A Quick Guide to A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written by William Shakespeare sometime in the years between 1594-1596. It is considered one of Shakespeare’s comedies and is one of his most widely performed plays. The story has been adapted to many mediums including classical music, ballet, literature, and film.

What is A Midsummer Night’s Dream about?

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Theatre in Shakespeare’s Time

A Brief History of Shakespeare's Theatre

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

The iconic donkey-headed Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dreamis part of a group of amateur actors, commonly referred to as “the mechanicals.” In Shakespeare’s time, it was fairly uncommon for a group of non-professional actors to come together to put on a classical production, as in Pyramus and Thisbe. Yet, the play-within-a-play does offer clues as to what theatre might have looked like then.

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Finding Our Inner Fairies

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

What would A Midsummer Night’s Dream be without fairies?

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Rosemarie Kingfisher (Cobweb, a fairy) and James Lewis (Robin Goodfellow) in rehearsal.

The mythology of fairies is incredibly widespread and varied. The term “fairy” itself dates back to the middle ages of Europe. However, similarities have been found between fairies, nymphs from Greek mythology, jinni from Arabic mythology, and other creatures in other cultures. Traditionally, fairies were viewed as very physically beautiful but evil and untrustworthy characters. They were often blamed for various tragedies and misfortunes. Common folklore related to fairies are fairy rings, circular rings often made up of mushrooms. There are a number of gruesome fates that can befall a human if they enter a fairy ring.

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Gods, Heroes, and Monsters, oh my!

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

Greek and Roman mythology has a wide and expansive influence. Recent movies such as “Wonder Woman” as well as classic novels such as “Frankenstein” all draw inspiration from Greco-Roman mythology. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception. These are several pertinent mythological figures and stories that appear in the play.

Theseus and the Minotaur

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus is the Duke of Athens. The minotaur does not feature in this play but some scholars have made the argument that donkey-headed Bottom is meant to represent a comical take of the minotaur. You might also recognize the story of Theseus from the 2011 movie “Immortals” and the 2006 movie “Minotaur.”

The minotaur was a terrifying monster – half-bull and half-man. They were the child of the queen of Crete and a bull. When the minotaur was born, the king of Crete ordered that a complicated labyrinth be built to cage and contain the beast. Every nine years, fourteen people were sent from Athens to be sacrificed to the minotaur.
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Welcome to Midsummer!

After last year’s Hamlet, which celebrated SFShakes’ 35th Anniversary Season, we’ve set our sights to funnier fare in the 2018 season with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The enduring love story showcases its comic romantic complexities right up front: Demetrius and Lysander both want Hermia. Hermia is in love with Lysander, but her father would rather she be smitten with Demetrius.

And that’s just the Athenians. We’ve also got some fairies and a troupe of actors rehearsing a play to perform at the Duke’s wedding involved. At this point, a diagram may be helpful.

As you prepare your visit to the park (whether it’s dusting off the lawn chairs or trying to decide what to bring in the picnic basket), enjoy these creative summaries to bring you up to speed.