“I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream:/it shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream,’ because it hath no bottom;”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Act Four

By Dennis Abrams

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Act Four:  Oberon takes pity on Titania and decides to undo the spell. She is appalled to find Bottom in her arms, but when Puck removes Bottom’s ass-head, the fairy couple are reconciled.  Meanwhile, Theseus and Hippolyta are out hunting with Egeus in the forest, when they discover the sleeping lovers.  Waking them, Theseus overrules Egeus and commands that Hermia should marry Lysander and Demetrius Helena.

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We’ve come a long way from the apprentice plays, from the worlds of Henry VI, Part Two, let’s say, or Titus, or The Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Shakespeare it seems is now fully in control of his art, and Act Four of the Dream is as close to perfection as it gets.  Could the Shakespeare of Taming of the Shrew have composed Bottom’s Dream?  Yet keep in mind – there’s probably only around 6-7 years separating the two plays.

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First off – Harold Bloom:

“Everyone should collect favorite acts in Shakespeare; one of mine would be Act IV of the Dream, where wonder crowds wonder and eloquence overflows, as Shakespeare manifest his creative exuberance without pause.  The orgiastic reading is prophetically dismissed by the first scene, where Titania sits the amiable [MY NOTE:  The perfect word to describe him] Bottom down upon a flowery bed, caresses his cheeks, sticks musk roses in his head, and kisses his ears.  This scarcely arouses Bottom to lust:

Bottom:

Where’s Peaseblossom?

Peas:

Ready.

Bottom:

Scratch my head, Peaseblossom.  Where’s Mounsieur Cobweb?

Cob:

Ready.

Bottom:

Mounsieur Cobweb, good mounsieur, get you your weapons in your hand, and kill me a red-hipped humble-bee on the top of a thistle, and good mounsieur, bring me the honey-bag.  Do not fret yourself too much in the action, mounsieur; and good mounsieur, have a care the honey-bag break not; I would be loath to have you overflowen with a honey-bag, signior.  Where’s Mounsieur Mustardseed?

Mus:

Ready.

Bottom:

Give me your neaf, Mounsieur Mustardseed.  Pray you, leave your courtesy, good mounsieur.

Mus:

What’s your will?

Bottom:

Nothing, good mounsieur, but to help Cavalery Cobweb to scratch.  I must to the barber’s mounsieur, for methinks I am marvelous hairy about the face; and I am such a tender ass, as if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch.

Titania:

What, wilt thou hear some music, my sweet love?

Bottom:

I have a reasonable good ear in music.  Let’s have the tongs and the bones.

Titania:

Or say, sweet love, what thou desir’st to eat?

Bottom:

Truly, a peck of provender, I could munch your good dry oats.  Methinks I have a great desire to a bottle of hay; good hay, sweet hay, hath no fellow.

What hath Puck wrought:  for Titania, a considerable indignity, no doubt, but for Bottom a friendship with four elves.  Since Bottom is getting drowsy, we can understand his mixing up Cobweb with Peaseblossom, but he is otherwise much himself, even if his eating habits perforce are altered.  He falls asleep, entwined with the rapt Titania, in a charmingly innocent embrace.  Oberon informs us that, since she has surrendered the changeling boy to him, all is forgiven so that Puck can cure her enchantment; and in passing, Bottom’s, though the weaver resolutely goes on sleeping.  Shakespeare’s touch here is astonishingly light; metamorphoses are represented by the dance of reconciliation that restores the marriage of Oberon and Titania:

Come my queen, take hands with me,

And rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.

The four lovers and Bottom stay fast asleep even as Theseus, Hippolyta, and their train make a boisterous entry with a dialogue that is Shakespeare’s bravura defense of his art of fusion in this play.

Theseus:

Go one of you, find out the forester,

For now our observation is perform’d,

And since we have the vaward of the day,

My love shall hear the music of my hounds,

Uncouple in the western valley; let them go;

Dispatch I say, and find the forester.  [Exit an Attendant]

We will, fair queen, up to the mountain’s top,

And mark the musical confusion

Of hounds and echo in conjunction.

Hippolyta:

I was with Hercules and Cadmus once,

When in a wood of Crete they bay’d the bear

With hounds of Sparta; never did I hear

Such gallant chiding; for, besides the groves,

The skies, the fountains, every region near

Seem’d all one mutual cry; I never heard

So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.

Theseus:

My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,

So flew’d, so sanded; and their heads are hung

With ears that sweep away the morning dew;

Crook-knee’d and dewlapp’d like Thessalian bulls;

Slow in pursuit, but match’d in mouth like bells,

Each under each; a cry more tuneable

Was never holla’d to, nor cheer’d with horn,

In Crete, in Sparta, nor in Thessaly.

Judge when you hear.  But soft, what nymphs are these?

The musical discord holds together four different modes of representation:  Theseus and Hippolyta, from classical legend; the four young lovers, from every place and every time; Bottom and his fellow English rustics; the fairies, who in themselves are madly eclectic.  Titania is Ovid’s alternate name for Diana, while Oberon comes out of Celtic romance, and Puck or Robin Goodfellow is English folklore.  In their delightfully insane dialogue, Theseus and Hippolyta join in celebrating the wonderful nonsense of the Spartan hounds, bred only for their baying, so that they are ‘slow in pursuit.’  Shakespeare celebrates the ‘sweet thunder’ of his comic extravagance, which like Theseus’s hounds is in no particular hurry to get anywhere, and which still has superb surprises for us.  I pass over the awakening of the four lovers (Demetrius now in love with Helena) to come at the finest speech Shakespeare had yet written, Bottom’s sublime reverie upon waking up:

Bottom:

When my cue comes, call me and I will answer.  My next is ‘Most fair Pyramus.’  Heigh-ho!  Peter Quince?  Flute, the bellows-mender?  Snout, the tinker?  Starveling?  God’s my life!  Stolen hence, and left me asleep!  I have had a most rare vision.  I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.  Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream.  Methought I was – there is no man can tell what.  Methought I was – and methought I had – but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had.  The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.  I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream:  it shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream,’ because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the latter end of a play, before the Duke.  Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.

‘The Spirite searcheth…the botome of Godde’s secrets,’ is the Geneva Bible’s rendering of 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.  Bottom’s parody of 1 Corinthians 2:9 is audacious, and allows Shakespeare to anticipate William Blake’s Romantic vision, with its repudiation of the Pauline split preached to him in the Bishop’s Bible version:

‘The eye hath not seene, and the eare hath not heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath purposed…’

For Bottom, ‘the eye…hath not heard, the hear…hath not seen, [the] hand is not able to taste, his tongue, to conceive, nor his heart to report’ the truths of his bottomless dream.  Like William Blake after him, Bottom suggests an apocalyptic, unfallen man, whose awakened senses fuse in a synesthetic unity.  It is difficult not to find in Bottom, in this his sublimest moment, an ancestor not just of Blake’s Albion but of Joyce’s Earwicker, the universal dreamer of Finnegans Wake. Bottom’s greatness – Shakespeare upon his heights – emerges most strongly in what could be called ‘Bottom’s Vision,’ a mysterious triumph he is to enjoy before Theseus as audience, where the ‘play’ cannot be the mere travesty, the play-within-the-play Pyramus and Thisbe.

I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream:  it shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream,’ because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the latter end of a play, before the Duke.  Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.

Whose death?  Since we do not know the visionary drama playing out in Bottom’s consciousness, we cannot answer the question, except to say that it is neither Titania nor Thisbe.”

—————–

From Garber:

“Characteristically, it is not the Athenian lovers – nor the rather pompous Duke Theseus, despite his bromides about lunatics and lovers – who most directly perceive the dangers of illusion.  Instead it is Bottom and his friends, who, like the actors who portray them, are engaged in presenting an entertainment to a wealthy and powerful patron in the hope of preferment.  Peter Quince’s company is consumed with worry about the indecorousness of their too-realistic play:  ‘Pyramus must draw a sword to kill himself, which the ladies cannot abide.’ And ‘to bring in – God shield us – a lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing.’  In order to avoid the dangers of mimesis, Bottom devises an ingenious set of puncturing deflations:

I have a device to make all well.  Write me a prologue, and let the prologue seem to say we will do no harm with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed:  and for the more better assurance, tell them that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver.  This will put them out of fear.

Snout now voices the second concern:  ‘Will not the ladies be afraid of the lion?’  In eager emulation he proposes the same solution – ‘Therefore, another prologue must tell he is not a lion’ – and is brushed aside by Bottom’s fertile imagination, which has moved on to another ‘device’:

Nay, you must name his name, and half his face must be seen through the lion’s neck, and he himself must speak through, saying thus or to the same defect:  ‘ladies,’ or ‘fair ladies, I would wish you’ or ‘I would request you’ or ‘I would intreat you not to fear, not to tremble.  My life for yours.  If you think I come hither as a lion, it were pity of my life.  No, I am so such thing.  I am a man, as other man are’ – and there, indeed, let him name his name, and tell him plainly he is Snug the joiner.

Role-playing is generous, these suggestions imply.  The condition of being an actor is a condition akin to the performance of magic.  To Bottom, ‘The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe,’ that tedious, brief scene, is so potentially believable that he feels he must breaks its fiction in order to protect society – and his own self-interest.  The dangers of the irrational can be combated only by a safe retreat to reality:  ‘I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver.’  ‘[T]ell them plainly he is Snug the joiner.’ This is a kind of theatrical unmasking that the twentieth century would associate with Brecht, or with Pirandello.

The antidote to the dangers of the irrational in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is to be found through the agency of art itself.  A series of encapsulated art objects – a ‘sampler,’ a ‘dream,’ a ‘tedious brief comedy’ – will take experience and translate it into artifice.  Near the end of the play, the Athenian lovers puzzle aloud about whether they are awake or asleep.  Hermia says, ‘Methink I see these things with parted eye,/When everything seems double,’ and Demetrius poses the play’s central question:

It seems to me

That yet we sleep, we dream.

Who can tell?  Which is the sleep, which the waking dream or nightmare?  Rescued from this radical ambiguity by the mundane memory of a common occurrence – they have encountered the Duke in the wood – the lovers take this as reassuring evidence of an external reality:  ‘Why then, we are awake.  Let’s follow him,/And by the way let us recount our dreams.’ Safely relegated now to the realm of dreams are all the adventures that have made up the ‘real’ events (that is, the perceived, performed dramatic action) of the play.  This impulse to retell the events that have transpired is a common one at the end of Shakespeare’s plays.  At the end of Romeo and Juliet the Prince urges his subjects:  ‘Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.’  Almost always, one implied form that ‘more talk’ or recounting of dreams will take is the replaying of the play.  But in the case of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the title marks the indissolubility of what is fictive and what is real, the dream-within-the dream occupied a special privileged place.

Thus a key moment for the play, and an even clearer example of the encapsulated art object, is the dramatic incident celebrated – by its flummoxed speaker – as ‘Bottom’s Dream’:

God’s my life!  Stolen hence, and left me asleep!  I have had a most rare vision.  I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.  Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream.  Methought I was – there is no man can tell what.  Methought I was – and methought I had – but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had.  The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.  I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream:  it shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream,’ because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the latter end of a play, before the Duke. 

As the audience is well aware, this was no dream. The transformed Bottom, a hybrid monster with an ass’s head, courted and made love to by the queen of the Fairies – this has been the comical business of the play, hinting at the folly of love, and at love’s lust.  (‘[M]ethought I had –‘ a phrase often accompanied onstage by a gesture sketching absent asses’ ears, could with equal appropriateness indicate prodigious endowment below the waist.)  Likewise Bottom’s dead metaphor, ‘Man is but an ass,’ leaps startlingly to life, as we see firsthand how the wood-world and the dreamworld render the cliché in literal terms, and thus make it allegorical.  Bottom is not the only man in the play who is an ass – just the only one who looks like one.  His scrambled bodily syntax – ‘The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was’ – is at once a mangling of a passage from Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, and an instance of what has become known in psychology, literature, and linguistics, as ‘synethesia,’ the use of metaphors in which terms from one kind of sense impression are used to describe another:  for example, a ‘loud color.’  The transforming poetic power of synethesia is also present in the play in an utterance like Helena’s ‘Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,/And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.’  Hearing replaces sight in the wood, as night replaces day, and ‘dream’ replaces apparent reality.  (‘Blind cupid,’ according to art historian Erwin Panofsky, was a Neoplatonic emblem of carnal, or profane love rather than its counterpart, spiritual love.)  Later in the play the same confusion will persist, as at the close of the “Pyramus and Thisbe’ play the actors ask Theseus whether he would prefer to ‘hear’ a bergamask dance of ‘see’ an epilogue.

Bottom’s biblical misquotation may be based on the Geneva Bible edition of 1599, ‘the Eye hath not seen, and nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…’  In William Tyndale’s translation, published in 1525, the ‘eye hath not seen’ lines of the same passage end with the following:  ‘But God hath opened them unto us by his spirit.  For the spirit searcheth all things, yeah, the bottom of God’s secrets.  The word ‘bottom’  has a wide variety of meanings in the period, from ‘a skein to wind thread on’ to ‘the last, fundamental basic.’  (In modern usage both ‘bottom’ and ‘ass’ are terms for the rump or posterior, but neither was explicitly current in Shakespeare’s day.)”

———————————

Frank Kermode, after looking at the awakening of the four lovers, discusses Bottom’s Dream:

“But the final awakening of this superbly arranged climax (as so often in Shakespeare, it occurs at the end of the fourth act) is Bottom’s.  Here the moral defies comfortable analysis.  We leave behind the neat love-is-a-kind-of-madness pattern and are invited to think differently about it:…

Apuleius, after his transformation, might not speak of the initiation he underwent, but he was vouchsafed a vision of the goddess Isis.  St. Paul experienced a transforming vision on the road to Damascus.  Bottom has known the triple goddess, Titania, in a vision.  His relation to Apuleius and St.  Paul is of a different import from the others’; here blind love is the love of God or a goddess.  Shakespeare knew the ancient distinction between the phantasma and onerios or sonnium; the first is what Brutus calls a ‘hideous dream’ but the second is ambiguous, enigmatic, of high religious import.  Love is a means to grace as well as irrational passion, and it may be suggested that the two are not ultimately separable by the reason.

————————–

And from Tanner:

“If Shakespeare can mutate Ovid, Bottom can scramble St. Paul.  But this is not simply more fun and parody.  Bottom has had a vision.  In The Golden Ass, Apuleius is finally reprieved from his ass’s shape by Isis; he has had a vision of the goddess, and is initiated into her mysteries — which entails never speaking about them. St. Paul also had a visionary initiation into the mysteries of the very religion he had persecuted.  Both these man were transformed after being vouchsafed an experience of divine love; and we may assume that Bottom’s vision is something comparable.  It is certainly no ordinary dream; such as, we may say, the young lovers feel they have been through.  It is, rather, in Frank Kermode’s words, ‘oneiros or somnium‘; ambiguous, enigmatic, of high import.’  Bottom is very distinctly not a ‘prince of the world’; that designation more properly fits Theseus who, as we have seen, believes only in reason, and speaks disparagingly of all mysteries.  Bottom is more like a holy fool — perhaps only the lowest (a man-ass) and the most literal, can see the highest and most sublime (‘a most rare vision’).  His ecstatic garbling of St. Paul merely intimates that such a vision is beyond speaking of; he speaks, only to say he can’t tell.  (‘Masters, I am to discourse wonders, but ask em not what; for if I tell you, I am not true Athenian. — ‘true Athenian’ may be a quiet smile to Plato, who also recognized and respected the ineffable.)  this is one occasion for which the over-used aphorism which concludes Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is absolutely pertinent:  ‘What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.’  Or we might like to recall that marvellous moment in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov when Dmitri wakes up in prison and says — ‘Gentlemen, I have had a good dream…'”

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And lastly, from Mark Van Doren:

Theseus:

Go one of you, find out the forester,

For now our observation is perform’d,

And since we have the vaward of the day,

My love shall hear the music of my hounds,

Uncouple in the western valley; let them go;

Dispatch I say, and find the forester.  [Exit an Attendant]

We will, fair queen, up to the mountain’s top,

And mark the musical confusion

Of hounds and echo in conjunction.

Hippolyta:

I was with Hercules and Cadmus once,

When in a wood of Crete they bay’d the bear

With hounds of Sparta; never did I hear

Such gallant chiding; for, besides the groves,

The skies, the fountains, every region near

Seem’d all one mutual cry; I never heard

So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.

Theseus:

My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,

So flew’d, so sanded; and their heads are hung

With ears that sweep away the morning dew;

Crook-knee’d and dewlapp’d like Thessalian bulls;

Slow in pursuit, but match’d in mouth like bells,

Each under each; a cry more tuneable

Was never holla’d to, nor cheer’d with horn,

In Crete, in Sparta, nor in Thessaly.

Judge when you hear.  But soft, what nymphs are these?

“Had Shakespeare written nothing else than this he still might be the best of all English poets.  Most poetry which tries to be music also is less than poetry.  This is absolute.  The melody which commences with such spirit in Thesesus’s fifth line has already reached the complexity of counterpoint in his eight and ninth; Hippolyta carries it to a like limit in the line with which she closes; and Theseus, taking it back from her, hugely increases its volume, first by reminding us that the hounds have form and muscle, and then by daring the grand dissonance, the mixed thunder, of bulls and bells.  The passage sets a forest ringing, and supplies a play with the music it has deserved.”

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So what do you think so far?  Please…share your comments, questions, etc. with the group.  Make this a dialogue, not just a monologue!

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Our next reading:  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act Five

My next post:  Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning.

Enjoy.

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9 Responses to “I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream:/it shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream,’ because it hath no bottom;”

  1. Hannah says:

    Okay, a couple questions: When Bottom said he would sing his ballad at “her death,” I took it to mean Thisbe’s death. Harold Bloom doesn’t believe this is the case. Any ideas why?

    Also, does anyone else see Theseus’s and Hippolyta’s relationship as slightly antagonistic, at least on her part?

    • Hannah: Good questions. As for the first one — Bottom says, “and I will sing it at the latter end of a play, before the Duke. Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.” At the latter end of “a” play, not “the” play — which indicates, I think, that it’s not going to be done during the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe.

      And as for your second question — in some myths, Hippolyta had been kidnapped by Theseus — a possible reason for antagonism. This might also help:

      In Greek mythology, Hippolyta or Hippolyte (Ἱππολύτη) is the Amazonian queen who possessed a magical girdle she was given by her father Ares, the god of war. The girdle was a waist belt that signified her authority as queen of the Amazons.

      Hippolyta appears in the myth of Heracles. It was her girdle that Heracles was sent to retrieve for Admeta, the daughter of king Eurystheus, as his ninth labor. Most versions often begin by saying that Hippolyta was impressed with Heracles, and gave him the girdle without argument.

      After Heracles obtained the girdle, Theseus, one of Heracles’ companions (along with Sthenelus and Telamon), kidnapped Antiope, another sister of Hippolyta. The Amazons then attacked the party (because Heracles’ enemy Hera had spread a vicious rumour that Heracles was there to attack them or to kidnap Hippolyta), but Heracles and Theseus escaped with the girdle and Antiope. According to one version, Heracles killed Hippolyta as they fled, which upset him as due to their earlier excellent rapport he would have wanted to marry Hippolyta. In order to rescue Antiope, the Amazons attacked Athens but failed, with Antiope dying in the onslaught in some versions.

      In some versions, it is not Antiope whom Theseus abducts, but Hippolyta herself.

      Some sources paint Theseus in a more favorable light, saying that Hippolyta was dead before he and Phaedra were wed.
      Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

      In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hippolyta is engaged to Theseus, the duke of Athens.

      In Act I, Scene 1 Hippolyta and Theseus discuss their fast-approaching wedding, which will take place under the new moon in four days. Theseus declares to Hippolyta that, although he “wooed her with his sword” (which probably occurred when Theseus met the queen of the Amazons in battle), he will wed her “with pomp, with triumph, and with revelling” and he promises to begin a celebration that will continue until the wedding (I.i.19).

      Hippolyta is then fairly absent in the play, appearing only with Theseus and very rarely speaking, and only then in an insignificant manner. This continues until Act V, scene I, in which she and Theseus discuss the preceding events, namely the magical romantic confusions that the Athenian youths report from the night before. While Theseus is skeptical about the veracity of their tale, Hippolyta questions whether they would all have the same story if the night’s adventures were indeed imagined. Rather, she argues, the youths’ agreement on the way the night’s events unfolded proves that things occurred just as they say. This is close to her final significant contribution to the play.

      The fact that Hippolyta stands up to Theseus when she disagrees with him in Act V is extremely significant. In Shakespeare’s time, it was common practice for the wife to be the submissive, silent partner in a relationship. Hippolyta’s role in her relationship with Theseus is indeed striking. Ellen Rogers of Madonna University delves further into the significance of Hippolyta’s role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She states that the play is unusual in its portrayal of strong women, perhaps the most extreme case being that of the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. In the Elizabethan age in which women are dependent on men, Hippolyta comes from a tribe of incredibly strong empowered women. Not only this, but she is the leader of this group in which men are actually dependent on the fearless women who protect them.

      Rogers argues that Shakespeare uses the character of Hippolyta to enlighten his audience, who probably had negative preconceptions about the Amazonian race. It is also worth considering that her statement of “I love not to see wretchedness o’er-charged” (5.1.89), and her subsequent compassionate behavior during the Mechanicals’ performance (quite different from the behavior of the other nobles present) was a not-so-subtle indication of how Shakespeare may have preferred his own audiences to behave.

      As Louis Montrose notes: “Amazonian mythology seems symbolically to embody and to control a collective anxiety about the power of a female not only to dominate or reject the male but to create and destroy him.” However, Hippolyta attracts Theseus with her feminine allure and charm, to such a degree that Theseus is completely smitten with her. Despite her forceful nature, she becomes the object of Theseus’ passion. Rogers states that by marrying Hippolyta, Theseus is laying down his sword, “the weapon which gave him power and authority over her,” and essentially surrendering to her. By the end of the play, Hippolyta has actually added to her power, becoming the queen of a new realm, Athens.

      • Hannah says:

        Thank you! Referring to my first question — It’s amazing how much of a difference one article can make. It does reward close reading!

  2. GGG says:

    It’s interesting to think of Bottom as the “holy fool” who has a vision so profound he doesn’t know how to articulate it. Since I see Bottom from the start as a totally comic character just because of our associations with “bottom” (which the authors above have pointed out wouldn’t have been the same for playgoers of the time), it seemed that his dream description was just typical Bottom mangling of language. However, with the biblical allusions pointed out above, I wonder if it would have been seen as even funnier at the time. Bottom’s idea of a really fun heaven–with fairies and nymphs, etc, not a staid heaven with puritanical angels!

  3. I have to say, that no matter how often Bloom counts Bottom as one of the great characters of Shakespeare’s (I’m reading The Western Canon) I just don’t see it. To me, he is just a comic sidekick, a victim of circumstance that takes things in his stride.

    Am I wrong?

    • I’m not sure if there is a “wrong” — I see your point on him being a comic sidekick (or maybe comic relief), but I think his imperturbability, his charm with the fairies, his amiability, his “acting” in Pyramus and Thisbe, and his inability to describe (while at the same doing so) his dream, his vision, push him well beyond that.

    • I’m not sure if there is a “wrong” — I see your point on him being a comic sidekick (or maybe comic relief), but I think his imperturbability, his charm with the fairies, his amiability, his “acting” in Pyramus and Thisbe, and his inability to describe (while at the same doing so) his dream, his vision, push him well beyond that.

  4. artmama says:

    The 1935 film version has been so enjoyable, thank you for finding these scenes for us. Was that Kenneth Anger I spotted beside Oberon or is that just a Hollybaby myth? Thanks again.

    • According to Wikipedia, was in 1935, he [Anger] would later claim, that he had the chance to appear in a Hollywood film, taking the role of the Changeling Prince in the 1935 Warner Brothers film A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, a film that certainly influenced him, particularly in his later production of Rabbit’s Moon. Set photographs and studio production reports (on file in the Warner Brothers collection at University of Southern California, and the Warner Bros. collection of studio key books at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York) in fact contradict Anger’s claims, conclusively proving that the character was played by a girl named Sheila Brown.[citation needed] Anger’s unofficial biographer, Bill Landis, remarked in 1995 that the Changeling Prince was definitely “Anger as a child; visually, he’s immediately recognizable”. You can see the picture here.

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