch" (MND 5, 33). In this cut version, there is even the printed stage direction, "Oberon orders his attendants to advance, and he dashes toward the couch to seize the child. He tears aside the curtains, and finds that it has disappeared" (34). Crossed out in pencil by a later manager, the action dramatizes the hostility between king and queen although simplifying the portraits.
23 The comment is by Thomas Hailes Lacy for the 1840 text. Actually Mendelssohn first wrote the overture for an 1827 revival in Berlin (Campbell, 546). However it was the Vestris production, claiming to present the play "almost as Shakespeare wrote it, for the first time since 1642," that was such a huge success (Campbell, 546). According to Odell, no version this close to Shakespeare's had appeared since Davenant's in the seventeenth century (II.204). Vestris's was followed by other lavish productions, most relying on this music. Only Phelps eschewed the music.
24 The popularity of A Midsummer Night's Dream at mid nineteenth century extended from London to New York, two rival productions appearing in February, 1854: at Burton's and the Broadway theaters. Both claimed Mendelssohn's music.
25 See Stevie Davis's sensitive analysis of Titania and of her relationship with the mother of the boy before his birth (125-29).
26 See the following promptbooks: MND 5, MND 9, MND 20, MND 21, MND 13, MND 15. Although, according to Allen, "all but 300 lines of the original" were excised by Phelps, in prompt MND 13, believed to be a record of his production, huge chunks of Titania's speeches were cut. In fact only the first seven lines (81-89) remain of the speech beginning "These are the forgeries of jealousies." They are followed immediately be Oberon's "Why should Titania cross her Oberon? / I do but beg a little changeling boy, / To be my henchman" (119-21). A single line is cut from his speech. Again Titania's description of the boy's mother is also crossed through. Thus, the "restoration" hardly affects the lines of Titania. In II.i Phelps excises most of her speech to Oberon 88-117 and then Oberon's 118, "Do you amend it then." Again the actor-manager excises "When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive .. . did die," 128-35.
27 Crossed out in Burton's text (MND 21), and in Samuel Phelps's (MND 13), her lines disappear from the Kean printed text (MND 9), the Daly text (MND 5), and others.
28 Marilyn Williamson refers to the need to be aware of the historical contexts in which the plays were written. Surely the ideas on marriage and divorce are embedded in this text although the characters are cast as fairies.
29 Circled for excision from MND 6 (by Garrick), therefore gone from 1763 text (MND 19), and from Reynolds's 1816 text (MND 18); Burton (MND 21) 1854; (MND 9); Daly (MND 5); the lines are circled for excision in Phelps MND 13. Also excised from type-script of Jewett's, 1915 (MND 12).
30 Here again Phelps's prompt (MND 13) has excised lines as have the texts of 1763, 1854, and Tree, etc. The whole section referring to "reason" in Lysander's speech has also been eliminated from the 1856 printed text (MND 9); most of the lines have been excised from Jewett's 1915 typescript (MND 12) and from Daly's 1888 text (MND 5); finally, the section has been crossed out in the 1853 (MND 13) and 1854 versions (MND 21), Tree's in 1900 (MND 7) (and probably other contemporaneous ones that I did not examine).
31 Kean (MND 9). He emphasizes her unique role as "a spirit of no common rate" and retains only the first line (152) of the quote, following it immediately with "For I do love thee," a variant on the text's "And I do love thee" (156). In that version, neither Bottom nor the audience is told of her power to keep him from leaving.
32 See chapter 3, "Challenging Patterns," in Irene Dash's Wooing, Wedding, and Power: Women in Shakespeare's Plays, 33-66.
33 In Prompt MND 8, this section has been crossed through in pencil.
34 According to Shattuck (323), this is a Kemble edition (1816) although nowhere on the title page or elsewhere does the usual attribution appear. Some of the alterations, however, do appear in later acting versions.
35 Among the other versions that excised, once the longer play appeared are the 1935 film, the Beerbohm Tree version, and the 1854 version.
36 According to Hogan (11.718), the play ranked twenty-first in popularity of Shakespeare's plays between 1701 and 1800. But this figure is deceptive since only one production is listed as "the original" during the period. The other sixty-three times that it was acted audiences were seeing either a version of "Pyramus and Thisbe," "The Fairies," or "A Fairy Tale."
Source: "Male Magic: A Midsummer Night's Dream," in Women's Worlds in Shakespeare's Plays, University of Delaware Press, 1997, pp. 67-107.
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