A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

Paperback, 1997





Quality Paperback Book Club (1997), Edition: New Ed, 41 pages


Fairy creatures meddle with varying results in the lives of humans wandering in the woods.

User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
"The course of true love never did run smooth"; but oh my friends and neighbours, when was love ever "true"? This is the jolly cynic's Romeo and Juliet, with English country faire elements displaced to Theseus's Athens (itself a place that hardly did exist) and the mythological, metaphysical backdrop, the ridiculous-but-still-great-and-terrible Olympians, disinvited from the party in favour of the fairies, magnificent and dreadful but still ridiculous (it sounds like the same thing as the gods but it's actually the opposite): Oberon, equal parts virile intensity and cat-chasing-his-tail; Titania, majestic and intoxicating and yet you also just want to pat her on the head; Puck, with all the mystique of a trickster spirit and all the bathos of a cigar-smoking baby. Lord, what fools these immortals be!

They elevate the humans as the humans drag them into the mundane, to the benefit of the action in both cases. Just a quartet of pretty young goofballs bouncing through the sacred groves on a wave of hormonal exuberance, as the rules get mixed up and upside-downed and love-potion-number-nined till it's all reduced to the lowest common denominator. Bucolic rumpus--pratfalls and sex. They seem too quick and alive for the law to catch up with them, and indeed Theseus and Hippolyta do present a fairly mellow or enlightened face on disciplining authority, as the king reassures us that EVEN IF things fall over the precipice and go all two-households-both-alike-in-dignity on us, Hermia can choose forcible cloisterment over death--but is this really such a comfort? We see Demetrius and Lysander play fistfights for laughs and never think about how close either of them is to braining himself on a rock, the other being strung up. Skulking around somewhere in the background is always the deeply unfunny Egeus, the patriarch with filicide in his fist.

The estimable Bottom and his bunch of goony players (special shout out to Wall--I see you, Wall!) bring it all home by staging the tragic romance of Pyramus and Thisbe farcically for a bunch of complacent chuckleheads who don't know that they're in a play themselves, and that comedy and tragedy are a mere knife-edge apart. And ever if we manage to keep it light and nobody falls on a dagger, love fades and everyone you know will one day still certainly die. The comic dignity of the man with the donkey's head sums up the message quite nicely: The play's an ass, and it is a matter of life and death that we keep it that way. Laugh at that! No, I mean it!
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LibraryThing member ncgraham
I honestly feel as though I’ve ruined this play for myself. When I first read it during my last year of middle school, I was immediately taken with nearly everything about it—the quarrelling lovers, the comedy, the supernatural element—so taken that I tried to film a shortened version of it with some of my friends. Obviously, what with reading my own bowdlerized imaginings of the lines over and over again, not to mention listening to all of us trying to recite the Bard, my estimation of it was sullied somewhat.

Reading it again, I find that I still enjoy it, and can respect it as a finely-crafted piece of comedy, but I don’t think it will ever again number among my very favorites from Shakespeare. And that is my fault, not his.

As for the play itself, what is there to say? The language is wonderful, of course. Every word, every phrase, every sentence is perfectly judged. No one has ever equaled Shakespeare when it comes to using literary devices to bring about specific dramatic effects. The same features that make Oberon’s speeches so lyrically beautiful—alliteration, rhyme, assonance—Shakespeare uses to highlight the ridiculousness of the mechanical’s entertainment. Has there ever been alliteration as funny as this?

Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broached his broiling blood breast

The whole of the Pyramus and Thisbe play-within-a-play is inspired; I don’t know whether Midsummer came before or after Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, but it’s wonderful to see him touch on the same themes in a comic context. I had to stage that scene with zombies and werewolves for a class this past semester (you see? … this play just won’t let me alone!), and let me tell you, anything that can survive that treatment is pure gold.

Some things surprised me while I was rereading this. One was the maturity of the content; Demetrius basically tells Helena that, if she does not stop following him, he will rape her! Shakespeare ain’t for the kiddies, folks.

Helena is, I think, my favorite character, after Bottom and Puck. The latter’s closing speech is one of my favorites from Shakespeare, and probably the best of his epilogues, with the possible exception of Prospero’s from The Tempest.

In spite of my erratic history with the play, I would recommend it. You can’t go wrong with the Bard.
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LibraryThing member merigreenleaf
This is my second favorite Shakespeare play, just narrowly being beaten out by "The Tempest" (if you want to know how much I love these books, I'm tempted to name future children Miranda, Lysander, and Demetrius). I love all the subplots that occur throughout the story (the play within a play and the men acting in it are just hilarious!) and I love all the humor throughout. And this play has Puck- what a great character; he's definitely up there as one of my favorite characters written by the Bard.

This is just such a fun play that I'll heartily recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it- and if you have, you should go reread it (I must be up to about six or seven rereads by now). ;) Hands down, this gets 5 stars out of 5; if I could give it more, I would!
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LibraryThing member PilgrimJess
" The course of true love never did run smooth."

This is one of Shakespeare's most performed comedies and as such probably one of his best known. Consequently I'm not going to going to say anything about the plot. I personally studied this whilst at school as part of an English Literature course and despite my callow years I remember enjoying. However, I haven't read it since.

Now, far too many decades later, I read Bernard Cornwell's novel 'Fools and Mortals' which centres around a speculative and fictional première of the play. Having really enjoyed reading that book decided to revisit the original. Once again I found it a highly enjoyable read which made me smile and a piece of true genius.
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LibraryThing member millsge
Bottom stands just a couple of steps below Iago, Othello, and Falstaff among the beings created by Shakespeare. Not a "rutting" donkey, but an innocent, good-natured, modern man who knows that the world has gone made, but who is too gentle and nice to tell that to the characters that surround him. His is the play's true story, the rest is a comic masque designed to delight some of the most powerful in England - including the Queen. Obregon's speech in the Queen's honor is some of Shakespeare's best writing.… (more)
LibraryThing member RoDor
You have to give it to the greatest playwright who ever lived to write a complicated comedy on true love. In this play, Shakespeare intertwines the lives of four sets of characters in four plots. In begins with Theseus, the Duke of Athens complaining to his bethrothed Hippolyta how four days is a long time to wait for his wedding to her, the Queen of the Amazons. He wounded and defeated her in battle, but wooed her in captivity. Then enters the second set of characters: Egeus, who asks that Theseus explains the Athenian law to Hermia, his daughter, who either follows her father's wishes and marry Demetrius or be condemned to a life of virginity in a nunnery. This consequence is considered worse than death at that time. Hermia loves Lysander instead and the couple plan to meet in the woods to elope. Helena, on the other hand, is in love with Demetrius, tells him about the plan, and goes with him to the woods. The third set of characters is a group of local laborers led by Nick Bottom, a weaver, also a "pompous ass". They come to the woods to rehearse "Pyramus and Thisbe" for Theseus' wedding celebration. The play is about a love affair that ends in a tragedy. The fourth set of characters are Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies and their attendant sprites led by Puck, a mischievous one. Oberon and Titania meet in the woods and jealously argue over their mortal loves. The main characters fall asleep in the woods and Oberon sets Puck's mischiefs rolling when he orders him to squeeze the "love-at-first-sight" juice of the pansy, "love-in-idleness" on Titania's eyes while sleeping to teach her a lesson. Puck also was to apply it on Demetrius eyes so he reciprocates Helena's affections. Titania wakes up and falls in love with Bottom, whose head Puck turns into that of an ass. He mistakes Lysander for Demetrius; squeezes juice on Lysander's eyes; gets reprimanded by Oberon; squeezes juice on Demetrius' eyes. Now both knaves are in love with Helena who thinks they are mocking her and leaves a puzzled Hermia. It is up to Puck to mend his mischiefs. The 16th century language and the script format of the play makes it a difficult reading. Reading it out loud and playing the part helps in understanding. I eventually got the subtle pun after reading it several times. I had a good glimpse of how a genius' mind works after comprehending this play.… (more)
LibraryThing member jennaelf
Nothing is funnier than the reversal of social degrees, is it?

C'mon, the mighty Titania falls in love with a working class sod who has the head of an ass! AND his name is Bottom!

Shakespeare, you cheeky bastard.
LibraryThing member SydneyGao
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a romantic comedy,and its writer is William Shakespeare.I think this play is one of Shakespeare's most popular and is widely performed across the world. Because when i was in china, I have already read this play in chinese.This time, I read it in English, it's different.But anyway, it's still the best play in my mind.… (more)
LibraryThing member CathyWoolbright
Every read of this classic reveals another tongue in cheek pun. This humorous comedy of errors deals with love, romance, fairies in an enchanted forest, a traveling actors' troupe that passes itself as professional, but offers comic relief, mistaken identity, and of course parents at the crux who will not let true love have its way. Just a simple, straightforward Shakespearean tale. Enjoy!… (more)
LibraryThing member osunale
I consider this my first Shakespeare: this is the play that made me fall in love with the master. It's a supremely delightful work that never wears thin with time. It's that immortal "O lord, what fools these mortals be" that does me in every time. Humorous and splendidly human despite the fairies dancing across the words.
LibraryThing member LibraryLou
One of my favourite Shakespeare plays, very witty and funny.
LibraryThing member paradox98
One of my favorite comedies. Significant to me because I've actually been in a love rhombus, as it were; therefore, I can relate some of the characters.
LibraryThing member HvyMetalMG
Having taken a Shakespeare class in college, I've read, studied and analyzed a number of the bard's plays. This was a sleeper as it turned out to be my favorite. If a book this old can make me laugh, that says something, especially when most television shows today can't make me smirk.
LibraryThing member brianinbuffalo
As hard as I've tried, I could never quite get into this one. I've read it once and seen it performed twice. Both productions were classy. Still, I found the play tedious.
LibraryThing member tygers_eye
** spoiler alert ** This is a very dramatic lovestory about two men, one named Demetrius, one named Lysander, and two girls, one named Helena, and one named Hermia. Hermia loves Lysander, and wants to marry him, even though her father doesn't like him and wants her to marry Demetrius. Helena loves Demetrus, but is jealous of Hermia because he loves her and not Helena. The fairies cast chaotic love spells that cause much trouble, as well as trouble for the fairies, not just Lysander and Demetrius and Helena and Hermia.… (more)
LibraryThing member JennGauthier
I know this is one of the "easy" plays, and therefore as a university-educated literary scholar I'm not supposed to like it as much as the others, but it (except for, perhaps, "The Tempest) is my favorite. I find the language beautiful, and the plot makes me laugh every time. Shakespeare's works are more enjoyable when the reader (or preferably, the person watching the performance) can see themselves in the work, and I think this is very true of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," much more so than in, say, some of the histories. And in my humble opinion, the Arden Shakespeare editions are by far superior, if you're going to work with the individual paperbacks.… (more)
LibraryThing member bexaplex
A Midsummer Night's Deam is the story of four couples. Theseus and Hippolyta are about to get married, after Theseus captures the Queen of the Amazons (and presumably some sort of courtship, since she seems to be amenable to getting married). Hermia wants to marry Lysander, despite her father's objections. Helena wants to marry Demetrius, if only he weren't in love with Hermia. And Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, are having a tiff about household help. After an evening wandering around the woods, with a little enchantment, humor and chaos, they get it all sorted out.

The only happy ending I dislike is Oberon and Titania. Oberon gets his way by making his wife ridiculous, about which she doesn't seem the slightest bit upset. I doubt Queen Elizabeth would have put up with that kind of treatment.
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LibraryThing member haruka.h
Some decades ago we couldn't marry fleely.
Sometimes we forced to marry who didn't want to marry.
I think it is very sad.
This book has many characters.
So it's story is little complicated.
But I felt happy to be all the people became happy at the end of the story.
LibraryThing member dfitzgerald
I know as an educator and librarian, it is assumed by most that I am a lover of Shakespeare. However, I must come clean. I am not. I actually truly dislike reading the 16th century language and I have trouble getting past that to try and enjoy the story. That being said however, I chose to read this because the majority of English teachers at my school teach this classic and I wanted to be able to have conversations with the students about it. I will say, A Midsummer Night's Dream is my favorite Shakespeare play so far and I feel like I accomplished something by reading it.… (more)
LibraryThing member libraryhermit
I saw this play at the Edmonton Fringe Festival about 10 or 12 years ago. There was an outdoor ice arena enclosed with the standard boards. The audience sat in the middle (at centre ice) and the actors mingled among the seated audience and went all over the ice area from one end to the other. The actors were filled with joy and so was the play. Even though I had read the play many times before this, this live presentation will live in my memory forever as the definitive viewing--so far. It's hard to imagine what could ever top it.
(I have also listened quite a few times to the incidental music composed by Felix Mendelssohn.)
Definitely "dream" is the operative word. The supernatural characters and the absence of war famine and human depravity all give a fantasy-like dream experience. Which is very welcome to me and to all audience members--I think--who are weary of the war- and famine-filled world.
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LibraryThing member norabelle414
It's no Twelfth Night (my favorite comedy), but it's still one of Shakespeare's better plays. I especially laughed at the 4 lovers' tendencies to follow each other around like puppydogs. I was interested to notice a difference in the speech between the mechanicals and everyone else (fairies, noblemen/women). In their everyday speech, the mechanicals did not use pentameter, while everyone else did.… (more)
LibraryThing member elmyra
Was promted to re-read this by reading Neil Gaiman's eponymous Sandman short story. Learned:

That my English has gotten a hell of a lot better in the last 11 years. This was the first Shakespeare play I tried to read, and I read it by myself at the time, so I didn't really get it.

That I still don't really get the "brilliance" of this particular Sandman story.

That I should probably read more Shakespeare.

That some of the notes to this edition are utterly useless, and that Reclam can't quite decide what level of audience they're aiming their notes and translations at.
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LibraryThing member CaraLPeacock
I like teaching A Midsummer Night's Dream to the 8th graders because a lot of it is written in prose (plain language instead of poetry) so it's easy to read. It also keeps the students' attention because it is full of love spells and people falling in love with the wrong people. It's kind of like a soap opera... and it's FUNNY!!… (more)
LibraryThing member aarondesk
A comedy by Shakespeare on love and marriage. The way he mixes English culture with ancient mythology is brilliant.
LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
This will always be my favorite Shakespeare play. I love all the fairies, Puck especially, and I'll never get over the four lovers' quarrels when half of them are under spells. Plus, how can anyone not enjoy Pyramus and Thisby?


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