William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare
26th April 1564- 23rd April 1616

William Shakespeare is an English poet and playwright, and is known as the greatest writer in the English language due to his infamous plays. In his lifetime he wrote 38 plays, 153 sonnets and two narrative poems- most of which are known around the globe.
Shakespeare was born in Statford upon Avon and began his career in London as an actor, writer and co- owner of a company named the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which is where most of his plays were performed.
The period where most of his work was completed was 1589- 1613, his early works were comedies and histories, although he is most famous for his tragedies, which include Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.
His reputation rose dramatically in the nineteenth century at which point he was greatly admired by during the Romanticism period, which began in Western Europe in the eighteenth century that stressed on strong emotions such as horror and awe. He was also worshipped by Victorians- people in the UK at the time of Queen Victoria's reign, 1837- 1901.

The literary movement which Shakespeare evolved in was the English Renaissance theatre, also known as Elizabethan theatre, which refers to the plays written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth during 1558- 1603.
The theatre derived from medieval traditions, such as mystery plays that would be performed during relgious festivals in England.
Tragedies were the most favourable genre- which is probably one of the reasons why Shakespeare turned to writing tragedies.
During the time Shakespeare was writing A Midsummer Night's Dream, English Puritans were criticising pagan practices, thinking they caused too much mischief-  an element of the play. Many people thought that Shakespeare was defending such practices by allowing the play to have a happy ending after all the midsummer mischief.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a romantic comedy, written around 1594-96.
The play focuses on four lovers from Athens, a group of amateur actors and fairies who cause mayhem in the woods on the eve of Theseus (Duke of Athens) and Hippolyta’s (Queen of the Amazons) wedding.
In the opening scene Theseus and Hippolyta are talking about their impending nuptials; Theseus cannot wait to be married to Hippolyta, saying the old moon ‘lingers (his) desires’.
Egeus enters with his daughter Hermia and her lover Lysander, plus the man her father wants her to marry, Demetrius. Egeus comes with a complaint about his daughter- Hermia does not love Demetrius and will not marry him, to her father’s dismay. Lysander, he says, has ‘
bewitch’d the bosom of my child’ and ‘interchang’d love-tokens with my child’. Egeus begs that Theseus will be able to impart the Athenian law onto his daughter so that she will marry Demetrius, otherwise she will face death.  Theseus does not want her to have such a fate so suggests she must marry Demetrius or be confined to a nunnery- ‘You can endure the livery of a nun’
. He tells her she must decide by the time he is to marry Hippolyta.
Lysander argues that Demetrius
‘made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena’ to which Theseus replies he has heard such things and asks Egeus and Demetrius to leave the room with him as he has some ‘private schooling’ for the two. Left alone, Lysander and Hermia decide to run away together, away from Athenian law, which comes between them. Lysander tells Hermia that he has an aunt, whose house is far away from Athens, where they will go to be married.
‘Steal forth thy father’s house to-morrow night: And in the wood, a league without the town...There will I stay for thee.’
Hermia agrees to meet him and in comes Helena, Hermia’s best friend, who is deeply in love with Demetrius, who loves Hermia.  Shakespeare has portrayed these four in such a way to contrast with the evident two pairing; instead he has decided to create an imbalance and an obstacle. If Demetrius would fall in love with Helena again then Hermia and Lysander could be together, without the interference of her father. This makes way for comedy moments, to see how the obstacle will be resolved.
Helena recognises that her best friend’s plan to elope is an opportunity for her to get into Demetrius’ good graces; she decides to tell him that the two have run away, which she is sure will make him chase after them and she will chase after him, urging him to love her again.
The next scene shows the craftsmen who are rehearsing a play to show to Theseus and Hippolyta on their wedding day. The six men are deciding on roles for their play, named The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisby. Quince the carpenter is assigning roles to the men. Bottom seems to be taking the play the most seriously out of the men, he is assigned the role of Pyramus but wants the roles of Thisby and the Lion arguing that he can speak in a ‘monstrous little voice’ or that he can roar ‘as gently as any sucking dove’
. Quince finally gets him to play the part of Pyramus by telling them that he is a handsome fellow- to which he thinks only him can play the part. Bottom is almost shallow, as at this moment he decides that he should in fact play the part.
It is decided that the men should rehearse the part tomorrow night in the woods.
The audience are then introduced to the fairies, who inhabit the woods. The servants of Queen Titania and King Oberon are first to be introduced. Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, warns the fairy that Titania should not come near this area of the woods, as Oberon is soon to come and they are not on speaking terms because Titania has in her care a boy, who Oberon wants as his knight. ‘A lovely boy stolen from an Indian King, She never had so sweet a changeling, And jealous Oberon would have the child Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild’ but Titania will not give the boy to Oberon, the reason being explained as both King and Queen come into sight. The boy is the son of one of Titania’s worshippers whom she decided to look after once his mother died. Oberon is adamant that he shall have the boy as his knight, therefore decides he is going to blackmail Titania in giving him the boy. He tells Puck to fetch a flower named ‘love-in idleness’ where the ‘bolt of Cupid fell’, as ‘The juice of it, on sleeping eye-lids laid, Will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees.’
 His cruel plan is to drop the juice on the eyelids of Titania, as she sleeps so that she will fall in love with the thing she sees as she wakes- be it creature of man. Oberon hopes it will be a creature so that in return for the cure he will get the young boy.
Puck goes to retrieve the flower, Oberon hides when he hears the voices of Demetrius and Helena.
Helena is still pursuing him but Demetrius wishes she would stop, as he says
‘I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.’  Helena blames the fact she loves him on the power he exerts, even though he is cruel to her saying such things as ‘I am sick when I do look on thee’
she cannot stay away from him. It is a strange thing that Demetrius’ love, which was suggested by Lysander, would just go away and shows him as a somewhat heartless character, as he is not taking into consideration the feelings of Helena. However the same can be said for Hermia, who is not considering Demetrius by running away with Lysander.  The person the audience are made to feel sorry for is Helena, as she is left out of the love triangle, thinking herself too inadequate to be loved.
Oberon witnesses their interaction and feels sorry for the girl, therefore he tells Puck to put the juice upon Demetrius’ eyes-
‘A sweet Athenian lady is in love with a disdainful youth: anoint his eye’
The love potion is the thing that will link all three plots together into one, which Shakespeare uses in order to bring some comedic relief to the play, allowing Helena to become a more central character.

Titania is finally asleep after being sung to by the other fairies, therefore Oberon casts a spell-
‘What thou seest when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true Love take:
Love and languish for his sake.
Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristled hair,
In thy eye that shall appear,
When thou wak’st it is thy dear.
Wake when some vile thing is near.’
As a way of getting the Indian boy for his own, Oberon wishes to trick his wife, Titania, in falling for a most distasteful creature, therefore she will feel bad and give her husband the boy he so craves.

Lysander and Hermia enter the woods; they are lost, so decide to rest. Hermia’s old fashioned/customary ideals are shown in this scene, as she thinks it best if they sleep apart, as they are not married. They sleep far apart and who should come along but Puck, who sees the two Athenian lovers sleeping so far away from each other. He thinks it is Demetrius and Helena, therefore puts the flower juice onto Lysander’s eyelids. The audience know that Lysander will not wake up to see Hermia’s face, as the play is a comedy, it would be more appropriate if he falls in love with a completely different person.
Who should come round the corner but Helena, now alone as Demetrius has left her. She is still down, criticising herself-
‘No, no, I am as ugly as a bear: For beasts that meet me, run away for fear.’
She sees Lysander on the floor, thinking he may be dead, she wakes him up and he instantly falls in love with her. It is clever how Shakespeare keeps the imbalance that he set up in the first scene of the play, although no one is out of the equation, as Lysander loves Helena, Helena loves Demetrius, Demetrius loves Hermia and Hermia loves Lysander. This shows how fickle love can be, but Shakespeare has exaggerated this by adding a plot device in the form of the love potion.
Lysander, poisoned in love, runs after Helena, who thinks he is mocking her.
The play then turns to the craftsmen, who are rehearsing in the woods, and now begins their true involvement in the two plots. Puck shows up just as the men are rehearsing, ever mischievous he decides to wreck havoc. He spots Bottom, who has exited the scene in which he is participating in, and makes it so that he returns with an ass head. ‘O monstrous. O strange. We are haunted; pray masters, fly, masters, help’ shouts Quince, alarmed at the changed appearance of Bottom. Puck sees this as an opportunity, so guides Bottom to Titania’s resting place. Bottom, showing to his friends that he is not afraid of being left alone, sings and wakes Titania- ‘What angel wakes me from my flowery bed’
she asks.  This is another comedic moment, as Bottom does not know that he has an ass head, so is very self confident when he sees a beautiful fairy queen  admiring him- thinking no extraneous source could have made it happen. She tells him he must stay with her and the fairies will take care of his needs.
Love is a shallow thing, if Titania wasn’t under a spell she would shudder at the sightof Bottom, but the love potion could have the motto ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, as Titania has been made to see Bottom as an attractive person.
Act 3, Scene two is the climax of the play, Oberon and Puck talk about their success in the blackmail of Titania, as Puck targeted the ‘shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort’
to be the creature that Titania would set her sights on. The shallowest is Bottom, as Puck recognises that he would not turn away from the beauty of Titania.
Hermia and Demetrius enter- confusing Oberon, as he wonders why Demetrius would be chasing any woman but Helena.
‘What hast thou done? Thou hast mistaken quite and laid the love-juice on some true-love’s sight’
. Oberon realises the mistake and makes Puck get Helena, as he will rectify it.
Helena is brought by Puck, closely followed by Lysander who is still trying to convince Helena that he loves her.
‘Why should you think that I should woo in scorn’
Lysander asks, Helena tries to remind him that he loves Hermia and she Demetrius. On the sound of his name Demetrius wakes- to Helena’s face, whom he falls in love with instantly.  Helena is now the object of affection of these two men- the position that Hermia was once in. It is strange how the fairies were able to create such an imbalance in the love triangle, in order to reach a happier outcome.
Helena thinks both men are teasing her because she is so ugly. Hermia, the former object of their affection, enters and can see that both men are besotted by her best friend. It seems she is slightly jealous that her friend has got the attention she once had. However Helena thinks she is in on the act-
‘Injurious Hermia, most ungrateful maid, have you conspir’d, have you with these contriv’d to bait me, with this foul derision?’
  She says their friendship must not have meant that much to Hermia- the fairies continue to create arguments between the Athenian lovers. Shakespeare shows that love can even ruin friendships, in this case it is partly due to Helena being seen as so attractive by her best friend’s admirers.
However Hermia blames her friend, saying that her height is an advantage that she used to make Lysander love her.
‘I am not yet so low but that my nails can reach unto thine eyes’
both women are exhibiting such unladylike behaviour and the man stay competitive, as both men rush to Helena’s side to protect her from Hermia. However the men turn against each other, Shakespeare has exaggerated their masculinity, as they betray Helena by fighting each other and not protecting her.
The women are showing no female qualities, as Hermia wants to fight Helena and have clearly forgotten about their friendship over these two men.
         Puck enters and follows the men into the forest to lead them both astray; they give up fighting and sleep. The women also fall asleep, allowing Puck to make amends by making the imbalance between them go so that there is a happier conclusion. Puck puts the juice on Lysander’s eyes and says
‘I’ll apply to your eye, Gentle lover, remedy, When thou wak’st, thou tak’st true delight, in the sight of thy former Lady’s eye.’

Now that Oberon has the Indian boy, he can reverse the potion’s effects on Titania. While she sleeps by Bottom’s side he reverses the effects of it, she wakes and sees Bottom – ‘how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!’ It seems that love is not blind anymore, as she dislikes the face that is next to her. This may be humbling for Bottom who became very self confident that such a woman would take an interest in him. Puck changes Bottom back to his normal self.

Theseus and Hippolyta are on their morning hunt, when they see the four sleeping Athenian lovers.
They remember nothing, thinking it all a dream. The magical world is separate from the real world and now that the four lovers have returned the magical world seems like a dream- a midsummer night’s dream.  Theseus and Hippolyta represent the real world and their presence is key at the start and end of the play.
The only thing magical remaining is Demetrius’ love for Helena- a by product of the love potion, although it is beneficial to the play, as it has created a balance for the characters, therefore there are no more love triangles. Theseus sees how things have worked out and says
‘These couples shall eternally knit’; now it is a wedding for three couples, not one.

Bottom returns to the craftsmen, who feared he would not show but he turns up urging the men to ‘eat no onions, nor garlic; for we are to utter sweet breath.’
The subplot of the play is introduced again and now the characters can have some light relief in the form of the play.
Back at Athens Theseus and Hipployta talk about the tale the four lovers have told them, Theseus doubts it but Hippolyta says it cannot be that they would say the exact same thing.
Theseus decides it is time to watch the play, he chooses the one the craftsmen have been rehearsing.  The play is badly acted but thoroughly entertains the audience. Many mistakes are made, especially from Bottom who says
‘I can hear my Thisby’s face’
. It is a sad play, yet the audience still find bits to laugh at, like the part of the moon and the Lion acted out by the clumsy craftsmen.
The play focuses on two lovers, Pyramus and Thisby, who cannot be together due to parental restraints, much like Lysander and Hermia. One night, Thisby is visited by a lion, she runs away and the blood stains from the lion’s mouth remain. Pyramus goes to see her but can only see the blood, thinking she has been killed by the lion, Pyramus kills himself. Thisby comes back and sees what Pyramus has done; therefore she kills herself, not willing to live without him. This is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, which was said to have been influenced by this play, as Shakespeare could see that he could take it further.

The play ends with Oberon, Titania and Puck blessing the house and those who sleep.
Puck ends the play, talking directly to the audience –
‘If we shadows have offended, Think but this (and all is mended) that you have but slumber’d here, while these visions did appear.’
The main theme of the whole play is dreams, morning comes and memory of the magical night of the forest appears but a dream to the lovers.  Puck suggests that if the audience did not enjoy the play, they should think of it as a dream also, as it would be best to do so.


I have decided to turn A Midsummer Night's Dream into an episode of Friends, as the dynamics of the characters in the play resemble that of Friends because it follows six people who fall in and out of love.
Friends is a sitcom that first aired in 1994 and has become one of the most popular sitcoms of all time- it has been nominated for 63 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Friends are comedies so would fit well together when I transform the former into the latter.  The two comedies are extremely influential with audiences/ readers and are synonymous for their quotes- "How you doin?" and "The course of true love never did run smooth".
I will only transform Dream into a couple of scenes from Friends, as the word count restricts completion of a whole episode.