A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play by William Shakespeare. The full text of A Midsummer Night's Dream is available at Project Gutenberg.

The play is considered a comedy. The most famous character is the spirit, Puck. It is believed to have been written around the same time as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and shares many characteristics with that tragedy: a plot centering on rebellious young love, florid imagery in language that often feels more separate from the dramatic action than it does in Shakespeare's more mature works. Pyramus and Thisbe, the comical tragedy performed by the mechanicals at the end of Midsummer, bears an even closer resemblance to the plot of Romeo and Juliet.

The plot has several strands, and the relationship of Oberon, king of the fairies, and his estranged wife, Titania, is mirrored by that of Duke Theseus and his bride, Hippolyta, who are about to be married - to the extent that the parts of Oberon/Theseus and Titania/Hippolyta are sometimes played by the same actors. Two normal men, Lysander and Demetrius, are both in love with the same woman, Hermia; Hermia prefers Lysander, but her friend, Helena, is in love with Demetrius. Into the middle of this complex situation stumbles Bottom, a weaver and the leader of a group of common working men who intend to perform a play as part of the Duke's wedding celebrations. Oberon recruits Puck to help him regain Titania's devotion, but his simultaneous attempt to help the young lovers goes wrong, resulting in confusion. As usual with Shakespeare, the comedy has a bitter-sweet note, when Hermia's two lovers both, temporarily, turn against her.

Movie adaptations

The Shakespeare play has inspired several movies. A 1999 film version written and directed by Michael Hoffman proved reasonably successful. Some of its leading stars were: Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sophie Marceau, Calista Flockhart.

One of the most successful versions was the one produced in 1935 by Henry Blanke and directed by William Dieterle and Max Reinhardt. It was adapted by Charles Kenyon and Mary C. McCall Jr. Several notables were in the cast: James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, Joe E. Brown, Dick Powell and Victor Jory.

The film won two Academy Awards:

  • Best Cinematography - Hal Mohr
  • Best Film Editing - Ralph Dawson

Nominated for:
  • Best Picture - Henry Blanke, producer
  • Best Assistant Director - Sherry Shourds

Notably, Hal Mohr was not nominated for his work on the movie; he won the Oscar thanks to a grass-roots write-in campaign. The next year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences declared that it would not accept write-in votes for the awards.

Other adaptations

An overture and incidental music for the play were composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1826

The play was adapted into an opera, with music by Benjamin Britten and libretto by Britten and Peter Pears. The opera was first performed on June 1, 1960, at Aldeburgh.

A Midsummer Night's Dream was adapted for comics by Neil Gaiman for his series The Sandman. The adaptation won several awards, and is distinguished by being the only comic that will ever win a World Fantasy Award (see Dream Country)


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