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Assignment Questions

Shakespeare Essay

This assignment is for Pheelyks

It is important that you please reference both the readings and the film in response to the following assignment:

READING

Riverside:

Twentieth-Century Shakespeare Criticism, pp. 44-54;

Introduction to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” pp 251-255;

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” pp.256-283.

Cambridge Companion:

“Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare” (129-146)

FILM

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Director: Michael Hoffman, with Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Calista Flockhart , 1999).

WEB SITES

MSND: Analysis
http://www.theatrehistory.com/british/midsummer001.html

Notes
http://www.classicnote.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/midsummernight/

Continuing the discussion began in 1 and 2, comment on the use of frames, that is, plays within plays, as ways Shakespeare developed to create an additional level of commentary and dramatic theme.

Again and again, Shakespeare’s plays, both tragedies and comedies, begin with a conflict between a father, demanding filial rights, and his daughter, demanding freedom and individuality. In many ways, many of Shakespeare’s views on women are modern—and he is different from other writers of his time on this subject. The goal of this unit is to understand the sort of relationship that existed between fathers and daughters during the English renaissance, place Shakespeare’s attitudes on the relationship within the era, and note how he differed from his own age and is considered modern in this respect. Some feminist critics view A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a male-chauvinist play, one that exchanges one male domination for another, the husband replacing the father. Either interpretation depends on how the play is read, interpreted and performed. What do you believe Shakespeare is advocating in this play?

There are three independent stories in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, all related. What are they and how to they interrelate? What three levels of reality are presented in the play by each of these stories? How does Shakespeare use the father-daughter relationship as a dramatic catalyst in this play and how does that relationship compare to the relationship between Kate and her father in The Taming of the Shrew?

In Peter Quince’s troupe of players, what is the role of Bottom? What is the function of his name transparency, his metamorphosis, and this role as the character who connects all of the stories within the play? Is Shakespeare’s language and comedy too coarse, too vulgar in some of the scenes in which Bottom appears? Discuss the varieties or levels of humor that Shakespeare uses in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

What is the role of Puck? Who is Puck in terms of English Folklore? Why does he make the comment, “Oh, what fools these mortals be,” when he views humans “in love”? Why does another character say “The course of true love never did run smooth” and who is that character and why is he the one to make that remark? Do you agree with either of these statements? How do they compare to the expanding list of definitions of love by Shakespeare that we began to compile in Unit 1, when we studied the sonnets, and in Unit 2?

In the film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that we viewed, do you think that Kevin Kline brings more than comic appreciation to the character of Bottom? That is, do you think that he arouses empathy in the audience? Does Shakespeare use metamorphosis or shape-shifting well in this comedy—remember that today we usually reserve this device for horror films (werewolves, vampires, and so on)? How would you evaluate the performances of the major characters in the play according to your reading of the next? Would you have made any major changes in interpretation in the play? Do you think the role of Puck was trivialized? Did the performance match the character you had in your mind when you read the play? Why is Puck considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest characters and does the interpretation in the film meet these high expectations?

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