Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Midsummer Nightmare: Prewriting

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An example of the elevated diction used to describe love in ShakeSpeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
 I finally took the opportunity to read Shakespeare's, A MidSummer Night's Dream. For a long time I have heard about this play in casual conversation, it would spring up in a passing comment or flit by in a piece of a movie scene. Well, while it wasn't exactly what I expected (Strangely the sublime, intangible concept it is always hovering just beyond complete understanding and realization) however, it certainly had some choice lines and interesting points.

I would enjoy taking a closer look at the stereotypical portrayal of love(See picture above). At some point, Europeans at least, (I am less familiar with the literary traditions of other groups of people)  decided that love required more eloquence. It became common practice to write love poetry or to sing Odes about your beloved, and the subject (love generally, or yours specifically) demanded a sort of elevated diction (or your best attempt, as was clearly often reality). This concept is present in the writings of Shakespeare, Samuel Coleridge, Elizabeth Browning, and many others. I believe this is because love, like that unintelligible, half-baked, preconceived notion, is associated with the sublime and thus in an effort to seek the extraordinary people turned to language to pursue what was ordinarily out of their reach. I think it would be interesting to examine this psychological phenomenon by comparing Shakespeare's descriptions of love and lovers with those of some of the other well known writers.

Another aspect of the play that drew my attention was topic of gender roles. I have often heard that there are lots of arguments for feminism in many of Shakespeare's works. While that is true, these are sometimes brought to light through characters who argue against feminism. The quote pictured above was an example of one of these. This metaphor of a rose as a symbolic objectification of a woman has several disturbing implications. For example, "But earthlier happy is the rose distilled / than that which, withering on the virgin thorn" suggests a divided future for a woman. If she wishes to be happy she must yield her agency and choice to a man. notice the impersonal verb "distilled". However, if she chooses to maintain her ability to choose she does so by sacrificing happiness and companionship. I could spend several pages unpacking this metaphor and denoting the implications its message would have on the lives of women.

Finally, as I am in a dance class this semester I was interested by the element of dance that frequently pops up in reference to the fairies and their ability to control the seasons and maintain order. Often times dance used to be use as a social mechanism. Dances were performed in a specific way and used to celebrate a sense of community. Underlying their celebratory nature is also an affirmation of society's structure and thus, it's rules and regulations. I am considering writing a paper analyzing this play through that lens.


  1. Gaylie, I thought your feminist analysis of the play is intriguing. Along the ideas of the rose analysis you gave, you may consider analyzing that passage compared to some of Shakespeare's sonnets. This is from Sonnet 54, which is all about love and roses: "Sweet roses do not so; Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made" (11-12). Along your lines of thought, is the only worth of the rose in how it smells, or how it looks? Is that how we perceive women? You might be able to connect it over.

    1. Thanks Isaac, I am unfamiliar with that Sonnet but it would be very interesting to tweak my analysis to examining Shakespeare's use of the rose through out his works and its connection with feminism. Thanks for the reference, I just must might pursue that topic!

  2. I love your different reflections, but I am particularly interested in your exploration of the anti-feminist aspect of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I feel that Shakespeare's plays have often been viewed through a feminist lens, but the "feminism" evident in his texts are often debatable as being feminist, as they seem to reflect anti-feminist themes and characters as well. If you were to explore the stereotypical presentation of love in other works, I might try exploring the works of some of Shakespeare's contemporaries, such as Edmund Spenser. This period seems to have been a prolific time period of over embellished and exaggerated representations of love.

    1. Thanks Stella, I'll have to do some reading and that gives me a direction.