What was life like when Shakespeare was writing his plays?Queen Elizabeth 1 was on the throne of England. Many citizens were moving to London from the country during her reign. The population of London doubled during Shakespeare’s lifetime (from about 100,000 to approximately 200,000), despite the fact that plague killed more people than were born in the city.
The theater was a new and excitingbusiness that attracted many intelligentand educated young men, particularlythose who were intellectually ambitiousbut not well enough connected to join theelite world of the court. Many of thesemen eventually died in horrible povertysince there were no royalties or copyrightand writers were paid a pittance forscripts.
Scholars estimate that until about 1603 the average paymentfor a play was £6 (six pounds); by 1613 the price had risen to£10 or £12.In addition to his fee, the playwright was given all the receipts(minus company expenses) at the second performance (butremember, if the show was bad, there may not be a secondperformance).William Shakespearewas one of these playwrights, but hewent on to become one of the mostfamous writers of all time!
Little is known about Shakespeare’searly years, but a few details have beengathered from town and churchrecords etc.William Shakespeare was born in 1564to a successful middle-class glove-maker in Stratford-upon-Avon,England. His baptism took place onWednesday, April the 26th, 1564.Since we know Stratfords famous Bardlived with his father, JohnShakespeare, we can presume that hegrew up in Henley Street, some onehundred miles northwest of London.
Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formaleducation proceeded no further. In 1582 he married anolder woman, Anne Hathaway. They had three children: Susanna, Hamnet (who died at the age of eleven) and Judith.Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Around 1590, he left his family behind and traveled toLondon to work as an actor and playwright. Public andcritical success quickly followed, and Shakespeareeventually became the most popular playwright in EnglandShakespeare became a jointshareholder in one of the Londontheater companies (the LordChamberlain’s Men, which laterbecame the King’s Men), and soreceived a percentage of the gate(cover charge) and made a fineliving, enough to restore his family’sfortunes. The Globe
•Shakespeare performedfor most of his career atthe Globe Theatre (hisown playhouse) inbankside.•The Globe theatre wasdestroyed by a fire in1613 during a productionof Henry V but was rebuiltthe following year
Shakespeare’s career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I(ruled 1558–1603) and James I (ruled 1603–1625), andhe was a favorite of both monarchs. Indeed, James grantedShakespeare’s company the greatest possible compliment bybestowing upon its members the title of King’s Men.
Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two. Literatures famous Bard is buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. Written upon William Shakespeare’s tombstone is an appeal that he be left to rest in peace with a curse on those who would move his bones... .Good friend, for Jesus´ sake forbeareTo digg the dust enclosed here!Blest be ye man that spares thes stonesAnd curst be he that moues my bones
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written by William Shakespeare in approximately 1595.A Midsummer Nights Dream is a romantic comedy which portrays theadventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors in amoonlit forest, and their interactions with the fairies who inhabit it.Comedy - in simple terms means that the playwill end happilyRomantic comedy is usually based on a mix-upin events or identities. Shakespeare’scomedies often move towards tragedies (adeath or lack of of resolution) but are resolvedin the nick of time. Comedy – despair to happiness Tragedy – happiness to despair Shakespeare’s comedies often end with a wedding.
A Midsummer Nights Dream is unusual amongShakespeares plays in lacking a specific writtensource for its plot.Shakespeare, however may have used othersources for inspiration.The wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta wasdescribed in Chaucers "Knights Tale" andelsewhere.The theme of a daughter who wants to marryagainst her fathers desires was a common theme inRoman comedy and shares similarities withShakespeare’s tragic play Romeo and Juliet.Bottom and his friends are caricatures of theamateur players of the time and they satirize manyof the theatrical conventions of the time; forexample, using young men to play the roles ofwomen.
History indicates the prior toElizabethan times, fairies wereconsidered evil spirits who stolechildren and sacrificed them to thedevil. Shakespeare, along with otherwriters, redefined fairies during thistime period, turning them intogentle, albeit mischievous, spirits.Puck, for example, brags about hisability to perform harmless pranks.The title draws on the summer solstice,Midsummer Eve, occurring June 23 and marked byholiday partying and tales of fairies and temporaryinsanity.
There are several theories at to the origins of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.• Some have theorized that the play might have been written for an aristocratic wedding; numerous such weddings took place in 1596.• Others suggest it was written for the Queen to celebrate the feast day of St. John. The feast of John the Baptist was celebrated as an English festival on June 24 (Midsummer Day) It was believed that on Midsummer Night that the fairies and witches held their festival. To dream about Midsummer Night was to conjure up images of fairies and witches and other similar creatures and supernatural events. In either case, it would also have been performed at The Theatre, and, later, The Globe in London.
Obvious plot links exist between A Midsummer Night’s Dream andRomeo and Juliet, and critics disagree about which play waswritten first.Not only do both dramas emphasize the conflict between love andsocial convention, but the plot of “Pyramus and Thisbe,” the play-within-the-play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, parallels that ofRomeo and Juliet.Critics have wondered if Romeo and Juliet is a seriousreinterpretation of the other play, or just the opposite: PerhapsShakespeare is mocking his tragic love story through theburlesque of “Pyramus and Thisbe” performed by the craftsmen inA Midsummer Night’s Dream.
THE THREE WORLDS of 1. THE ATHENIANS: • Theseus and his bride, Hippolyta (Theseus represents law and order.) • The four lovers: Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, Lysander (They represent adolescent rebellion.) • Egeus (Hermia’s father)
Helena and DemetriusLeft to right: Helena,Demetrius, Lysander,Hermia Theseus and Hippolyta
2. THE ACTORS:• Bottom (the rather vain “leader” of the groupwho wishes to play all the parts• Other members of the cast: Quince, Flute,Starveling, Snout, Snug, Philostrate
• THE FAIRIES: Their realm is the woods where they interact with the humans who wander there. This setting is outside the walls of Athens and so disorder prevails. • Titania (Queen) • Oberon (King) • Puck (a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow) – Oberon’s loyal helperBottom and Titania Puck and Oberon
The three worlds come together in the woods at night: a place of magic and mystery where illusion reigns!Shakespeare cleverly weaves together not only fairies and lovers, butalso social hierarchies with the aristocratic Theseus and the "rudemechanicals," or the artisans and working men. This allows the play tobecome more lyrical, since it is able to draw on the rougher language ofthe lower classes as well as the poetry of the noblemen.
In act One, Lysander laments: “The course of true lovenever did run smooth” (1.1.134).The play deals with the trials of those “in love” both in theworld of the Athenians and the world of the fairies.Because the play is a romantic comedy, the audience canenjoy the conflicts, mix ups, and misunderstandings withoutever doubting that all will turn out well. Other topics (besides “love”): Reality versus illusion Friendship Parental authority Dreams
The play is a study in The contrasts add balance to the play. Some of the contrasts in the play: Reality vs. Illusion (Dreams) Athens vs. the forest Day vs. Night Order vs. Confusion Aristocrats vs. Workmen Tall vs. Short True love vs. False love Lyrical language vs. Rough prose
•Shakespeare writes in both VERSE and PROSE• VERSE – elevated passages, significant ideas, speeches by high ranking individuals• PROSE – comic scenes, dialect or broken English (slang/not proper) and speeches by commoners are in prose (written or spoken word)• POETRY is usually blank verse – iambic pentameter lines without rhyme• IAMBIC PENTAMETRE – five beats (feet) per line with a light/ heavy stress pattern (ten syllables).• RHYME is used (couplet or sonnet) to illustrate the close of scenes or important passages (soliloquy – the act of speaking when alone or regardless of any listeners, often a character’s inner thoughts)