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A Midsummer Night's Dream
Last Updated August 20, 2003

Chat Archive
Please note that discussions unrelated to the play have been edited from this archive.

July 28, 1998, 6-7pm PST
Members present:  Ophelia, Larry, Nico, & Puck

<Ophelia> Greetings!
<Ophelia> looks like this is it. We few...!
<Larry> we band of brothers?
<Ophelia> Okay, I kind of see my role as a moderator to the discussion. Since there are so few of us, I don't think we will have any problems today!
<Larry> go for it
<Puck> ok
<Ophelia> Should we start by discussing the play as we have seen it in performance?
<Nico> that's fine by me
<Larry> sure
<Ophelia> Anyway, one of the best productions I have seen in recent years was at the University of Idaho.
<Larry> really... what struck you?
<Ophelia> It was performed on an outdoor stage, and the director did some amazing things with the fairy kingdom.
<Larry> such as?
<Ophelia> First, the show itself was set in some kind of timeless Persian (?) setting. The costumes were beautiful. He doubled the roles of Oberon/Theseus, Hippolyta/Titania, and Philostrate/Puck.
<Nico> don't they usually double those roles?
<Ophelia> The actor who played Philostrate/Puck was huge....a VERY tall man. I have usually seen Puck as very small, so it provided extra bits of comedy.
<Larry> You are correct -- dunno "usually" but it is common
<Larry> saw one like that a year or so ago
<Nico> I only saw it live once, I think it was at Dartmouth or the Unidilla
<Larry> don't remember if in NY or London
<Larry> good production though
<Larry> did anyone else see the Brazilian version in Central Park?
<Nico> Not me
<Puck> I've never seen a stage production of any of the plays, unfortunately
<Larry> really? Why is that?
<Ophelia> What I found amazing about this production was the fairy magic. When Bottom was turned into an ass and Titania told him not to go, she used her magic to force him to stay. The timing of the actors was absolutely amazing. I believed that she was magic!!!!!
<Larry> timing is so important
<Larry> poor Puck
<Nico> I've only seen very amateur productions but I loved them anyway
<Larry> I guess we should talk about the play
<Ophelia> Yes, having grown up in Idaho, I haven't had many opportunities to see many professional productions.
<Ophelia> Okay, Larry, do you want to start a new discussion?
<Larry> I was waiting for someone else to pick a topic
<Larry> anything you like guys
<Ophelia> Nico?
<Nico> I'll just follow along if that's alright
<Ophelia> k
<Ophelia> Well, how about discussing themes...that should lead to a lot of other topics.
<Nico> general themes or in MND
<Larry> ok
<Ophelia> Let's stick with MND.
<Nico> ok
<Larry> problem, is play is not heavily thematic... more motifs than themes
<Ophelia> Good...what are some examples?
<Larry> of what?
<Ophelia> Of the motifs.
<Larry> oh.
<Ophelia> For instance, I know that a lot of teachers ask their students to discuss the image of the moon in the play.
<Larry> Now, there are recurrent lunar images, but not (IMHO) thematic ones, as in for example, R&J
<Ophelia> Puck, we are discussing themes and motifs of the play. Jump in if you have any ideas.
<Puck> ok
<Ophelia> Are these recurrent images considered motifs?
<Larry> only if they are similar in dramatic effect...
<Larry> for example, Helena I believe refers to the moon, but there is no reference back to this in the Pyramus and Thisbe interlude, where the moon is a distinct character
<Larry> what do you think?
<Ophelia> Okay, that makes sense.
<Ophelia> So, I guess that the day/night images represent more of a theme than the moon by itself?
<Larry> we don't think of the flower picked by moonlight when the moon enters leading a dog in Act V
<Larry> I agree with that
<Larry> that is one of my problems with this play
<Ophelia> What do you mean?
<Larry> it can be fun, but I find it thin
<Ophelia> I agree!
<Larry> good for you!
<Larry> where are the ambiguities we love so much?
<Ophelia> I have to admit, I hated this play when I first read it. I thought that Act V was pointless!
<Ophelia> I didn't really start to like it until I taught it to alternative school students.
<Larry> I'm not sure I agree with that... Do you also dislike V.ii of LLL?
<Larry> Interesting to contrast, no
<Ophelia> We discussed the darker sides of the play. Larry, I haven't read LLL...yet. This is my year to read ALL of the plays at least once.
<Larry> oh, sorry
<Puck> love's labors lost?
<Ophelia> Can you fill us in on the comparison?
<Larry> yes
<Larry> both scenes end the play
<Puck> that's funny, I finished reading it yesterday
<Larry> in both a group of yokels (or at least) commoners put on a play
<Larry> for the delectation of the noble characters
<Larry> in both the actors produce a balls up version
<Larry> pure silliness
<Larry> in LLL the main characters hoot and deride them
<Larry> in MND they join in the fun and applaud the efforts
<Larry> interesting exercise to read the 2 scenes one after another
<Ophelia> Do the LLL actors rehearse their play as the actors in MND do?
<Larry> not as extensively on stage
<Ophelia> Are there other similarities between the two plays other than the final scenes?
<Larry> only in the broadest sense...
<Larry> written about the same time, comedies, etc
<Ophelia> Okay...shall we jump back to MND?
<Larry> but LLL is more a comedy of manners
<Larry> sure
<Ophelia> When I did the play with my alternative school students, they had a heyday with the "love juice" -- lots of discussions about drugs and the fact that Demetrius was still under the influence at the end of the play.
<Larry> what is "alternate school"?
<Larry> alternative school
<Larry> alternative to what?
<Ophelia> It is a school for students at-risk of dropping out. Most of my kids were heavy drug users and had been in trouble with the law. We also had a few teen mothers.
<Larry> So "love juice" conjured up alternative ideas
<Ophelia> Yes, it did!
<Larry> how did you handle it?
<Ophelia> Some of them had a hard time dealing with the fact that Demetrius was still under the flowers power. They wanted to know how he would have reacted if he would have also received the cure. I had them role play the scene.
<Ophelia> Most of them acted like they were coming down from a bad trip, and Helena just happened to be there, so they picked her. The ones who really thought about it saw how happy Lysander and Hermia were and realized that they had the same kind of relationship with Helena prior to the plays start, so they tried to rekindle that flame.
<Larry> that's about right
<Ophelia> It was a very interesting exercise, and the kids got a lot out of it. I wonder how college students deal with this Demetrius issue.
<Larry> have you ever considered that WS may have been making a point about the essential ephemeralness of love
<Larry> or, more to the point, its fickleness
<Larry> when I'm not near the one I love, I love the one I'm near
<Nico> from a males point of view
<Larry> WS never showed us inconstant women, with the notable example of Cressida
<Ophelia> Yes, we spent a lot of time discussing teenage love and how changeable it can be.
<Larry> exception I meant
<Nico> I'll have to agree with you on that one
<Larry> R&J as an example
<Larry> albeit with a less fortunate outcome
<Ophelia> Yeah...what is up with that Romeo?! ;-)
<Larry> horny as hell
<Ophelia> LOL!
<Larry> but so was Juliet
<Ophelia> That's the first thing the kids notice, too.
<Nico> paid for it though didn't he
<Larry> yup... better to go blind
<Ophelia> Is this why R&J is standard 9th grade reading...teach the kids what will happen to them!!!
<Larry> but, back to MND, is WS making a sly point that there is no diff between being in love and thinking we are in love?
<Nico> pretty cynical
<Larry> what do you think Nico?
<Ophelia> I think the question is more of an age appropriate love. When we are in love as teenagers, it is a lot about being in love with the idea of love. But what about the adults in the play?
<Nico> I think in general men tend to be m ore easily led that way than women
<Larry> maybe this answers my question about where the ambiguities are
<Ophelia> Nico, led what way?
<Larry> do you count the fairies as adults, or only Theseus and Hippolyta
<Nico> thinking they are in love is being as good as actually being in love
<Ophelia> Good question...I guess they would fall somewhere in between.
<Ophelia> Ah!
<Larry> my point
<Larry> WS was pretty damn cynical about romantic love wasn't he?
<Larry> But, Amy, don't Oberon & Titania act more like a married couple than anyone else in the play?
<Nico> that's why they fight
<Ophelia> That is SO very true!
<Larry> Ah, Amy...
<Ophelia> And they end up getting over it and making up in the end. Maybe being in between is the best place to be.
<Larry> very quick agreement there ;-)
<Ophelia> LOL! 15 years will do that to you!!!
<Larry> they make up because Titania sees the error of her ways
<Ophelia> Hmmm....trying to start something here?!
<Nico> laugh when you say that so we'll know you're joking Larry
<Larry> actually, always thought Oberon was a bit of a cad
<Ophelia> As my alternative school students would say, she's coming off a high...she'll get hers in the end!
<Larry> after all Titania stole the boy fair and square
<Larry> and it was her devotee's kid
<Ophelia> Well, it's all about power with Oberon, and she didn't steal him! She was a kind foster parent! ;-)
<Larry> "changeling"
<Ophelia> Yes, I suppose you could read it as "changeling"!
<Ophelia> :-)
<Puck> lol
<Larry> only because he's called a "changeling" e.g., II.i.120
<Ophelia> Yes, but Oberon calls him a changeling...not Titania!!!
<Larry> No one contradicts him
<Ophelia> But she does say that it is "for her sake do I rear up her boy" -- she still sees the boy as belonging to the mother. Oberon wants him for his own possession.
<Larry> and Oberon wins.... so what do you read in that
<Ophelia> That goodness and honesty don't pay? ;-)
<Larry> How about "frailty, thy name is ....
<Ophelia> drugs
<Puck> woman
<Puck> lol
<Larry> good, Puck
<Ophelia> it was all because of that flower drug...I'm telling you!
<Larry> back to drugs
<Puck> lol
<Ophelia> Maybe the message is that women can't trust men.
<Ophelia> :-)
<Larry> WS didn't send messages
<Larry> he might have made points, but no messages
<Ophelia> Okay, the point is that women can't trust men! :-)
<Larry> So then the point of T&C or A&C is that men can't trust women?
<Ophelia> In all seriousness, I see the Oberon/Titania reconciliation as a family getting back together. If I were to write the next act, it would be them doing the family thing and messing with humans!
<Ophelia> Yes...I would agree with the T&C/A&C comment.
<Larry> How "mess with humans"
<Larry> differently than Tit messed with Bottom?
<Ophelia> LOL!!! I hope so!
<Larry> was he only transfigured down to the neck?
<Ophelia> Well, you know what they say about men and their noses!
<Larry> No, what?
<Nico> are we talking shoe sizes here?
<Ophelia> I don't want to corrupt our youth, so I'll just leave it up to your imagination!
<Larry> Riiiiiiight
<Larry> seriously, how would you have them interact directly?
<Ophelia> It is past should we discuss what we will read next month.
<Larry> good idea
<Ophelia> Have who interact directly?
<Nico> I agree
<Larry> the fairies and the humans ... "messing with each other"
<Ophelia> Well, continue the matchmaking that Oberon started. Have them continue playing jokes on the married couples like Puck describes in his entrance, etc.
<Larry> oh
<Ophelia> All fun and games...part two would still be a comedy!
<Larry> it gets a little wearing after a while
<Larry> look how boring even Falstaff got when WS had to continue the character
<Ophelia> Yes, stop while you're ahead! Most sequels suck.
<Larry> Did WS ever write a sequel to a comedy? (Trick question)
<Nico> I'd have to say no
<Larry> Amy?
<Ophelia> I'm thinking
<Larry> tick, tick
<Larry> Not fair, you haven't read LLL
<Ophelia> So, is the answer LLL?
<Larry> No, the answer is that he probably wrote a sequel to Loves Labour's Lost called Loves Labor's Won
<Larry> that is for another discussion
<Nico> Oh yeah, I heard of that
<Larry> goo, Nico.
<Larry> the play is lost
<Ophelia> Okay, any play suggestions for next month?
<Larry> but it was referred to by Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia in 1597
<Nico> I do n't contribute enough to make suggestions
<Larry> and the title turned up in a bookseller's inventory discovered in c. 1952
<Ophelia> Nico, yes you do!!!! Please, what would you like to discuss? Or at least see being discussed!
<Ophelia> Larry, do they think he wrote it alone or co-authored it?
<Nico> No really, I get a lot out of the discussion but you two choose
<Larry> no reason to think it was collaborative... not at that period (c.1592-96)
<Nico> Do you consider Edward the third to be by WS?
<Larry> what's your favorite Nico
<Larry> no
<Nico> Much Ado About Nothing
<Larry> read it ... see so little skill in it
<Nico> I thought they added it to the canon?
<Ophelia> Well, I'm in the process of putting together a class that will read 12N, Ado, R&J, and Macbeth, but I'm open to anything.
<Nico> any of those would be good for me I like them all
<Ophelia> Larry?
<Larry> MA/N ok with me
<Ophelia> Good...Ado it is!!
<Larry> when?
<Ophelia> Should we say the 16th for the 1st chat? That is a Sunday.
<Nico> same time?
<Ophelia> Well, 6pm is not a problem for me. Should we just say the same time?
<Larry> sure
<Nico> works for me
<Ophelia> Okay, I'll post the info on the web page later tonight.
<Larry> Thanks Amy
<Ophelia> Thanks for a great discussion! Hopefully we can get a few more people next time!
<Larry> Nice chatting with you both
<Ophelia> Bye
<Larry> bye
<Nico> bye


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